Editor’s Note: Welcome to our new series, “Rembert Tries to Explain the ’80s.” Every so often, we’ll e-mail 24-year-old Rembert Browne a YouTube clip relating to the 1980s that Rembert hasn’t seen. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he’s watching it, then we’ll post those thoughts here. The second clip was selected by our editor-in-chief, Bill Simmons: Lionel Richie’s video for “Hello.” If you have an idea for a future episode of “Rembert Tries to Explain the ’80s,” e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I watched Too Close for Comfort, my goal was simply to explain it to myself. In this situation, however, as a nationally recognized “Lionexpert,” I’m one of the few humans capable of explaining this seemingly insane, ridiculous video to the masses.
Here’s what I’m pretty sure is going on.
Lionel is a brave man. Usually musicians like to portray themselves as the hero or the victor in their videos. Not Lionel. In “Hello”, he flips the script and says:
Hey. Why cast someone else as the creepy teacher when I, Lionel Richie, can be the creepy teacher? It’s about time the world sees me, not as the third-most important black male singer of the ’80s, but as someone you would not want your loved ones to ever come in contact with. Yeah. That’s what I’ll do. Good job, Lionel.
And with that, he transformed into the single creepiest instructor ever captured on film for five minutes and 29 seconds.
The courage of this man is startling.
His performance is so terrifyingly good, I’d like to think they show this at the Teach For America summit in the workshop titled, “How to Not Be A Teacher: The Curious Case of ‘Hello.'”
He doesn’t just do one or two creepy things in this video. Remember, this is Lionel Richie we’re talking about. Instead, he pulls out every stop and crosses every line of teacher-student conduct that isn’t a federal offense:
0:17: Unacceptable downward-facing triangle mustache.
0:59: Singing in the middle of class.
1:00: Singing about a student in the middle of class.
1:12: Singing about kissing a student in the middle of class.
1:22: Watching a student through a window in her next class.
1:31: Singing at her as she walks by.
1:47: Dressing like a student, as to seem less creepy when he stands by the lockers, waiting for her to walk by.
1:51: Stalking a blind girl.
2:18: Singing right behind her as she eats lunch.
2:33: Walking into her dance class, still singing at her.
3:43: Having the student’s home number.
3:44: Calling her at home. At night.
3:48: Being the creepy professor who calls his female student at night at home and then doesn’t say anything for six seconds when she answers the phone.
3:55: Not identifying himself, but instead belting, “Hello. Is it me you’re looking for?”
4:02: Hanging up. (Also known as the creepiest quasi-romantic crank call of all time.)
4:04: Owning a sleeveless, collared, button-down shirt despite being a professor at a presumably accredited university.
5:04: Getting a face massage from a blind female student, after she’s just presented him with a clay bust of his face.
5:15: Grabbing the girl’s hands, staring into her eyes, and again asking her if it’s him she’s looking for.
I’m 99 percent sure Lionel intended “Hello” to be a PSA to remind people that freaks like his character exist out there in the world. And then there’s the 1 percent of me that’s fully aware that, to this day, Lionel sees nothing remotely off-putting with any part of the video.
Either way, I’m quite pleased it exists. Between this and “All Night Long,” Mr. Tam Bo Li De Say De Moi Ya, Hey Jambo Jambo flooded the market with nonsense, yet somehow convinced everyone that he was completely normal. What a legend.