Clint Chadbourne didn’t want to be famous.

All he wanted was to get out of the backseat of his daughter’s car.

While pulled over at a rest stop on Interstate 95 in York and eager to stretch his legs, Chadbourne unbuckled his seat belt. Progress, however, stopped right there. Somehow he was tangled in the seat belt and unable to get out.

“Mom!” he hollered at his wife, Bonnie, who stood at his side, trying to help extricate him and barely able to contain her laughter.

“Look at you, look!” she said.

“You look at me,” her husband shot back. “I am stuck in this cah!”

The two-minute clip of Clint Chadbourne’s dilemma, filmed by his daughter Kelly from the front seat, has catapulted him to Internet stardom. Nearly 30 million people have viewed the clip on Facebook, where Bonnie Chadbourne posted it on April 6, and turned the couple, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, into reluctant viral video stars.

“We didn’t do it expecting publicity,” Clint Chadbourne said at his Portland home, freed from the nylon strap that so vexed him. “It was just something that happened.”


In the video, Chadbourne, wearing a gray T-shirt tucked into dark blue jeans, struggles for more than two minutes against a belt that seems only to get tighter against his generous belly.

The private moment turned into a public one only because Chadbourne’s daughter, Kelly, dutifully produced a smartphone and started to film it, an increasingly common reaction to the funny, absurd, dramatic or tragic. She did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

And like other videos that unexpectedly find an audience, Chadbourne’s moment of hilarity is now being shopped around by a Los Angeles-based company that has licensed the clip.

“When media outlets try to take the video and broadcast it and use it, that’s when our rights management team goes out and fights for the copyright on behalf of the copyright holder,” said Mike Skogmo, spokesman for Jukin Media.

In the video, the laughter from Bonnie Chadbourne is almost instant. Then, from behind the camera, their daughter tries unsuccessfully to suppress a giggle.

Clint struggles against the belt again, laughs and, reaching for the right adjective, finds a different word instead:

“I’m getting hydrophobic,” he said.

In an interview Thursday, Bonnie Chadbourne said the trouble began earlier during the car ride, as she and Clint rode in the back seat, when she noticed her husband’s seat belt riding up around his neck. Concerned about what could happen if they got in an accident, she had him move the belt up over his head and behind his back, placing his body in the loop of the belt.

And there he stayed.

“What else can you do, if you can’t laugh?” Bonnie Chadbourne said. “If you can’t find humor in life, you’d go out of your mind. We do laugh a lot.”

VIDEO Catches on

The video has caught on in the last few days and become a sensation on Facebook, where it has been shared more than 600,000 times, with some of the viewers commenting on how funny they thought it was and thanking the Chadbournes for sharing it.

“The comments are wonderful,” Bonnie Chadbourne wrote in a follow-up post on her Facebook wall, “when someone writes that they were having a bad day and after seeing the video they have tears running down their face and they mean happy tears it makes us feel very humble.”

On Wednesday, the entertainment and news show “Inside Edition” ended its program with a clip of Chadbourne stuck in the seat belt.

“Inside Edition” producer Lisa Azran, whose job it is to wade through the electronic morass of Facebook and YouTube to find the light-hearted clips that end each night’s broadcast, said she was close to using a different video.

But when her boss saw four people huddled around Azran’s screen laughing loudly, she pitched Chadbourne’s clip.

“I have to look at this stuff all day long,” Azran said. “That was so funny. He had good humor about it.”

Why this particular video caught so much traction from the Internet is difficult to say, Azran said.

“Why is a kid wasted in the back seat after a dental appointment going viral?” she said, referring to an early viral video, “David after dentist,” of a young boy loopy from the effects of a sedative, that has racked up 128 million views since it first aired on YouTube six years ago.

“Viral is subjective,” Azran said. “It’s hard to tell.”