‘Lip Sync Battle’ jumps off the screen and onto the stage in Central Park

Forget karaoke; lip-sync live is where it's at.

Feb 29, 2020, 11:33 pm*

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Michelle Jaworski

A mouth-synchronizing battle of epic proportions was set to rain down on Central Park Monday night, and everyone was practicing their vocals.

Normally that would seem like par for the course at Central Park’s SummerStage. Music spouted from the speakers, and singing along (before a full night of singing along) was great practice amid all the pre-sunset selfie-snapping. But this was unlike pretty much anything the stage has ever hosted before.

Last night, approximately 5,000 people came out to watch celebrities merely pretend to sing—and if the buzz of the crowd was any indication, they had a blast.

Lip Sync Battle, which started off as a recurring Jimmy Fallon segment that resulted some of its most successful clips on YouTube, is quickly turning into a juggernaut both on TV and online. With LL Cool J and Chrissy Teigen front and center and pride and a championship belt on the line, the show spotlights the sillier side of actors, singers, and athletes as they completely lose themselves in lip-synced performances.

It only makes sense that the show would leave the studio and stretch its legs onto a bigger stage: a live one. (And as a treat to the fans, a free one at that.)

Of course, lip syncing has a complicated history. In less positive connotations, it has ruined musical careers, but when people aren’t doing it to their own songs, it’s a rousing success. From performances at drag shows to the ’80s show Puttin’ on the Hits to college homecomings, from Fallon’s early battles to Spike’s full-fledged Lip Sync Battle, people can’t get enough of us moving our mouths. I even randomly encountered it at a packed local bar last month.

Even people who had never seen an episode of Lip Sync Battle before found their way over to SummerStage to watch Dancing With the Stars’s Derek and Julianne Hough throw down in a rematch of their May battle with Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer providing the halftime entertainment.

“I’m just here because the girls from Broad City were here,” Wes Van Heest, a television camera operator who wasn’t working the event, told me. (He wanted Glazer to win that battle.)

But there were also plenty of people who watched the show and the clips online to see what this showcase was all about.

“I’m a fan of the show, and I’m a fan of Broad City,” Stephanie Himes said. “Ilana from Broad City tweeted about it, so I thought it was pretty cool.”

The event wasn’t televised, but the fans made sure that friends and family and the rest of the Internet saw it anyway.

Michelle Jaworski

Once the show itself began, it was a mix of the same Lip Sync Battle you see on TV with a traditional concert. Doug E. Fresh warmed up the crowd with some pep talk and performances, and while Derek Hough went offstage to change, LL Cool J performed while holding a child from the crowd. He also provided some trivia for fans—and a sneak peek of what’s to come.

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But the real draw, aside from Teigen’s always-excellent commentary, were the acts themselves. With seasoned veterans facing off in both battles, they knew exactly what to do to rile everyone up. But on this stage, they could go even bigger than before.

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The Houghs reprised their hits, Jacobson belted out Jennifer Hudson, Glazer tackled “It’s Raining Men,” there was a surprise appearance from Today’s Hoda Kotb, and it all ended with Derek dressed as the lead singer of the Darkness. With that unstoppable combination of wins, they just might have achieved peak lip-sync.

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Derek Hough won this time around, but with Julianne’s call of “two out of three,” chances are we’ll see these two duke it out again sometime soon.

“I feel like every show needs to be live,” Teigen said at one point to the approval of the audience.

Although Spike has yet to say anything to suggest it, this is something I could easily see being converted into a tour with different celebrities… with, of course, everyone lip-syncing along.

Michelle Jaworski

Photo by Michelle Jaworski

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*First Published: Jul 14, 2015, 4:28 pm