This has become the routine for the Ylvisaker brothers, known collectively as Ylvis, for the past month, ever since they became unlikely pop music sensations with a willfully silly if undeniably catchy song called "The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)."
Over a thumping electronic beat, "The Fox" asks in pleadingly sincere tones why, if there are distinctive sounds associated with the many other animals in creation, is there not one for the fox? (As the lyrics put it: "Ducks say quack, and fish go blub and the seal goes ow ow ow ... What does the fox say?")
This week, "The Fox" reached No. 6 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart, surpassing hits like Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Lady Gaga's "Applause." An equally mystifying video that features the photogenic Ylvisakers and other performers in a variety of animal outfits, evoking "I Am the Walrus," if it had been directed by Lars von Trier, has been viewed more than 100 million times on YouTube.
But even as the song continues to grow in popularity, and Ylvis is invited to perform it on American programs like "Late Night" and the "Today" show, it is becoming both a blessing and a burden to its creators — a propitious opportunity and a prank that backfired wildly. How much further, they wonder, can they take something that was never meant to go anywhere in the first place?
"This was the plan all along," the floppy-haired Vegard, 34, shouted to Fallon during a break in filming Wednesday. They were both dressed as foxes, and something in Vegard's voice suggested he meant the opposite.
In their homeland, the Ylvisaker brothers are jokesters with a loyal local following and the hosts of their own comedy talk show, "I Kveld Med Ylvis" ("Tonight With Ylvis"), on Norwegian television.
They made "The Fox" with assistance from Stargate, the Norwegian-born, New York-based producing duo that has also helped create hit songs for Rihanna, Katy Perry and Wiz Khalifa — except that their track, the Ylvisakers said, was intended to be bad.
"From a comedian's perspective, it would be much more fun if we misused their talents," Bard said. "We go make that song, we come back to our talk show and we say, 'Sorry, guys.'"
Instead, the video became an international phenomenon when it was posted in early September, racking up hundreds of thousands of views by the day and catching the attention of Warner Music, which had already signed Ylvis to the Norwegian arm of the company.
"The Fox" made its debut at No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, helped by a revised ranking system that accounts for a song's online activity.
Warner was particularly impressed by actual sales of the song — about 75,000 copies a week, says Peter Gray, senior vice president for promotion at Warner Bros. Records — achieved without radio play or a costly marketing campaign.
"There are a lot of hit songs that people have put major muscle and campaigns behind, for months and months, that aren't selling half of that, or a quarter of that," Gray said.