We’re all familiar with the image of the male news anchor behind his desk. He’s dressed professionally, his hair is combed perfectly, his voice is authoritative. He treats every story seriously, cracking a smile only when it’s time to sign off the air.
We don’t usually get to to see what news anchors do during the commercials – or see them take a break from being their most professional selves. But West Virginia newscaster Dan Thorn became an exception to that rule. In fact, he made international headlines for his off-camera antics in November 2014.
Dan Thorn’s journalism career started in New York City in November 2012, when he served as a desk assistant for WCBS-TV. His work there was mostly behind the scenes, conducting pre-interviews and carrying out research to flesh out reporters’ stories.
It wasn’t until February 2013 that he became a reporter and anchor for WVNS 59 in West Virginia. His work in front of the camera kept locals informed, but his work off-screen shocked everyone in the Charleston area – and beyond.
“This happened to be an instance where [the cameras] were rolling,” Thorn told Billboard in an attempt to explain the footage captured of the anchor during a commercial break on that fateful day in 2014.
In the video, he sits beside his co-anchor, Sarah Pisciuneri, who appears to be reading through her upcoming stories on her laptop. She’s focused on the task at hand, almost oblivious to what Thorn is doing beside her.
But she has to hear the music blasting overhead, a mash-up of T.I. lyrics over a Bobby Shmurda beat. And, out of the corner of her eye, she can’t fail to see her co-anchor – still dressed in his suit and tie – begin to break it down to the hip-hop beats.
Thorn’s dance moves last for a full 90 seconds. Pisciuneri breaks a smile a few times, but mostly focuses on her work. Perhaps that’s because, according to Thorn, this behavior was pretty normal on the set of WVNS 59.
“Once in a while me and Sarah have a little fun during commercial breaks. Sometimes [the cameras] roll on it, sometimes they don’t,” he told Billboard. As soon as the video of his dancing was posted online, it quickly went viral.
Thorn credited that to his song choice, not his moves, though. “The T.I. one was just something that was stuck in my head. I follow a lot of hip-hop news. I saw this thing on YouTube and somebody posted some music of this, where it’s just a loop of him saying that.”
He continued: “The beat happens to be a Bobby Shmurda beat. I was just like, ‘Man this is stuck in my head,’ and I think that’s what’s happened with the video. It just kind of got stuck in everybody’s head in a way.”
With one viral video in the books, Thorn was apparently inspired to continue his famous dancing. His next video to hit the internet was another commercial dance break, but, this time, his soundtrack was very different.
He said, “I was thinking, ‘Oh, if I play Taylor Swift, there’s no doubt [my co-anchor is] going to dance in this one.’ Ahh, not that much. You can see where she kind of moves her head a little bit.” But Pisciuneri barely budged during Thorn’s second dancing session.
In the video, Thorn even tries to get her moving by grabbing her arm and moving it along with his wild dance moves. Pisciuneri stays still, though, fixing her hair and presumably preparing to go back on-camera with the news. However, she does allow herself a laugh at her co-anchor’s moves near the end of the break.
Thorn’s final video sees him behind the desk on his own without a shred of stage fright. “I Got the Feelin’” by James Brown starts to play, and you can imagine just what happens next.
This time, Thorn even steps in front of the studio’s green screen, a technology that allowed technicians to superimpose the anchor’s dance moves over a series of brightly lit, funny backdrops. He appears to be boogieing in front of homes covered in holiday lights and in front of crowds of screaming fans.
Although those green-screen fans weren’t really there lauding Thorn’s moves, he did become extremely popular with viewers. He even received marriage proposals from women who watched the news on WVNS 59 and fell for his quirky personality.
After his viral dancing series, Thorn’s star rose even higher in June 2015, when he became the anchor of West Virginia Tonight at CBS 13 News. He has since interviewed former Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders and West Virginia’s governor, Jim Justice. His work was also submitted for the WVBA Excellence in Broadcasting Awards in 2017.
Despite his professionalism in front of the cameras, Thorn also likes to bring his fun side with him to his spot on the evening news. In his 2014 interview with Billboard, he couldn’t say enough how important it was to enjoy life, even while we’re at work.
“I really think that people just need to stop taking themselves so seriously. We’re all people, we all have to pay bills, we all have to do this, we all have to do that. We’re human,” he said. “When you’re at work, yes, there’s a time to be serious. But if you can take a moment to laugh or be happy about something and just enjoy it, live in the moment, I think you’re going to be better off.”