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Heidi Montag’s intentionally stiff comedy performance plugs consumer protection

Who knew someone with trouble moving her jaw could do jaw-dropping comedy?

An online video clip featuring reality-TV star Heidi Montag has already received more than 1 million views and is burning up the celebrity blogosphere since its posting on Tuesday. But Montag, famous for her stint on MTV’s “The Hills,” (and more recently for her numerous plastic surgeries) isn’t peddling a new reality show or designer clothing line. Rather, the clip shows Montag, decked out in diamonds and a skin-tight dress, pushing for consumer protection reform.

Produced by movie director Ron Howard, the video is part of an unusual marketing strategy by consumer watchdog agency Americans for Financial Reform that aims to warn consumers of the dangers of credit card debt, hidden fees and standard interest rate increases. The spot appears on the wildly popular humor Web site FunnyOrDie.com. (Watch clip below)

Forget about newspaper op-ed columns and loud-mouthed radio talk show hosts. The Internet is now a powerful platform for pushing credit card reform — and one that’s calling for change with hilarious jokes rather than political jabs.

Fresh off the tabloid circuit with news of undergoing 10 plastic surgery procedures in one day, Montag’s FunnyOrDie debut tackles a less invasive brand of plastic with equal parts self-mockery and consumer advocacy.

“With hidden fees and standard interest rate increases, that $11,000 jaw line can end up costing upward of $50, 000,” says Montag in the video spot, while overlooking her Hollywood mansion. “Being in debt for elective surgery is bad enough, but when I think about the thousands of Americans whose only method of paying for food is with credit cards, it’s enough to make me cry without moving my new face.”

Montag goes on to make a compelling case for the creation of a consumer agency that “will stop banks and credit card companies from being such sleazy jerks.”

Her spot-on mock-spot isn’t the only online comedy sketch to push for better regulation of credit card companies and banks. Earlier this month, a FunnyOrDie clip entitled, “Presidential Reunion,” featured ‘Saturday Night Live’ performers, including Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph, Chevy Chase, Will Ferrell and Dana Carvey. In the clip, Barack Obama gets a surprise visit in the night from ex-Presidents Bush Sr., Bush Jr., Clinton, Ford, Reagan and Carter. Together, they implore the President to push for federal regulations and support the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

“When I put the Iraq War on my credit card, I never dreamed I would be paying 28 percent interest rates. It’s astronomical,” deadpans Will Ferrell in a close-to-perfect impression of Bush Jr. The video was made in support of Americans for Financial Reform.

Even syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington has taken her plight for sweeping changes to the credit card and banking industry to the Internet. Last December, Huffington leveraged her popular news Web site the Huffington Post to promote a video that parodies the classic Frank Capra film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where community banker George Bailey helps the people of Bedford Falls escape the grip of predatory banker Mr. Potter. Created by filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, the online video encourages Americans to move their money out of big banks and deposit it into community banks that can have a positive impact on local neighborhoods and businesses.

While Jarecki’s powerful montage of classic film clips and C-Span footage packs a far more powerful punch than Montag’s self-mockery, the purpose is the same: to find a new — and digital — podium for preaching financial reform. The question is: Is Wall Street listening? Or just snickering?

Editor’s note: Our guest blogger, Cindy Waxer, is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose articles have appeared in The Economist, Time magazine and CNN.com.

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