Play Him Off, Keyboard Cat Makes YouTube Fun Again (Briefly)

We’ve been through it with YouTube, right? I mean it used to be fun, spending hours watching video after video of people dressed up as Peter Pan, lip-synching to gangsta rap, newscasters dropping f-bombs, and random animal attacks on the tourist class. Who needed to leave the house when the computer machine could spew endless reels of people who are too intense about Britney, sporting bad toupees and get-rich schemes, and whose extreme ignorance of basics physics results in extreme doom for their motor vehicles (and maximum laffs for us)?

But we kinda wore all the dopamine out of it, didn’t we? Sure we did. And while those videos continue to be cranked out daily, which used to make us so happy, now it seems hollow. Something’s missing. But what?

Then I discovered what was missing. It’s so simple. Why didn’t I think of it before? It’s a cat of course. But not just any cat. No.

It’s a cat playing a little piano. Accompanying the face-planting floor exercise and the corpulent schitzophrenic outer space sermon alike. And not, as you might at first expect, playing way down on the left-hand side the bass notes of impending doom. But instead a jaunty tune, a fluffy riff that reminds us “It’s not real, it’s YouTube!”

Breathing new life into old FAIL-pr0n like gravity vs the grape-stomping-newslady:

Learning about gun safety:

And then on serious issues, when things are bad, real bad, and you need some perspective to help you through, let the kitty cat Korla Pandit cut the tension like a paper knife…

Or that time you let Walker, Texas Ranger communicate sensitive medical information to a child

Yup, nothing like two paws on an organ to help you through those tough times.

A rising trend in the keyboard kitty arena is cross-cutting the feline Liberace during the build–“Wait for it…” he seems to say with his non-moving non-lips.

But the Keyboard Cat has to have an origin, right? Like the Universe or the Green Goblin? And does Keyboard Cat have a secret identity?

Yes and Yes. A seemingly mild-mannered cat named “Fatso” shot a low-budget video, once upon a time, which many years later hit YouTube (on June 07, 2007, to be more or less precise) in a hot little number called Charlie’s “cool cat”. Turns out that video includes two songs from Fatso (the second deep cut has yet to catch on, but who knows, Fatso might beat the sophmore jinx).

Here is the original session (very rare!):

The info on the video reads:

Visit -Our cat Fatso playing the keyboard with all the cool of a true jazz artist. These 2 songs prove what $1,850 worth of cat piano lessons can accomplish. These kinds of clips kick it fofr advertisers.

Sure, buddy, so does teh spellcheck.

Charlie Schmidt is still around, has his own YouTube channel, and is interesting enough to merit his own post, sometime in the near future. But for something to go mad viral, it needs someone to up the first mash.

Enter Brad O’Farrell who on February 2nd, 2009 used a clip from Schmidt’s video to accentuate the Fail in one of his own called “Play him off, Keyboard Cat.”. The rest is YouTube viral alchemy at its most straightforward. And our mindless video consumption salvation is thus at hand.

There’s now a site dedicated to these mashups: what else? Shockingly, this meme has even hit Twitter @thekeyboardcat. Shocking!! There’s also an entry on this phenomena in Rocketboom’s Know Your Meme series.

Keep in mind there are faux-Fatso’s out there, pretenders to the throne. Cats like Chico and Bill bite on Fatso’s style but they don’t make the grade.

After all this Keyboard Cat, you know what? I’m done. I’m sick of YouTube again.

Jason Schupp of member station contributed to this report. Jason wishes to thank his old coworker Murray (@murrayfortescue) for bringing him keyboard cat enlightenment.

UPDATE: Rocketboom did an interview with Brad O’Farrell, creator of the Play Him Off, Keyboard Cat meme.


Actor, nerd, poet, producer, writer mikl-em made his name short so you wouldn't have to. In addition to his blog you can find his writing in "Hi Fructose" magazine and witness him almost life-sized in various plays at The Dark Room Theater in SF's Mission district.

He tends to write about theater, humor, San Francisco culture and history, and stuff that's just plain weird. He thanks Scott for sharing the keys to the Laughing Squid virtual HQ and promises to uphold whatever it is that the mirthful cephalopod would prefer to be uplifted.