Keyboard Cat is an Internet meme. It consists of footage from 1984 of "Fatso", a cat owned by Charlie Schmidt of Spokane, Washington, a blue shirt (belonging to Schmidt's son Cody, who was a baby at the time) and "playing" an upbeat rhythm on an electronic keyboard. In reality, Fatso (who lived until 1987) was manipulated by Schmidt. The video of Fatso was posted to YouTube under the title "charlie schmidt's cool cats" in June 2007.
Later, Brad O'Farrell obtained Schmidt's permission to reuse the footage, appending to the end of a blooper video to "play" that person offstage after the mistake or gaffe in a manner as getting the hook in the days of vaudeville. The appending of Schmidt's video to other blooper and other viral videos became popular, with such videos usually accompanied with the title Play Him Off, Keyboard Cat or a variant. "Keyboard cat" was ranked #2 on Current.TV's list of 50 Greatest Viral Videos.
The first such "Keyboard Cat" video, entitled "Play Him Off, Keyboard Cat" was by Brad O'Farrell, who both secured Schmidt's permission to use footage and asked Schmidt to allow anyone to use the footage with or without permission. Over four thousand such videos now exist, with a website created to collect them.
Keyboard Cat was further popularized by Stephen Colbert on May 18, 2009, during a "toss" with The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. At the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, Andy Samberg's opening monologue suggested that award winners whose speech went on too long would be played off by Keyboard Cat. In the Nintendo DS game, Scribblenauts, in which the player can summon numerous objects to assist in solving puzzles, Keyboard Cat appears as one of several possible Internet memes that can be called up in the game. The timing of the popularity of the Keyboard Cat meme with the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo Convention was considered partially responsible for Scribblenauts' success during the convention. An easter egg in Activision Blizzard's announcement for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm reveals the game's antagonist, Deathwing, playing a keyboard with the text "Keyboard Cataclysm: Play 'em Off, Deathwing". A teaser video from Ubisoft for its video game Splinter Cell: Conviction, entitled "Play Him Off, Keyboard Sam" parodies the Keyboard Cat theme. Kato Kaelin also spoofed Keyboard Cat in a segment of Tosh.0 entitled "Keyboard Kato" in the series first episode. The Xbox Live Arcade remake of Earthworm Jim includes additional content, including one boss character inspired by Keyboard Cat. A television advertisement for Wonderful Pistachios features Bento, Charlie Schmidt's current Keyboard Cat, cracking one of the nuts during the song. In the Mad episode "Avaturd/CSiCarly," Keyboard Cat is shown to be the music leader of the Na'Vi alongside other famous blue characters in a spoof of the James Cameron film Avatar.
The Keyboard Cat meme has been integrated into other memes. An 8-bit version of both the cat and the song have been created. Online clothing vendor Threadless sells a "Three Keyboard Cat Moon" t-shirt based on the infamous Three Wolf Moon design; the shirt design was one of the most popular designs that the company has had, and they have had difficulties in meeting the demand for the shirt. The shirt appeared in a television ad for the release of the PlayStation 3 Slim game console. G4TV's Attack of the Show held a "Great American Keyboard Cat Competition" to give viewers a chance to create their own Keyboard Cat-inspired art, with over one hundred pieces submitted. Several of the top works from this were given to the charity Kitten Rescue to be auctioned off through eBay. The MLB AL East Champion Tampa Bay Rays used a variation known as "Rays Keyboard Kitty" (they also had one called "DJ Kitty") to rouse the crowd during its late season run, using a similar cat in Rays gear in several segments. On April first, 2011 YouTube released a video showing the "Top 5 Viral Pictures of 1911", including a parody of the Keyboard Cat titled "Flugelhorn Feline".
In one notable example, Keyboard Cat was appended to the end of a segment of Desperate Lives, a 1980s made-for-TV movie starring Helen Hunt showing the effects of drug use (with Keyboard Cat starting after Hunt's character falls out a window and suffers from overdosing); after the video, the submitter then superimposed Keyboard Cat in the music video for Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams". The music video segment has been called jokingly by some as the "greatest music video ever." While the video still exists at YouTube, copyright issues with Warner Music Group have forced YouTube to disable the audio from the video. The move has alerted groups concerned about copyrights and the remix culture cautioning about potentially limited creative expression through such actions.
- "'Internet review: Play Him Off, Keyboard Cat'". guardian.co.uk. 2009-05-16. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
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