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Who is Keyboard Cat? I asked myself the same question when I first heard the intriguing moniker. As it turned out, the name is quite self-explanatory. Keyboard Cat is a cat who plays the keyboard and has become quite famous for it.
It started in 1984 when Charlie Schmidt filmed a video of his big ginger cat named “Fatso” wearing a light blue shirt and “playing” an electric keyboard. Schmidt is really manipulating the cat off screen, so it appears as if she herself is playing the keys. She plays un upbeat, catchy little riff with a sort of smug, unimpressed, undeniably “cool” expression on her face.
In 2007, Schmidt uploaded the video to YouTube under the title “Charlie Schmidt’s Cool Cats”, but he later changed the title to “Charlie Schmidt’s Keyboard Cat”. The video quickly gained popularity. You can watch the original video below.
“Play Him Off, Keyboard Cat” Meme
When Brad O’Farrell obtained permission from Schmidt to use the video of Keyboard Cat on the channel My Damn Channel, the meme “Play him off, Keyboard Cat” was created. O’Farrell used the clip of Keyboard Cat at the end of blooper footage to “play” a person offstage after their mistake or blunder.
Soon after, many people began adding Keyboard Cat’s video to the end of bloopers and other viral videos, usually with the title, “Play him/her/them off, Keyboard Cat”. Thousands of these videos now exist, and Keyboard Cat was ranked no. 2 on Current TV’s list of 50 Greatest Viral Videos.
Beyond YouTube & Tributes
Keyboard Cat’s popularity was such that the meme reached beyond YouTube and made its way into television. Keyboard Cat’s biggest time in the lime light was during 2009. In this year, Keyboard Cat was featured in the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Andy Samberg joked at the MTV Movie Awards that anyone whose speech went on too long would be played off by Keyboard Cat. In a segment of Tosh.0, Kato Kaelin did a spoof of Keyboard Cat entitled Keyboard Kato.
And then there’s Ron Livingston, best known for his role as Peter Gibbons in Office Space and star of Band of Brothers, who made a Youtube channel called Livingstown with exactly one video, where Ron disguises himself as Keyboard Cat, convincing many viewers and commenters that, yes, this is in fact the real deal cat, and not a man at all. Watch, and prepare to be utterly convinced!
Keyboard Cat also appeared in Weezer’s 2009 tour with Blink-182 to play the band off the stage every night. We couldn’t find any footage of that legendary collaboration, but anyway, here’s M+M’s by Blink 182.
It doesn’t stop at television and music. Keyboard Cat has also made a few appearances in video games.
In the game Scribblenauts for Nintendo DS, a game in which you use your imagination to call upon different objects to help you solve puzzles, Keyboard Cat is an option that can be chosen, along with several other internet memes.
Fatso and Her Successor, Bento
Unfortunately, the original Keyboard Cat, Fatso, died way back in 1987, three years after the original footage was filmed. But she left a legacy behind her and will not be forgotten.
In 2009, Schmidt got a new cat named Bento who resembled Fatso. Schmidt continued to make videos with Bento until Bento’s death in 2018.
We hope you enjoyed our little article tribute to the great Keyboard Cat. If you know something we don’t, please leave us a comment!
Recorder of many songs, haver of many albums. Dave has been making music for the past twenty years or so, of varying degrees of quality. He has a keen interest in studying all aspects of music history, especially experimental genres like krautrock and no wave.