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Posts Tagged ‘Pizza Rat’

Photo: Jonothon Lyons
Theater artist Jonothon Lyons as Buddy the Rat in a New York City subway. “Oh, a dude in a rat suit. Just another day in New York.”

What you need today — a day that even in the best of times can mean anxiety about travel or kitchen prep or argumentative relatives — is Pizza Rat.

Valentina Di Liscia and Hyperallergic explain what I mean. “The internet is squeaking with delight this week at a 23-second-long clip of a figure in a rat costume, complete with a long tail, whiskers, and mousy gray suit, dragging a life-sized pizza slice up the stairs in a New York City subway station.

“As surreal as it may be, the sight is intimately familiar to urban dwellers who remember video footage of a real rodent carrying an entire cheese slice up the platform steps a few years back. The strangely endearing, ubiquitous New Yorker became lovingly known as ‘Pizza Rat.’

“The man behind the very realistic mask in the more recent viral video [is] Jonothon Lyons, an accomplished dancer, theater artist, and puppeteer whose previous credits include the Blue Man Group, Sleep No More, and the Metropolitan Opera’s 2019 staging of Madame Butterfly. For his latest act, however, no tickets are needed. …

“Buddy the Rat, as Lyons has baptized his wiry-tailed character, brings the stage to the streets and the subway platforms: getting pets on the Brooklyn Bridge, showing off for Minnie Mouse in Times Square, and encouraging train riders to wear a mask.

“In an interview with Hyperallergic, below, Lyons tells us how Buddy was born and why he’s shaking up the performance art scene right now.

HyperallergicWhat’s the story of Buddy the Rat? How did the character originate?

Jonothon Lyons: Twelve years ago, I was working for a theater company in Portland, Oregon, called Imago Theater, and they have a show called Frogs, where we played big animal characters in masks. I played a frog, a polar bear, an anteater, and a penguin, but I never played a rat, and I always wanted to. In 2009, I made my own rat mask and went out in Times Square and ran around, put it up on YouTube, and it got around 70,000 views. It wasn’t gigantic, but it was enough that in the back of my mind I kept thinking, ‘I need to take this rat out again.’

H: I’ve just emerged from a rabbit hole of TikTok videos of you performing in the costume. They’re incredible, and they’re really resonating with people right now. How did Buddy go viral?

JL: I’m friends with this film director Todd Strauss-Schulson (Isn’t It Romantic, The Final Girls, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas). I told him I had this rat character I’ve been wanting to do more with it, so we conceived of a little three and a half minute-long film.

“We shot it the week leading up to the election, in abandoned SoHo, as the windows were being boarded up — a very surreal and uncommon vision of New York. After the first night of shooting, a stranger had posted a video of me that got 1.7 million views that day. We wrapped up the movie, and over the next few days I started going out on my own and posting the content to TikTok and Instagram, and it really took off.”

Folks, I’m thankful for a whole lot of things today, but at this particular moment, I’m thankful for anyone who says they always wanted to play a rat! More at Hyperallergic, here.

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