Cat videos aren’t particularly funny. So why can’t we look away?
Cleveland comedian Mike Polk probes this question with his latest viral video, a ditty about his four-month-old kitten, Macduff. In the song, though, Macduff becomes a sort of Everycat, a feline avatar of the star of every cat video on the Internet.
The video, “I’m a Stupid Cat,” isn’t even 24 hours old yet, but is already approaching 200,000 views.
And Polk, who sings but doesn’t appear in the video aside from a brief legs-only cameo emptying Macduff’s litterbox, is in turn a representative of every opportunistic YouTuber who’s trying, in the immortal words of Parry Gripp, to monetize his pet.
In the 2009 Adam Sandler-Seth Rogen movie Funny People—which my editor informs me is itself about as humor-laden as a two-hour-long YouTube cat video—Jonah Hill, playing a comedian named Leo, says:
“If you put ‘cute kitten’ in the title of your YouTube video, you’re gonna get a million hits. And then I link that to my website and you can see my stand-up on my website. It’s genius.“
And so is Polk’s contribution to the genre. Macduff, whom Polk described in an email as “an old soul,” behaves like any playful kitten should. He runs around Polk’s apartment, plays with paper, eats some household plants, and lays down in various places all to the tune of Polk’s obscenity-strewn lyrics.
Many Internet denizens, seeing Polk’s wry references as a critique of the cat-video genre, are calling “I’m a Stupid Cat” the best cat video ever. Others theorized on its deeper meaning: “Ignorance is bliss,” wrote kadoke on YouTube.
Polk walks that fine line between making fun of cats and the videos of them, while also pandering to cat lovers for views. He writes in his video description: “People like to look at cats on the Internet. Why not look at my stupid cat?”
In an email to the Daily Dot, Polk took his motive in a more mythically gonzo direction. “No one WANTS to watch cat videos,” he wrote. “But it’s what cats want us to do and we fear them. Because if they want to they can steal our babies’ breath”—a reference to a common superstition about cats.
Within hours of being uploaded onto YouTube, a Reddit user linked to “I’m a Stupid Cat!”, and it quickly made it to the social news site’s front page. Soon after, the video was tweeted by Web personality Felicia Day, who described it as a “completely NSFW profane hilarious cat music video.”
Before “I’m a Stupid Cat!”, Polk’s biggest viral hits were his series, “Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Videos.” The parodies offended sensitive Clevelanders with lyrics like “see our river that catches on fire, it’s so polluted that all our fish have AIDS.”
“Music in an excellent tool to trick people into hearing your mediocre jokes,” said Polk, in an unconscious echo of the strategy Jonah Hill advocated years ago. “It makes stuff more palatable and makes things seem funnier than they are. We are a simple lot, aren’t we?”