May 12, 2009 in City

Fatso video strikes chord years later

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Courtesy of Charlie Schmidt photo

The late, great Fatso the Keyboard Cat is now an Internet sensation thanks to the music video Charlie Schmidt recorded back in the early 1980s in Spokane. Courtesy of Charlie Schmidt
(Full-size photo)

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History is littered with great artists who were ignored and unappreciated while alive, only to find fame after shedding their mortal coil.

And so it is for an orange Spokane cat named Fatso.

Fatso, alas, gave up her ninth and final life in 2000. But the cat lives again on the Internet because of the brief, hilarious music video she recorded back in the early 1980s.

In it, Fatso tickles the ivories with outstretched paws a la classical musicians like Catzart, say, or Stravinskitty.

She plays a jaunty, simple tune.

“Doot-doot, doot-doot …”

This is without a doubt one of the silliest things ever. That may partly explain why Keyboard Cat has become a cyberspace sensation.

(Mass insanity or the overall decline of civilization has my votes for the rest of the equation.)

Whatever the reason, however, Fatso has likely logged upward of a million plays. Maybe more, who knows? The video is spreading at such a viral pace you’d probably need a team from the Centers for Disease Control to put an exact number on this Feline Flu pandemic.

The Keyboard Cat obsession, according to one Internet site, got a boost last week “after being called out by celebrity Twitterer Ashton Kutcher, and described by CNN as a ‘Web sensation.’ ”

This is the sort of positive news Spokane needs in the wake of being tagged as the scam capital of America by Forbes Magazine.

Scam capital, indeed.

How unfair. One shady downtown parking garage deal and it’s like nobody will let you forget it.

But getting back to Keyboard Cat. …

Kitties can’t really play the piano, of course. This is actually the work of the highly inventive and imaginative mind of my pal, Charlie Schmidt.

Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble. But Charlie is off-camera manipulating the arms of Fatso, who was an extraordinarily docile pet.

Normally when Charlie makes news, it is with the popular dancing nose bit that put him on “The Tonight Show” twice and on scores of entertainment venues from Tokyo to Budapest.

But Charlie is not a one-nose-trick pony.

He has been filming dozens of short, off-the-wall videos for decades. Thanks to the YouTube era, Charlie’s videos are now enjoying an exposure he couldn’t have dreamed of back when he made them.

Quite frankly, I always thought the video where Charlie makes himself a pair of shoes out of French bread would be the one to take off.

(French loafers – get it?)

But there’s no telling what will catch the fancy of the fickle Internet crowd.

For reasons far beyond my understanding, much of Keyboard Cat’s prolific popularity comes from how it is being used. See, Keyboard Cat is being appended onto the end of stupid or painfully awkward real videos.

Take the clip of the guest who not long ago fainted while on the Glenn Beck TV show. Just after the hapless guy faints, Fatso suddenly appears to provide a musical exit to what you’ve just watched.

This supposedly intensifies the absurdity.

So think of Keyboard Cat as a visual punch line. Except Internet hipsters don’t use the term punch line. They call it a “meme.”

Gads.

Nobody is more surprised by the hullabaloo than Charlie, who was interviewed last week by CNN for Wolf Blitzer’s show. Charlie said he’s now getting thousands of hits on his Web site – www.charlieschmidt.com – and is being contacted by entrepreneurs who want to strike deals with him to sell Keyboard Cat ring tones, dolls, T-shirts. …

Keyboard Cat has also provoked many discussions out there in the vast electronic void.

•“But he shall live forever on the Internet, or for a few more weeks until the meme fizzles out,” remarked one at the news of Fatso’s demise.

•“The funny thing is that each time I have to watch the cat all the way through to the end. I can’t stop myself,” wrote another.

•“Man, I’m not sure how this will play when I’m not stoned,” observed yet another. “It’s baffling me now as it is.”

No wonder the newspaper industry is going down the toilet.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.

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