If you’ve browsed social media at all in 2015, then you’re probably at least vaguely aware of “pizza rat,” the endearing New York City rodent who was spotted dragging a slice of pizza down New York City subway stairs. Even though pizza rat transformed into a viral meme and social phenomenon (complete with Halloween costumes), it turns out that the video may actually have been staged.
Nothing has been confirmed, but according to some serious investigative reporting by Gothamist, a few viral rat videos, including the slightly-less-popular Selfie Rat, were the work of Eric Yearwood, an actor and comedian with Upright Citizens Brigade. In Selfie Rat, a sleeping man on the subway is awakened by a rat scampering up his lap. The rat then inadvertently takes a selfie on the man’s phone. The sleeping man, however, was actually an actor who had been hired by Zardulua, a performance artist, to act in the video.
“She makes these fake scenarios, releases them as real through news, social media and whatever else,” another UCB actor who has worked with Zardulua in the past. “Many have been huge stories. Weirdest part is that she never comes forward or capitalizes on them whatsoever."
It’s not too difficult to see how Selfie Rat could be the work of an elaborate prankster, but Pizza Rat isn’t exhibiting particularly unusual rodent behaviors, according to Jason Munshi-South, a biology professor at Fordham University. Rats do drag food home to their nest; it’s a common animal behavior.
Here’s the final piece to this as-yet unsolved viral video mystery: The video was filmed and posted to YouTube by Matt Little, who also does standup for Upright Citizens Brigade. He claims the video is legit, however.
"I am not a good enough liar to perpetrate any kind of hoax like this and keep it up," Little told Gothamist.