Goddamnit. I put everything I had into Pizza Rat. Everything. And now I've lost it all on a viral fad.
I've been around Silicon Valley. I've seen apps crumble and fall, and I've seen apps soar to heights mankind has never known before. I know the difference between something that's just the flavor of the month and something that will stand the test of time. And me and all my VC buddies were dead certain that Pizza Rat was going to be as iconic as Michael Jackson. That was the saying on our Slack chat. “Pizza Rat is going to make Michael Jackson obsolete.” It sounds crazy in retrospect, but in the whirlwind of emotions that was two days ago, it seemed like a sure thing.
Which is why I thought purchasing the franchise rights for Pizza Rat from Pizza Rat videographer Pat Baer was a no-brainer. When I handed him the check for one billion dollars at 10am on Monday morning, my VC buddies and I were already lighting up the fat cigars and downing bottle after bottle of Patron. “Welcome to rich town, baby!” was a turn of phrase we kept saying. “Hello, money, it's nice to meet you, baby!” was another one.
By noon, the Pizza Rat MMO, a massively multiplayer Angry Birds clone where you fling pizza at player-controlled Pizza Rats, was already in open beta and getting positive reviews. Kotaku said it was looking to be the greatest meme game of September, beating out Bae Quest and Kim Davis Presents: Rocket League.
3pm saw the eggheads at our video production facility cranking out viral parody after viral parody. “Pizza Rat does the Nae Nae,” a sentence that no one in history who died before today could possibly understand, was the first, followed by “Epic Rap Battles of History: Pizza Rat vs. Pizza Rat,” “Worf from Star Trek Reacts To Pizza Rat,” and “Pizza Rat Whitesplaining To Manspreaders on the 2 Train.” With that sweet YouTube ad revenue, we were just nine hundred ninety nine million, nine hundred ninety nine thousand, eight hundred and nine dollars short of recouping our initial investment.
By 5pm we had a warehouse in Red Hook full of Pizza Rat novelty t-shirts. “I'm With Pizza Rat,” “My Parents Made A Pizza Rat Meme and All I Got Was This Pizza Rat T-Shirt #PizzaRat,” “It's A Pizza Rat Thing, You Wouldn't Understand,” “Pizza Rat & Netflix & Chill & Keep Calm & Carry On,” to name a few.
Tuesday morning, we had a verbal commitment from Papa John's that they would market Pizza Rat pizza – a plain slice that's shaped like, and tastes like, a rat. Papa John's told us they wouldn't have to alter their normal recipe at all to get that authentic rat meat flavor. Giant Mutant Pizza Rats, a Flash cartoon, was coming out as fast as our Koreans could churn out the .swfs.
Tuesday afternoon saw Kim Kardashian retweeting Pizza Rat. This was maybe the biggest thing of them all. “Can something go super viral?” was a question we popcorned around our Google Hangout. “Is rich town going to turn into rich city?”
Then came the backlash. “Does Pizza Rat Have A Diversity Problem?” We were taking a lot of heat from all the big media sites – Thought Catalog, Elite Daily, The Daily Dot. We were forced to respond. “Obviously, Pizza Rat has a diversity problem. But Pizza Rat has made significant progress since he crawled on to that dirty subway platform yesterday. Look no further than Black Pizza Rat, Asian-American Pizza Rat, and Caitlyn Jenner Pizza Rat for proof that change is real.” A serious bullet had been dodged.
Then, just when we were about to hit the top, the absolute Pizza Rat zenith – nothing. Radio silence. Pizza Rat disappeared, crawling back into the rat hole he came from, presumably with a piece of pizza in his tiny little rat paws. The dream, as they say, was over.
Nowadays, everyone is talking about the turtle that spilled the jar of peanut butter and Coffee Cat, the cat that drinks coffee. But no matter how sad or broke I am, I still believe in you, Pizza Rat. A hit, as they say in the music industry, is a hit. And Pizza Rat's cover of Taylor Swift's “1989” is a hit.