Keyboard Cat is an internet meme originally featuring a female cat named Fatso that belonged to Charlie Schmidt of Spokane, Washington.
Bento and Skinny, two other cats belonging to Schmidt, have featured in the meme since Fatso died in 1987.
Fatso the Keyboard Cat
Schmidt created the first Keyboard Cat video in 1984 on VHS (see the video below).
He dressed Fatso in his infant son’s shirt and created a video that appeared to show the animal playing a tune unaided on a keyboard.
He first uploaded the VHS video, under the title “Charlie Schmidt’s cool cat,” to YouTube on June 7, 2007, twenty years after Fatso died back in 1987.
O’Farrell’s ‘Play him off, Keyboard Cat’
Schmidt’s video went unnoticed on YouTube until February 2009, when YouTuber Brad O’Farrell requested Schmidt’s permission to use it in a blooper mashup.
O’Farrell’s mashup used footage of Fatso playing on a keyboard as an epic fail meme.
An epic fail meme is typically an image, GIF, or short video used to dismiss a comment or suggestion during a forum discussion as a gaffe or as having catastrophically missed the mark.
Video content creators also append epic fail memes at the end of footage showing an action or performance that ended with a blooper.
O’Farrell’s video, titled “Play him off, Keyboard Cat,” was a blooper mashup that derived inspiration from the idea of an unimpressed audience showing their disapproval of an artist’s performance by “playing him off” the stage.
It showed Fatso “playing off” epic fails, such as a man in a wheelchair falling down an escalator.
Meme goes viral
O’Farrell’s blooper mashup inspired several other online content creators to upload versions that featured Fatso playing off epic fails.
Thus, Fatso could play off a video showing things like a boy falling off an edge while trying to impress a girl, a gymnast flubbing an exercise, or worse still, a soldier firing a mortar round on his trench position.
The Keyboard Cat epic fail meme became a viral phenomenon after websites, such as Buzzfeed, featured it.
Mainstream media outlets, including The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, CNN, and MSNBC, also featured the meme.
Bento takes over
Fatso, the original Keyboard Cat, died in 1987, long before her video gained attention. But after it became a viral internet sensation, Schmidt featured a male moggie, Bento, in new versions of the meme.
Bento also made multiple media appearances (see the video below).
Skinny became the Keyboard Cat after Bento died in March 2018.