Viral Video: ‘Pizza Rat’ Serves Up Iconic Slice Of NYC Subway Life – Forbes

Buddy the Rat takes a slice to go.

Jonothon Lyons

It’s a meta performance that explains New York City better than any guidebook.

For the past two days, the internet has been enthralled by a viral video of a man dressed like a rat — complete with mousy brown suit, papier-mâché mask, long tail and whiskers — dragging a larger-than-life pizza slice up the stairs in a New York City subway station.

The video brings together several of the city’s quintessential elements — a slice of pizza, NYC subway rat and subway platform performer — all in one scene. Note, also, the nonplussed reaction of onlookers, particularly the guy who nonchalantly climbs over the railing to give the artist more space.

To get the joke, you need to recall a 2015 viral video of a real NYC rat heroically carrying a giant slice of pizza down a subway station staircase, only to abandon his bounty on the third step. That rodent, dubbed “Pizza Rat,” quickly became an internet star as well as fodder for comedians like Conan O’Brien and Nick Offerman.

Since then, making videos of rats lugging a meal to go has become something of a sport for city commuters. Subway riders have spotted “Pretzel Rat” at Columbus Circle station, a hipster “Avocado Rat” at Brooklyn’s Greenpoint Avenue station and, earlier this year, “Egg McMuffin Rat” had his 15 minutes of fame.

MORE FOR YOU

Even with this competition, “Pizza Rat” remains the gold standard. Two years ago, an Instagram user posted a video of a doppelganger hauling a pizza slice in a midtown subway track: “I JUST SAW PIZZA RAT! I repeat: I JUST SAW PIZZA RAT! Lexington Ave./59th Street on the downtown 6 track. #Blessed.”

According to the man in the rat costume, performance artist Jonothon Lyons, New Yorkers who encounter his “Buddy the Rat” character tend to display one of three emotions: “Joy, fear or radical indifference.” The latter response, he says, is summed up in a famous phrase.

“People say ‘only in New York’ all the time because it’s true. You’re walking down the street and you see something totally crazy on the street corner every other day,” says Lyons. “When you see someone doing their thing, there’s a little New York pride that this is a place where this can happen, and it’s going to be supported.”

Lyon’s Instagram account captures Buddy’s escapades at various iconic New York locations such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square and, of course, riding on the New York City subway, wearing a surgical mask.

Fans can catch more of Buddy on Lyon’s Instagram feed and in a short film that was directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson, of “Isn’t it Romantic” and “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” fame.

The film will launch on Lyons’ YouTube channel on Thanksgiving. “It is a very surreal, uncommon vision of New York. It captures the mood of New Yorkers being cooped up inside during the pandemic,” says Lyons. “I’m excited to celebrate the light at the end of the tunnel and the return of live performance in another year or so.”

Perhaps the most New York thing about Lyons is that he’s not a native. Born and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, the actor and puppeteer made a beeline to the Big Apple as soon as he graduated from college in 2005.

“I’ve never left,” he says. “And I have no intention of leaving.”

READ MORE