For Jonothon lyons a normal day includes going out onto the streets of New York wearing a rat mask and a huge tail that comes out of his pants. When he is disguised as a rodent, he does not walk upright, but on all fours. That is why his hands are covered in calluses. Despite entertaining and interacting with people, this artist does not live on tips from passers-by, but on social media.
The inspiration for the character came in 2009 when he contemplated rats swarming between subway tracks and garbage bags. The 39-year-old artist first played this gigantic rat – named Buddy the rat, something like the rat friend – in an hour-long play without dialogue and it occurred to him to go to promote the piece in the most touristy place in the city, Times Square. “I put on the costume and ran a bit. This was a long time ago, but we posted it on YouTube and got roughly 70,000 views. ”RELATED
The project was stalled for more than a decade, until the onset of the pandemic, when he began making weekly videos from his room. But fame did not come until October 26, 2020, when after a day of filming through the almost empty streets of Soho with his friend and director Todd Strauss-Schulson, someone recorded him acting as a rat, this time with a blue mask. covering his muzzle. “The next day I woke up to a video of mine that was going viral,” Lyons recalls.
“I started posting my own videos and the first one that had more success it was one in a subway car with which I got 30 million views in TikTok”, He points out. The long underground tunnels gave him more than one viral video. Another that was very successful was the one filmed by a user named New York Nico, a parody of another video that became popular in 2015 of a rat going down the stairs to the platform carrying a big piece of pizza with cheese.
Its galleries of TikTok (platform in which it has almost three million subscribers) and Instagram (where he has over 100,000 followers) are packed with surreal videos. Some include images of the rat using a huge piece of pizza to go down a snowy hill in a New York park or of the rat emerging from a hole in the middle of the sidewalk. Others show cuddly encounters with cats and dogs in the popular Washington Square Park.
“When I’m in public, everyone records me with my mobile, and one of the things I do to make sure they tag me is to go with someone who gives my cards, which have a QR code and all my accounts,” explains the interpreter who says that the popularity of his rat is that it has the personality of a dog.
However, the also dancer says that the fact that a video goes viral does not always translate into money. “Maybe I can get a few hundred dollars here or there, but what makes me money is the creator pool that TikTok gives, with Instagram I don’t earn anything. But the money that is earned in this business (in social networks) is through collaborations with brands ”.
TikTok allows you to pay your rent and has been the reason why it has become so popular. The artist with a theatrical career points out that not everyone is interested in seeing a surrealist work with a beginning, middle and end with a dancing rat, but that millions are distracted by watching his daily videos of between eight and 10 seconds doing adventures in the city.
By not speaking, you can reach people all over the planet. After a collaboration with the Mexican Carlos Name (who has 1.8 million followers on Instagram), he earned 20,000 followers from Mexico City. “I have a lot of followers in the Middle East. In July I went to Turkey to perform there. But the most curious thing is that in my channel YoutubeWhere I have about 288,000 subscribers, more than 60% is in India, I think it’s because as TikTok is banned there, they wear YouTube shorts. I would love to go there too. “
“My goal has always been to work in entertainment: in movies, TV shows or theater. And this is giving me the opportunity to make many more contacts in that world. I have some projects. I’m working on an animated series, a movie and a video game, ”the actor emphasizes. He also says he is in talks with the New York City Department of Cleaning to make videos on reconciling the city’s garbage problem.