Mick Lagi, Accidental Creator Of The CatJAM And Vibing Cat Meme, Explains How His Friend’s Cat Minette Wound Up As One Of 2020’s Biggest Memes
ack in April, Mick Lagi shared a seemingly random video of his friend’s cat, named Minette, to his TikTok as only his second-ever post on the platform. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Minette would become one of the biggest memes of the year in a matter of months, joining the ranks of other famous internet cats like Smudge and Grumpy Cat. By the summer, Lagi’s initial clip of Minette became solidified as the CatJAM Twitch emote on over 12,600 channels, including notable streamers such as xQc and Tyler1, who propelled it into the mainstream. It continued evolving into the Vibing Cat meme and, finally, the Cat Vibing to Street Musician's Ievan Polkka meme, spreading to nearly every corner of the web as it became a viral sensation. We reached out to Lagi to find out more about Minette herself and how the original video was created.
Q: Hey there, Mick. Thanks for joining us. I’d like to begin by catching up on how life’s going, and what you’ve been up to with Minette these days. Would you mind introducing yourself to our readers?
A: The cat belongs to a close friend of mine whom I see frequently. Kevin Tardif is the owner of the cat, but unfortunately, he had to give Minette away to another home because his son started to develop allergies. Luckily, I had time to do some videos with her before that.
Q: So in April this year, you posted a video of her to your TikTok that ultimately spawned the clip used in the CatJam and Vibing Cat meme. Could you tell us more about that day and the post itself? How’d you get her to do the iconic head nod? Was it from moving her head yourself?
A: Basically, my friend and I were having supper, and I started playing with Minette at the same time doing a beat with my mouth. Indeed, I was moving her head with my hand, as several people guessed how I did it [laughs].
Q: Then a few months later over the summer, the video started spreading around and getting reposted to other platforms before becoming a Twitch emote called “CatJam.” Do you remember seeing it posted elsewhere online or as an emote on channels such as xQc or Tyler1? Were you familiar with Twitch then?
A: I'm not on Twitch, so I really realized later that it was that big. I had seen a bit of the meme on Reddit but nothing more.
Q: By late July and early August, the emote was being used on nearly 13,000 Twitch channels and also gained popularity as the “Vibing Cat” meme on platforms like Reddit and TikTok. When did you first stumble upon one of these memes, or did someone show it to you? How’d you react?
A: I realized the video had gone viral when I read a comment on my original post where someone told me the video was viral on Twitch and everywhere else. So, I started doing some research and found it was everywhere. One of the first videos I saw is the one with the music from Goosebumps and then the one with the tambourine, then it was in bursts more and more every day. I was speechless because I was telling myself, “Damn, someone has surely made money with my video at this time!”
Q: So during that initial period of popularity, would you say you were pretty savvy with memes and internet culture already or was this phenomenon with your own video sort of a new experience?
A: I've been posting funny videos for a long time, but this is really the first time a video has gone global like that [laughs]. Pages more popular than mine have modified my original video in their own way and have even been much more successful.
Q: Aside from your reaction to Minette becoming a meme, how did friends and family react to her becoming a bit of an internet sensation?
A: The first week that I posted the video, there were already a lot of views for it only being my second TikTok ever. I went to my friend's house to show him that Minette had tens of thousands of views already, and I told her jokingly, “Your cat is going to be world-famous, look!” But at this time, we were just laughing about it. Only after I realized that it was getting a lot bigger.
Q: More recently, there’s also been a novelty Twitter account called @CatVibesTo which posts various remixes of Minette dancing to different music. Have you seen this particular account or anything similar to it, and what did you make of these?
A: I learned about this one very recently. When you contacted me, I was speechless when I went to see the page. It’s crazy how something so big can roll, and it is not me doing it just because it’s my video [laughs].
Q: Another variant of Minette combined with a video of Turkish musician Bilal Göregen performing Ievan Polka has been trending in recent weeks. Are you familiar with this particular version of the Vibing Cat meme?
A: Yes, I did see the video, and I laughed a lot. This version is too good!
Q: Throughout all these developments and transformations with the meme, from the original on TikTok to the Twitch emote and then the spread to Reddit and other sites, was there a specific moment when you kinda came to the conclusion, “Wow, this is big now.”
A: It was really from the moment I read the comment on my TikTok that I really realized that it was huge. After that, practically every day I received videos on Messenger from friends who always asked me, “Yooo, is that your video?!” — more and more often.
Q: Besides these, do you have any personal favorite versions of CatJam or Vibing Cat? Ever made any others yourself?
A: I published a few other videos with Minette in CatJAM 2.0 mode and everything, but it was not as successful as the first one.
Q: Do you think the CatJam and Vibing Cat meme is as popular in Canada where you’re based, or does it seem to come mostly from the U.S.?
A: I don't know for sure if CatJAM is more popular here or in the U.S. I saw so many versions in so many different languages [laughs].
Q: So memes in general, do you particularly like or dislike them? Can you tell us some of your other favorite memes from the past or any current favorites?
A: I will never tire of seeing memes. It’s almost like the internet was created for that! There are so many good ones every day getting better and better, it's hard to say which one is the “king of memes.”
Q: Due to the meme’s popularity, did you notice an increased interest in your profiles online or any other ways it has affected your life? Did you try to capitalize on the fame in any way or did you just let it happen naturally?
A: I got a few more subscribers but nothing incredible. I don't know what to do to try to capitalize on this video because the internet has taken possession of it. Even if we wanted to, I didn't know who to approach to do something with it, so I just let things go in a certain way. If at least recognition comes back to me one day on this video, that would already be good enough [laughs].
Q: Circling back to Minette, can tell us more about her, what kind of cat she’s like or any funny behavior or mannerisms? What does she enjoy doing?
A: This will surprise you, but Minette is in fact deaf! So, you can make her vibe to any music in the world and she hears nothing. She lives her life relaxed, and one funny thing she likes us to do is sweep the vacuum over her. She likes affection, so when I bounce her head, she just likes the attention a lot.
Q: At any point over the last several months since CatJam and Vibing Cat have become so widespread, were you ever annoyed or perturbed by people using Minette for memes, or did you enjoy seeing her become so beloved by the web? What about Minette, do you think she’d have anything to say about all this?
A: I find it so cool that Minette has become so viral [laughs]. My friend still can't believe it. The only thing that really bothers us is that I know that all of this could have been monetized, and we didn't get a dime xD. Minette is still proud of her owner anyway [laughs].
Mick Lagi is a construction worker, musician and video content creator, based in Quebec, Canada, who posted the original clip used in the CatJAM / Vibing Cat and Cat Vibing to Street Musician's Ievan Polkka memes. Check out his TikTok or Facebook to see more. View our interview with Turkish musician Bilal Göregen from the Cat Vibing to Street Musician's Ievan Polkka meme here.
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