Side Note

R.I.P. to Keyboard Cat, an internet legend

All memes eventually die—some of them literally: Over the weekend, The Spokesman Review reported that Keyboard Cat, one of the great late aughts memes, passed away earlier this month. The cat, whose name was Bento, was the second to portray the key-tapping feline; Fatso, whose disaffected expression rocketed him to viral stardom in the original clip, died in the ‘80s. After the clip went wide, Bento assumed the role for the post-viral fame tour that accompanies all popular internet animals. Now, he's dead.

I hadn’t thought about Keyboard Cat in years; probably not since college, when my friends and I used to get stoned and cycle through whichever edit was currently dominating the YouTube leaderboards. But the news of his death immediately evoked the memory of what was then the most memorable Keyboard Cat clip: “Play Him Off after his Last Day Dream,” an edit of the short film Last Day Dream, in which we experience a person’s life in a series of POV flashes, from birth to death, each scene broken up by a dramatic piano key.

As the life progresses, we sense the end is coming near. But then, in the shadows, is the Keyboard Cat, awaiting the moment when he will play the protagonist off for good. The clip seems to suggest: What is Keyboard Cat if not the personification of death? And what is death is not a lethargic kitty ready to score your exit from the stage? It seemed very meaningful then, as an intensely stoned college student; it seems a little meaningful now, as I ponder how the legacy of this dopey cat, who almost certainly never knew what was going on as it happened to him, but nonetheless gave us a lot to think about.