The person or persons claiming to be Zardulu, the shadowy figure said to have orchestrated Pizza Rat and several other secretly staged viral videos, is in the news again, this time in a NY Times article about that mysterious three-eyed fish spotted by the Gowanus Canal last November. And like everything else that has ever happened in the modern history of NYC, this incident is probably a hoax created by Zardulu.
— Zardulu (@iamthemythmaker) February 11, 2016
For those who haven't been following along because there are literally thousands of more important things to pay attention to, in January we reported that the viral video of a rat crawling on a man in the subway and taking a rat-selfie with his cell phone was staged by Upright Citizens Brigade [UCB] improv actor Eric Yearwood and the aforementioned Zardulu, who he says enlisted him to perform in the staged incident using her trained rat.
"She said she was a NYC-based performance artist and wanted help with a project and was going to pay me a little bit of money," Yearwood explained at the time. "You get weird casting calls and stuff all the time, so I didn't really think too much of it, and when she described the project to me, it seemed pretty weird. Especially the part where there wasn't going to be any sort of revelation at the end of it. I would not be able to take credit for it and neither would she."
Yearwood would not confirm that Pizza Rat, an insanely viral video showing a rat dragging a slice of pizza down a set of subway stairs, was also staged using a trained rat. But other sources insisted that it had Zardulu's fingerprints all over it. Another UCB actor who would only speak anonymously told us, "It's the same rat in all the rat videos. I'd bet my life on it. She told me a year ago about the rat training, just not the specific performance art pieces."
Zardulu, responding to an email that Yearwood and another source said was used by Zardulu, did not confirm or deny responsibility for pizza rat. Referring to their participation in Selfie Rat, Zardulu said, "I anticipated a betrayal, as I was threatened with such, but not from anyone with this email. I think there are better stories to tell. Why wake the world from a beautiful dream when the waking world is all so drab?"
The man who filmed the famous Pizza Rat video, yet another UCB actor named Matt Little, has emphatically denied it was staged. He also says he made "somewhere between zero and 8 billion dollars" off the licensing rights for the Pizza Rat video.
This latest "revelation" regarding the three-eyed Gowanus fish will be familiar to those who have followed along with our hard-hitting Zardulu hoax coverage. As always, the person who has come forward to the press is an improv comedy actor who says he was approached by Zardulu and offered $100 to pretend to catch a three-eyed fish from the Gowanus. Here's what Greg Boz tells the NY Times:
“She was like, ‘Would you like to be a tool for a grand architectural design?’” Mr. Boz recalled.
Mr. Boz, an improviser and comedian, was intrigued. He could also use the $100 she was offering. The next day, he met the woman on a bridge over the famously polluted Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.
She wore a gold mask and gold robes. She had an assistant hand Mr. Boz a FedEx box.
Inside were five taxidermied catfish, each with an extra eye stuck to the middle of its forehead... He was given a fishing pole and instructed to return another day and to appear to have caught one of the fish, and to alert passers-by to his catch.
“It felt totally fake to me,” Mr. Boz, 29, said last week at his apartment in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the five fish laid out on his kitchen table. “I felt like I was being a bad actor. But it was funny.”
Boz was not filmed on anyone's cell phone video that day, but he claims he kept the fish and showed them to the Times. They do look very similar to the fish seen on video that was sent to us. Boz tells the Times that he "is not the flannel-shirted fisherman in the video, but he assumes that Zardulu tried the scene with other actors."
As our subsequent investigation revealed, it is highly plausible that the three-eyed fish seen in the video above was fake, and not an actual fish caught in one of the most toxic bodies of water in America. At the same time, how do we know Boz is telling the truth when he expects us to believe he waited five months to come forward about Zardulu's alleged involvement in the Gowanus Blinky? How does the NY Times know Boz isn't the one perpetuating a media hoax?
It is also plausible that Boz spent a few months making the fake fish himself, based off of the fish in the video, and exploited an opportunity for free exposure in the Times, which only has his word to go on. (If you think that's crazy, you haven't spent much time hanging around attention-starved improv comedy actors.) And doesn't Boz's florid description of a theatrical meeting with a costumed Zardulu on the Carroll Street bridge seem a little far-fetched? Why would Zardulu attract so much attention to herself by appearing in costume if she/he was setting up a prank? Wouldn't it make more sense to hand over the fake fish in a dark alley?
We asked Boz via email if he'd heard from Zardulu since his supposedly failed three-eyed fish stunt. Boz replied thus:
So the NYT article came out last night, which I caught pretty soon after it came out. And maybe a little over an hour later went by and someone was ringing my apartment. We don't have an intercom and we definitely weren't expecting anyone that late last night, so I thought it was someone just trying to get in who lost their keys, but they were only buzzing our apartment.
So I went down, and before I opened the door I saw through the glass that it was someone wearing a Zardulu type mask. I was kind of freaked out, but I definitely wanted to know what was up.
I opened the door, and it wasn't Zardulu, it was definitely a dude, but he wore a mask with face paint on it, a wig and robe. I said "Hey, I guess you saw the article?" and he didn't say anything. He took out a piece of paper and undid it like a scroll and it said something in Latin, and I didn't know what to say. Then he took out a lighter and lit it on fire and it disappeared like flash paper, the stuff magicians use.
He just repeated what was on the paper, he said "Auribus Teneo Lupum" and walked away. I didn't bother following or anything, I think I just said "thanks for stopping by."
I didn't know the exact spelling of the Latin, but I was able to google it. It seems kind of like a threat, but I really think Zardulu is harmless obviously. I think it's all for show. A pretty ridiculous show.
Also. this guy Matt I know in the improv scene reached out to me last night a little before this happened. He said he was involved with another Zardulu thing that happened a while back, and he wouldn't tell me what he personally did, but he did tell me Zardulu told him she was behind the Montauk Monster. That she combined a parrot skull and a raccoon body I believe? And then left it there at the beach. It definitely seems Zardulu-y in retrospect.
I don't know if he was messing with me, or if it was Zardulu messing with me, or if he was just telling the truth.
To paraphrase Captain Willard, the bullshit piles up so fast in Zardulunam you need wings to stay above it.
And what does the person who responds to the email account claiming to be Zardulu have to say about this? Here's Zardulu's response to questions about the veracity of yesterday's NY Times article:
So, as far as The Times, I am an admirer of Mr. Newman's writing so having him write about me is an honor. I think he was respectful of the artistic integrity of what I do. Conversely, I wasn't a big fan of yours after the piece of vicious abstraction you targeted against me. The only thing that I felt was missing in the Times piece was a discussion of fabricated viral moments as art, as Zardulism. I'm glad that others in the art world have began to discuss it as such. I've been contacted by several professors of digital and Internet art as well as folk and performance art asking about my pieces. The Manifesto of Zardulism has actually been added to the syllabus of an Internet art course at Stanford University and hopefully others will follow. [Editor's note: Please, make it stop.]
I'll level with you a little more. I've come to realize that the group of improv artists I connected with over the last year or two has begun to unravel. They are looking to gain notoriety by connecting themselves to my works. Greg, for instance, has had a very tertiary role and his photo is in the New York Times. What was most disappointing was that he was supposed to give the three eyed catfish to everyone who helped. As I state in the manifesto, the tangible aspects of my performances developed in preparation or promotion of such are pieces of Zardulism. Thus the signature on the catfish and such. Since he failed to distribute them originally I really wish he'd now put them in the hands of people who would appreciate them.
Okay, we wouldn't mind having one of those three-eyed fish around the office. Still reading? Wow. Thanks. Here's video Zardulu sent us recently, along with the ludicrously academic manifesto we've included in the photo feature above. Watch as Zardulu admits to staging Pizza Rat for inscrutably pretentious reasons:
Yearwood now tells us he has met up with Zardulu repeatedly since he revealed that he faked Selfie Rat, supposedly at Zardulu's behest. Here's his email:
I've seen Zardulu three times since the Gothamist interview. On the first encounter she invited me again to her underground studio workshop. She told me one of her rats had died, and she seemed very sad and serious about that. She showed me the rat's dead body. It was covered in flower petals, and laid out on a tiny gold platform. The platform was suspended a few inches off the table with magnets. It was kind've incredible. She said to me "When one of my disciples steps into eternity, another must take its place. Are you ready to become my disciple?" I said "I don't know." and she said "You must chooose."
A couple weeks later was the second encounter. She asked me to meet her at night in a wooded area in New Jersey. When I arrived at the location there was a bonfire, and strange images were drawn on fabric and suspended all around on the tree limbs. Then Zardulu appeared, but there were three Zardulu's... Three people wearing the exact same robes and zardulu mask. They spoke simultaneously and said "You must choose the true Zardulu". Then the first Zardulu sang a high-pitched song, the second zardulu took some silver thread and wove a complex shape with her fingers, and the third zardulu performed some sort of weird dance. Then they prompted me to choose. I chose the second zardulu, because I didn't know what to do, and they all laughed. They said to me "You chose poorly. We are all Zardulu, and Zardulu is none at all." Then they ran screaming into the woods. I was too freaked out to follow them. I just went back to my rental car and drove back to brooklyn.
The last encounter is the one I mentioned where she painted the runes on my face... She walked me through some weird ceremony. It seemed like the point of it was to guarantee my confidentiality with regard to her true identity. She painted my face with weird runes and stuff. It was pretty uncomfortable to be honest but I got the point.
Is anyone else having a hard time believing anything Yearwood is saying here? And if Yearwood is fabricating these implausible, dreamlike encounters with Zardulu, it seems fair to speculate that Zardula may only exist in his head.
At this point our best guess is that Yearwood IS Zardulu (for the record: he denies it) or that Zardulu is the creation of another improv comedy actor or actors (Boz?) in Yearwood's circle. Yearwood emphatically denies it, but he also showed up for a recent TV interview wearing a garbage bag for no apparent reason, so he's clearly a guy who enjoys messing with the media.
Again, it's all pure idle speculation, but what else are you left with when the mysterious prankster refuses to remove his or her mask? A pigeon with a bagel around its neck. Yeah, that was fake too, unless it was "faked" after the fact to make us THINK it was staged. WE WANT TO BELIEVE... IN SOMETHING THAT ISN'T SO VAPID PLEASE SAVE US FROM THESE UCB ACTORS.