"When I was starting out with Charlie, it was sort of like, 'No one else is doing this and treating it the way we'd want to do it.' I can't think of another cat-video commercial that was going on then," Lashes says. "And the other concern was, how do you keep it cool and not sell out?"
They ended up being very careful about the brands they chose to work with, making sure each company thoroughly understood the essence of Keyboard Cat.
courtesy of Rich Juzwiak
Rich Juzwiak's Winston Bananas
courtesy of Jack Shepherd
Jack Shepherd, animals editor at Buzzfeed and "cat partisan"
Schmidt has continued on with the Keyboard Cat theme, making a video called "Keyboard Cat Reincarnated" with his new cat Bento (Fatso died in the early '90s) and creating a website called Keyboard Cat Church, which features messages from Keyboard Cat in heaven. Both projects have attracted their own attention, with Microsoft featuring Keyboard Cat Reincarnated in one of its promotions.
Despite his success, Schmidt is still a bit freaked out by internet fame, particularly the seeming randomness of it.
"It's like wildflowers," he says. "If you're planting, you don't know exactly when something will come up. It's spooky. Sometimes I think, 'Why do I try?'"
But he's convinced that cat videos are indeed art.
"It's folk art. It's visual, it's controversial, it's compelling," he says. "Art makes people feel better. It makes life a little bit easier, if only for a few seconds."
Internet Cat Video Film Festival
Thursday, August 30, 8:30–9:30 p.m.
Walker Art Center, Open Field