As all of Washington eagerly anticipates this weekend’s Super Bowl and prays for the Seahawks to win, pet lovers (and their pets) everywhere are getting their game faces on for the Puppy Bowl X on Animal Planet.
All the while, a Spokane celebrity is gearing up for the halftime performance of a lifetime at the Puppy Bowl. No, it’s not Spike (or Maddie or Sophie) the Bulldog. It’s the cat video classic, Keyboard Cat.
Keyboard Cat’s fame began in a 1984 home video with an electrifying performance on a keyboard of a tune now heard around the world over 34 million times. The cat is now living in the warm human lap of luxury with five iTunes albums, a tour with #CatVidFest (which I went to two weeks ago), commercials and a collection of merchandise.
Charlie Schmidt, Keyboard Cat’s owner and choreographer of sorts, was gracious enough to let me talk to him and the famous feline about the highly anticipated halftime show that will air multiple times on Animal Planet starting at 3 p.m. on Feb. 2 (opposite the Super Bowl).
“It’s sort of hectic because [with] a cat, you have to carry him with you, and you have to put him under the seat [of an airplane], which nobody likes that,” Schmidt said of their life on the road. “Wherever you go, whether it’s the hotel, or an interview, or a show, you got to bring a litter box, food, water, treats, shirt, and the whole show with him.”
Of course this sort of cat celebrity lifestyle comes with a price on the cat’s personal life.
“When [his fame] first started happening, he went off the deep end and he was just [having] catnip 24 hours a day,” Schmidt said. “He had to do kitty rehab, but he pulled out of it and he’s pretty well adjusted now. He does understand a lot.”
Keyboard Cat wore a shirt and hat in Schmidt’s art studio as he lay posing with patience and poise for the camera of my photographer as I asked his owner questions. Schmidt says the cat knows when he has media attention and is trained with a reward system of treats to keep his on-air cuteness. The cat’s entourage includes some feline friends who are “no talent hacks” that stick around in hopes that Schmidt will give them treats too.
Schmidt says Keyboard Cat’s musical influences include Erik Satie, Velvet Underground and the more recent Arctic Monkeys. For the halftime show, Keyboard Cat will be performing a rendition of “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars (the Super Bowl’s performer) and a medley of fight songs typically heard at football games. Along his journey to the Puppy Bowl, Keyboard Cat has made a few fellow feline friends who may have a rumored appearance in the halftime show as well.
“The Grumpy Cat people were down in L.A., and we stayed in the same hotel as them and partied with them,” Schmidt said. “They’re just wacko … They’re very cool people and the cat’s pretty chill too. [Keyboard Cat] met [Grumpy Cat] this time.”
The similarity of their Internet popularity origins is a surprising commonalty that Schmidt realized after meeting fellow cat videographers
“All of us have in common that [our Internet popularity] was a total accident,” Schmidt said. “You can’t do this on purpose.”
Despite landing one of the highest profile gigs in the cat musician world, Schmidt and Keyboard Cat are humble artists at heart.
“We just keep making art whether somebody wants it or not,” Schmidt said. “Because we do it for ourselves.”
On Sunday, the pair will be rooting for the Seahawks, but during March they’ll be rooting for one team with even more feline fervor.
“Keyboard Cat loves the Zags,” said Schmidt.
This story was originally published in the online version of The Gonzaga Bulletin.