The Pizza Rat Legacy

By Jukin Media on September 22, 2020

On a calm Sunday night in September of 2015, New York City resident Matt Little stumbled upon a peculiar sight. As he descended into a Subway station to head home for the night, he pulled out his cell phone to record what would go on to become perhaps the most talked-about viral video in the history of the internet. 

The now-infamous video that Little captured of a rat scurrying along the subway steps with an entire slice of New York Style Pizza hanging from its mouth, captured the hearts and minds first of New Yorkers, then the entire world. 

Thinking he had a funny video -- but not a lot more -- Little posted the video to YouTube. What happened next, not even Little could have predicted.

Essentially overnight, Pizza Rat became a sensation. Little was met with more publicity and attention from Pizza Rat than he could’ve ever imagined. It was hard to believe, but as it turned out, a simple 15-second video clip was viewed millions of times on the web and racked up a list of accomplishments that are hard to believe even today. Those include: 

  • Coverage from top tier news outlets like CNN, Vice, Vox, BuzzFeed, and even a full satirical first-person Pizza Rat narrative piece in the New Yorker.
  • An in-demand Halloween costume for the 2015 Halloween season, according to TIME.
  • The video clip appeared on such pop-culture staple TV shows as Saturday Night Live, The Today Show, The Daily Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Late Show w/ Stephen Colbert, Conan, Dateline, and Arrested Development and on more than 80 times in total. 
  • Multiple appearances on John Oliver’s HBO series Last Week Tonight, the most recent of which came in 2019.
  • An appearance in the 2016 Original Motion Picture Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
  • The Staten Island Yankees, a minor-league baseball team, changed its name to the Staten Island Pizza Rats in both 2018 and 2019.

As if all of that wasn’t surreal enough for Little to be a part of, the video also earned Little what he described as, “the most amount of money I’ve ever made from the least amount of work I’ve ever done.” All in all, Jukin Media has licensed the video to more than 80 partners in TV, film, and advertising, and it continues to be licensed out five years later in 2020. 

Pizza Rat was a great stand-alone video that featured an unbelievable and hilarious moment in time. The beauty of UGC is the raw emotion and action that can be captured by any individual with access to a video recording device. 

When a video captures the public’s imagination, the results can be extraordinary. Skeptical? Just ask Matt Little.  

For more Pizza Rat content, check out our curated collection Pizza Rat and Friends here.