Skye Gould/Tech Insider
- Matt Little is a creative director from New York whose “Pizza Rat” video went viral in 2015.
- He shares how he fielded inquiries from the media in the aftermath and found an agent.
- He says going viral didn’t change his financial situation completely, but it makes him money today.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Matt Little, a 41-year-old creative director who lived in New York for many years and recently moved to Los Angeles.
I’ve worked various gigs in and around the entertainment industry since graduating from Penn State University in 2003.
In 2015, I was 34 and two of my regular gigs were with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre’s now-closed East Village location, commonly known as “The Beast.” I bartended a few nights a week at the connected bar, The Hot Chicks Room. I also regularly performed comedy, including cohosting Sunday night’s open-mic for sketch and improv acts, Bring Your Own Team (BYOT).
Around 1 a.m., I was walking home after hosting BYOT and having a few drinks with my buddy, Pat Baer. We left before closing time and began heading for the Brooklyn-bound L train, as I lived in Bushwick at the time. Dead tired, we didn’t say much to each other. That is, until I looked over and saw something.
It was a rat dragging a slice of pizza.
A clip of “Pizza Rat” on the move, from Little’s 2015 YouTube video.
Matt Little/YouTube Screenshot
I never film things with my phone. But in a moment of lucidity, I knew I had to capture this or my friends wouldn’t believe me. I filmed it, then forgot about it until the following day. After coming up with a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”-inspired joke, I posted the video to Instagram, which pushed it to my Facebook page. About an hour later, Facebook friends started requesting to share my private video. I changed the settings, and soon Pizza Rat swirled out to become a viral hit.
My roommate, Sebastian Gladstone, made a critical suggestion that afternoon. After goofing about the video for a bit, he turned dead serious and urged me to post it on YouTube. The video now has more than 12 million views.
I also shared the clip with two popular New York-focused media outlets, Gawker and Gothamist. I’d previously sent both leads about my shows and often didn’t get responses. I knew something was different this time when I got a reply from Gothamist within two minutes of me sending the email.
Requests started coming in not long after
Day one felt like a blur. I’d click one email, and my inbox would swell by 40 or so new messages. Waves of intense attention followed. I spoke with numerous media outlets, including GQ, Inside Edition, and CBS News. The media spots were unpaid but provided me with ample exposure.
I fielded plenty of inquiries from licensing agencies wanting to work with Pizza Rat. These firms help secure third-party-usage rights and payment. If you’ve seen Pizza Rat on late-night TV, ads, or events, it’s likely been legally signed off by a licensing firm and me.
I researched which agency was the best choice
He told me to ask about the companies’ relationships with influential media contacts. You want to be repped by a firm that has a good rapport with top media agencies so you can make connections and close business. And don’t give in to early temptation. Licensing agencies will start reaching out when you have just a few thousand views. These firms didn’t seem to have the same quality connections as the groups reaching out when the video reached higher view counts.
I chose Jukin Media that first day and have worked with them ever since. Jukin helps find requests I get for the Pizza Rat video and brand, handles unlicensed usage, and helps ensure essential negotiation specifics are in deals. A big one for me was ensuring that my watermark is included in every licensed video.
Going viral didn’t necessarily change my financial situation, but it’s helped
There were times in my life when I was grateful to have the money when times were tight. At other moments, it’s been a great source of secondary income. My goal is to take this money and continue putting it aside. I hope to one day use it for a down payment on a house. That way I can say that a rat paid for my home.
I’ve also found myself in rooms with some big-name people I don’t think I would have found myself near had I not been the Pizza Rat guy.
It even comes up during job interviews
During a 2019 interview for a copywriter gig with the social-media agency Movement Strategy, the hiring manager and I talked about Pizza Rat before our meeting. I got the job and now work there full time as a creative director, where I get to oversee numerous entertainment properties, conceiving, writing, producing, and overseeing the production of various TV and entertainment properties.
I also continue to find opportunities for Pizza Rat. I’m looking into merchandising and other opportunities that come with having a copyright on the name — be sure you do the same if your video takes off.
Now it’s on to a new adventure. After 17 years of living in New York City, my fiancée and fellow comedian, Becky Chicoine, and I moved to Los Angeles. The move is for work opportunities and personal growth. I transferred to my company’s LA office, and we’ll both be pursuing entertainment opportunities.
Are you a YouTube creator with a story to tell? Email senior editor Alyse Kalish at firstname.lastname@example.org.