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Munchies

Is New York's Infamous Pizza Rat as Bogus as This Actor Says It Is?

Our brains are melting upon learning that our favorite bit of New York virality, the Pizza Rat—heir to a thousand Halloween costumes—may be a big fake.

by Alex Swerdloff
Jan 8 2016, 10:00pm

In The Walt Disney Company's televised masterpiece, Hercules, the impish lad that is Icarus may not have plummeted to his death upon his wax-wings melting, but he was forevermore marred when the sun fried his brain, leaving him permanently "batty." 2016 has only just begun, yet it seems like we've already flown way too close to the proverbial sun and, God, does it sting.

What we're trying to say is this: Our brains are melting upon learning that our favorite bit of New York virality, the Pizza Rat—muse to a thousand Halloween costumes—may be a big fake.

Yes, friends, we flew too close to the sun with the best bit of video ever—a rat dragging a New York slice down into a subway station— and rumors are surfacing that the scene may in fact have been staged by a performance and video artist named Zardulu.

Proving once and for all that this is why we can't have nice things, Eric Yearwood—a New-York based actor and Upright Citizens Brigade improviser—has come forward and claimed to Gothamist that he worked as an actor in "Selfie Rat," one of the rat videos allegedly created by a female artist named Zardulu. (In case you didn't know, there are several videos featuring our pal the rodent.) Yearwood says that the beloved pizza rat was an actor—a pizza-dragging actor. We're talking about a trained rat.

Yearwood says that Zardulu made him sign a non-disclosure agreement after telling him she likes to keep her identity and the real story behind her videos a secret. Yearwood claims that Zardulu told him, "revealing one of my pieces would be like waking the world from a dream. I can not imagine a more terrible thing to do."

Well, good morning to all of us. And thanks a lot, Zardulu.

Despite the alleged non-disclosure agreement, Yearwood stepped forward and told Gothamist that he earned $200 to appear in the video.

He says, "[Zardulu] 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. 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."

Fuck the War of the Worlds hoax and the Paul-McCartney-is-dead-rumor, pizza rat being false could very well just tear this damned city apart. Is there some masked Machiavellian mastermind lurking beyond the shadows of New York's subways and pizza parlors? Only the rats and their precious pizza know for sure.

In hopes of uncovering the truth behind this nebulous spiral of lies, we decided to reach out to Yearwood and hear more about this matter.

MUNCHIES: Do you know for certain that Zardulu is the person behind the Pizza Rat, or are you simply making an educated guess based on the knowledge of Zardulu's work and that she with trained rats on various projects? Eric Yearwood: Concerning my knowledge, I cannot speak to that explicitly. I can only speak to the project that I was in, Selfie Rat. The thing I can comment on is the rat training program Zardulu has in place.

Can you speak to us a bit about that rat training program? She has studio space in an industrial part of Brooklyn, where she has equipment to fabricate objects. Its like Hogwarts in there. She has all these objects and gear and then she has a cordoned off section, where she has rats. There's basically a maze with obstacles she has them run through with all sorts of whistles and clickers that she uses to signal them in different ways. There's a part that's filled with water, which she has rats drag stuff across. Its a serious operation.

Did she ever tell you how she came to possess these rats or learned how to train them? We're dealing with a person who has off the charts intelligence, especially considering their creativity and capacity to learn. I've never seen anything like it. I have a picture that I sent the Gothamist which shows a rat training guide she had lying around. My guess is that she has accrued these rats over time. My understanding is that you can't get these type of rats in pet stores. They look like NYC sewer rat's.

Was that the same type of rat that was in your video as well as Pizza Rat? It was definitely in my video. They just look like NYC rats, which I guess is the point.

Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Zardulu and how you came to work with her? I'm not the world's most successful actor, to put it mildly. I'm basically out of work, but I do periodically do little pieces at the Upright Citizens Brigade. I guess she had seen me there, found my contact information on my website, and sent an email reaching out to me.

What more can you tell us about Zardulu? She's kind of one of those people who could be 30 or she could be 45. She has one of those faces. I didn't get to know her very well—we only had one night where we got together. She had some herbal tea that she gave me that might have had something in it, because I remember she had this kaleidoscope-type thing she had made that she was showing to me while talking about how the world was an illusion. She was talking about something to do with the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade in 2017.

Interesting. Did Zardulu explain to you what she planned to do with the video you were in at the time or how she got into making these sorts of videos? She didn't really tell me that much, but it's my understanding that she's been working behind the scenes to make this sort of viral content for some time. She didn't really walk me through the things that she's done.

Now that you've come forward and possibly violated the alleged non-disclosure agreement, are you worried at all about any sort of legal repercussion? I did initially get a little freaked out, because I was outed. Apparently, someone came foreword—who I assume had something to do with the making of Selfie Rat—and gave my name to the Gothamist. They didn't identify themselves, so I don't know who that is. Maybe it was Zardulu, I don't know. I got the sense that once the project was out there, Zardulu isn't too worked up about the details coming out. I think its more about her not wanting herself to be outed.

So there you have it, the befuddling tale of Zardulu and the Pizza Rat. There are quite a few gaps and grey areas in the narrative Yearwood has woven, but who are we to naysay such a glorious tale? At this point, we aren't really sure if it even matters anymore. Whatever the case, there was most certainly a Pizza Rat video and for one spectacular moment, it touched us all. That's not something to scoff at, Zardulu or not.