|Born||Christopher Darren Cunningham
December 7, 1987
|Residence||Los Angeles, CA|
|Known for||Comedy, performance art, recording artist, LGBT and youth issues|
|Influenced by||Britney Spears|
|Web alias(es)||Chris Crocker|
|Web hosting service(s)||YouTube, MySpaceTV.com, ShareNow, Tumblr|
|Meme||"Leave Britney alone!"
September 10, 2007
Chris Crocker (born Christopher Darren Cunningham; December 7, 1987), also known as Chris Cunningham-Crocker, is an American Internet celebrity, songwriter, blogger, and recording artist residing in Los Angeles, California. Crocker gained international fame in September 2007 from his viral video "Leave Britney Alone", in which he tearfully defended pop singer Britney Spears's comeback performance at the MTV Video Music Awards; his video had over four million views in two days. The video received international media attention, hundreds of parodies and criticism for Crocker.
He is a self-described "edutainer" who produces and acts in multiple videos. In almost all of Crocker's work he presents himself as an openly gay and effeminate Southern adolescent in a "small-minded town" in the Bible Belt where his sexual orientation and outspokenness are a "subtext... rarely addressed directly and never completely accepted". The Tennessee-based Crocker, a stage name, keeps his identity and exact location private because according to him, and as seen in the public comments to his work, there were safety concerns and death threats in response to his YouTube and MySpace video blogs and profile. According to his MySpace profile, Crocker lived in Los Angeles as of January 2008. As of May 2010, Crocker has returned home to Tennessee and solely travels to Los Angeles for business ventures.
His work consists mainly of short-form self-directed monologues shot in his grandparents' home. As of October 2010[update], Crocker's videos have received a combined 50 million plays on MySpace, and his vlog channel on YouTube is the 100th most viewed of all time in all categories, with over 205 million video views. Crocker's detractors and critics have accused him of narcissism, melodramatics, histrionics, and using Spears' personal shortcomings to bolster his own fame. Others have accused Crocker of acting in the "Leave Britney Alone" video, although he insisted it was genuine on a September 2007 appearance on Maury Povich's Maury show.
Crocker was born in East Tennessee to a teenage couple and was raised by his grandparents. Crocker said he "raised eyebrows" by bringing Barbie dolls to kindergarten for show and tell rather than the toys or action figures usually associated with boys. He lived in East Tennessee and was homeschooled in response to constant "death threats, bullying and glares at his clothes and makeup" specifically after allegedly being "harassed by a homophobic high school gym coach". Crocker lived with his fundamentalist Pentecostal grandparents who continued raising him when his teenage parents were not able; while his grandfather reportedly knows little about his Internet fame, his grandmother has reluctantly appeared in some of his videos.
Crocker's uncensored and "unfiltered" work has been attributed to his isolation as an "effeminate, Southern, flamboyantly gay" adolescent in a "small-minded town" in the Bible Belt. His sexual orientation and outspokenness have been described as a "subtext... rarely addressed directly and never completely accepted" in his hometown. According to Crocker, when his grandmother found out that he was gay, she initially "said that [he] needed an exorcism". Crocker, who laments his town's lack of gay culture, said, "The only gay pride parade where I live is in my bedroom" as he held up a rainbow frosted cupcake. He added, "We don't have pride and rainbows here. We have MySpace. We don't have bathhouses, we have outhouses."
Crocker's earliest experience with online networking was as an editor of an e-zine, where he met his first boyfriend, with whom he was only able to interact online and by phone. Crocker later found another online forum, where his acting skills helped him blend in on a free phone party line run out of Los Angeles "filled with flaming black men, black drag queens, and trannies from Compton", where he was outed as white and dubbed "Cracker". In June 2006, after years of experience on the Internet, Crocker started uploading self-produced videos, characterized as his "singularly bizarre and angry take on gay life and his intolerant town".
Building a following
Although his chart-topping video defending Britney Spears drew the attention of the wider public, Crocker had already become one of the most-watched video producers on MySpace and YouTube, having gathered what MSNBC described as a "cult following". Prior to Crocker's defense of Spears, some of the more than sixty videos he had posted to the two social networking websites had already been viewed more than a million times each, and his YouTube channel was in the top rankings. In May 2007, Crocker was the subject of a lengthy profile in the Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger.
In addition to the "Leave Britney Alone" videos Crocker has produced and posted dozens of others with over fifty posted on both MySpace and YouTube, although some are only posted on one site or the other, many becoming "viral video hits". Some consider them to be bold and seething "flares sent up by a young gay man marooned in a sea of rednecks" who is stuck in a small town that "can't tolerate homosexuality and punishes flamboyance." Crocker's videos include "sex-filled confessions" and "wild monologues" talking "about everything from AIDS to pubic hair." In many of the videos he portrays characters, such as an older deeply religious woman in the "The Earl Annie Edna show" series and exaggerated comic characterizations of Southern stereotypes earning comparisons to Andy Kaufman and being called "an insidious satiric mastermind".
"Leave Britney Alone!"
Crocker is best known for his Britney Spears video, uploaded to YouTube on September 10, 2007. The first part of the infamous work though was posted September 9, 2007 called "Leave Britney Alone pt.1" to his Myspace page, while the better-known "LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!" (part 2) was posted to both MySpace and YouTube. In "Leave Britney Alone pt.1", an emotional Crocker stated that he did not want fellow Southerner Britney Spears to spiral out of control like Anna Nicole Smith, who had died in February 2007. As of November 2010[update], the video had been viewed over 35 million times and has accumulated a total of over 500,000 comments. It is just a few seconds shorter than the second part, and Crocker, although emotional, remains relatively calm and composed, becoming teary only at the very end.
In the videos, Crocker lashes out at gossip columnists such as Perez Hilton, and at reality TV star Simon Cowell, who criticized Britney Spears' onstage music performance at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas. Within the first 24 hours of its posting, the video had accumulated over 2 million views. As of January 2009[update], it has accumulated a total of 24 million views and is the second most discussed video of all time on the site (in all categories), with over 350,000 comments. "LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!" is one of YouTube's fastest "climbing" videos, reaching the minimum seven million views needed (as of September 2007[update]) to be included in the "Top 100". The video was nominated in the Commentary category in the 2007 YouTube Awards. The video received worldwide attention and earned Crocker interviews on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, The Today Show, Maury, The Howard Stern Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Ryan Seacrest's KIIS-FM morning show. Crocker and his video were also commented on in the mainstream media by shows like The View and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. YouTube said "the melodramatic two-minute clip made Crocker an instant YouTube star" and named it one of the top videos of 2007. Wired magazine named it the top video of 2007.
Although sometimes shown in conjunction with news footage of Spears' performance, the "pure performance art" video has become its own story, with the news media and gossip industry offering opinions on the phenomenon and even joking that Crocker could be "an insidious satiric mastermind" and compared him to Andy Kaufman. In the video, Crocker proclaims, "All you people care about is readers and making money off of her. She's a human! Leave Britney alone!" Crocker stated that although he is often acting in his videos, his emotions were genuine and "straight from the heart"; although he described the clip as a "second take" in one interview, he clarified on Jimmy Kimmel Live! that he meant that it was the second part of a longer video, the first part being "Leave Britney Alone pt. 1".
The "LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!" video became a satire target with parody videos as well as references in mainstream television spoofs, and films. Actor Seth Green's parody, which included him applying eyeliner several times and promoting his show Robot Chicken, called for people to "leave Chris Crocker alone!" Some video responses characterized Crocker as a drama queen and, Wired magazine noted, "sent world Schadenfreude levels zooming to heights unseen since the Fatty Arbuckle scandal."
The January 2008 parody film Meet the Spartans used pop culture references and met with generally poor reviews; the Electronic Urban Report called Crocker's cameo the "film's funniest moment". Both Crocker and the video were also parodied in the South Park episode "Canada on Strike" with a cartoon Crocker running around in a fight between various Internet memes, telling them to "leave the others alone". In March 2008, a "trance remix" dance single "Leave Britney Alone" was released on iTunes and other sites by "Double J" featuring quotes from Crocker's video. On the Hannah Montana episode, "Welcome to the Bungle", when Lilly phones the journalists to tell them to leave Hannah alone, she accidentally shouts "Leave Britney alone!". Miley questions "Britney?" and Lilly corrects herself by responding, "Oh, oh, sorry, my bad.. 'Leave Hannah alone!'".
While numerous news and media outlets reported on the viral video, Fox News Channel's morning program Fox & Friends commentators questioned his gender and compared the fabric backdrop in his video to Osama Bin Laden's videos. Crocker produced two response videos – Poor FOX "News".. and Rosie O'Donnell was right about FOX "News" (originally posted as "Dear Fox 'News'") – addressing what he characterized as biased treatment while he called Fox News the "Republican, conservative, homophobic channel". Crocker's stated concerns were the commentators calling him a "she/he" and what he felt was their needless questioning of his gender instead of commenting on the content of his video.
Onch promotional deal and lawsuit
In October 2007 TMZ.com reported that Crocker was being sued by Onch Movement Jewelry for 1 million dollars, for fraud and breach of contract and provided a copy of the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles. Jewelry designer Nelson Chung, professionally known as Onch and a fan of Crocker, hired him as a celebrity spokesmodel for more than two days' worth of publicity work as well as appearance at World of Wonder's Just Britney art show in exchange for airfare. It was speculated by DMW Media that Crocker had no legal representative as the agreement seemed unbalanced. Crocker did make appearances including at gay club Rage and the art show where he was interviewed by MTV showing artwork of him in homage to Spears. Onch's YouTube channel also posted videos of appearances which were later removed.
Mainstream media exposure
Prior to the attention from his September 2007 Leave Britney Alone video, Crocker was seen as viral and was asked by MTV pioneering vlogger and news staffer Matt Sunbulli to provide video for MTV's website which also broadcasts on MTV itself. Crocker has indicated that he hopes to develop his acting career and has agreed to develop ideas for a TV show with Los Angeles producer Glenn Meehan and has met with representatives from MTV's gay-themed channel LOGO. According to Variety, Crocker has signed a development deal with 44 Blue Productions to create a "docusoap" reality television show, which will be called Chris Crocker's 15 Minutes More. Said Rasha Drachkovitch, the production company's co-founder: "It's going to pretty much be the Chris Crocker experience. We consider him a rebel character that people will find interesting. He's going to be a TV star."
After the widespread recognition of Leave Britney Alone, Crocker has been involved in several projects. In a June 2007 autobiographical comic strip, where Crocker discusses future plans, he states, "I'm going to make the leap from living with my Pentecostal grandparents to living with drag queen roommates. I'm going to star in my own TV show. I'm going to make the leap from outhouses to bathhouses...to my very own house." In October 2007, Crocker opened Fox Reality channel's "Reality Remix Really Awards".
Crocker was one of Lily Allen's Internet correspondents on the February 2008 premiere episode of BBC's Lily Allen and Friends where he posed questions for the guest celebrities, in this case David Mitchell and later, Cuba Gooding, Jr.
On May 23, 2008 rock band Weezer released a viral music video for their song "Pork and Beans" – "a natural anthem for the self-expression that's been taking shape on YouTube" – which featured various mash-ups of viral videos and YouTube celebrities, including Crocker, all playing themselves. On May 22, 2009 Crocker made a video showing a Grammy plaque that he received for his contribution to the band's video.
Chris Crocker released his first single "Mind in the Gutter" in 2008. He released his first EP titled The First Bite digitally on iTunes March 19, 2011. The EP peaked at #3 on the iTunes Electro Album charts. "I Want Your Bite" was released as the second single and has since reached a peak of #12 on the iTunes Dance Charts. Later that year, Crocker released the songs "Second to None", "Tug of War", and "Taking My Life Back". In 2012, Crocker released the songs "Locked Up Lovers" and "Lucky Tonight".
Crocker's second EP "Walls Down" was released on March 14, 2013 under his new stage name Chris Cunningham-Crocker. The EP debuted on the iTunes electronic albums chart at number eighty-four and has so far peaked at number five. This gives Crocker his second top five album on the chart. The EP is a departure of his previous dance style, mainly consisting of ballads and features a duet with his mother. The first single from the EP, "Breaking Up", was released on January 24, 2013.
Chris Crocker announced in August 2011 that a film documenting his life over the past few years would be released, titled Me at the Zoo. The film also explores how video sharing and social media have shaped the way people share their stories and go about their lives.
Crocker has posted dozens of videos, often to both YouTube and Myspace and has sometimes also removed videos or renamed them. In 2008 he also launched his own website which also hosted his work. As of December 2012 he has over 450 videos on YouTube.
- "This & that" was posted December 28, 2006 to Myspace and February 25, 2007 to YouTube. Crocker's first video, where he starts very serenely then quickly escalates yelling "You wanna fight me?" in a menacing manner while revealing his scrawny chest belying the absurdity "that anyone would see this kid as a threat worthy of violence." The video was hosted on Salon.com.
- "Bitch, please!" was posted December 29, 2006 to MySpace and February 25, 2007 to YouTube. This video shows Crocker's self-assuredness as he offers increasingly angry versions of the phrase "Bitch, please".
- "Why I'm Gay..." was posted August 10, 2007 to both YouTube and MySpace. Crocker discusses why he has no need to "come out" of the closet as gay. The video was hosted on Salon.com.
- "Kids SHOULD Cuss" was posted August 23, 2007 to YouTube. Crocker discusses profanity and the use of curse words like fuck asking "why is shit more profane than poop?" He ties the discussion to free speech and encourages everyone to use swear words and teach them to children to ensure freedom of speech is assured. The video was hosted on Salon.com and has since been removed by Crocker.
- "Back up, Britney haters!" was posted September 1, 2007 to YouTube. This video is Crocker's first major departure from describing his gay life in a Bible Belt town and instead focuses on Britney Spears. From a floor covered in Spears-related magazines and memorabilia Crocker asserts he is "a real Britney fan".
- "Britney, this is for you" was posted September 3, 2007 to YouTube. Crocker pays homage to Spears' recently released single Gimme More. Just two days after his first video about Spears this precedes his most known video Leave Britney Alone by eight days. This video was also removed by Crocker.
- "Watch Chris Crocker blink" originally titled "Best video EVER!", was posted March 17, 2008 to YouTube. One of the shortest viral videos - at less than five seconds long - and likely the shortest one Crocker has ever posted shows a close-up of just his face as he smiles into the camera and blinks twice. The video was explained by Crocker that he need only "blink to get the video views I do."
|2011||The First Bite|
||"Mind in the Gutter"||
||"Love You Better"|
|"Love You Better" (acoustic)|
|"Best of Both Worlds"|
|"Fell for the Enemy"|
|"Freak of Nature"||
||"I Want Your Bite"|
|"Second to None"||
|"Tug of War"|
|"Taking My Life Back"|
|2012||"Locked Up Lovers"|
|2011||"Freak of Nature"||Worm Carnevale|
|2012||"One Day"||Chris Crocker|
||"Bang" (with Ryan Adames and Lou)||
|2012||Me at the Zoo||Himself||Documentary|
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