USC Digital Folklore Archives / Digital

Clowning – The Internet Trend

The following informant is a 16-year-old high school student from Upland. Here he is explaining an internet trend and challenge called Clowning. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as GR and I am identified as K:

GR: So, there is this thing on the internet, last year, that clown trend where everyone dresses up as clowns, it went viral. So, at our game that was broadcasted on TV, there where clowns that had weapons at our school during the football game, and I hopped the fence with my friends to go see and there were seven clowns chasing me so I ran out and got caught by the cops

K: I’m sorry, I am little confused, what is this clown trend

GR: Alright, so I don’t know who started it, but the clown thing or clowning, people were just dressing up as clowns and just like scarring people and all that, and people would take it to the extreme with like holding knives and stuff and um.. like it was just weird. And then you like take pictures or videos and post them on social media.

K: Was there a purpose, or do you have to accomplish something doing this trend.

GR: Not really, it was around the time they released the trailers from the rehash of the IT movie and around Halloween too.

K: Oh was it to promote the movie?

GR: No it was just around that time

K: So are there any rules, do you have to dress as a specific clown, or go to specific places?

GR: No there aren’t rules, well…other than dressing as any clown you want and walking around and scaring people, and if you want to post it, post it. Oh and it’s like mostly teenagers and like college people.

K: Okay, so just for my understanding, this Clowning trend was where people dressed up as any clown and went to a public place to scare people… with weapons, or without… and then post it to social media

GR: Yeah, pretty much, it was pretty viral around that time to, a lot of people were doing it.

K: Did you or your friends participate?

GR: No… I did not … but I knew some people … they were my friends, between 15 and 18

K: What did they do specifically?

GR: They dressed up as clowns and went to down town in Upland and the Colonies in Upland, and just walked up to people and scare them and walk around

K: And what was your opinion about this trend?

GR: Honestly I thought it was kind of stupid, there is no point, like you don’t do anything, but my friends liked it.

Context: While having dinner with my cousin, he overheard me talking about the Folklore collection project and chimed in with this story while we ate. It was actually quiet amusing, as he tried to explain this internet trend to a room full of adults and an interviewer who does not understand social media


I really struggled with this piece of folklore. At first, I was not sure if it could be defined as folklore. But when you think about it, it has multiplicity and variation, because there are no specific rules and it’s a viral trend, as well as its arguably artistic communication and it is done in small groups.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Mannequin Challenge

The following informant is an 8th grader. In this account she is explaining what the Mannequin Challenge is. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as SA and I am identified as K:

SA: So, the mannequin challenge was something you heard about online. We found it on Instagram, and it’s basically you play a song and you have to stay still like a mannequin. and someone takes a video of the room, and you can act like you are having a party or like doing sports or whatever, and they just take a picture of you still not moving

K: do you have to use a particular song?

SA: yes, Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles,”

K: What grade where you in when this became viral?

SA: Well it was last year, so 7th grade

K: Did you participate and make a video

SA: Yeah we did it with my English class and someone recorded it and someone posted it on instagram

K: Do you know who started the challenge?

SA: No we just heard about it when it went viral. I think the first one was at a high school.

K: What did you think when you first saw it?

SA: I thought it was like really cool and a funny idea, and then a lot of people were doing it at our school so I wanted to do it too

Context: She told me this while at my house one weekend.


Like with other internet trends and challenges I struggled to define them. It kind of feels like a ritual, in that you have to do a certain thing like freezing and playing that song, in order to say its that challenge and then post it online, but you are still aloud liberties, like doing it in a classroom, or stage, or anywhere really.


I could not get permission to post the video the informant did with her class, so instead Im providing a link to the top 15 celebrity mannequin challenges


Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge

The following informant is an 8th grader. In this account she is explaining what the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge is. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as SA and I am identified as K:

K: So what is the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge?

SA: its when you get like a shot glass and put it over both of your lips and suck in and then you pull it off and you have huge lips. I tried it and it turned my lips purple tinted

K: Ouch! How did the challenge start?

SA: Kylie Jenner did not start it… but like at the time, everyone was focusing on her and saw how she went from small lips to big lips, but she claimed she never got injections so people wanted her big lips and some person found a way to do that and it eventually found the challenge and put her name on it

K: So who exactly participated in this challenge?

SA: A lot of young girls tried it, especially Kylie Jenner fans. It felt kind of weird but also cool. Oh but also I know some people their like lips burst! Like started bleeding and everything.

K: Wait, if it hurt then why did people participate?

SA: Well because they probably wanted to try it and you can post pictures and videos of you trying it on Instagram

Context: She told me this while at my house one weekend


Doing something you know might hurt you out of pure curiosity and not wanting to be left out is what I think makes challenges so attractive to people. I mean obviously you can severely damage your lips doing this challenge, but it was still immensely popular.


Cinnamon Challenge

The following informant is an 12 year old. In this account he is explaining what the cinnamon challenge is. This is a transcription of our conversation, he is identified as J and I am identified as K:

J: There was this cinnamon challenge where you get a spoon-full of cinnamon and you put it on a spoon and try to swallow it and its spicy and burns and dries your mouth, I never tried it but my brother did and he coughed a lot

K: Did he do it to record and post it?

J: Yeah, he recorded it on his phone and posted it somewhere.

K: Wait but you know it’s going to hurt so why try it?

J: Well because you don’t think it’s going to be that bad… or like everyone else is doing it

K: Okay, so did your friends tell you about this?

J: No, I discovered it on the internet, like around fifth grade

K: What was your reaction to it?

J: I thought it was dumb and would not try it but it was funny to watch my brother try it and other people do it

Context: He and his sister took turns telling me stories



This challenge, like the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge has a proven outcome of pain, yet both are so immensely popular. In this case it seems like what is attractive to people to participate is trying to act tough and like you can do it. But I find it so interesting how many of these challenges on the internet, besides ones like the mannequin challenge, sort of end in hurt, but we participate in the anyways. Internet challenges continue to confuse but also fascinate me.


Salt and Ice Challenge

The following informant is an 12 year old. In this account he is explaining what the salt and ice challenge is. This is a transcription of our conversation, he is identified as J and I am identified as K:

J: The salt and ice challenge is when you put salt and ice on your hand and you keep rubbing and it burns a lot

K: Did you try it

J: Yeah I tried it with my friends after seeing it on YouTube … it was not really a viral challenge but we heard about it and wanted to try it

K: Wait why would you try it if you knew it would hurt

J: Well I did not think it would actually hurt… and like who could do it the longest

Context: He and his sister took turns telling me stories


This is another challenge where the outcome is known to end in pain, but people still partook in it. I think it builds some sort of camaraderie between the people who tried it because you can say you have done it and others have not. It also allows you to connect with people across the globe who are engaging and posting about the same activities you are trying.


Lithuanian Folk Song

Collection: Lithuanian Folk SongThe informant detailed various songs that most Lithuanians know from their childhood which are not believed to have an author.

Context: Folk music can be interpreted in various ways including rhythm and tone. This folk song’s lyrics are significant for interpreting the context. According to the informant, everyone in the United States’ Lithuanian community seems to know the folk music including this song. This particular song originates from Lithuanian immigrants who sang about their desire to return to their homeland. As a result, the song ties those in the United States to older traditions and to the people back in Lithuania.




The particular details and background of the following prank were introduced to me by a fellow student majoring in computer science.


The prank in question takes place on internet video platforms, most commonly YouTube, where viewers are led to believe they are accessing entirely unrelated material and instead are met with the surprise appearance of the music video for Rick Astley’s 1987 song ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’ Having been performed so many times as to have earned its own name, the prank has come to be known as ‘rickrolling,’ a reference to Astley’s name.


Although I was previously familiar with the prank’s ubiquity, having been ‘rickrolled’ myself a number of times prior, its intentional nonsensicality was not apparent until being explained.


As a prank that exists in a simple digital form and relies entirely on taking advantage of the internet’s functions, ‘rickrolling’ is a definitive example of the relationship between perpetrator and victim when pranks are performed over the internet. In real life, there requires some kind of physical interaction to be pranked, but on the internet, there remains complete anonymity. The victim will likely never have any idea who ‘rickrolled’ them, and given the nonexistent physical consequences of the prank itself, will not have any incentive to find out themselves.


See More:

A transformative step for this prank occurred as that of a marketing tool in the leadup to the release of the second season of HBO’s television program Westworld. The creators of the show, known for its complicated narrative and plot twists, formally announced they would release a video revealing a comprehensive guide to every narrative step of the show in advance, effectively spoiling every surprise the season held before airing.


Because much of the show’s popularity derives from trying to guess and anticipate each of these twists, critics and viewers alike contentiously debated this unprecedented decision that would undermine the effectiveness of a highly anticipated release and seemed to reflect an unsettling ignorance (on the creator’s parts) of the show’s major appeal.


When the aforementioned spoiler guide was released onto the video platform YouTube, viewers were treated to the sight of the program’s lead actress singing a piano cover of Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up,’ a nod to the traditional practice of ‘rickrolling’ and a solid indication that the entire announcement was a prank itself.


It is worth noting that even this sly and cleverly-angled marketing strategy relied on an unexpected narrative twist (although created in real life, impressively), just as the show itself relies on such methods to keep viewers engaged.

Folk speech

Law School SubReddit Terminology


Isabella Estrada is studying history at the University of Southern California. She is graduating this year and is in the process of applying to/hearing back from law schools. This was clearly on her mind as the first piece of folklore she gave me dealt with law school applications. She was born and raised in Torrance, California.


Isabella: So, there is a subreddit on the website Reddit that’s called law school admissions, and it’s just essentially a forum where people who are applying to law schools get together and complain and discuss admissions and scholarships and the like, and so, with like any other subreddit, there’s like a specific language that we use, and to indicate, or like another form of congratulations that people use when someone says they got into a law school is “go get some ice cream.” So it like, it serves in place of congratulations. And it’s just like a congratulatory phrase.

There’s also, instead of, if you get rejected, instead of saying you got rejected, you say you got “dinged.”


Reddit is infamous for its specialized language. Even “subreddit” requires an understanding of the website–meaning a category within the website. Internet culture has created its own language in many cases, and these two examples show how visitors to the page use these euphemisms to deal with serious decisions that impact their future. The point of the subreddit is to find support amongst others who are going through the nerve wracking application process, so these silly phrases could help to temporarily lessen the hurt of getting rejected, and likewise celebrate those who are admitted, but not overly so as to hurt the feelings of those being rejected.


GilvaSunner (SilvaGunner)

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 10.41.28 PMBackground:

GilvaSunner, the original name of a YouTube account now known as SilvaGunner, is a Youtube account that poses as a music ripper of a similar name, who upload series of video game soundtrack remixes.  Originally, the name GilvaSunner belonged to a Youtube account that specialized in “video game rips” which are soundtracks taken directly from the video game.  After that channel was terminated for copyright infringement, a parody GilvaSunner account was created replacing the L in the original “GilvaSunner” name, with a capitalized I, and mimicked the original account, but instead of posting the video game rips that were promised, it uploaded a remixed version of the soundtrack.   Many of these remixed soundtracks consisted of humorous mash-ups or edits of songs, which is known as SoundClowns.  Many of these rips, eventually permeate across many social media sites, and even become notable memes.  One of these memes, involved the remix of the song “We are Number One”, from the children’s show Lazy Town, had an everlasting impact on a person’s life.  Due to the popularization of the original remix from SilvaGunner, it came to light that Stefan Karl, the actor who sang the song for the original series developed pancreatic cancer.  After Silvagunner linked the gofundme that would fund his treatment, on their twitter, the internet blew up, creating more remixes, while raising awareness for the gofundme.  On August 13, 2017, Stefan Karl shared the message on his gofundme, stating that he was officially free of cancer metastases.


This event is a symbol of the moving force behind the internet.  It represents the power of laughter and creativity on the platform the internet provides.


Link to Youtube Channel:




Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 10.40.43 PM


The term “soundclown” denotes a genre of musical compositions on the music sharing website SoundCloud.  They are known for humorous mash-ups or edits of songs on the platform.  Many of the early popular remixes, included ones involving the main theme of the children’s show “Thomas the Tank Engine”.  “Under the Booty” by TDRloid was one of the first popular SoundClowns that would receive 2 million views within three years.  It was a mash-up of the song “Ms. New Booty” by Bubba Sparxxx and “Under the Sea” from the Little Mermaid which are starkly different musical compositions.  Some of the other remixes would include versions of songs that would replace vocals with air horns, mash-ups of strange pairings, or even other internet memes laced to the soundtracks.  Many of these eventually become popular memes and shared across social media, inspiring other remixes.  Notable examples of SoundClown creators include the artists within the SilvaGunner group and Cyranek.


The rise of Soundclowns represent the innovation that is brought together on the internet.  Through humor and music, they provide entertainment through creativity.


Link to TDRloid’s Remix