The Giggles: Andalusian comedian becomes a viral YouTube hit

Parody about Apple’s new MacBook is the latest to get the fake subtitle treatment

Jaime Rubio Hancock

If we are to believe the English-language subtitles on this video, we are in the presence of an Apple engineer discussing the company’s new MacBook prototype and noting that “they forgot to mill out the extra USB ports” and gave it “a mobile processor,” all for $1,299. “That’s all our customers need! An overpriced netbook!” As he tells his story, the speaker breaks out into infectious fits of laughter.

The alleged engineer, a toothless, mustachioed, middle-aged man in a grey sweater, is in fact an Andalusian from Seville named Juan Joya Borja, better known as “El Risitas,” who gained television fame for telling jokes – and laughing his head off as he told them – on El Vagamundo and Ratones coloraos, two shows hosted by Jesús Quintero that have since been discontinued.

Their popularity is such that El Risitas is now listed on the online encyclopedia Know Your Meme as The Giggles

But El Risitas’ old television appearances have made a comeback on the internet, where they are all the rage in the United States thanks to YouTube. One of his 2007 sketches, “La Paellera,” which originally deals with a paella establishment in the southern city of Chipiona, has been used as the basis for parodies of technology companies, including this latest one.

These video remixes, which are typically titled “SHOCKING interview with...”, present El Risitas as a company employee poking fun at one of their new products, then doubling up with laughter. Their popularity has become such that El Risitas is now listed on the online encyclopedia Know Your Meme as The Giggles.

But his US popularity is the result of an earlier remix uploaded on March 28, 2014 by an Egyptian humor channel on YouTube called Thursday Comics. In this version, the sketch became an alleged fragment from an interview released by the Muslim Brotherhood in which the Spaniard comments on President Andel Fattah el-Sisi. That video was watched over 850,000 times.

A later version showed Juan Joya Borja guffawing at the private security service used to quell protests throughout Egyptian universities.

The parody reached the US on January 30, 2015 when the paella sketch became a “SHOCKING interview with an Nvidia engineer” who discussed a much-derided graphics card. “It was too fast. So we made it a 3.5gb card. And we even advertised it as a 4gb card! […] Sometimes I wonder how we’re still in business!”

That particular parody was linked on a Reddit forum and reached 780,000 visits in just a month (it is now past the million mark).

Another famous example is the parody of an agreement between Marvel and Sony to get back the rights to the Spider-Man franchise. The video became even more popular when a YouTube fan made a video of himself laughing at that El Risitas parody.

In fact, Americans were so surprised at Juan Joya Borja’s infectious laughter that they even published the original video with the correct subtitles, although it is highly likely that they continued to be as baffled as ever as to just what the paella story is all about.

Even before this newfound popularity, YouTube users who spoke no Spanish had already uploaded segments of the original show with titles like “Old Spanish man laughing hard” (150,000 views) and “The funniest laugh in the world” (194,000 views).

The idea of editing in fake subtitles to a video whose language one does not understand is not new. There is a well-known precedent in “Crazy German Kid,” a video in which a child pummels the keyboard because his videogame is not loading. The first subtitled remixes appeared in August 2006.

The best-known parodies of this kind, however, are those using the final scene from Downfall, the movie about Hitler’s last days inside his bunker, where the dictator appears to fly into a rage over minor issues such as a soccer match result or a late pizza delivery.

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