I Can Explain… Rick Rolling

First appeared in the May 10 issue of Retirement News Weekly

This past weekend, I had a small group of friends visiting. At one point in the evening, one of my friends put on the music video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and I joked, “Don’t Rickroll yourself!” If you don’t get that joke (or get it and it’s too lame to be funny), then I can explain!

The Rickroll is an internet phenomenon in which a hyperlink is presented as if it leads to an interesting video or website. Once clicked, the link brings the viewer to the music video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” It is a bait-and-switch online prank and the person who has been tricked to watch the music video is said to have been Rickrolled.

The origins of the Rickroll are well-documented. The phenomenon began on an internet chat board. A discussion would be started with an interesting thread and a provocative picture, but when the link was clicked the viewer was presented with a picture of a duck on wheels and was said to be “Duckrolled.” On the same board, weeks later, a link to an “exclusive video game trailer” led to the Astley music video and history was made!

The choice of song has no significance. It was popular once upon a time, having reached #1 on the charts in Canada, the USA, and the UK in 1987. The video is predominantly Rick Astley swaying side to side (See “Dancing to the Music of the 70s, 80s, and 90s” for more details on this sort of dance) wearing a white shirt or trench coat. Throughout the video, the bartender at the hall where Astley’s dancing does flips and tricks. Ironically, when the video was filmed, the bartender was very hung over. However, Rick and his producer got in a two hour fight and by the time it was over, the bartender had slept off the worst of it. The cause of the fight? Whether Rick should or should not roll up his sleeves!

In April 1, 2008, as an April Fool’s joke, Youtube had all of their videos turn into Rickrolls for the day. This resulted in one newscaster getting Rickrolled on live air. There’s also been a variety of live Rickrolls. During the 2008 Macy Day parade, one float had a bunch of puppet’s singing about imagination. Half-way through the song, Rick Astley burst from the float and performed “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Other examples of the live Rickroll include a group of activists singing it at a protest against the Church of Scientology and a performance of the song by an impersonator prior to an Eastern Washington University woman’s basketball game.

So now you know! If you ever follow a link on Youtube and end up staring into the face of Rick Astley as he serenades you with his voice and wiggling hips, you have officially been Rickrolled! If, instead, you’re wondering why this skinny white man has such a deep, soulful voice… well… I can explain!

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