Chris Crocker is probably best known to the world at large for his madly viral 2007 “Leave Britney Alone!” YouTube video. Yet for years before and after, Crocker maintained a steady online following—some for his dramatic living room videos, and some, particularly during the past couple of years, for explicit nude photos he’s more quietly posted.
January’s Sundance Film Festival saw the premiere of Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch’s Me @ The Zoo, a documentary about the emergence of viral videos/memes, YouTube, internet fame and 21st century celebrity, with Crocker as its central figure. It was bought by HBO and will debut on June 25.
Born to teenage parents in Tennessee, bullied out of school by 8th grade and raised by his paternal grandparents, the flamboyant Crocker found a catharsis—and eager, responsive audience—in his webcam. His videos have racked up over 270 million views, have led to a wide range of mainstream gigs and a music career (2011 single “I Want Your Bite” hit #12 on iTunes’ Dance Chart) and continue to earn income through the YouTube partnership program.
From his home in Tennessee, Crocker—who is refreshingly candid and spin-free—discussed the documentary, Britney Spears and his planned foray into hardcore gay porn.
How did this documentary come to be?
Well, I was friends with Chris’ husband. Initially they were doing a film about reality TV stars and how people were performing as themselves as a career. It was a conceptually different film, and they flew me into New York and were going to do a one-off interview. Slowly but surely they realized my story touched on everything they wanted to get across. It wasn’t supposed to be the Chris Crocker story.
And your online fans were instrumental in helping to raise completion funds via the film’s Kickstarter campaign?
They were. When things were wrapping up before HBO came along, the directors knew they would have to pay for licensing fees because they use Britney’s songs throughout the film, and also it’s woven with video clips. So the fans were really helpful. They raised $10,000 more than was even asked. They really wanted the story, so a lot of credit goes to them for sure.
In the film we mostly see the Chris Crocker who is in character or performing. You never seem to be ‘off.’
Yeah. But the film is trying to tell a few stories in one, so it was hard to show all sides. Like the internet story, the Britney story, the story with my mom. I tell people, if I was like that 24/7, I would have cardiac arrest. Who can be that ‘on’ all the time? When I turn on my camera, that’s my time to let out all that frustration from living in a small town and feeling like you’re going crazy. But what’s cool is that I’m such a radical example of celebrity or gay or whatever—a polarizing person to some—but at the end of the film you still can relate to the story and see me as a person rather than just a persona. I hope that comes across.
What is the most surprising or obscure part of the world that your videos have fans and followers?
I don’t look at how Google has the statistics thing, but I know I have a lot of fans in Brazil, which is suspiring to me.
Go to Rio!
Is that in Brazil?
Yeah, Rio is in Brazil. It’s a beach city. What are the three Chris Crocker must-see clips? Choose your own ‘greatest hits.’
I guess "Leave Britney Alone" because it’s vulnerable, raw.... I don’t think I’ll ever be that vulnerable again on camera. It would be on the top of the list, even though I hate to say that because everybody has seen it. I really like my "Watch Chris Crocker Blink" video. Even though nothing is said audibly, what it gets across is really important. A lot of people say you have to act so crazy in your videos to get these views, and when I was really on my A-game, that video had 8 million hits and it’s a four-second video of me blinking. Number three, I would say, maybe "Chris Crocker In Wal-Mart" because it shows me in my hometown all dressed up in my womanly attire at 3 a.m., drunk, and who doesn’t like that.
Which internet personalities do you like to follow and watch?
One of my muses in the beginning of YouTube and one of the only people I found entertaining is Stevie Ryan. She later became one of my best friends. She was one of the pioneers of YouTube. She did Little Loca videos and pretended to be a completely false identity. She’s an amazing impressionist and actress. Also, Shane Dawson is really talented with his editing. It's like watching a TV show, and he’s been supportive of my music.
OK, let’s discuss the porn thing now.
I’ve been posting nudes for a long time, and it is a phase I’m taking more seriously, because when I die I want to be able to say I’ve done everything on camera so you never know.
Is the Chi Chi LaRue video you were planning to do still happening?
There’s definitely a contract on pause right now. Balancing an HBO documentary and wanting to do porn at the same time is kind of a conflict of interest. It’s hard for me to plan everything out or say when, but I think it will happen. I’ve always lived with the philosophy that if you don’t see the barriers, then they don’t exist. I want to do other things—I want to act in the future and don’t want porn to paralyze me. But at the same time, I don’t think that it should. Also, because I’ve been put in such a "Leave Britney Alone" 15-minutes-of-fame box, I feel like the more I have going against me, the more motivated I am.
If you could choose your partners for the porn, which types would you select? Bear, twink, etc.
I would choose one of every type. I want a hot black dude. Maybe not a bear, but a cub. And then a stereotypical twink. I think Jake Bass is really cute. I could have an otter. Every guy I’ve been with has looked different from the other, so I have no set type.
You have made quite the transition from gender-bending femme to masculine dick-wagger. One wouldn’t know you were the same person if they compared photos.
I agree. I like to fit all stereotypes. I wanted to know what it was like to be a stereotypically attractive male who gets ass a lot, and right now I’m feeling that out. If I get bored, I’ll move to something else.
Now that the film will get seen internationally, do you still want to hear from Britney already?
I did a video called "No Longer Britney Boy," where I tore down all my Britney pictures. In a way, I feel conflicted I did that. But the real intention, even though I was yelling "You didn’t thank me," was to take back my identity. It had more to do with me. But I wish Britney well. Even if I never hear from her, at least the documentary shows the sincerity behind why I did it.