Earlier in the pandemic, drummer and TODAY editor Josh Harmon started sharing "Rhythms of Comedy" videos where he used his drum set to imitate the delivery and cadences of famous comedians like Dave Chappelle and Hannah Gadsby. The videos went viral, leading to his appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" — but a new video has smashed those records, garnering millions of views in just a few days.
In the short clip, Harmon sits at his drum set and uses it to re-create the soothing sounds of a kitchen as portrayed in the 2008 film "Ratatouille." Drumsticks and a handheld shaker replicate the sounds of kitchen tools and eggs cracking.
"I was having fun … and pretty decent success posting the ("Rhythms of Comedy") videos," Harmon, who has been playing the drums since he was a toddler, told TODAY Food. "Even though I wasn't really doing it for the views, I started doing it because I thought it was fun, and I had moved back home with my parents, and I didn't know what else to do, so it was just a way to entertain myself. It occurred to me that I could potentially reach a larger audience if I did something that didn't have any words in it."
In addition to looking for something "completely universal," Harmon said that he wanted to create a video that was "really fun and positive, and sort of silly." He decided to re-create the scene from "Ratatouille" where the Remy the rat teaches his human friend, Linguini, how to cook, layering the drum sounds over the movie's score.
"I knew that people loved the movie, and I also love the movie," said Harmon, who was a French literature major in college; recently, TikTok creators produced an original "Ratatouille" musical, which raised millions for The Actor's Fund. "And I also thought that the chopping sounds were kind of percussive, so that's what made me do it."
When asked how he was able to figure it out, Harmon joked, "There was a tiny French rat under my headphones controlling my arms!"
But in actuality, he said, to find the right sounds, he first watched the scene several times.
"I listened to the clip, I put on headphones, and kind of just walked around listening to it, away from the drum set, and practiced it over and over again in my head," Harmon explained. " … I listened to the clip without watching the movie just so I could hear the sounds and think, 'OK, what's that sound? How can I replicate that? What's the timbre of it?' And then I figured out how to get it just right through experimenting and playing."
Harmon said that the clip took at least a dozen takes but he enjoyed working on the project.
"I'm always trying to make something that makes me have fun," he said. "If I'm making something and thinking, 'Oh, this is brutal, I don't enjoy this anymore,' I usually just stop. So if I'm having fun, then I think the audience has fun. That's been my guiding principle."
That "guiding principle" quickly paid off: The video has so far garnered over 76 million views and has been among the most popular videos on the site for several days. A second version of the video, which removes the movie music and just features the drums, has nearly 10 million views itself.
"(Not having the movie music) gives it a totally different vibe, and I thought it was kind of interesting," Harmon said. "So I decided to post it … People want that kind of behind-the-scenes experience, and so you can have the main thing, but it's nice to show extra. It's like a little bonus."
Harmon said that despite the success of his earlier "Rhythms of Comedy" videos, he was surprised by just how popular the video was: After adding up all of the times it's been shared and circulated on various social media platforms, he believes it's been seen by about 2% of the world's population in just a few days.
"It really is insane. I thought, as I was making this video, 'OK, I think this is a really good one, I'm feeling good about it,'" Harmon said. "No pun intended, but I thought 'It's got all the right ingredients to be successful.' But I truly did not expect anything of this magnitude."
He said that people around the world have reached out about the video.
"I've gotten notes from people in Turkey, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia, Thailand, China, Korea," he said. "Somebody said, 'You're the most popular video in Madagascar right now.'
"There's some one plus one equals three thing happening. I don't even fully understand why the video is so popular. But it's doing something, it's connecting. … It's extremely meaningful to me that from my basement, in my parents house, I can create a shared experience for so many people."