Home Entertainment ‘I like turtles’ kid was an OG viral sensation. Here’s why he’s back.

‘I like turtles’ kid was an OG viral sensation. Here’s why he’s back.

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‘I like turtles’ kid was an OG viral sensation. Here’s why he’s back.

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You've seen the meme. You've heard the phrase. Now, Turtle Boy is back — and he's all grown up. (Photo: Courtesy Jonathon Ware/YouTube)

You’ve seen the meme. You’ve heard the phrase. Now, Turtle Boy is back — and he’s all grown up. (Photo: Courtesy Jonathon Ware/YouTube)

In 2007, a 10-year-old kid in zombie face paint became a viral sensation long before there was ever a term for it — all thanks to three simple words.

Jonathon Ware broke the internet after a 17-second clip on YouTube made the rounds across social media, which was then in its infancy. The clip shows a local news reporter approaching him at a local arts festival, where he’d just gotten his face painted.

When asked by the reporter what he thought of the paint job, a young Ware blurted out: “I like turtles…”

Ware’s hilarious deadpan became one of the earliest viral memes, ultimately shaping the spontaneity and unpredictability that would come to define internet culture. “Turtle Boy,” (sometimes called the “Zombie Kid”) was a cultural phenomenon. Cameos on The O’Reilly Factor and Comedy Central’s Tosh.0 further solidified his place in the zeitgeist.

“It still makes me laugh,” Ware, now 26, tells Yahoo Entertainment when looking back on the moment. “It’s like in the Marvel films when Groot says, ‘I am Groot.’ That’s me, except ‘I like turtles.’”

“Seriously, I just like turtles,” he proclaims with a laugh. “A kid’s mind wanders and goes, Oh s***, what am I gonna say on a news channel? I wasn’t nervous or shaking or anything. I was just like, well, I guess I’ll say, ‘I like turtles.’”

Last week, Ware broke the internet — again — when he appeared in a new trailer for the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, during which he repeated the famous tagline. It was a proud moment for the self-proclaimed introvert, who enjoyed “staying hidden” from the public all these years. When the film’s producers reached out, he says he decided it was time to come out of his shell.

“If I can make someone laugh, smile or change their mood and make them have a better day, I’m all for it. That’s what it is about and that’s why I did it,” he says. “I thought, you know, maybe people can relieve some stress because they’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, he’s back.’ That’s what I was hoping would come out of it anyway, for people to say, ‘Is this 2007 again? Look, he’s all grown up — but he hasn’t changed!’”

Now, Turtle Boy is eyeing a comeback, mostly as a way to “bring joy” back in people’s newsfeeds.

“After I did all this promotion work for the movie, I created accounts on TikTok and Instagram for the character: the Turtle Boy,” he says, noting that there’s “new, amazing content” in the works. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

To that end, Ware gave a full update to Yahoo Entertainment about what life has been like since becoming internet famous. Here’s what we found out.

Yes, he still loves turtles.

“Why not turtles?” he poses. “It’s a pop culture phenomenon: You got Super Mario with [the turtle character] Bowser and all that. You got all the shells you can use in Mario Kart. Obviously, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Franklin the turtle. There’s a lot of pop culture references.”

He loves turtles so much that his colleagues nicknamed him “Raphael,” after the lead character in TMNT known for being moody and eccentric.

“I was a produce manager for Fred Meyer and my store director found out who I was,” he recalls. “He started calling me Raphael. He was like, ‘You like turtles, right?’ So, they changed my name tag and everything to Raphael.”

Beware of the Turtle Boy ‘copycats’

A basic Google search will show several pages of folks claiming to be the real “Turtle Boy” — including reports that he created a YouTube show called “It’s Turtle Time.” Ware, to say the least, was shell-shocked.

“I’ve never created a YouTube channel!” he confirms. “People copy me all the time, claiming they are me to get that clout and all the other stuff to get followers. They haven’t really bothered me, but there are times where I have some flare ups. I’ll make a burner account [to see what they’re saying]. Especially the ‘It’s Turtle Time’ one. When people put that guy out there, ugh, that gets me.”

He’s found a silverlining, though. “All these credited websites post about it and I’m just like, Man, that’s not me! But I’m just gonna let you look like a clown at the same time because when you get the actual me, you’ll have to go back and re-edit it. And that’s gonna be your problem.”

But seriously, there’s no bad blood. Ware, an avid boxing and wrestling fan, even has a playful message for all the copycats: “Meet me in the boxing ring and we’ll see who ends this match.”

He doesn’t like telling people he’s Turtle Boy

“I kept it hidden, except for some people I work with and my close friends,” he says. “Nobody outside of that knew, and the only way they’d know is if my friends brought it up. When they did I’d be like, ‘Dude, what did you do?’ because people would be like, ‘No way! You’re the Turtle Boy?’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, it’s true,’ then I’d give them resting bitch face.”

His wife gets a free pass: “She finds it hilarious. She’ll bombard me 10 times a day to say ‘I like turtles.’”

Ware is now happily married and says his wife playfully 'bombards' him to say his famous catchphrase: 'I like turtles.' (Courtesy Jonathon Ware)

Ware is now happily married and says his wife playfully “bombards” him to say his famous catchphrase: “I like turtles.” (Photo courtesy of Jonathon Ware)

Ware preferred keeping his identity secret because “I just wanted my privacy,” but that’s changed, especially now that he’s forging new plans as a content creator. “I wanted to wait until I was older, more mature and developed to see where [Turtle Boy] would go, and how my mind would develop creatively.”

“I’m 26 now. I’m more confident and have great ideas,” he says. “I’m not using [social media] all in one shot. I’m giving you guys a little tiny piece here and there, you know, I’m not gonna be posting constantly. That’s part of the character. It’s mysterious, nobody knows about it.”

‘Today’s influencers are milking it’

Ware admits there’s plenty of perks to being internet famous, but for young people who find themselves in his situation, he advises them to cherish the moment before attempting to “monetize” yourself.

“My rule of thumb is to wait,” he says. “Watch what happened over the years. You don’t see anything from ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ or anything like that because they used all of that back then. They didn’t cherish the moment.”

Much like Ware, “Charlie Bit My Finger” became one of early internet culture’s most talked about videos — featuring a toddler holding his baby brother Charlie, when the laughing baby bites his finger. The toddler then looks to the camera with tears in his eyes and says, “Charlie bit my finger.” The clip, like Ware’s, was a viral sensation.

Back then, going viral didn’t exactly guarantee a career. Much has changed, Ware point outs, given the rise of mega-rich influencers who’ve found ways to make money on social media. (Something that was virtually non-existent in 2007.)

“Today’s influencers are milking it,” he says. “They’re posting too many videos and they’re always trying to do something to impress their followers. If you want to keep a following that’s loyal to you, give them just a little bit here and there. But no, they keep posting content to keep up their moneybags and to be famous.

“The real thing is to make people happy,” he says. “For me, that’s what it’s all about. And I’m excited to see what comes next in that regard.”



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