“How is prangent formed?” It’s a question that has haunted people to the tune of 40 million YouTube views and come to symbolize a very specific era of the mid-2000s internet. An era that, with the looming shutdown of Yahoo Answers, Yahoo’s question-and-answer forum, is about to be lost to time. (For the uninitiated, Yahoo Answers allowed anybody to submit questions about, well, just about anything, which, as with all things on the internet, led to a combination of comedy, racism, genuinely useful information, and outright bizarreness.)
To memorialize Yahoo Answers, Madison Malone Kircher, co-host of ICYMI, Slate’s podcast about internet culture, talked to the creator of the viral “How Is Prangent Formed?” video about his earliest memories of Yahoo Answers, the wildest moments in the site’s history, and what the internet is losing with the platform’s demise. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Madison Malone Kircher: How did the video come about? What inspired you to create this—I’ll say it—masterpiece?
J.T. Sexkik: Oh, well, thank you. Maybe this will sound weird, but before I even had the idea of making this stuff into YouTube videos, I would just do this for fun. I’d sit around with a couple of friends or my girlfriend, and we’d just go digging around on Yahoo Answers and reading questions out loud and laughing our asses off at all the weird stuff that’s on there.
Do you remember any of the other weird stuff you found in those days?
Oh man, so here’s one genre that I really like: questions where somebody will be looking for the title of a song that they heard. People who literally will be like, “What’s the drum and bass song that goes like doo doo doo doo doo doo doo?” There’s one that’s “What song is ‘royals royals’?”
Like “Royals” by Lorde, right?
Yeah. The question is: “ ‘royals royals’ and then she says something and goes ‘royals royals’ and then there’s music and she says, ‘royals royals.’ ”
Incredible. So, obviously you had a lot of options to choose from. What made you choose to make a video about the pregnancy questions specifically?
I had a big folder of all different screenshots of questions and stuff that I found. And I had a couple pregnancy-related ones. Those tended to be pretty good, and at some point I was just like: “OK, let’s really pull this thread. How many ways can you actually misspell the word pregnant?” And it turns out the answer is fucking infinite.
There’s a moment in the video, it’s about. “if all woman have starch masks,” and you just crack yourself up. I’m curious, how many times did you take this? Did you make yourself laugh as hard as we laughed watching it?
It’s funny you mentioned that one, because I actually did two takes and that was the spot where I disintegrated. I barely managed to get past that one, and I just completely lost my composure after that. So that was where I broke off. But other than that, it was just the straight two takes. Just bang, bang, bang, just going down the list.
What was it like watching the video go viral?
When I make a video, I never set out to go viral. I’m never thinking, “Oh, this is going to be a big smash hit. I’m going to be the next Jake Paul with this,” or anything like that. But it’s exciting. It’s really weird. Even now, it’s weird. And it’s funny when I’ll be on Reddit or Twitter and the word pregnant will come up and then the replies will just erupt into “Pregante,” “pregananant.” It’s cool though.
You go by J.T. Sexkik online. People don’t know you in real life as “Pregananant” guy, correct?
Some actually do. That’s another weird aspect of it, when I’m meeting a new person for the first time and one of my friends is like, “Oh, he’s the pregnant Yahoo Answers guy!” And they’re like, “What? You’re that guy?” And I’m like, “I’m just going to … I’m going to leave now.”
At least with your online footprint, it seems like you’re fairly removed from it in a way that I think a lot of viral creators are unable to separate from their content, save for your friend doing your PR.
I assume making YouTube videos is not your day job, correct?
No, no, no.
Did you ever submit or answer Yahoo Answers questions seriously?
No, no, no, no. I just observe from a distance. I don’t interact—prime directive. I’ve used Stack Exchange, if that counts. That’s basically Yahoo Answers except not stupid. So maybe that kind of counts.
How are you feeling about the news? What was your first thought when you heard Yahoo Answers was shutting down?
It’s a release. My spirit can rest now. But I mean, it’s a bummer. It’s a big piece of internet history. It’s a monument to just how weird and dumb and crazy the internet can be. At the same time, part of me wonders how it lasted as long as it did. I feel bad in a way for the people who used it seriously, because you have these people who could not fit together the most basic building blocks of life, and now they’re just being kind of set adrift out into the ether. Another way that I look at it, though, is that internet communities are more about the people than the website itself. For example we know, based on the big exodus out of Tumblr that happened a couple of years ago, that when a site dies, even though the community is gone, the users, the people, don’t just disappear. They just go somewhere else.
Is there a planned promised land for the exodus from Yahoo Answers?
There are plenty of other Q&A sites that are basically the same thing. There’s Question.com. There’s Answers.com. There’s this site called BlurtIt.com. There’s eHelp.com, which actually has a lot of good, classic, dumb, Yahoo Answers–type stuff on it. So there are definitely places where they could end up.
I somehow just keep getting stuck on Quora. If you go to Quora one time, you’re getting emails forever.
Oh yeah. How could I forget?
What was the worst thing you ever saw on Yahoo Answers?
It is kind of a bummer when you’re on there and you see people asking questions that they should really be asking a doctor or a therapist probably. There was this one I saw that really stuck with me. It was this guy who had a sexual attraction to Garfield—like cartoon lasagna cat. That on its own is completely fine. You know, whatever floats your boat. I don’t care about that. But he also was afraid that this would make him gay. So it’s like, I want to fuck Garfield, but I don’t want to be gay because then it would be weird.
That is how it happens. That’s definitely how it happened to me. I was sexually attracted to Gar—no, I’m kidding.
Well, hold on. I’m not finished yet.
Oh no, I’m sorry.
So he was afraid that this would make him gay. So in his fantasies about Garfield, he would imagine Garfield with, like, a hot woman’s body. The way he described it was Garfield’s head on Pam Anderson’s body. And he had this rich, inner fantasy life of him with the Garfield-Pam–Anderson hybrid abomination that he came up with. And he had like drawings and stories that he wrote and stuff. And his girlfriend in real life found all this stuff and freaked the fuck out. And he’s coming to Yahoo Answers, and he’s like, “Help. What do I do? How do I fix my relationship?” Yeah. This is above the pay grade of Yahoo Answers. You need counseling, my friend.
Professional help. On the flip side, I’m curious if you ever came across any reactions that were genuinely good or heartwarming. I hesitate to say “inspiring,” but—
Heartwarming is not really something I would use to describe Yahoo Answers. In fact, it’s actually the opposite—especially more recently now that it’s become kind of a joke. A lot of times the answers are a peanut gallery where people will roast the question asker. As far as the best stuff—the stuff that I’ve had the most fun reading—if I had to pick one, it would probably be “How is babby formed.”
Another thing that I really like is people who write questions talking about hypocrites, but they spell it like Hippocrates. So you get questions that are like, “Why are all Democrats Hippocrates?” Or just, like, “I hate Hippocrates.” And it’s fun to imagine that they’re actually talking about the ancient philosopher.
Right, right, right. The guy who gave us the oath that all medical professionals take—we hate him. I feel like we should explain for people whose brains are maybe not as mushy as yours and mine: “How is babby formed” was a Yahoo Answers question asking about how a baby is made, but baby was spelled “babby,” which, just, jokes aplenty.
Yes. And not just the question. It was not just the question of “How is babby formed? how girl get pragnent”—but actually the answer to this question is, “They need to do way instain mother> who kill thier babbys. becuse these babby cant frigth back? it was on the news this mroing a mother in ar who had kill her three kids. they are taking the three babby back to new york too lady to rest my pary are with the father who lost his chrilden ; I am truley sorry for your lots.”
Do you have a favorite on the long list of pregnancy questions in your video?
Oh man. It’s got to be the “starch masks.”
So I know you said you don’t make videos with the idea of “This is going to be the thing that makes me go viral,” which is great because trying to go viral is a recipe to fail, but can you walk me through what it was like watching that view counter and realizing, “Oh, shit. I have made a truly viral video here”?
So before this I had like 30,000 subs. I had a little niche carved out, but nothing remotely close to this. I was not prepared for fricking Markiplier, PewDiePie—Steve Carell tweeted it at one point.
There’s a trio.
Yeah. The three comedy grades: Pewdiepie, Markiplier, and Steve Carell. I’m sure he’d be happy to be held in such esteemed company, but, yeah, that was fuckin’ bizarre.
Did you tell your girlfriend, your friends, your family?
Yeah. It kind of all happened at once. I had people who I knew from school messaging me on Facebook, and my girlfriend’s whole family knows about the YouTube channel and everything now, which is pretty awkward. Every time we have some kind of family get-together, people are like, “Oh, pregnant, pregananant, put the video up on the TV,” which is especially weird because there is this one point in the video where I say “pre-cum,” and then just hearing my voice through the speakers, saying the word pre-cum in front of my girlfriend’s entire family, is not a great experience.
So is the video monetized? Did you make money off this thing?
Enough for beer and pizza.
Does it continue to pay for beer and pizza?
Yeah, yeah. I get a little scratch every month from that.
Do you think you could recite the thing by memory at this point? I’m not going to make you do it. I’m just curious.
No, in fact, I actually can’t go back and watch my old videos. I cringe. I can’t repeat any of that from memory. I haven’t actually seen the video, probably, since I posted it.
I hadn’t seen it in a while until the great Yahoo Answers announcement. I’m sure there was a spike in your views, right?
There was a little bit of a revival there, yeah.
Is there something you wish you were known for instead? Do you ever have a moment where you stop and think, “Oh, this is the thing I am best known for in this world”?
You know, it’s definitely weird to think that this is going to be my mark on history. This is what I’m going to be remembered for. I am the Yahoo Answers guy. But I can’t complain. I don’t want to be a jerk about it.
Yeah, totally. There are worse things.
There are definitely way worse things to be known for.
To listen to the rest of the episode, including more on Yahoo Answers, subscribe to ICYMI.