You love Shrek. I love Shrek. It’s not surprising that years and years later, the movie continues to find a way into our lives. It’s an iconic, classic piece of 2000s pop culture that has spawned viral memes and references still popular today. Shrek became an entertainment staple that appealed to kids and adults alike, using parodic, twisted humor that poked fun at the Disney empire that was too cool to hang around the swamp. Shrek has changed many lives, and for an aspiring thespian in Indiana, it did more than that.
In July, a video of Theo Karras reciting iconic lines from the millennial classic went viral on Twitter. In the video, Karras delivers dialogue as multiple characters, line by line, passing time while he is in a car with a friend for two hours. Since then, the video has been played more than six million times, catching the attention of Buzzfeed and Times.
Months later, Karras would find himself as a source of inspiration for thousands of followers online. He regularly interacts with his 20.5k Twitter followers with timestamped updates and live videos. We caught up with Theo to talk about what it’s like having a spotlight like this in his life and his devotion for Shrek.
Cogswell Chronicle: Walk us through how this happened. How was this caught on camera?
Theo Karras: From the time I was a kid, I watched the movie [Shrek] so much. We were in a long car ride home and hit some traffic, so I decided to entertain the car. Luckily, my sister got it on camera, and here we are now!
CC: That probably wasn’t your first time reading those lines. It was to flawless. Why Shrek?
TK: The humor always got to me, especially Donkey’s wit. That always stuck [me]. The accents are something I have learned to do through the years, but there's still more to perfect.
CC: What was your reaction when you realized it had gone viral?
TK: At first I became very overwhelmed because things like that don’t happen to me and I thought over and over “How is this happening?”
CC: Since then, you’ve gained a lot of following on social media. How has this affected your day to day life?
TK: It has affected me in ways that have only been positive, which is really great. It gives me a chance to spread love and support online, and encourage people that they are capable of anything. Sometimes it’s what people don’t realize they need but being that source of energy is really effective. I have also gained much recognition throughout my community which has been a wild experience through this video.
CC: I follow you on Twitter and have mad respect for you. You post a lot of light-hearted, inspiring stuff. You also have a lot of respect for your fans. Is there some kind of approach when it comes to interacting with them?
TK: Treat them kindly. I find that people who truly appreciate my posts will often comment and I hope they understand that I take time to read their messages and comments. I completely disregard any of the negative feedback because people can have their opinions, and that's okay. But my followers do not deserve to see any of the negativity.
CC: Some might think that someone with a following like this might have a responsibility to deliver a message. Do you feel that way?
TK: I do not feel that I have a responsibility for it, but I do believe that since I have the attention of many I should do the best of my ability to share and spread that message.
CC: On Twitter, you timestamp your Tweets and that’s a unique style I’ve never seen. What’s the inspiration behind that?
TK: The reason I do that is actually one of my favorite Broadway actresses would do that with some of her tweets and I always found it a bit humorous, so I began doing it. The reason I stuck with it is because it allowed my tweets to stand out so I kept it.
CC: The concept of “viral fame” can have an allure to a lot of young people on the internet. Some readers who might aspire to be in your position might be wonder about privacy. Has there ever (or do you foresee there to be) an issue in regards to this?
TK: Not really. I do love to get to know the people who are truly interested, but with that comes a sense of privacy. That is why I have created separate accounts such as for Snapchat.
CC: I’ve seen a lot of inspiring stuff from you on my feed. You’ve established a voice and now people look up to you on social media. What’s the drive behind that?
TK: I share these messages around because I know life can get stressful and it is so easy to be hard on yourself. Although I am just a stranger to many, I try my best to motivate as many people that I can. Even if it is accomplishing small tasks such as waking up and making your bed. I just want people to understand that there is always someone there for them.
CC: Ten seconds into watching you recite Shrek flawlessly, I made the assumption that you have a background in theater.
TK: I have dreams of any theatre kid out there. A lot of people that don’t know I’m involved with theatre have been asking me if it’s something I will ever consider . . . in reality I have had dreams of being an actor from the time I was a kid. I do believe this event has helped me get farther but that does not mean I have to put in less work for anything I want.
CC: Last but not the least, the most important question: which Shrek character do you identify with the most and why?
TK: Without a doubt I would say Donkey. Always keeping my head up in serious times to make sure those around me are not uncomfortable and maintain a smile on their faces.