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Screenshot of a Rickroll video window on YouTube

Rickrolling is an Internet meme typically involving the music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song "Never Gonna Give You Up". The meme is a bait and switch: a person provides a web link that he or she claims is relevant to the topic at hand, but the link actually takes the user to the Astley video. The URL can be masked or obfuscated in some manner so that the user cannot determine the true destination of the link without clicking. When a person clicks on the link and is led to the web page, he or she is said to have been "Rickrolled" (also spelled Rickroll'd).

As the practice has spread, two of the various Rickrolling videos available online have been viewed more than fifteen million times each.[1][2] These figures track the total number of visits, not individual viewers. Rickrolling has extended beyond Web links to playing the video or song disruptively in other situations, including public places;[3] this culminated when Astley and the song made a surprise appearance in the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,[4] a televised event with tens of millions of viewers.




Astley recorded "Never Gonna Give You Up" on his 1987 album Whenever You Need Somebody.[5] The song, his debut single, was a number one hit for him on several international charts, including the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks and UK Top 40 charts. As a means of promoting the song, it was also made into Astley's first music video, which features him performing the song while dancing.[6]

Origin of the term

The practice is said to have begun as a variant of an earlier prank from the imageboard 4chan known as duckrolling,[7] in which a link to somewhere (such as a specific picture or news item) would instead lead to a thread or site containing an edited picture of a duck with wheels. The user at that point is said to have been "duckrolled".

The first known instance of Rickroll occurred in May 2007 on 4chan's video game board, where a link to the Rick Astley video was claimed to be a mirror of the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV (which was unavailable due to heavy traffic). The joke was confined to 4chan for a very brief period.[7]

By May 2008,[8] the practice had spread beyond 4chan and become an Internet phenomenon, eventually amassing some coverage in the mainstream media.[9][10][3] An April 2008 poll by SurveyUSA estimated that at least 18 million American adults had been Rickrolled.[11]


Scientology protests

In connection with the online meme, "Never Gonna Give You Up" was played and performed at most of the Project Chanology February 2008 protests against the Church of Scientology.[12][13] On February 10, 2008 protests in New York City, Washington, D.C., London, St. Louis, Detroit and Seattle, protesters played the song through boomboxes and shouted the phrase "Never gonna let you down!", in what The Guardian called "a live rick-rolling of the Church of Scientology".[10] In response to a Web site created by Scientologists showing an anti-Anonymous video, Project Chanology participants created a website with a similar domain name with a video displaying the music video to "Never Gonna Give You Up".[10]

EWU basketball games

Four women's basketball games at Eastern Washington University were Rickrolled in March 2008,[3][14] in the first photo, Davin Perry, dressed as the singer Rick Astley, performed before a basketball game. The games were not actually interrupted.

Four women's basketball games at Eastern Washington University (EWU) were Rickrolled during March 2008. Before the start of the games, "Never Gonna Give You Up" was played while a Rick Astley impersonator danced and lip-synched to the music. A video containing footage of the pre-game Rickrollings, misleadingly combined with real game break footage, was later released on YouTube.[3][15] It even showed a fan with a "Scientology Kills" sign and the EWU mascot, Swoop, holding a "Xenu.net" sign, both references to the aforementioned Anonymous protests.

The New York Times originally reported that a single game had actually been interrupted by the Rickrolling. On March 27, 2008 it issued a correction clarifying the situation, and saying that the interruption never took place, but was rather a hoax by Pawl Fisher, a student; Davin Perry, who shoots game videos for the university; and Dave Cook, the university's sports information director.[3][15][16][17][18][19]

New York Mets

On April 4, 2008, many web communities, starting with Fark.com,[20] urged their readers to vote "Never Gonna Give You Up" for the 8th inning sing-along at Shea Stadium for the New York Mets season. The Mets posted a web poll to select a song, and left a blank field for write-ins. The Mets organization announced On April 7, 2008 that "Never Gonna Give You Up" was the winner with more than five million votes.[21] The Mets decided not to commit to using Astley's song and subsequently announced a run-off among six songs that would be played at Shea Stadium for the next six games, starting with "Never Gonna Give You Up" on April 8, 2008.[22]

MLB.com later reported on the game, claiming "Never Gonna Give You Up" was played as a "result of fans rigging the vote in favor of Astley, all part of a universal Internet phenomenon known as Rick Rolling". The song was played during the home opener and was greeted with "a shower of boos".[23]

April Fools' Day, 2008

On April Fools' Day 2008 and the following weeks, numerous seemingly uncoordinated instances of Rickrolling appeared on the internet, and news media. All of the featured videos on YouTube's front page hyperlinked to the Rickroll. The prank began with international YouTube portals before appearing on the main site.[24]

Social blog Web site LiveJournal announced on the same day that they would be adding a new member to their Advisory Board, linking members to the journal "rickastley", which contains a Rickroll.[25]

The website Fark featured a link to a video claiming to be a blooper reel for the Muppets but instead linked to a video of Beaker performing Rick Astley's song (to a video of him originally performing "Feelings" on The Muppet Show).[26] Other social bookmarking sites such as Digg[27] and Reddit[28] subsequently joined in linking the video.

The online Web store ThinkGeek advertised on their front page a Betamax to HD DVD converter device. In the product page a demonstration video was linked which was, in actuality, a Rickroll.[29]

Radio and television

A Rickroll occurred June 21, 2007 on the late-night talk show Last Call with Carson Daly. Carson claimed that he was going to show "a video of Paris Hilton and Busta Rhymes making out" that he found on the Internet. Instead, a clip of the music video was played, and he declared the audience to have been Rickrolled.[30]

Some radio stations, including Cincinnati's WKFS[31] got in on the Rickroll phenomenon by inserting the song or clips on radio stations that ordinarily would not have played the song.

At the end of a brief story on Tasmanian Devils on the April 1, 2008 episode of National Public Radio's The Bryant Park Project, the hosts were going to play a clip on what a Tasmanian devil sounds like. Instead, Astley's song played.[32]

During the April 4, 2008 episode of E!'s The Soup, an introduction to a clip from the season finale of LA Ink led instead into a Rickroll.[33]

In a segue during the July 12-13, 2008 episode of Rage on the national Australian broadcaster ABC1 channel, guest programmers Pennywise, after playing numerous punk music videos, solemnly introduced their next selected music video as being another classic and highly influential song for them, then sat calmly waiting for Astley's song to roll and every Rage viewer across Australia to realise they had been Rickrolled.[34]

On the July 14, 2008 episode of The Daily Show, John Oliver Rickrolled Jon Stewart (through a pop-up window claiming to disclose Iran's nuclear plan) and proceeded to say, "You just got Rickrolled, Jon... all your coworkers will think you're a big, gay Rick Astley fan".[35]

Web Comics


The webcomic xkcd has featured at least four references to the practice.

  • In "Trolling", two men are seen outside Astley's house, tapping into his cable line to be the first to successfully Rickroll the artist himself.[36]
  • On February 27, 2008, in "Keeping Time", a musical score is seen at the top of the panel, to evoke music being played in a store. The music, if played, turns out to be the opening bars of "Never Gonna Give You Up".[37][38]
  • "The Ring" references uploading The Ring's fatal videotape to YouTube as an outlandish revenge for being Rickrolled.[39]
  • Most recently, on December 31, 2008, "Party" depicts Astley conspicuously not Rickrolling another character.[40]


The webcomic MyExtraLife by Scott Johnson also has a cartoon using the Rickrolling meme titled "Most Inappropriate Use of the Rick Roll" depicting a priest performing a wedding and breaking into the Astley song.

Dan Kaminsky

In April 2008, security expert Dan Kaminsky demonstrated a serious security vulnerability by setting up Rick Rolls on Facebook and PayPal.[41]

Michelle Obama

On June 7, 2008, a number of political blogs, including Wonkette,[42] Andrew Sullivan,[43] and Balloon Juice,[44] posted an article claiming to show Michelle Obama going on a rant full of racist references to 'Whitey', but the video was actually a Rickroll.

Barack Roll

A screenshot of a "Barack Roll", featuring President Barack Obama

Hugh Atkin, an Australian lawyer and notable producer of Internet viral videos[45], created a popular YouTube parody video of the Rickrolling meme involving United States President Barack Obama, then the 2008 presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, entitled "Barack Roll" that has been watched about 6 million times since its release.[46] The video consists of clips of Obama speaking the words of Astley's song. A follow-up video shows Senator John McCain being "Barack Rolled" at the Republican National Convention; though it never happened — the "Barack Roll" image was displayed on the giant blue sky background that was behind John McCain during his speech, and the video was pieced together from footage of the event. The video ends with what looks like the delegation cheering, chanting "Obama! Obama!"[47] This version won the Favorite User Generated Video award at the 35th People's Choice Awards.

It was highlighted on blogs for the New York Times,[48] The Politico,[49] Comedy Central,[50] Andrew Sullivan[51] and Sports Illustrated.[52]

2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

On November 27, 2008, Astley participated in a live RickRoll during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade while the Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends characters were singing "Best Friend", the theme from the 1970s TV series The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Midway through the song, Astley himself emerged from the float and began to lip synch his signature hit. At the end of Astley's performance, Cheese (a character from Foster's) shouted out "I like Rickrolling!"[53]

Nancy Pelosi

On January 13, 2009, in honor of the new YouTube hub for Congress[1], U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi uploaded a video called "Speaker Pelosi Presents Capitol Cat Cam" to her official YouTube channel[2]. She described it as "a behind the scenes view of the Speaker's Office in the U.S. Capitol." The video depicts cats roaming around the office. A rickroll occurs approximately halfway through the video.[54]

Toronto City Hall

In 2008, a group of Chaos Computer Club members mainly from Berlin, Germany turned the windows of Toronto City Hall into four giant computer monitors by presenting their latest installation of Project Blinkenlights. While giving a presentation about that installation, the project's spokesman Tim Pritlove showed a video which proved that they played the video on that building - a subtitle told the audience that the video's creator "hereby claims the biggest Rickroll ever".


A Rickroll flash mob took place on April 11, 2008 in London's Liverpool Street train station with an estimated 300–400 people in attendance.[55][56] When the flash mob finished the countdown, they started to sing from beginning to the end.

One Web site, Prankdialer.com,[57] offers a Rickroll-by-phone service, allowing visitors to enter a phone number to be called and have the song played to the answering party.[58]

Effects on Astley and reaction

In a March 2008 interview, Astley said that he found the Rickrolling of Scientology to be "hilarious"; he also said that he will not try to capitalize on the Rickroll phenomenon with a new recording or remix of his own, but that he would be happy to have other artists remix it. Overall, Astley is not troubled by the phenomenon, stating that he finds it "bizarre and funny" and that his only concern is that his "daughter doesn't get embarrassed about it".[59] A spokesperson for Astley's record label released a comment which showed that Astley's interest with the phenomenon had faded, as they stated "I'm sorry, but he's done talking about Rickrolling".[7]

In November 2008, Rick Astley was nominated for Best Act Ever at the MTV Europe Music Awards after the online nomination form was flooded with votes.[60] The push to make Astley the winner of the award continued after the announcement, as well as efforts to encourage MTV to personally invite Astley to the awards ceremony.[61] On October 10, Astley's website confirmed that an invitation to the awards had been received.[62]

On November 6, 2008, just hours before the ceremony was due to air, it was reported that MTV Europe did not want to give Astley the award at the ceremony, instead wanting to present it at a later date.[63] However, during the actual show many feel the presentation of the Best Act Ever category was treated as a joke, lacking the pre-announcement video montage other categories had. Many fans who voted for Astley objected to this treatment by MTV, and felt the awards ceremony failed to acknowledge him as a legitimate artist.[64] Astley stated in an interview that he felt the award was 'daft', but noted that he thought that "MTV were thoroughly rickrolled", and went on to thank everyone who voted for him.[65]

See also


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