These days, an old friend will contact Louis Theroux four or five times a week and tell him, “My daughter is always walking around the house singing your rap” or “My wife has been training to your rap in her Pilates class.” As Mr. Theroux As he walks past an elementary school, he feels like he’s being watched, which is confirmed when he hears a child behind him call out, “My money doesn’t shake.”
His agent has taken dozens of requests for personal appearances and invitations to perform. Mr Theroux, a 52-year-old British-American documentary filmmaker with a literal, somewhat timid demeanor, has turned them all down, not least because, as he put it in a video interview from his London home, “I don’t try to do it to create as a rapper.”
But in a way he already has: Mr. Theroux is the man behind “Jiggle Jiggle,” a sensation on TikTok and YouTube, where it has been streamed hundreds of millions of times. He delivers the rap in an understated voice that bears traces of his Oxford training, and lends an amusing accent to the lines “My money don’t jiggle jiggle, it folds/I’d like to see you wiggle, wiggle, for sure.”
For Mr. Theroux, a son of the American author Paul Theroux and a cousin of actor Justin Theroux, the whole episode was weird and a little unsettling. “I’m glad people are enjoying rap,” he said. “At the same time, there’s a part of me that has a certain level of mixed feelings. It’s a bittersweet thing to experience a breakthrough moment of virality through something that, at first glance, seems so expendable and so inconsistent with what I actually do at work. But here we are.”
The story of how this middle-aged father of three conquered youth culture with a new kind of rap is “a stunning 21st-century example of the weirdness of the world we live in,” said Mr. Theroux.
“Jiggle Jiggle” took years before it became all the rage. It started in 2000 when Mr Theroux hosted “Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends”, a BBC Two series in which he explored different subcultures. To the an episode In the third and final season, he traveled to the American South, where he met a number of rappers, including Master P. As part of the show, he decided to do a rap himself, but he only had a few meager lines: “Jiggle Jiggle.” / I love it when you wiggle / I want to dribble / Fancy a violin?”
He hired Reese & Bigalow, a rap duo in Jackson, Miss., to help him get it into shape. Bigalow cleaned up the opening lines and linked the word “jiggle” to the word “jingle” to suggest the sound of coins in your pocket. Reese asked him what kind of car he drove. His response – Fiat Tipo – led to the lines: “Driving in my Fiat/You really have to see it/Six foot two in a compact/No gap but luckily the seats recede.”
“Reese & Bigalow brought a real quality to rap,” said Mr. Theroux. “The elements that make it special I could never have written on my own. At the risk of over-analyzing it, the genius part, in my eyes, said, “My money isn’t wiggling, wiggling, it works out.’ There was something very satisfying about the rhythm of those words.”
He filmed himself performing the song live on hip-hop station Q93 in New Orleans, and BBC viewers witnessed his rap debut when the episode aired in the fall of 2000. This could have been the end of “Jiggle Jiggle” – but of “Louis Theroux”. Weird Weekends revived in 2016 when Netflix licensed the show and began streaming it on Netflix UK. The rap episode became a favorite, and whenever Mr. Theroux made the rounds of promoting a new project, interviewers inevitably asked him about his hip-hop foray.
In February of this year, while promoting a new show, “Forbidden America by Louis Theroux‘ Mr Theroux sat down for an interview on the popular web talk show “chicken shop date,‘ hosted by London comedian Amelia Dimoldenberg.
“Do you remember that rap you did?” asked Ms. Dimoldenberg prompting Mr. Theroux start his rhymes in what he described as “my slightly awkward and dry English delivery”.
“What happened after that is the most puzzling part,” he added.
But “Jiggle Jiggle” became a phenomenon thanks in large part to it Jess Qualter and Brooke Blewitt, 21-year-old graduate of Laine Theater Arts, a performing arts college in Surrey, England. In April, the two friends were making pasta at their shared apartment when they heard the song and hastily choreographed moves that suited the course — dribbling a basketball, turning a steering wheel — and the “Jiggle Jiggle” dance was born.
Ms. Qualter and Ms. Blewitt wore hoodies and sunglasses (an outfit chosen because they wore no makeup, the women said in an interview). a 27 second video perform the routine by yourself. It blew up shortly after Ms. Qualter posted it on TikTok. Copycat videos soon emerged from TikTok users around the world.
“All this happened without my knowledge,” said Mr. Theroux. “I got an email: ‘Hey, a remix of the rap you did on ‘Chicken Shop Date’ is going viral and doing extraordinary things on TikTok.” I’m like, ‘Well, that’s funny and weird.'”
It broke out of TikTok and into the mainstream last month when Shakira performed the “Jiggle Jiggle.”“Dance on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Snoop Dogg, Megan Thee Stallion and Rita Ora all lined up for a dance. The cast of Downton Abbey wobbled during a red carpet event.
“Anthony Hopkins has just did something yesterday‘ said Mr Theroux. “It would be too much to call it a dance. It’s more of a twitch. But he does some.”
The whole episode was strange for his three children, especially his 14-year-old son who is very into TikTok. “‘Why is my dad, the shyest guy in the universe, all over TikTok?'” said Mr. Theroux, echoing his son’s reaction.
“I left my stink all over his timeline,” he continued. “I think it made him very confused and slightly upset.”
Ms. Qualter and Ms. Blewitt equally find it surreal to see Shakira and others dancing to their moves. “I almost forget we made that up,” Ms. Qualter said. “It doesn’t feel like it happened. It has over 60 million views. We see the number on the screen, but I can’t understand that people are behind it.”
After the original Duke & Jones remix went viral – that is, the one with the vocal track from “Chicken Shop Date” – the DJ-producer duo asked Mr. Theroux to redo his voice in a recording studio. That way, instead of being just another TikTok catchy tune, “Jiggle Jiggle” could be made available on Spotify, iTunes, and other platforms, and its creators could gain some exposure and benefit.
In addition to Mr. Theroux, five composers are named on the official publication: Duke & Jones; Reese & Bigalow; and 81-year-old hitmaker Neil Diamond. Mr. Diamond became part of the crew when his reps approved “Jiggle Jiggle,” which revisits his 1967 song “Red Red Wine” in the part where Mr. Theroux’s autotuned voice sings the words “red, red wine.” . The song reached the Spotify viral charts worldwide last month.
So does this mean real money?
“I sincerely hope that we can all make a wiggle out of the phenomenon. Or maybe a wrinkle,” said Mr Theroux. “So far it has been more of a wobble.”
In his career as a documentary filmmaker, Mr. Theroux has explored the world of male porn stars, the Church of Scientology, right-wing militias and opioid addicts. In his new BBC series Forbidden America, Mr Theroux examines the impact of social media on the entertainment industry and politics. Years before Netflix had a hit show centered on Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as the Tiger King, Mr. Theroux made a movie about him. American documentary filmmaker John Wilson, creator and star of the HBO series “How To With John Wilson‘ has cited him as an influence.
Now his work has been eclipsed, at least temporarily, by “Jiggle Jiggle”. And like many that go viral, Mr. Theroux is trying to make sense of what just happened and figure out what to do with this newfound cultural asset.
“It’s not like I have a catalog and now I can release all my other new rap fragments,” he said. “I’m definitely not going to travel there. “Come see Mr. Jiggle in person. It would be a 20 second gig.”