This trend is pretty simple. Users will pretend to be scrolling through their phone while secretly recording their family members—usually their mothers and fathers. It is then when the user lets out a gasp or an exclamation of “oh my God,” to reveal the punchline to an unsuspecting victim: “[Insert celebrity name] found dead at [insert current celebrity age]!” Some iterations of the prank include a mode of death (e.g. car crash) and/or a location (e.g. Los Angeles).
It is then when these parents/family members typically erupt into a fit of sorrow, grief, or disbelief. The trend has been taking over TikTok, but came to a head over the weekend with the onset of visiting family for the holiday season. Naturally, as a Gizmodo staff writer who consumes way too much Internet, I had to try the trend while visiting my Mom this Christmas. It went something like this:
“Mom,” I said after a gasp, while scrolling my phone. “You’re never going to believe this. Andy Cohen dead in New York City at 54 years old.”
“No way, you’re lying,” she replied, white as a ghost and deeply concerned about Mr. Cohen’s wellbeing.
At that point I came clean because I felt really bad about misleading her as she is 1) my mother, 2) Andy Cohen’s biggest fan. She was not amused—naturally. Also, I did not film my mother for this trend because I’m a strong proponent of not recording someone and posting them to the internet without their permission.
A compilation of several different posts involving this trend was posted by user @stevecooche, and boasts 14.3 million views at the time of writing this article. The celebrities in question include Cher (76), Howard Stern (68), Zac Efron (35), Oprah Winfrey (68), Neil Cavuto (64), and John Travolta (68), amongst others. Other celebrities I saw involved with the prank include Taylor Swift (33), John Mayer (45), Justin Bieber (28), and Dave Matthews (55).
I don’t need to be the one to tell you to please be nice to your parents this holiday season! What if your favorite musician/actor/news anchor/radio personality died? Not so funny now is it?