The internet is invested in the tale of Johny, Papa, and their sugary deceit.
“Johny Johny Yes Papa” is probably one of the more terrible things to curse your timeline recently. The nightmarish nursery rhyme went viral over the past week, drawing hundreds of thousands of new people into its lore.
In the most shared version, a child with an absurdly large head sneaks out of bed to gorge on sugar cubes when his father — known only as “Papa” — sternly calls out “Johny” and breaks into a Gangnam Style-type dance.
When Johny denies eating sugar, Papa asks if he’s “telling lies” while emphatically doing the wave. Johny denies telling lies, so Papa orders Johny to open his mouth and then absolutely nails Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” footwork as he confronts his deceitful son.
Caught in the lie, Johny belts out in deranged laughter and lifts his hands, spinning around like he’s performing some sort of playful demonic possession.
Since that tweet, Johny, Papa, and their fixation on sugar inspired memes about their strange storyline.
papa: omg why is there no sugar in the house….wtf????
johnny: OMG KING that’s so sad 😔😔😔 go off!! find that liar!!!
papa: vague// i literally saw oomf with sugar in his mouth but go off i guess
— nayan 💉 摩天楼 + pinned (@Iingfan) August 27, 2018
— valerie🌷🦇 (@mahounurse) August 27, 2018
calling ur man daddy is so basic we’re replying ‘yes papa’ in johnny’s voice now
— im having an identity crisis (@ceIIinne) August 26, 2018
The video is one of many “Johnny Johnny” spin offs — sometimes spelled “Johny Johny” — which are often paired with bad claymation, strange animation, and absolutely awful singing. One of the first versions of the nursery rhyme was uploaded in 2009, according to Know Your Meme. Three years later, another children’s channel posted a version of “Johnny Johnny,” where the father looked oddly similar to Peter Griffin from Family Guy. The song took off (as much as a nursery rhyme could) with ChuChuTV’s 2013 rendition, which portrayed a young boy named Johny who crawls out of the bed he shares with his father to eat spoonfuls of pure sugar. It now has more than 480 million views.
In 2014, YouTube channel EdukayFUN posted this hellish version featuring terribly 3D animation and absurd body modifications. The corrupted version of the song was briefly taken down, and then reposted this year. Since then, increasingly bizarre versions of the kid’s song have flooded YouTube — some of which are available on YouTube Kids, the child-friendly version of YouTube which has been scrutinized in the last year for inappropriate content.
Although this hellish version of Johny Johny isn’t available on the kids app, reaction videos that show clips or mirrors of EdukayFUN’s disturbing animations are accessible to kids on the app.
Some, like the version from WOA Teddo Channel embedded below, have blatant rip offs of popular characters. The Hulk and Batman make an appearance in what appears to be a cautionary tale about getting teeth pulled after eating too much candy. Later in the video, a clay Spiderman nearly kills the Hulk by squeezing him through a French fry cutter before a horrified Elsa stops them both and demonstrates the tool brutally shredding a potato.
The videos don’t always include that haunting nursery rhyme. Instead, videos with “Johnny” or “Papa” in the title appear to be an SEO grab for nonsensical videos geared toward kids.
This video posted by YouTube channel Vlad Bibabo, for example, is titled “johnny johnny rhymes” but tells a completely different story.
A green woman and child — presumably the Hulk’s wife and son — gorge on bright orange cheese puffs. They take the sleeping Hulk’s cheese puffs, fill a bathtub with the carb-loaded snacks, and have the time of their lives in the makeshift ball pit. Their shenanigans wake up the Hulk, who storms into the bathroom and threatens to pummel them in a cheese-driven rage. Using a magic wand, the Hulk manages to turn her abusive husband into a stuffed toy and then triumphantly buries him in puffs.
The sketch shows just how weird YouTube content for kids can be — many of the videos made for children are educational and have some sort of moral to pass on, but have perplexing ways of doing so.
In the series produced by Billion Surprise Toys, the same channel whose dancing Johny video took over Twitter, Johny’s family appears with a sentient refrigerator who inexplicably calls Johny’s parents “Papa” and “Mommy.”
Instead of asking the refrigerator if it’s eating sugar, various characters ask it for food and drinks. The fridge appears to have no agency over the contents of its body: despite denying that it contains water, sauces, and ice cream, its human family members demand that it open its door. The fridge does so without any hesitation and hands over the snacks.
The video takes a questionable turn at 1:32 when the fridge sees a character named Chiya approaching and hunches over, defeated. When the refrigerator backs away from him and refuses his request for chocolate, Chiya forces the refrigerator open and chocolate bars spill from its shelves.
While kids behaving badly is a common theme in these videos, there’s just something weird about a 3D-rendered child violating a talking fridge.
The videos produced by Billion Surprise Toys are scattered with uncomfortable situations that aren’t explained at all. In another video about getting ready for the day, Johny shares a bed with an adult-sized being named “Ice Cream Man.” According to the character bio on Billion Surprise Toy’s website, Ice Cream Man “loves to give hugs and cuddle.”
At the end of the “getting ready” video, Johny and Ice Cream Man smuggle lollipops in bed before falling asleep together.
And in this version, Johny is a child-size pink bus who shares a bed with the child we’ve previously known as Johny. The song is identical to the previous video, but in this animation, everyone except the original Johny is a bus. The bus-creature even has bus arms and unsettling bus hands to eat forbidden snacks, and boards a bigger bus to ride to school.
The carrier bus does not appear to be sentient.
Billion Surprise Toys also produced this educational video to teach children about colors which shows crying babies being fed gum balls. When a floating green gum ball is placed in the infant’s mouth, the baby’s skin tone morphs into a sickly shade of green. It repeats for every corresponding color.
Last year, Mashable reported that graphic, violent videos managed to slip past YouTube Kids’ moderation and could be easily accessed by young kids. Although none of the Johny Johny videos are explicitly harmful toward children, they do present uncomfortable scenarios. It shows that there’s something still off about the content aimed at kids on YouTube.
The YouTube Kids app is a sort of an atonement for its previous lack of moderation. In April, BuzzFeed reported that YouTube planned to keep creepy videos away from children with a team of actual humans who would hand-curate appropriate videos. It appears that some still slip through the cracks.
And moderating videos on the app alone may not be enough. While not all of the videos featured here are accessible through YouTube Kids, it’s clear that they were still targeted at a young audience. Between animations that fall right in the uncanny valley and disturbing storylines, YouTube’s early childhood videos should concern you.
If you want to ensure that your kids are watching appropriate content, maybe YouTube isn’t the place. After all, would you trust an anonymous stranger on the internet to teach your children?
On the bright side, we’re getting some fucking weird memes from this nightmare fuel.