Even in the vast and strange world of Youtube celebrities, Mr. Chi-City stands out – we never see him. Mr. Chi-City (a name representing his hometown of Chicago), who exploded onto Youtube with his video “Keeping your refrigerator stocked will get you many women,” never shows his face, instead filming from his perspective or pointing the camera away from his face. In that first popular video, Mr. Chi-City takes the audience on a tour of his refrigerator, which, aside from two bottles of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter,” a bottle of barbeque sauce, and a bottle of ranch dressing, contains only bottled and canned beverages, organized and arranged in neat rows. Mr. Chi-City takes this absurd concept even further, explaining how his well-stocked refrigerator attracts women in an over-the-top, good-natured, distinctive style of speaking, one that is impossible to describe in words but is instantly recognizable to anyone who has every seen Mr. Chi-City’s videos.
While none of his other videos have broken the 1 million view mark, other popular Mr. Chi-City videos include “A Brotha Vs. A Bug, Mr. Chi-City Kicking some Insect A**,” where Mr. Chi-City videotapes his showdown with a massive insect inside his house, “Mr. Chi City; Ticket Destruction,” where Mr. Chi-City cooks a parking ticket with chicken, and “Christmas Give-Away, Mr. Chi-City Style,” where Mr. Chi-City drives around Chicago, handing out Christmas cards with money inside to random people on the street. Much of Mr. Chi-City’s appeal comes from this marriage of out-there premises and unique narration, which has proven to be an entertaining combination.
Watching these videos, one cannot but help but wonder how “real” Mr. Chi-City is; by never showing his face, one can only judge Mr. Chi-City based on his unique manner of speaking, which can come across as not entirely genuine. Mr. Chi-City exists only as a larger-than-life voice, and so our understanding of who he is comes only from what he chooses to say and how he chooses to say it – Mr. Chi-City has more control over audience perception than many other Youtube videos. In Mr. Chi-City’s most recent video, “Getting To Know Mr. Chi-City; Q and A,” he responds to a question about why he never shows his face by saying that initially, he just held the camera from his point of view, but now, “I just feel like what I say, and what I do, is so much more important than what I look like. I feel like my face is really irrelevant at this point, you feel me?” In a way, the appeal of Mr. Chi-City is that of a well-written novel – the audience creates their own image of Mr. Chi-City in their head; they can interpret freely. Some people might take Mr. Chi-City to be a crafted persona, à la lonelygirl15, while others might see Mr. Chi-City as a true Youtube star, a regular person who becomes famous for being himself. Whatever the case may be, Mr. Chi-City is an interesting case in Youtube celebrity – an ambiguously real persona who exists only as a voice.
- Tim Moon