There are many good Vines, but few perfect ones. Cats, dogs, pranks, visual trickery, six-second operas — there’s no shortage of great work on the video platform that created the Loop, a new type of video format. Vine was founded in January 2013, and its first year, like any growing platform, came in fits and starts. But I never really understood the mesmerizing nature of the loop until I saw “Back at It Again at Krispy Kreme,” the best Vine of all time.
Two years ago, on January 13, 2014, the Vine account Fab Cheerleader posted a video captioned “He hit the sign😂,” and it is incredible. In the first shot, a man holds a Krispy Kreme hat up to the camera and says that famous line, “Back at it again at Krispy Kreme.” In the second shot, he does a back handspring into a neon Krispy Kreme sign, knocking it from its housing. Roughly a quarter-second afterward — before the sound of the sign being wrenched from the wall has even finished — the video begins again. It is a masterpiece.
I love many things about this Vine. First of all, the punch line is insane. “Back at it again at Krispy Kreme,” we hear. What does it mean? I can all but guarantee that nobody assumed the phrase meant “back handspring into a neon sign.” I love how it ends before the sign hits the floor. We get just enough to know that the handspring — impressive in and of itself — has caused some damage. But we don’t know the extent of the damage, nor how our stuntman reacted, or how the employees of Krispy Kreme reacted. It’s a blank space that our imagination fills — made all the more dramatic by the eternal, endless loop of Vine.
So much of what made Back at It Again at Krispy Kreme fantastic — besides the guy crashing into the sign — can be attributed to the odd formal characteristics of Vine, chief among them the lack of context. Vines create an odd tension in the viewer: Each video is a mere six seconds, but it loops on endlessly. You develop an intimate knowledge of the six seconds you’re given through the peephole of the Vine — but are left totally in the dark about the context and resolution. Theories and speculation abound. The viral Vine economy, where Vines are copied and reuploaded with no credit or explantion, only heightens the mystery. Vine purists, if such a thing exists, might insist that such mystique is essential to a Vine. But as much as I could admire the delicate artistry of the unresolved disaster in “Back at It Again at Krispy Kreme,” I still needed to know: What the hell happened after he kicked the sign down? So, on its two-year anniversary, I set out to find the origins of this incredible Vine — as well as learn its aftermath.
Of course, as is often the case with Vines, it wasn’t going to be easy. While “Fab Cheerleader” was the account on which the Vine went viral, it didn’t create this video — it’s just a page filled with freebooted (that is, ripped and reuploaded without credit) clips of cheerleading and tumbling. On a site called FunnyVineVideos.com, I was able to find a better-quality version of the original Vine — one that had been posted a week before Fab Cheerleader’s. But, like Fab Cheerleader, FunnyVineVideos didn’t credit the original author of the video.
I decided to take a different tactic. I called up the scene of the crime: Krispy Kreme. In the first shot, one can clearly make out a building number for the Krispy Kreme location: 9301. A quick Google query will direct you to a Krispy Kreme location in Matthews, North Carolina. (Credit where credit is due: This deduction is not my own. I vaguely recall seeing someone having done this on Tumblr months ago.)
I spoke on the phone with Heath, a manager at the Krispy Kreme location who about knew the incident I was describing. He was, however, slightly surprised that I knew of the video. “Actually, that video was supposed to have been removed from the web,” he told me, “so I’m surprised it’s still out there circulating.”
I told him that the video had millions of loops, and that I wanted to follow up on it, see what the aftermath was. At this point, Heath said that he could not tell me anything, and said he would have to direct me to Krispy Kreme’s corporate office. I called the phone number, which presented me with a list of options that did not include “viral video response.” I had no luck. I followed up with an email to Krispy Kreme’s media contacts, but have not heard back.
I couldn’t stop thinking about that video, though — the best Vine of all time. So I turned to Twitter, searching for posts that contained the words kicked and sign, as well as the URL string “vine.co” and restricted results to before the date of Fab Cheerleader’s vine.
What I found were a number of tweets, all of which reference the same now-removed Vine. Many included the hashtag #tumblingislife, and a few referenced the user @TumblingIsLife1. The man who runs that account, Aaron, is the hero of our story — the man who kicked the sign off the wall at Krispy Kreme. Aaron, who originally hails from the Bronx and now lives in Atlanta, told me that he took up tumbling at an early age. He was inspired by watching his cousin tumble, and also by Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. He now teaches tumbling to others.
I can try to tell the story of that infamous night any number of ways, but none of them can compare to how Aaron described the incident to me firsthand. It is an amazing story. In his own words:
Oh my God, let me tell you about that night. So I have a free coupon to get like a dozen doughnuts, so I go, “All right, say no more.” I go make moves — we’re all in line, we’re just talking. I was like, “Yo, I’m about to make a video, I’m about to do a flip.” So I give them my coupon, I’m like, “Stand in line, get the dozen doughnuts, I’m gonna go over here and make this video,” and all that.
So it was me and my two friends. I tell them to set up at the table. I was like, “Oh, I gotta get my intro real quick.” I did my little intro — “Back at it again at Krispy Kreme” — and I was like, “Y’all ready?” Then we flipped the camera around.
I back up. I told myself, I’m not gonna hit anything. So I do my flip, but the second flip that I did — the back handspring, the back one with hands going into the spin — I stretched it out too long. So when I went into the air and started spinning, my left leg hit the sign off the wall clean, and it dropped behind the counter. And it was like [glass shattering sound effect].
It was packed. There was a good hundred, a hundred and some change, people inside. Everybody was talking. As soon as that thing dropped, everybody didn’t talk for a good 30 seconds. It was nothing but silence. As soon as I landed — I didn’t fall after that, you saw me, I landed on my feet. I looked up and I saw that it fell, I didn’t look at nobody, I just kept walking, and I walked out the door. Everybody was like, “What the heck? Oh shoot, he just kicked down the sign!” Everybody started going crazy.
Then I was just outside chilling. Three people from behind the desk that were making doughnuts or whatever ran outside and it was like, “Yo, that shit crazy, bro!” And he was like, “Bro, I think somebody in there’s calling the cops,” or whatever. So they called the cops on me, and I had to do a little whipping and running. They didn’t find me, and then that was it for the night.
In the aftermath, Aaron said that he did get a visit from law enforcement. “The sheriff came to my house, and we talked about it, but he was like, ‘You don’t have to pay for anything like that, just don’t do anything like that again.’”
And that was it. Afterwards, Aaron deleted the video from his account in order to avoid attention from law enforcement, but it still lives online. And thank God it does, because it is the best Vine of all time. The phrase “Back at it again at Krispy Kreme” is still referenced on a daily basis. That famous sentence is now a mantra — every time you inject a little bit of extraordinary flair into the mundane, you, too, are back at it again … at Krispy Kreme.
Asked if he had any other thoughts to add, Aaron stated, as a matter of fact, “Tumbling is life.”