There are viral things that anyone — everyone — can love. Grumpy Cat, the Dress, “Damn, Daniel!” — the sort of stuff that, at the very least, you can bring up at the dinner table. Then there’s the other stuff — memes couched in so many layers of irony that they become unintelligible and inexplicable, niche drama that sounds stupid when you explain it to anyone not glued to obsessive corners of the internet all day. And of course, the stuff too disgusting to mention in polite conversation.
That last category — the gross one — is where the poo-flip video belongs. As of Thursday night, the Poo Flip has amassed more than 7.5 million views on Twitter. I am going to describe it now. If you are the sort of person who knows that you have zero interest in anything that might be called “the Poo Flip,” close your web browser now.
The video is absolutely not safe for work. It is captioned, “Keith is never coming on holiday again.” Here is what happens in the video: a man rises out of the water, does a backflip, and lands on a dock. At the same time, stringy brown objects also rise out of the water and pull themselves together into one mass. The brown mass then travels into the man’s butt as he lands on a dock. What is immediately clear is that the video is playing in reverse. What actually happened was that the man performed a front-flip off of the dock and released his bowels simultaneously. This is the Poo Flip.
The Poo Flip was uploaded to Twitter by user @P4u1_13 at 4:12 p.m. on January 28, 2019. If you are inclined to put any faith in arbitrary social-media metrics, it helps to know that the Poo Flip is very popular. It has more than 50,000 retweets and 133,000 likes.
According to Luke O’Neil’s “Hell World” newsletter, the video was uploaded by a man named Paulie, and the poo-flipper in question is, as the caption suggests, a man named Keith. “Keith was complaining of a bad stomach all day after having a dodgy breakfast,” Paulie told O’Neil. “I think he had about five fried eggs with toast.” The pair supposedly filmed the video in Liverpool, on the banks of the River Mersey, last November. But my reporting has found that Paulie and Keith, while they are possibly real people from England, are not the source of the infamous poop video.
There was an early clue — the version of the video Paulie uploaded to Twitter is low-fidelity and contains an Instagram watermark. It is clearly a screen recording of a clip posted to Instagram’s Story feature by a user who goes by the handle @antidrugboys, a meme account that aggregates viral ephemera. Passing media around the web is often done by “freebooting,” ripping new, lower-quality copies instead of acquiring the original files. Over DM, @antidrugboys was clearly baffled by the idea that someone would try to pass off a freebooted, watermarked version of their video as an original. They also confirmed that someone other than Paulie (whose own Instagram handle, @paul130688, was linked in his Twitter bio) had sent them the video. If Paulie was truly the video’s original owner, why would he post a version with an @antidrugboys watermark? “How are they trying to take credit for a video with my @ in the corner?” @antidrugboys asked.
Questioned about the video’s origin over Twitter DM, Paulie supplied me with a story similar to the one he gave O’Neil: that the video was of his friend Keith, and that it was filmed in Liverpool last November. I brought up the Instagram watermark and asked again if the video was really his. He gave a reply that doesn’t make a lot of sense: “It went viral on WhatsApp before I posted it on here so somebody must’ve sent it in [to @antidrugboys].” That doesn’t explain why the poop video’s original owner would post a freebooted version.
In the meantime, @antidrugboys provided screenshots showing that he had posted the clip to his Instagram page on January 10, more than two weeks before Paulie’s viral tweet. He also offered to put me in touch with the Instagram user who submitted the video to his page. That user, who we’ll call Patrick, provided me with two copies of the infamous poop flip. The first clip is a clear, uncropped version of the one Paulie posted on Twitter (it was originally filmed horizontally, not vertically). More importantly, Patrick also provided an alternate angle — like finding a second Zapruder film, but for poop.
According to Patrick, he and his friends were on a trip along the Australian coast when it happened. Referencing his adventurous Instagram profile, he said, “you can see we look to jump off stuff haha.”
Brett, another person who was on the trip, recalled, “This one morning we got up very early so we didn’t have to pay for camping. We stopped by Grafton McDonald’s [about 200 miles south of Brisbane] soon after they opened at 7.” The group then headed to the nearby Ulmarra Jetty, “where it all went down.”
“First we started with some naked flips,” Brett said, “and then [the poo-flipper] said, ‘Film this,’ and then he simply did it. I was amazed at what had just unfolded in front of my eyes.”
“We didn’t really know what to expect,” Patrick said. “And then, yeah, he just went for it and we got it all on video. We couldn’t stop laughing and it was brought up for the rest of the trip and never failed to get us laughing again.”
The alternate angle that Patrick provided shows a person filming the viral clip that Paulie posted on Twitter.
A frame-by-frame analysis of both clips conducted by New York Magazine confirms that they are of the same fecal ejecta. The tan lines on the subject are also consistent between the two clips, as are the dock’s appearance and the arc of the flip. Satellite imagery and user-submitted photos from Google Maps confirms that the footage was filmed at the Ulmarra Jetty.
The poo-flipper, who requested anonymity, said over DM that, “There wasn’t a toilet around, so I said ‘I’m gonna do a poo flip, film this.’ They didn’t understand but filmed it anyway.”
He added, “andyeh, I honestly can’t believe it’s gotten this big. I’m pretty happy letting Patrick take the credit for it though. Not certain I want to be known as the poo-flip guy.” (A cross-reference of photos from his Instagram account with the poo-flip video confirms he is the flipper.)
Miles, another friend on the road trip, said over DM that, “The poo flip was one of the funniest things I’ve ever witnessed and I’m very proud to have seen it in real life.”
Patrick says that after the hilarious poo flip, the gang sent the clip to a few popular Instagram pages, but nobody took the bait except for @antidrugboys. The pages who rejected the video often cited fear that their page would be flagged for violating community rules. “We were all fucking psyched to have one of our videos get recognised as we knew antidrugboys had quite a big following,” Patrick wrote over DM.
“Then it became apparent,” Patrick recalled, “that somebody had screen recorded our video on antidrugboys’s story and sent it around on WhatsApp.” The video “started getting more and more popular from there haha.” @antidrugboys said that they’d received more than 20,000 followers over the past five days, likely due in part to Paulie’s viral Twitter post.
Patrick says he and his crew were happy about all of the attention “until [Paulie’s] Twitter page claimed to be the owner of the original footage.” The clip traveled around WhatsApp, so it’s possible that many people have the version that went viral on Twitter. The alternate angle viewed by New York Magazine, however, has not been made public.
When I told Paulie that I had seen an alternate angle of the event from someone telling a radically different story, Paulie doubled down and claimed he was present for the poo flip in question. “I can get photographs from the day it happened if you need them,” he told me Thursday evening, which was past midnight on Friday in his alleged location of Liverpool. “It’s 2am here and my man will be asleep. I’ll holla you when I wake up,” he wrote. As of publication, he had not responded to follow-up requests.
In the world of viral video clips, freebooting is a given. It’s almost impossible to prevent. It is rare, though, for someone to claim ownership of a clip that is clearly not their own. Oftentimes, viral clips are followed up on Twitter or YouTube or Instagram with a comment containing proper crediting. Or, at the very least, a useless disclaimer of “no copyright infringement intended.” In light of this, Paulie’s insistence that the video is his, and that it was filmed in England in November (where the temperature hovered in the high 40 and low 50 degrees Fahrenheit) is odd.
Perhaps this deceit was facilitated by the Australian group’s decision to publish their video by submitting it to a pseudonymous meme account, and to use a clip that does not show anyone’s face. Regardless, let us clear the record and put the saga of the poo flip to rest. “I can 100% tell you antidrugboys was the first guy to post our video online,” Patrick told me. The poo flip is now etched in the historical record — and unfortunately, within the minds of those unfortunate enough to bear witness — forever.