It's been over a month since “Corn Kid” first graced the internet, expressing his love and knowledge of corn and wishing everyone a “corntastic day.” Since then, he's become a meme that's taken on a viral life its own, per CNET. It all started in a street interview on the web series Recess Therapy, in which host Julian Shapiro-Barnum asks little kids “big questions." In the initial Corn Kid interview, Tariq—a young boy from Brooklyn who is missing his front teeth and munching on a corncob—explains that he has loved corn ever since he tried it with butter and "everything changed.” He then goes on to wish everyone a “corntastic day” as his grandmother sits by cracking up.
The interview itself went viral and soon inspired a wave of tributes across social media. One TikTok user put Tariq’s words to music in a video that has garnered over 9 million hits. The Gregory Brothers jumped on board with a longer rendition, and even Kevin Bacon took to Instagram with a guitar and corncob. Corn Kid has also inspired street art, Chipotle hired him for an ad, and he’s available on Cameo to make custom videos for $220 a pop. South Dakota went so far as to name Corn Kid the state’s official “Corn-Bassador,” per the Hill.
All that prompted many on social media to question whether Tariq is being exploited, but so far, “Tariq’s story hasn’t taken any of the dark turns internet-culture observers have come to expect,” according to Kaitlyn Tiffany of the Atlantic. She spoke with Shapiro-Barnum, who assured her that he is sharing royalties and forwards all media requests to Tariq’s mother. “Tariq is the most bubbly, talkative kid who so thoroughly enjoys doing this stuff,” Shapiro-Barnum told Tiffany. “He comes from a very sweet, supportive family. I don’t think they would make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. (Read more viral video stories.)