Have you seen the viral video in which the Texas lawyer Rod Ponton insists that he is “not a cat,” despite a Zoom filter that strongly suggests otherwise? (If not, watch it above.)
Do you think the video is funny? Have you experienced or witnessed any similar Zoom catastrophes? How well have you and the people in your life adapted to new technology during the pandemic?
In “‘I’m Not a Cat,’ Says Lawyer Having Zoom Difficulties,” Daniel Victor chronicles an already-iconic moment in internet history:
It was a civil forfeiture case hearing like any other hearing, except for the lawyer cat.
Courts usually don’t let cats argue cases. But here was Rod Ponton, a county attorney in Presidio County, Texas, unable to figure out how to turn off the cat filter on his Zoom call during a hearing on Tuesday in Texas’ 394th Judicial District Court.
The result was a video immediately hailed across the internet as an instant classic, in the rarefied company of videos like Knife Kid and BBC Dad. It offered an injection of harmless levity when many people are experiencing a rough time — and Mr. Ponton took it in good spirits.
“If I can make the country chuckle for a moment in these difficult times they’re going through, I’m happy to let them do that at my expense,” he said in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon.
The article continues to describe how the scene in Judge Roy Ferguson’s courtroom went viral:
In the interview, Mr. Ponton, who was representing the State of Texas in the case, said that he was using his secretary’s computer and that she was “mortified” by the mistake.
He isn’t on Twitter, and didn’t know he had become an international phenomenon until he started getting calls from reporters barely more than an hour after the hearing ended, he said. The video was on the court’s YouTube page, and Judge Ferguson himself tweeted out a link.
All in all, the episode took less than a minute before he figured out how to turn the filter off, and they returned to business as usual.
“My older and less humorous face popped up, and we continued with the hearing,” he said.
Students, read the entire article, then tell us:
Have you witnessed or experienced any funny mishaps on Zoom or another online platform? What went wrong? How did the person in question react? How about the onlookers?
Do you think this video is funny? Why do you think it has already racked up millions of views? Do you think viewers are laughing at Mr. Ponton, laughing with him or both?
Mr. Ponton tried to strike a balance between exasperation and professionalism on the call, even offering to move forward with the hearing with the cat filter intact. If you were in his position, what would you have done? Have you felt any frustration while adapting to new technology during the coronavirus pandemic? Have you gotten better at using this new technology over time? How about your parents and teachers?
Does laughing make you feel better when you are going through a challenging time? What are your favorite sources of humor online? Do you think your sense of humor has changed during the pandemic?
The author of the article calls the video “an instant classic.” What are your favorite internet-famous videos? What do you think makes certain videos so widely appreciated? If you had to compile a list of five times the internet was actually fun, what would you put on it?
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Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.