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'The Hot Dog Fiasco': How a Vancouver tattoo artist pranked the world with a viral video

Did someone actually get a face tattoo with 'Hot Dogs' in a cross?

"It was a slow day," says Rad Carney.

That's how one of the strangest periods in his life started.

Behind the scenes of a viral sensation

Carney, a Vancouver tattoo artist, works out of Adrenaline Vancity; on a slow day at the shop he and fellow artist Hunter Walls came up with a fun idea. Carney had designed a tattoo some time ago as a riff on the famous East Van cross. In his design, EAST VAN was replaced with HOT DOGS.

He's inked a few people with the design, but he and Walls thought it'd be funny to make a video with the design on someone's forehead.

It didn't take much effort. They created a stencil, put it on Walls's head, and pretended to do the tattoo.

After, they just edited a photo to make it look like the finished tattoo was on Walls's face.

"We weren't thinking much of it it. It came really easily," Carney tells Vancouver Is Awesome.

In 10 minutes they were posting it to Instagram. Someone suggested he start a TikTok account to post it there, as well.

They went back to work and Carney didn't think much of it for a while. He didn't check in on his video until that night, when he woke up and decided to take a glance at his phone.

It had thousands upon thousands of views and was accelerating. Almost two weeks later the original TikTok post has more than nine million views, with hundreds of thousands of new views still happening each day. Instagram also has tons of views, and people have clipped his video and reshared it around the world.

@nomad_radtattoo “Finally excited to have a face tat. It’s gonna be sick”…he said. #tattoo #tattoos #crazytattoos #crazytattoostories #hotdog #hotdogs @adrenaline604 #vancouvertattoo #vancouvertattooartist ♬ original sound - nomad_radtattoo

Thousands fall for the prank

With many views comes many comments, and many of those sharing their thoughts believe the video is real. For them, Carney became a target for their sudden anger.

"They were savage, people were outraged, people were saying 'Any tattooer with morals and ethics wouldn't have done this" or 'You should have sent this guy home," Carney says.

"People were just angry and I thought it was hilarious because it wasn't real," he adds.

At first, he extended the joke with people in the comments.

"This is my client and as a baby he was baptized with hot dog water." he wrote at one point. "This tattoo represents his dual passion for Christ and ballpark meat sticks."

It wasn't just random internet folks who got duped, either; fellow tattoo artists appear to have fallen for it, with some calling for Carney's equipment to be taken away while others unfollowed him.

"It was also really amazing how many veteran tattooers were fooled and triggered," he wrote in a later post. "Shouldn’t these OGs be able to identify real tattooing?"

Other people were more outraged by the fact a cross was involved; Carney even got an email from one angry person calling the tattoo an insult to billions of people.

He notes that while the video looks realistic, there are a couple of ways to tell it's not real, which experienced tattoo artists should have caught, including the lack of needle and how the final edited photo looks, with a crooked tattoo and very little irritation. Carney also used an Alan Watts speech as a nod to the fact it wasn't a real tattoo.

"It felt like Black Mirror a little bit, where people were getting so riled up about something that wasn't real on a screen," he explains.

Media websites around the world fell for it, including social media giant LadBible and sites in Germany and India. Others tried to pay for an interview or video; Carney asked for payment in hot dogs, but none came through.

He tried to reveal it was fake in a fun way by creating a similar video with Hunter, but this time with "Corn Dog" in the cross and joking that this time Hunter was the original man's twin. They thought the ridiculous idea would tip off people to reality, and—for some—it worked. But not all.

At the same time, the original video had so much momentum many people aren't watching the second to realize the truth.

The joke is still going

The joke has been going on for a while now (the original video was posted Nov. 25), and Carney is still dealing with his phone being filled with notifications; for several days his phone was nearly useless because of the response to the video.

He and the folks at Adrenaline talked and it was decided he'd reveal the truth in very plain terms on Instagram. While the viral nature of the video has been good for Carney and the business, it hasn't been all good and there's been a lot of anger aimed at them.

In the note he posted on Instagram he explained the situation and shared some thoughts on the outrage.

"The hate mail was intense, the reactions were intense, and this brought out a lot of anger in people," he wrote. "I didn’t sleep much for a week thanks to all the harsh messages—which I acknowledge I invited upon myself."

A broader issue

While it was just a fun video about a hot dog Carney notes the video seems to have touched on a couple of things.

"I think it was a collision of a few things: cancel culture, bodily autonomy, virtue signalling, enjoyment of hot dogs, the controversy of facial tattoos, religion, differing values among generations of tattooers, the propaganda machine of social media, and so on," he explains. "It created a perfect storm, pulling people's emotions, values, and preferences in so many different directions that they just exploded."

In particular, he notes, with so many arguments pushing for bodily autonomy these days, the fact so many were outraged over a stupid tattoo is an interesting case study and he wonders why so many were easily triggered.

And for those against face tattoos, Carney says those getting ink on their face ranges now; recently he tattooed stars above the eyebrow of a client he describes as a "West Vancouver soccer mom type."

But for some reason, he adds, the line drawn on the internet is hot-dog-cross forehead tattoos.

"It was a stupid prank about a hot dog, but really it said a lot about a lot of other things," he says.

For those curious, he is still tattooing the hot dog cross if people want it, but not on anyone's forehead.


A post shared by @nomad_radtattoo