In this article:
- Bart Baker became a major YouTube star in 2015 thanks to his parody videos of hit pop songs of the day.
- After achieving internet fame with Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber parodies, Baker’s YouTube career was cut short in 2019 when a policy change on the platform meant he could no longer monetize his videos.
- The YouTuber reappeared a year later in China, making a living as what is unofficially known as a “white monkey,” singing Chinese propaganda songs.
- Baker has since returned to the states in hopes of reviving his parody videos, but he’s still singing Chinese songs for his now 25 million-strong following on Douyin (the original TikTok).
Bart Baker‘s name might sound familiar if you were always on YouTube back in 2015. I know, seven years is eons ago in internet time, but Bart Baker was big and I mean big. His videos would often pop up on YouTube’s trending page, racking up millions of views in a matter of hours.
The videos featured Bart Baker himself dressed up as a famous singer, often Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, or One Direction, while he sang scathing (and admittedly hilarious) parodies of hit songs from the 2010s that wouldn’t be out of place if it were aired on Adult Swim.
Personally, I grew up on this guy’s content. A friend in high school introduced me to his channel through a video of him parodying One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” which is all you need to know to figure out that I’m practically a toddler.
But kids grow up and some of us, like myself, are insufferable enough to think we’ve developed a taste for the “finer” things in life. The last Bart Baker video I ever saw before working on this article was this parody of Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams.” That was six years ago.
So imagine my surprise when I saw Bart Baker’s face on the thumbnail of a Laowhy86 video entitled, “White Monkey Jobs in China Explained.” Turns out Bart Baker has spent the last few years making Chinese propaganda videos.
Buckle up. We’re going down a rabbit hole to find out what tf happened to Bart Baker.
Who the Hell Is Bart Baker?
Bart Baker, whose real name is actually Bartholomew Baker, is an American comedian who made his name with his witty parodies of hit music videos.
An interview he gave to HuffPost in 2013, his heyday, describes Bart Baker as YouTube’s Parody King and, in a way, it was right. The internet personality had 10 million subscribers at the peak of his YouTube career and his videos could easily get millions of views in the double digits.
While parody videos were nothing new on YouTube by the time Bart Baker started to make them, he was one of the first to take a risk by roasting the artists he parodied. How risky are we talking about exactly?
One of his very first parodies was a spin on Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a song with a pro-LGBTQ+ message released in 2011, that was filled with jokes about the guy playing Lady Gaga being a transwoman and “a mistake.” You can imagine how that would go down if the video was released today.
He also had an entire mini cinematic universe dedicated to Taylor Swift where the pop-country star is depicted as a literal possessive demon.
It makes the guy look bad, but before you write him off as a douchebag, Bart Baker was also one of the first public personalities to point out just how creepy Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” was, calling the artist a “douchebag who thinks he’s so smooth.”
Funnily enough, the “Blurred Lines” parody contained a line where Bart Baker, playing Robin Thicke, sings, “I am accused of molesting women.”
Just last year, Emily Ratajkwoswki, who was featured on the original “Blurred Lines” music video, released a book of her essays titled My Body where she talks about how Robin Thicke sexually assaulted her during the video’s filming and had the audacity to be mad about being called out.
Unfortunately, even calling out Robin Thicke wasn’t enough to excuse Bart Baker from YouTube’s new policies.
In 2019, the video platform updated its terms of service to state that, “YouTube may terminate your use of the Services, or your Google account’s access to all or part of the Service if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the Service to you is no longer commercially viable.”
YouTube creators called it the AdPocalypse — a series of YouTube policies that marked the end of Old YouTube and turned it into what it is today, a platform that only allows content to exist if it’s “commercially viable” meaning that videos had to be inoffensive, non-vulgar, and family-friendly in order to be monetized.
In short, everything that Bart Baker’s videos weren’t.
As you can expect, Bart Baker lost a lot of money in the wake of the new policy kicking into effect.
There’s one video that stands out on his channel for being the first Bart Baker video in years that wasn’t a music video parody. In it, Bart Baker explains how his YouTube channel was at risk of being shut down due to YouTube removing him from their preferred program.
Given the high production value Bart Baker dedicated to his parodies, he needed at least 40 million views per video just to recoup the production costs.
Bart Baker also has a rare vulnerable moment when he shares that his channel’s demonetization has left him depressed and anxious. This was followed by a video where he and a friend destroy their YouTube gold play button.
One of his most popular Douyin videos, that’s the original Chinese TikTok, shows him wearing a red dress shirt while singing, “Five star red flag, I’m so proud of you. Your glory reigns true. Your name is more important than my life.”
Bart Baker had built up a new reputation for himself outside of YouTube as what Matthew Tye, creator of laowhy86, calls a “white monkey.”
White Monkey? Sounds Racist but Here’s What It Means
“White monkey” doesn’t feel like a good thing to be calling a white man, but Matthew Tye, who has lived in China for years and produces content that gives insight into mainland Chinese society, explains that it has nothing to do with the performers being white.
Okay, who are we kidding? It does have a little to do with the performers being white.
White monkey jobs are best described as a “rent a foreigner” industry for those who aren’t familiar with the concept.
The idea is to get a foreign face — anyone who isn’t Chinese, but typically they are white — to represent a Chinese brand or company. The non-Chinese face of the company is meant to make the business appear more legitimate and give the impression that it’s popular overseas.
These white monkey jobs are especially popular among Caucasian travelers for two main reasons. First, you don’t have to speak a lick of any Chinese dialects. Second, you really don’t have to do anything but sit there and make the Chinese company look good.
Redditor u/BestPlanetEver shared his experiences as a white monkey on r/todayilearned. The Redditor said that he once worked for a Chinese agency based in Toronto, Canada that hired him out to Chinese companies because “it looks good to bring a white guy.”
Other Redditors shared their own white monkey stints where they had to pretend to be interested in a meeting that was completely in Mandarin and nod along occasionally to make a show of being attentive.
You’re probably calling B.S. right now because who would pay for a white guy to look pretty in a corporate meeting? Apparently, a lot of companies. In fact, China’s most famous face is actually the face of a white monkey.
No one knows what his real name is, but most people online just call him “The De Rucci guy.” Mr. De Rucci is an old Caucasian man who wears glasses and a starched white shirt that makes him look like an Old World version of Steve Jobs.
Seriously, the guy looks like a knock-off Steve Jobs who sells mattresses instead of iPhones.
Traveler Ian Whitworth has gone from airport to airport but still can’t escape the face of China’s most famous white monkey — even when he’s at Sydney International Airport or, as he calls it, Sydney De Rucci International Airport.
Other white monkey jobs aren’t as prestigious as being the De Rucci guy.
A video uploaded by Matthew Tye in May 2021 includes a clip from Douyin that shows two Caucasian men with the deadest eyes I’ve ever seen on the internet dressed as lambs.
One of them gives a canned “Baaa!” as he approaches a Chinese girl holding up food to the two “lambs.” Matthew himself has experienced being a white monkey but instead of being a fake farm animal, he had to pretend to be a foreign athlete. Jobs for D&D players, anyone?
White monkey jobs don’t stop at the demeaning and fraudulent.
In less touristy parts of China, seeing a foreigner in the flesh is like finding a unicorn. This makes white monkeys exceptionally popular in rural areas and smaller cities. It also means that Chinese companies can hire white monkeys for illegal jobs.
Think of something along the lines of corporate OnlyFans because companies were hiring male Caucasian white monkeys to dress up as skimpily clad Spartans and play “sex games” on stage for promos.
SCMP reports that Western couples would also be asked to come on stage to burst balloons between each other’s lower bodies by getting into different sexual positions.
White monkeying around is such a prevalent practice that it’s even featured in Awkwafina is Nora From Queens‘s season one finale.
After Nora and Edmund’s app, Scrubr, gets acquired by a Chinese company, Nora has to move back to China to continue her job. At least, that’s what it seemed like because Nora later gets told flat out that she won’t be doing anything since she’s just “an American face” for the company.
Nora was clearly growing discontent about being a white monkey and soon, Bart Baker did, too.
Bart Baker’s Back and He’s Into Crypto This Time
After spending the past three years belting songs in shaky Mandarin in the distant lands of Douyin, Bart Baker has finally returned to the U.S. and to YouTube.
The YouTube creator uploaded a video earlier this year titled “WTF HAPPENED TO ME? (WHY I DISAPPEARED)” explaining, well, his three-year disappearance. He shares that he managed to build a following on Douyin that is currently 25 million strong.
It turns out that this entire time, Bart Baker has been holding concerts in China, uploading Chinese content, and making appearances on big Chinese TV shows.
While he looked tired and frankly a little depressed in his interview with VICE, it seems that Bart Baker didn’t have that bad of a time as a Douyin star. Though he’s looking to re-establish his presence on YouTube, the parody star says he’ll continue making Chinese singing videos for his Douyin fans even when he’s in the U.S.
But it’s fairly obvious that Bart Baker is still passionate about making more parody videos. He reveals that he’s started dabbling in cryptocurrencies and is hoping to make enough money to continue making music video parodies without needing YouTube’s money to fund it.
Bart Baker says we can expect to see anywhere from 3-4 new parodies a year. His latest video, released earlier this month, is an original music video for “Polydoge,” a song about his newfound love for cryptocurrencies. You can check out Bart Baker’s Douyin account here.