Berkeley internet comedian Brandon Moore, creator of ‘What are those?’ meme, dies at 31

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Brandon Yung/Staff

Berkeley internet comedian Brandon Moore, or Young Busco, known as the creator of the viral “What are those?” meme, died Nov. 25 at the age of 31, leaving behind his nine children and a legacy of humor.

Moore is known for a presence now embedded in internet culture — a meme that, unlike many others, has remained relevant. In 2015, Moore filmed a police officer outside the Ashby BART station. Panning down at the officer’s shoes, Moore asked “What are those?!,” poking fun at the officer’s black shoes.

Shortly after being posted on the online platform Vine, the meme took off, and has been reinterpreted and reenacted countless times since. Recently, the phrase made a cameo in the 2018 movie “Black Panther.”

“Busco lived, and the world knows he lived,” Valerie Cooper, Moore’s mother, told People Magazine. “He left something for everybody. His Instagram, pictures, and stories and skits and raps, all of that is there forever. He left something for all of us and I’m proud.”

The cause of Moore’s death is unknown as of press time. According to Cooper, Moore died in his sleep.

After the news of Moore’s death, hundreds of people gathered Friday for a candlelight vigil at the corner of Fairview and Ellis Streets in South Berkeley. The mood at the gathering was “mostly jubilant” as around 500 community members celebrated Moore’s life, according to nearby resident Bhima Sheridan. Sheridan added that he heard gunshots, causing the crowd to disperse. Berkeley Police Department arrived on the scene and later told Berkeleyside it appeared that shots had been fired into the air and no injuries were reported.

Flowers and candles now line the sidewalk, some of which are marked with “#longlivebusco.”

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“We all watched his Instagram page like we were watching our favorite TV show on Sunday night,” friend and comedian Hannibal Thompson said. “By him dying, it’s so tragic, it just brought people together to show him even more love.”

Thompson recently arranged for Moore to perform his first stand-up comedy show Oct. 27 at the BAL Theatre in San Leandro. He said that the show was “a really special moment for Brandon,” whom he described as a naturally funny person. Reflecting on Moore’s death, Thompson said that Moore was “like a rising star whose life ended too early.”

After his death, Moore’s Instagram is still being updated with unposted footage taken of his daily life, food videos and commemorations from friends and family. Moore’s friend Jaurice Laxa, who goes by King Peno, made a rap song and music video in memory of Moore.

“He played a big part in my life and now that part is done,” Laxa said. “Everyday I would talk to him. I would watch his old Snapchats and old videos and now I can’t talk to him no more … All he wanted to do was to make people smile.”

Contact Brandon Yung at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @brandonyung1.