Then the camera turns slightly, revealing a mirror. In it, we see the slim frame of Adam Perkins, wearing nothing but boxers and a wide-eyed expression, walking into the bathroom.
“Hi, welcome to Chili’s,” he says.
This one moment on Vine, the now-defunct short-form platform for six-second-and-under videos, began circulating again after Perkins died Sunday at 24.
“Sometimes I think of people like books. They have stories in them. Some books are short and amazing. Some are long and unbearable to read, because they’re so boring,” his twin brother Patrick said. “I’m just so happy that Adam wasn’t a dictionary.”
The tributes to the video came pouring in, even from the Chili’s Twitter account, which wrote of Perkins, “He brought laughter to so many of us and will always be remembered and cherished.”
Six years is an eternity in Internet time, but the video had never really disappeared from the public eye. Perkins published it on March 21, 2015, with the caption, “I’m really proud of this one.” At the time of Vine’s shuttering, it had amassed more than 26 million views.
While it was far from Perkins’s only viral clip, it might be the one that best explained his comedy — and how he forever altered Internet humor.
As Twitter user Yousef Alshaer wrote, “He literally built my sense of humor in grade 7.” Added Jeremy Cabalona, “RIP Adam Perkins. The humor he created will go on for a generation. thinking of his loved ones today.”
The Vine “is really emblematic of that moment in Internet culture. There’s no traditional punchline or setup. The caption itself doesn’t even directly speak to the joke. It’s just a guy fully committing to this brief moment of humor,” said Cabalona, a former Vine employee, via direct message on Twitter. He added that it “spawned a life of its own. I’ve had people say ‘welcome to Chili’s’ to me IRL and find out they’ve never seen the actual Vine. It has reverberated through the vocabulary of an entire generation organically.”
Indeed, its tone — semi-ironic, semi-absurd, completely homemade — speaks to a then-budding, now-blossoming form of online comedy. It also perfectly encapsulated Vine. While the platform is a spiritual precursor to TikTok, Vine’s six-second limit — as compared with 60 — created its own brand of humor, one that hasn’t been entirely replicated since. The lightning-fast, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nature of “Welcome to Chili’s” made it all the funnier — and all the more loopable.
One of the reasons it resonated was its insular nature. Cabalona pointed out that it “was easily missed by folks who were either too old or too young for the moment — or folks simply unplugged from that world. In a lot of ways, this Vine is part of a secret language.”
“Most people won’t make a lasting mark on the world,” he added. “Creating a cultural moment that brought so many people joy like ‘welcome to Chili’s’ is more impactful than some entire bodies of work.”
The “Eighth Grade” actress and Internet influencer Elsie Fisher tweeted about Perkins’s death, and said in a follow-up email, “I found his and Patrick’s vines when I was a kid, and there are still phrases from them I quote to this day. It’s just one of those things that has been consistent throughout my own and many others lives.”
She added, “His comedy style was really absurdist yet also kind of dry and uncomfortable at times, which right now is not an uncommon trend for internet comedians, but just a few years ago, Adam was really a trailblazer.”
Those three seconds do not appear to be the only legacy Perkins hoped to leave behind. As his ex-boyfriend Kelton Elliott wrote in a moving tribute on Instagram, “He said he’d like to be remembered for his art, his music.”
Perkins graduated from New York University with a degree in musical composition. Under the name Plas Teg, he recorded heady, semi-ambient pop music that brings to mind a mixture of Nick Drake, Sufjan Stevens and Brian Eno — so different from his Vines, but with the same restless, experimental spirit.
His musical nom de plume comes from the name of a storied Jacobean-era house in Wales. He chose the name based on a legend that a woman who lives there spends her entire life caring for the house and keeping its walls from crumbling.
“It’s a really good representation of Adam. A big, beautiful thing,” said Patrick of Plas Teg, likening the woman to himself. “It’s my duty to preserve.”
As one of his first acts to honor his twin brother, Patrick announced he would be releasing a limited-edition vinyl of Adam’s music through a new label set up in his honor, named Plas Teg.
“In the womb sometimes, one twin absorbs the other. I guess what I’m trying to say is I feel Adam inside of me,” Patrick said. “And he’s not gone.”
This story has been updated.