Spanish actor and comedian Juan Joya Borja, also known as “El Risitas” and the face behind the iconic “Spanish Laughing Guy” meme, has passed away at the age of 65 years old due to an illness.
In english, “el risitas” means “the giggles,” and that’s an apt nickname for Borja. The Spanish comedian and actor surged toward internet fame in 2015, as a YouTube video of him laughing during an interview spawned dozens of celebrated parody clips.
His face is also widespread on streaming platform Twitch, as the now iconic ‘KEKW’ emote.
Beset by an illness in 2020, the Spanish celebrity struggled on-and-off until a relapse led to his passing on April 28, 2021. In the minutes and hours since, much of the internet have come together to share condolences and fondly remember his giggles.
As shared by ABC de Sevilla, Borja passed away in the hospital at the center of his Seville hometown. Growing up in the capital of Andalucia, Spain, the comedian and actor originally worked in the kitchen and on construction sites.
“El Risitas” Interview Parodies refers to a video remix series based on a TV interview with the Spanish comedian and actor Juan Joya Borja, better known by his nickname “El Risitas” (“The Giggles”) stemming from his signature laughter, and a variety of parody subtitles depicting Borja as an employee of a well-known consumer tech or media company who openly mocks his customers, bearing much resemblance to the “And Then I Said…” image macros in tone and the “Hitler Reacts” videos in style of presentation. Videos using the interview are commonly titled “Shocking Interview…”. El Risitas is regarded as one of the most prominent meme figures on the french internet, being widely spread on the jeuxvideo.com forums.
In June 2007, Borja was interviewed by host Jesus Quintero on the Spanish-language television program Ratones Coloraos, where he burst into laughter after telling a humorous anecdote about throwing kitchen pans into the sea while working at a beach restaurant as a young man . On June 21st, the Jesus Quintero YouTube channel uploaded the interview segment, which gained over 1.1 million views over the next eight years.
On March 28th, 2014, the Thursday Comics YouTube channel uploaded a falsely subtitled version of the interview released by the Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian Islamist movement, which portrays Borja as a man commenting on the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (shown below). Over the next year, the video received upwards of 850,000 views and 920 comments. In October, a group of Egyptian students released a subtitled version of a different interview with Borjas, with captions mocking the private security used to contain protests at Egyptian universities.
Health Issues and Donations
In 2020, Juan Joya Borja suffered health issues including diabetes and an infection which resulted in the amputation of a leg, and left him hospitalized for several months. Following the news of his condition, jeuxvideo.com’s forum user cutface launched a donation campaign that eventually raised approximately 14,000€ to cover for Risitas’s medical care and purchase him an electric wheelchair. On March the 5th, 2021, El Risitas and his peers released a reaction and thank you video following the delivery of the wheelchair, hosted on cutface’s Youtube channel.
Across social media, users are remembering El Risita’s unique giggle and wishing him peace in the afterlife. Dubbing him an internet “legend,” people from around the world thank Borja for years spent laughing with him and the various subtitled parodies he inspired.