His YouTube channel videos have racked up over 500 million clicks. Now Fred Figglehorn — a cult character that Nebraska teen Lucas Cruikshank, 17, created in his bedroom — has made the transition to cable TV's bigger screen. Fred: The Movie, a 90-minute expansion of the webisodes Cruikshank's been churning out since 2006, debuted on Nickelodeon last Saturday, drawing 7.6 million viewers to become cable's number-one movie this year. (Watch the most popular Fred Figglehorn video.) Here's a guide to the Figglehorn phenomenon:
Who is Fred Figglehorn?
A fictional, manic six-year-old whose defining trait is a ridiculously high-pitched voice, which "falls somewhere between the sound of fingernails scratching a chalkboard and Pee-wee Herman on steroids," according to the Associated Press. (Cruikshank digitally edits his voice to produce the effect.) Fred admits early on in the series that he has anger-management issues and must take medication. He lives with his drug-and-alcohol addicted mother, along with his grandmother. Despite this rather dark existence, Fred remains chipper and, for the most part, cheerfully "insane."
Just how popular is he?
Extremely. The Fred Figglehorn YouTube channel, with close to 2 million followers, is the second-most popular channel in the site's history. And the star-making ratings for Fred: The Movie assure prominent future endeavors. (It helped that the character had already appeared on Nickelodeon hits like "iCarly" and "Hannah Montana.")
What's the story behind his creator?
Lucas Cruikshank is a congenial 17-year-old living with his "large, happy family" in Nebraska. He seems "unaware of his own celebrity," and is prone to making "oh-golly innocent" comments on his Twitter page ("Just had crème brûlée for the first time. YuM.") When his parents gave him a video camera for his 13th birthday, he started making movies for a YouTube group he formed with his cousins. When not drawing millions of viewers to Nickelodeon, he's busy mowing his family's 2-acre lawn, listening to Cobra Starship, negotiating his parent's approval to buy a MacBook Pro, dreaming of meeting actress Ellen Page someday, and driving a hand-me-down Chrysler Seabreeze.
What do adults think of Fred?
To put it kindly, grown-ups are not typically his biggest fans. In a review of "Fred: The Movie," Variety's Geoff Berkshire says that Fred "[reaches] levels of insufferable dorkiness that couldn't be matched by Pee-wee Herman, Napoleon Dynamite and Steve Urkel combined," and that "anyone worried about YouTube's potentially negative influence on television has reason to be absolutely horrified" by the Nickelodeon spectacle. Responding to the "haters," Cruikshank contends that the sped-up voice is an "acquired taste."
What's next for Cruikshank?
What isn't next? A new Fred album, "Who's Ready to Party?" produced by the team behind High School Musical album, came out on Tuesday. Cruikshank himself will star in "Marvin, Marvin," a sitcom debuting on Nickelodeon in 2011 about a high-school kid "who doesn’t really fit in because he’s from another planet." Eventually, Cruikshank, who admires stars like Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller, says he wants to "do what Judd Apatow's doing."