The brief and odd history of Left Shark – a Super Bowl phenomenon.
It has been over two years since the Left Shark from Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime performance has entered our pop culture zeitgeist, but it is one viral meme that has passed the test of time. Even Lady Gaga’s halftime performance is said to have taken cues from 2015’s Left Shark spectacular. But what is the true story behind Left Shark? Was it a performer gone rogue, or a carefully-performed dance for the ages?
In early 2015, Katy Perry was arguably at the top of her game. She was riding on the success of her record-breaking singles “Roar” and “Dark Horse” and was in high demand. After being announced as the official halftime performer of Super Bowl XLIX, Perry went on to reveal that her show would feature performances from both Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliot. The excitement grew as the game drew nearer, but no one expected the show’s breakout star to be a backup dancer in a fuzzy shark costume. Perry’s show started off with a medley of her chart-topping hits, starting with “Roar,” which then moved into “Dark Horse” and a duet performance of “I Kissed a Girl” with Lenny Kravitz. The stage was then transformed into a beach scene featuring surf boards, smiling beach balls, and the notorious dancing sharks. As Katy began singing “Teenage Dream,” the Left Shark danced its way into becoming one of the biggest viral sensations of the year.
What is the story behind the Left Shark?
The halftime show’s director, Hamish Hamilton, had no idea that the Left Shark would become such a hit. Hamilton revealed that his inclusion of the shark dancers was inspired by the Scissor Sisters’ performance at the Brit Awards in 2005, saying “we were trying to work out how we could bring a beach scene to life and so one of the references that we looked at was that Scissor Sisters’ performance. The genesis of the Left Shark was actually a singing melon.” Anthropomorphic animals and fruit certainly are kind of catchy, but say that their love for the Left Shark came from his out-of-sync silly dance moves. There are some questions about whether the dance was choreographed that way, or whether the dancer had gone rogue. Perry’s choreographer claims that the dance moves were intentionally fun and silly, but if that’s the case then you have to give the performer credit where credit is due.
Who was the Left Shark?
For days after the Super Bowl, people speculated about the sharks’ identity. One guy even had 15 seconds of fame because he claimed to be the Left Shark on the Tinder dating app, though his claim was proven false when their real identities came to light. It turns out both sharks were longtime backup dancers for Katy Perry, but the famous Left Shark was Bryan Gaw. Internet sleuths were able to deduct that Gaw was the Left Shark based on his Instagram post about the performance. Shockingly, Gaw has not capitalized on his viral fame and has stayed relatively quiet to the media.
As the American public recovers from the Super Bowl, the media is still in awe of Perry’s halftime show – . Katy’s performance remains one of the highest-rated Super Bowl halftime performance ever (Coldplay didn’t outshine the sharks – imagine that). For that reason, people are still chattering about the infectious likability of the Left Shark. Similar-looking shark costumes are consistent bestsellers despite being nearly two years after the initial performance. The Left Shark is one of the few internet memes that has had a relatively long shelf life. I mean, you know it’s the real deal when it has its own Wikipedia entry.
Katie Blank is a Content Moderator and staff writer for Sporcle. She is also a PhD student studying South Asian history. Her guilty pleasures include binge-watching The Office and going to every metal concert she can.