The Giant Cockroach That Guy Eats In The New Video Everybody's Talking About


That really is a pretty excellent video Odd Future rapper Tyler the Creator created for his new solo singe, “Yonkers.” (Questions of realness aside, it is a pretty excellent song. What was that 50 said back then about where all the other hard rappers were from?) My favorite part is when he lets that enormous cockroach crawl up his arm. Then he pretends to eat it and throw it up. Which is gross. I like the part where he lets it crawl on him. I had one of those giant cockroaches crawl on my arm once. It was not as disgusting as it sounds.

Last year, my kid got into these Sunday science programs they do at the Audubon Science Center in Prospect Park. They have lots of snakes and lizards and stuff at the place, and they have these giant cockroaches, there, in a glass fish tank. Madagascar hissing cockroaches, they’re called, or gromphadorhina portentosa. They’re totally cool. Totally prehistoric-looking. All armored and fierce, like little living Panzers. My kid and I were looking at them one time and the friendly park ranger science nerd came over and asked us if we wanted to hold them. “They’re friendly,” she said. “They don’t bite.”

My kid’s eyes lit up. “Yeah!” he said. He was psyched. I was less psyched. These things are huge. Like three inches of thick bug. And they did hiss, loudly and in a threatening way, when the lady reached her hand in to fished around the wood chips to pluck one out.

They live in the forest in Madagascar, apparently, not gutters or people’s houses. And they eat mostly fruit and vegetable material. They give birth to live young—60 tiny nymph roaches emerging from an internal egg sac called an “ootheca” (awesome!) in the female’s abdomen. You’ll probably not want to think about that.

The lady told my kid to roll up his sleeve once she caught one of the things, because they liked to crawl inside people’s shirts and that usually made people freak out and scream. He held out his hand and she placed a large male specimen in his palm. He giggled as it ran up his arm and skrittered towards his neck. I shuddered and said no thanks when she offered to pull out another for me. But then I looked at my kid, who clearly had a bit of the willies but was being brave and enjoying the experience, and I said okay.

They’re not slimy or gross at all, really, to touch, hissing cockroaches. Their shells are smooth like car upholstery. Their feet feel kind of creepy on your skin, I suppose. But no worse than if you’ve ever held a sand crab at the beach. You get used to it pretty quick.

I suppose that’s why they used them—that and that they’re distinctly sinister looking—Jeannot Szwarc used them to make his campy 1975 horror flick. They’re obviously good actors, Madagascar hissing cockroaches. They keep getting such high-profile work.