Hunger games: playing with food for a challenge

Marie-Louise Olson looks at YouTube challenges that went viral – all to do with food and usually with hilarious results.

The MTV reality series Jackass gave the likes of Johnny Knoxville worldwide fame for doing dangerous stunts. Then YouTube came along and did the same for the average Joe.

Jackass, which first aired in 2000, saw the cast members perform pranks and gags such as eating unpeeled bananas and snorting wasabi. The aftermath of the show’s popularity has now spawned dares and challenges in the thousands, which have been uploaded to YouTube. We check out the ones that involve food. Disclaimer: do not try this at home.

The cinnamon challenge

The most famous challenge to hit YouTube, and still one of the most popular, is the cinnamon challenge. The objective is to film yourself or someone else swallowing a spoonful of – you guessed it – ground cinnamon. The subjects have to do it without drinking water, which means they will inevitably choke on their mouthful of dry spice.

The Los Angeles-based comedian GloZell, who has become a famous YouTube personality for taking outlandish challenges, has almost 31 million views since she posted her cinnamon challenge video last year.

Other videos have had up to 10 million hits. The challenge is also viral on Twitter and gets hundreds of mentions daily.

The internet sensation spawned several pop culture references, including on television shows such as Big Brother UK, where the participants had to take the challenge. Discovery Channel’s TV show MythBusters also saw its presenters do the challenge in a 2012 episode.

The baking soda and vinegar challenge

ReactionResponseKING is the YouTube name of the viral challenger who gained 6.2 million hits from eating a spoonful of baking soda, washed down with a small cup of vinegar. The outcome? The contents in his mouth didn’t go down but came out in a perfect white projectile, à la The Exorcist.

The Rainbow Milk challenge

The objective of this challenge is to drink a gallon of milk – a little more than three and a half litres – in one hour without throwing up. The most famous video, with almost three million hits, shows six friends from Melbourne, Australia, who one day decide to paint the town red. And blue. And green.

The six, who call themselves Dare Sundays, each drank a three-litre jug of milk with food colouring and waited to see who would throw it up first. Some had to jump up and down to make their stomachs churn, but eventually, one by one, they all proudly sprayed their colourful milk on the ground.

Another viral star, Marius Listhrop (aka Mazzi Maz), who calls himself “A British Guy with a White Chin”, took on the challenge outdoors during winter, wearing nothing but a fur hat and jeans. He has more than 340,000 followers on Twitter and posts a new challenge every week.

The cereal challenge

This involves filling a bathtub with milk, adding cereal and getting into this “floating breakfast”. The contestants are seen splashing around, attempting to eat all the cereal. GloZell is the best-known challenger and her video, posted last year in August, has had almost five million views.

The chilli challenge

The British viral star Ayy told his viewers that the cinnamon challenge was for wimps, and declared he was about to attempt what he called “a man’s challenge” – eating a whole Bhut Jolokia, also known as the ghost pepper. The Bhut Jolokia was certified in 2007 by the Guinness World Records as the hottest chilli pepper in the world – it is 400 times more fiery than Tabasco sauce.

“I’m willing to harm myself for your entertainment,” Ayy said, before popping the little green chilli into his mouth. Needless to say, Ayy had a near-death experience: his mouth went up in flames and for more than an hour he could not stop shaking.

At the end of the video – which has had almost 4.5 million hits – Ayy asks viewers to subscribe to his YouTube channel because “I’m risking my life for laughs”. The chilli is now the world’s second-hottest – after the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chilli.

Other remarkable online challenges include the saltine crackers challenge, the Mentos and Diet Coke challenge and the Sprite and banana challenge

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