How 'Corn Kid' Went Viral With One Short Interview

Julian Shapiro-Barnum, the host of Recess Therapy, walks us through the corntastic day that started it all.

Meara Isenberg Writer
Meara covers streaming service news for CNET. She recently graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where she wrote for her college newspaper, The Daily Texan, as well as for state and local magazines. When she's not writing, she likes to dote over her cat, sip black coffee and try out new horror movies.
Meara Isenberg
3 min read
Tariq and Julian.

We know you're still singing the corn song. 

Screenshot by CNET

One fateful day in July, Julian Shapiro-Barnum approached a kid in a Brooklyn park. "Nice corn on the cob," the host of popular web series Recess Therapy told the 7-year-old.

You're likely familiar with what happened next. Tariq -- now known by many as Corn Kid -- gushed about his favorite yellow food. The video went viral, serving up infectious enthusiasm and incredible puns and making corn the envy of other vegetables.

"I mean, look at this thing," Tariq says, wielding a half-eaten cob. "I can't imagine a more beautiful thing."

The internet quickly rallied around Corn Kid. Tariq's interview with Recess Therapy, which hit platforms in early August, has collected more than 3.4 million views on YouTube (a post on TikTok gained more than 23 million.) A catchy song version of the interview has been used in more than 716,000 TikTok videos... and counting.

"I don't know if he would have brought it up," Shapiro-Barnum tells me over Zoom. "But it was the thing that he was ready to talk about." 

@schmoyoho intro song for any meal/snack with corn 🌽 - from iconic interview on @doingthings ♬ It's Corn - Tariq & The Gregory Brothers & Recess Therapy

Other Recess Therapy clips have blown up since the show entered the social media scene in 2021. (You may have crossed virtual paths with a komodo dragon-obsessed kid named Dillon.) Still, creator Shapiro-Barnum, who's 23, says he didn't expect Tariq's interview to get this big. 

The kid's sincere appreciation for the snack warmed cold, spoiled hearts everywhere. South Dakota named Tariq its official "corn-bassador," and actor Kevin Bacon covered the song version on an acoustic guitar. People continue to pay tribute to Corn Kid with ridiculous costumesimpressive chalk art and cobs of their own

Recess Therapy's Instagram account has 2.4 million followers and is plastered with adorable, hilarious interviews with young kids. (Shapiro-Barnum says he aims to interview kids between 4 and 7, though clearly, it's adults who've taken to Corn Kid the most.) Kids voice their thoughts and opinions on all sorts of things in Recess Therapy vids, from the environment to Thanksgiving to dinosaurs. 

"It's like a really fun, feel-good, scrappy interview show where my friends and I walk around Brooklyn, New York, and occasionally other places, and see what the children of that place are thinking about and talking about," Shapiro-Barnum says. 

On Zoom, Shapiro-Barnum comes across as funny and passionate about his gig. He describes his interview with Tariq: "I think he had just gotten his corn," he says. "He was really vibin'." When I ask who else Corn Kid fans should check out from Recess Therapy, he shows me Miles and Sloane.  

tariq corn kid

Corn break!

Screenshot by CNET

Typically, when seeking out interviews, "we ask almost everyone who walks by," he says, adding that a team of people, not just him, work on Recess Therapy videos.

"A lot of people say no," Shapiro-Barnum says. "And you never know what you're gonna get. I am constantly surprised and delighted by the things children have to say."

He filmed Tariq's interview during a food festival at Brooklyn's Prospect Park. The older woman who makes it into the video with Tariq -- chuckling off to the side -- is Tariq's grandma.

Their chat lasted less than 15 minutes. We've seen the first couple of those. (I asked Shapiro-Barnum for outtakes, but he said all the best bits are already out there.)  

Shapiro-Barnum can't explain why Corn Kid took off the way it has -- "It's up to chance what the internet finds," he says -- but it surely helps that Tariq's reaction to corn comes across as being so genuine. 

"It's really nice and cathartic in a weird way to see somebody find so much joy in such a simple thing," Shapiro-Barnum says. "I think it's hard these days to find positivity and something uplifting. Even a lot of quote unquote 'uplifting content' feels forced to me."

Shapiro-Barnum has now conducted two interviews with Tariq. A memorable moment for him comes during the second one. Tariq talks even more about -- you guessed it -- his lumpy snack of choice -- and battles Shapiro-Barnum in a "corn swordfight."

"It was so gross," Shapiro-Barnum says. They were both eating the corn and hitting it and "the kernels and like, gunk, was flying everywhere. That was just a fun moment. He's really playful."

Though Tariq isn't conducting interviews, Shapiro-Barnum says he thinks everything has been "really fun" for the corn-loving kid.

"I think he's really thoroughly enjoyed all of this," Shapiro-Barnum says. 

That's absolutely corntastic news.