As any celebrity will admit, if you've been out of the public spotlight for a few years, it can be pretty tough to get back on your feet.
Especially if you have four of them.
Just ask Morris—Morris the Cat, for those of you too young to remember the plump, orange tabby who pitched 9Lives cat food on TV. With his sardonic wit and sour puss, Morris starred in some 60 commercials for the brand between 1969 and 1978. An immediate hit with audiences, Morris was the original celebricat. He co-starred in a film with Burt Reynolds, appeared on Oprah and even ran for president (twice). And while Morris never really retired, he did take quite a few naps in recent years.
But all that changed two weeks ago when 9Lives asked Morris to pad back into the spotlight and star in "Cat's Eye View," an interactive online video shot from the cat's perspective, letting viewers romp around the house to do "Morris-approved" cat things (including—surprise!—chowing down on 9Lives).
No doubt, the inexplicable popularity of those nouveau spokescats had something to do with Morris’ “reboot,” to use the company term. But one thing’s sure: Morris is back, and these days he’s a very busy cat. Fortunately, Morris (presumably with the help of a human underling at 9Lives) agreed to take some time out of his single daily waking hour to speak with us about his fame, his career and tender slices of beef in gravy.
You've starred in so many TV commercials, Morris, but it’s been quite a few years since your last one. What was it like being back in front of the camera?
I love it. It's been so much fun to expand my work as an artist and thought leader. To stay creative, I really try to think outside of the box. Then inside of the box. Then outside again. Cats do love boxes.
Is being a celebrity cat different today than it was in the 1980s?
What is very different these days is how many ways there are to engage with my fans. I'm all about Twitter. I'm really enjoying Tumblr. Have you been wondering why more cat foodies don't post cat food photos online? Check out my Instagram for a delicious PB&J+9 or a tasty kitty sundae.
You look so young and spry in this spot, Morris. Nobody would ever guess that you’ve been a TV star since the 1970s. Other than eating 9Lives brand cat food, how do you keep your youthful profile?
I think staying young is all about living well and focusing on what's truly important—prioritizing things like napping, eating and playing. Life isn't a zero-sum game: You can both nap AND play. Just the other day on Twitter, I live-demoed a Fitbit. Not only did my Fitbit tell me that I took 36 steps in two hours, but I also realized that because cats have four legs and humans have two, I could double my stats. Seventy-two steps! I had no idea I was such a 'cathlete.' I think it's important to mix things up. For instance, sometimes I eat, nap, eat, nap, nap. Other times, I nap, eat, nap, eat, nap. Variety is the spice of life. Remember, you only live 9-nce (YOL9 for short).
The "Cat's Eye View" interactive video experience lets people see what it's like to be you on a romp around the house. Is your average day really that busy? I read that cats sleep 20 hours a day.
You can't believe everything you read, Robert. I sleep 16, 17, 18, maybe 19 hours a day. But definitely not 20 hours. That would be excessive. I do think that the amazing thing about "Cat's Eye View" is that through the wonders of wearable technology, the American public finally gets an insider's look at the life of a celebrity cat. Sure, I'm a big-time star, but I still step into my litter box one leg at a time.
That's so reassuring.
Really, Robert, I'm just like you, only furrier. In "Cat's Eye View," you'll see the world through my eyes: You'll stare down a suspicious looking goldfish. You'll unspool a fresh roll of Charmin. You'll even help redecorate the living room by knocking over some unsightly tabletop clutter. When I watch it myself, it's so moving that I get all choked up—oh wait, that was just a hair ball.
Did the fact that cats are so popular on the Internet play any role in your—how shall I put this—publicity makeover? No disrespect.
I think it's a chicken and egg question—or at least a 9Lives-Real-Flaked-Tuna-&-Egg-Bits-in-Sauce dilemma. Are cats popular because of the Internet, or is the Internet popular because of cats? Think about that one for awhile. Seriously, it will blow your mind.
It sort of has already.
I wouldn't call my recent spokescat duties a makeover exactly (cats don't particularly like to wear mascara), but I do think the folks at 9Lives would tell you that it's more of a franchise "reboot"—just like they did for Batman or James Bond. I don't know what "reboot" means exactly (fancy marketing jargon), but I do know that I always enjoy cramming myself into my human's Ugg boots.
I'm old enough to remember your commercials from the 1980s, and you seemed a lot more cynical back then, Morris. Have you mellowed out in recent years?
The 1980s were a different time. Back in the go-go '80s, everyone was in shoulder pads with big hair. These days, I'm all about living well. I want to help cats and humans make the most of their daily lives. I'm not a fan of everything, but if it helps enhance the human-feline connection, then I just might decide to make it #morrisapproved.
Your bio says that you ran for president in 1988. Would you ever consider doing that again?
Did someone tell you that I was running for president again? I can't comment on that right now. It sounds like either the Democats or the Kittypublicans let the cat out of the bag. No seriously, I was in a bag this morning. I'm Morris the Cat, and I approve this message.
Does it bother you that that so-called Grumpy Cat gets so much attention for being grumpy when it was really you who pioneered cat grumpiness?
I'm charmingly choosy, not grumpy. How could I possibly be grumpy when my spokescat duties afford me a lifetime supply of the world's most delicious food, 9Lives? In general, I'm so proud of all of the other cats making a name for themselves. Grumpy Cat is the Michelangelo of grumpiness. Lil BUB is the Michael Jordan of the kitty tongue wag. Have you seen Maru? That cat can stuff himself into a box like nobody's business. What I love is that I'm no longer the only cat in the celebrity game. It used to be a little lonely at the top. Besides, imitation is the sincerest form of cattery.
Do you have any advice for other cats who dream of attaining your level of stardom?
Always chase your dreams. They are easier to catch than that red laser dot.
Here are a couple more classic TV spots from the Morris vault.