Juan Joya Borja, the Spanish comedian and actor nicknamed "El Risitas" ("The Giggles"), has died. According to local media outlet EFE, and as reported by Entertainment Weekly, Borja died in Hospital Virgen del Rocío Caridad in Seville on Wednesday at the age of 65. The comedian had been receiving treatment at the Hospital de la Caridad, also in Seville, for the past year following a leg amputation in 2020. He was transported to Hospital Virgen del Rocío Caridad just prior to his death after his health began to decline.
Borja rose to viral fame in 2014 after the internet resurfaced a video from his appearance on a Spanish variety show from Jesus Quintero called Ratones Coloraos years prior. During the appearance, Borja reflected on his time working as a kitchen helper at a restaurant. Telling his hilarious story, Borja the show's host how he once left 20 paella dishes in the sea overnight to clean them, but when he returned the next morning he discovered the tide had swept them away. As he told the story, Borja erupted into a fit laughter. While the video was initially uploaded to Ratones Coloraos' YouTube Channel in 2007, it resurfaced in 2014 and immediately went viral, earning Borja his nickname as "El Risitas" as he became the subject of the "Spanish laughing guy" meme.
Over the years, the video of Borja has been transformed into a meme, with people uploading the clip to social media with their own captions, including everything from an Apple engineer reacting to the new iPhone to a Brexit fight to Egyptian politics. The videos have amassed millions of views, and the fans Borja earned throughout the years were notably saddened at the news of his passing.
Reacting to the news, one person wrote, "Aww man... RIP to El Risitas, an absolute internet legend. No one is going to forget that infectious KEKW laugh anytime soon," with another person adding, "Today the legend, El Risitas, has passed away today. Thank you for giving us all so many laughs. R.I.P. Juan Joya Borja." In a tribute to Borja, Spanish actor and director Santiago Seguro tweeted, "Sad news...Juan Joya has died. Known as 'El Risitas,' Juan's good humor and his laugh were well known across Spain after his appearance on Jesus Quintero's TV show. He was an endearing man. May he rest in peace."
Hola! reports that prior to rising to viral fame, Borja initially rose to fame in the early 2000s with appearances on programs including Ratones Coloraos, "where he recounted his experiences along with the now-defunct 'El Peíto.'" Following his death, the brotherhood de la Santa Caridad will take care of Borja's funeral and burial, two of his dying wishes, according to ABC Sevilla.