The Force is strong with the Unipiper

WASHINGTON • The sight of Darth Vader, riding a unicycle and playing flaming bagpipes, is not uncommon in Portland, Oregon, the city of weird.

But thanks to a viral video on Facebook, millions more are discovering the Unipiper, as he likes to be called.

Brian Kidd learnt to play the bagpipes in college. After finding a unicycle in a dumpster, he combined the two skills into performance art. "It's just a celebration of the things I love and I have a lot of fun doing it," he said in an interview.

A video posted on Dec 8 of the Unipiper pulling down an imperial AT-AT walker mirrored an iconic scene from The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and has been viewed 8.1 million times on Facebook in the past week.

The Unipiper has appeared in several costumes including Spider-Man, Captain Jack Sparrow, Santa and Sasquatch. "I get bored doing the same thing - that's why I have so many costumes," Kidd said.

As a lifelong Star Wars fan, one of his favourite and most frequently featured costumes is that of Darth Vader. "There is something so iconic about the look of Darth Vader," Kidd said. "And the whole tragic story with Anakin Skywalker, it's a complex character."

Kidd, 33, works for an aerial survey and remote sensing firm, but makes time to record videos and perform at community events. Publicity is not new to the Unipiper. He performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2014 and he was voted the best local celebrity by Willamette Week last year and this year.


Unipiper. PHOTO: THE UNIPIPER/FACEBOOK

The Unipiper is not just limited to performance art. There is an online store where shirts, stickers and mugs featuring his likeness can be purchased. He will be writing a Unipiper book next year and he plans on releasing more Unipiper beer which, he says, "has become a popular tradition here in Portland".

And Kidd and two friends host the podcast Portland At The Movies, in which they review films made in Portland.

He said he is looking forward to the new Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, which premiered in the United States yesterday. "I have very high expectations," he said.

Another more personal debut is expected soon for the Kidd family.

"I'm going to be the 'uni-papa' for my next project," said Kidd, whose wife is due with their first child next week. "I've gotten a lot of requests already. People want to see baby-piper on a unicycle, so I'll be working on that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2017, with the headline 'The Force is strong with the Unipiper'. Print Edition | Subscribe