The Spanish comedian inspired dozens of memes and viral videos.

By Andrea Towers and Rosy Cordero
April 29, 2021 at 01:34 PM EDT
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Juan Joya Borja, the Spanish comedian and actor who went viral for his iconic laugh that brought joy and memes to the world, died on Wednesday at the age of 65.

Borja had been receiving ongoing treatment for an unknown illness at the Hospital de la Caridad in Seville where he resided since a leg amputation in 2020, before suffering a relapse on Thursday. He was transported to Hospital Virgen del Rocío in the same city where he died at midday local time due to complications of the same condition, according to EFE.

Juan Joya Borja
Spanish comedian and actor Juan Joya Borja, El Risitas
| Credit: VICTOR LERENA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Affectionally known as "El Risitas" ("The Giggles"), Borja obtained his infamous nickname after appearing on a Spanish variety show from Jesus Quintero called Ratones Coloraos. While telling a story about working at a restaurant and throwing 20 paella dishes into the ocean — only to find them swept away the next day — Borja started laughing and couldn't stop. The moment almost immediately went viral, earning Borja his nickname and also an abundance of devoted fans who delighted in his sharp personality.

Spanish actor and director Santiago Seguro shared a tribute to Borja on Thursday.

"Sad news...Juan Joya has died," he posted via Twitter in Spanish. "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."

Although Borja became famous in his native country almost immediately due to this interview, his second life as a meme (and as a widely known viral sensation) came in 2014, when the world found the clip on YouTube and uploaded it using their own captions to tell their own stories. Whatever the reason for someone to laugh — whether it was an Apple engineer reacting to the new iPhone or a fight about Brexit — Borja was there to add laughter to the moment. He appeared in parody videos and comedic skits online, particularly in the world of gaming and Esports, where his likeness became a Twitch emote.

ABC Sevilla reports the brotherhood de la Santa Caridad will take care of Borja's funeral and burial, two of his dying wishes. The brotherhood often finances similar acts on behalf of the poor and destitude in their community.

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