Twice before I've had moments when I needed to know what happened to the Internet celebrities that exploded onto our screens as viral stars (usually against their will) and then faded away as quickly as they appeared. The Internet has proven itself to be the premier manufacturer of people seeking their 15 minutes of fame and who refuse to let it go when time expires. What happens to them when the fame fades? Let's find out:
#4. Tay Zonday Has Carved Out A Nice Little Niche For Himself
The Balls Cabaret [giggle] is a long-running live show in Minneapolis featuring amateur comedians, singers, actors, poets, and authors. It has helped launch the careers of Maria Bamford and Nick Swardson, and it gave the world Joel Hodgson, the creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Pretty big names.
There's one more name they can add to their list of illustrious alumni: Adam Nyerere Bahner. Adam played all around Minneapolis during his college years, mostly open mics. Lamenting that keyboards were much clunkier than a guitar -- and therefore couldn't be played on street corners as easily -- he figured YouTube could be his street corner. He came up with the name "Tay Zonday" by throwing together random sounds. He stuck with it only after a Google search yielded no results.
He posted his first video, an original arrangement of Pachelbel's "Canon In D" in February 2007. He posted his first original song on April 12. Ten days later, he posted his second -- "Chocolate Rain":
And then the world lost its goddamn mind. Human beings were physically unable to prevent themselves from watching the video. In 200 years, future humans will classify it as a legitimate case of mass hysteria.
There was hardly a show Tay Zonday didn't make an appearance on. Tosh.0, Jimmy Kimmel Live! -- he performed "Chocolate Rain" on Maury, the show where dudes dance when paternity tests prove they didn't impregnate the psycho who made them take a paternity test on Maury.
He starred in a Dr Pepper commercial. In a Super Bowl commercial for Vizio TVs, Tay Zonday is the third lead behind Beyonce and Numa Numa guy.
He was interviewed by Good Morning America twice. TWICE. What do you talk to Tay Zonday about a second time?
Robin Roberts: "So, tell me: Are you still that guy who sang that song ... what was it called?"
Tay Zonday: "'Chocolate Rain.' And yes."
Robin Roberts: "Yes to what?"
Tay Zonday: "That was me. Who sang the song. 'Chocolate Rain.' You know, Chooo-coo-laaate Raaa-iii-"
Robin Roberts: "Yeah, yeah. I, uh, I get it. I remember."
Tay Zonday: "OK."
Robin Roberts:"Wow. Still you who did that ..."
Tay Zonday: "Yeah."
Robin Roberts: "Okie-dokie. Well, after the break Dr. Cornel West is in for a hair-raising makeover from resident makeoverologist Sharon Blernz. Stay tuned. Thanks, Chocolate."
Tay Zonday: "It's Tay."
Tay Zonday made it big with very little. Not even NASA could predict the trajectory of Tay Zonday's career. So, what's Chocolate been up to?
After The Fame
He sang the main theme from Skyrim:
And he does a spot-on impression of Three Dog from Fallout 3:
Tay is still singing. It's mostly covers of hit songs. But his bread and butter nowadays is Let's Play videos on Twitch. It's mostly a lot of him playing Hearthstone. It's a lot of Hearthstone. If you want to watch Tay Zonday playing Hearthstone for four and a half hours, here -- do it. I dare you.
Recently, he started venturing out beyond the Internet. He has a recurring role on Adult Swim's The Jack And Triumph Show:
Tay Zonday isn't cranking out "Chocolate Rains" every week, but he's found a groove that he's mostly sticking to, occasionally venturing out to try something new. Ten years ago he was on track to get a Ph.D. but left academia to entertain people with his unique brand of Internet silliness. Every video and every voiceover he records from his home recording studio pays his bills. That's a pretty good life.
#3. Red Shirt Guy Is Still Going To BlizzCon And Is A World Of Warcraft Celebrity
Every year the makers of World Of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment, host a convention called BlizzCon, a yearly gathering where big news is broken and merriment is had. The con regularly features a lore panel, a question-and-answer session where fans can ask the game's story writers anything they want about Warcraft's sprawling plot.
At BlizzCon 2010, a kid wearing a bright red polo stepped up to the microphone. The question he asked tore the world (of Warcraft) asunder.
For those who didn't watch the video: The kid -- in a voice that suggests he's not fucking around -- brought up a discrepancy between the game and a World Of Warcraft book titled The Shattering. The book claimed that a character named Falstad Wildhammer was on the Council Of Three Hammers, but in the game he was replaced by Kurdran Wildhamm- aaand you don't care. In short: The dude in red pointed out that Blizzard's lore keepers had made a continuity error.
The panelists thanked the kid in red for pointing that out and vowed to correct the issue. The kid in red thanked them and walked away, stone-faced, to resounding applause. A fan had stumped the writers of the most popular video game in the galaxy and just walked away like it ain't shit.
The footage made its way online, and an Internet celebrity was born.
There must be some kind of Internet celebrity gift basket that someone mails to the random person the Internet has decided to make famous on any given day. It probably includes some artisanal cheeses, maybe a free membership to a high-end spa, as well as an autotune remix of their viral video:
And some clever Photoshopped images to honor the person being ordained:
Red Shirt Guy, as the Internet collectively called the person whose real name is Ian Bates, from Parkland, Florida, had officially become Internet famous. He was mentioned on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Lopez Tonight (back when that was a thing), and even got a write-up in his local newspaper. Ian's dad is the co-host of a popular morning radio show in Miami. Every morning during that time I was able to hear Ian's dad exude fatherly pride as his son became something of a celebrity in the community that mattered so much to him. It was heartwarming.
Here's the best part: Shortly after his first question in 2010, Blizzard honored Ian by making him a non-playable character in the game:
That's Wildhammer Fact Checker, aka Red Shirt Guy, aka Ian Bates. So don't ever let anyone tell you you're too big a nerd. Eventually, you could end up as a character in the most played MMO in the world.
Ian got his 15 minutes. But what, exactly, does a person do with their lives when their big claim to fame is bringing up continuity errors to video game developers?
After The Fame
They keep doing it.
Do you know someone who, even after all these years, is still the exact person they were in high school? That's where Ian Bates is at with his fame. He began as the guy asking hyper-specific Warcraft questions at a convention Q&A and is still that person as of BlizzCon 2014. Here are the questions he's asked since his world debut in 2010:
2012: (Ian did not ask a question this year; he was too busy crushing pussy.)
What's impressive is that his questions rattle the Blizzard panelists every single time. They squirm in their seats and give each other "No, you talk" looks. In those moments they're all thinking the same thing: Why haven't we thought about the game as much as this guy has?
None of these are situations like the classic SNL sketch where William Shatner lays into Star Trek fans when they ask obsessive questions about Captain Kirk. Ian's asking well-thought-out questions to the only people on Earth who should be expected to answer them off the top of their heads -- people who craft every millimeter of that fictional world and know it inside and out. But once a year this red-clad mad man enters their lives with his big swinging dick and makes them look like nervous stoners that a high school chemistry teacher woke from a nap to make them answer a question about covalent bonds.
You can especially hear it in the BlizzCon 2014 Q&A. Here's a transcript of the first three words exchanged between Ian and a Blizzard panelist when Ian stepped up to the mic:
Blizzard Person: "Oh shit."
See that? You know what that is?