5 Famous Internet Memes (And Their Lives After Fame)
I've looked into the often seedy, rarely happy post-fame lives of former internet celebrities not once, not twice, not thrice ... well, actually, it's been thrice. But counting today, it'll be four times (frice?). Most of you know how this works, but for those who don't: These people were plucked out of obscurity, turned into memes, and became mega internet famous. What I'm answering today is, what happened next? What happened when their 15 minutes were up? Usually something terrible that makes us all feel better about our own lives, to be honest.
Got it? Cool. Let's begin with the first non-human to make it into this series ...
The IKEA Monkey Was Legally Taken Away From His Owner, Lives In A Sanctuary
The Kennedy assassination. 9/11. The death of Bin Laden. We all remember where we were during those moments when the drama of real life made us feel the blow of history unfolding before us. The IKEA Monkey is one of those moments. At least, that's the way every overzealous asshole on the internet treated it when the news broke. You'd think that monkey had figured out cold fusion. Instead it was wearing a coat, shopping for new unpronounceable Swedish furniture after it somehow achieved freedom when its owner left it in the car while shopping in a Toronto-area IKEA. The story of the IKEA Monkey wasn't this single event, though. It was a saga.
"I can't believe I'm here to announce the capture of a goddamn monkey in a coat."
IKEA Monkey's name is Darwin. He's a Japanese macaque. Macaques of any nationality are considered exotic animals and cannot be owned as pets in Canada. So when Darwin escaped, he brought a lot of unwanted attention to his owner, a woman named Yasmin Nakhuda, who thought of Darwin as her child, like pet owners tend to do. Darwin was picked up by animal services and placed in a primate sanctuary the day after he made his worldwide debut in that IKEA. A contentious and lengthy legal battle ensued.
Nakhuda claimed the sanctuary had no right to seize Darwin. The sanctuary's lawyers fired back with the brilliant "Um, no" counter-argument and then cited a legal doctrine called ferae naturae, which states that wild animals are owned by whomever is in possession of them. The lawyers reached back more than a century to cite a case where a fox escaped its owner's home and was shot by a neighbor on the neighbor's lawn, which meant the neighbor technically owned the fox when he killed it, therefore making that all right somehow. Look, people were dumb back then, as we still are today, because the sanctuary was awarded the right to keep Darwin. He's having the time of his life in the sanctuary.
People made him look like Bane because Bane wore a coat too. Jesus Christ.
Nakhuda was left cold and monkeyless ... until she waved two defiant middle fingers at the Canadian justice system by buying herself two brand-new (and still illegal) Japanese macaques.
The "Dancing Pumpkin Head" Guy's Son Thinks His Dad Is Awesome
Matt Geiler was a news anchor for Omaha, Nebraska's CW affiliate, KXVO. He ran an anti-news news show and had to fill 22 minutes of airtime every night. He'd often resort to silly stunts and sketches to kill time. On Halloween night, his show had a two-minute gap that needed filling. Geiler took a jack-o'-lantern from the studio lobby, grabbed a black unitard from wardrobe, and fashioned the jack-o'-lantern into a mask by cutting it in half and rigging a coat hanger to act as a head strap. He told the producers to play the Ghostbusters theme song and toss a picture of a spooky graveyard scene on the green screen. He was going to dance those two minutes away. Geiler is a pro, goddammit.
And so, he danced. He danced like no one was watching. Since it was a CW affiliate in Omaha, it's very likely that no one was watching. There was no glory in it. He uploaded the video to the show's YouTube channel, and that was that. Just another day on the job. And then it became a viral hit for reasons every one of his sweet, sexually enticing dance moves makes abundantly clear.
Who ya gonna call? Ghostpunchers!
That was 2006. YouTube was only about a year old. The concept of a viral video star was in its infancy. Matt Geiler had no idea people would love his silly dance. He had no idea that people would mash up his dance with an array of songs and other memes. Here's a playlist of some of them.
Pumpkin dance to "Thong Song."
Pumpkin dance to a "Spooky Scary Skeletons" remix.
Pumpkin dance mashed up with the Epic Sax Guy.
Want to see his dance sync phenomenally well with a track from the indie video game Undertale? Here you go:
So what's the dark twist of his post-viral fame? That's what's great about Geiler's story: It doesn't have one. No downward spiral into dancing with the pumpkin mask for food or the sexual pleasure of Russian oligarchs. There isn't much to say about his life today, save for one heartwarming detail. At 12 years old, his son performed his dad's dance at a middle school talent show. That same son regularly seeks out cheap imitations of his dad's dance that people have posted online and corrects commenters who think it's the original video. He isn't embarrassed or ashamed of his father. He's proud to say that his dad was the guy in the pumpkin mask dancing like an idiot just to kill some airtime. What a great kid.
The Hot Felon Is Going To Be A Star. Maybe.
The story of the felon whose mugshot looks like a Calvin Klein cologne ad can be best told through his talent agent, Jim Jordan. Jordan is what's called a "mother agent." He finds raw talent, trains the client in the ways of the entertainment industry, and then sells the client off to the highest-bidding agent. Jordan gets a cut of their profits.
Jordan after getting his head stuck in an airplane toilet.
Jeremy Meeks is the hot felon's real name. Jordan found out about him the same way we all did -- as a viral picture attached to an unfortunate story. Meeks was arrested on felony weapons charges on June 18, 2014. The police department posted his mugshot on Facebook. Within 20 hours it had gained over 300,000 likes and 65,000 comments. The picture had the shit memed out of it. It was massive on Reddit, it was all over Facebook, and nightly newscast editorial teams all over the country thought they deserved Pulitzers for pairing the picture with the caption "Criminally Good Looking." Where the public saw a funny viral phenomenon, Jordan saw a business opportunity.
"Hello, Wall Street? Jim Jordan here. I'd like to stock market $10 billion
on Hot Felon memes, please."
Jordan signed Meeks to a contract while he was still serving time in federal prison. According to the writer of this New York Magazine profile of Meeks, Jordan is somewhat reminiscent of Donald Trump. Everything he says seems like it's been shamelessly embellished so he can project the image of a more successful and glamorous life than he actually has. Meeks hasn't done much since he was released. He got some job offers, and now he can replace that mugshot with an actual headshot:
He's on house arrest, so he models from his car in his driveway.
But if you really want to know what the future holds for Meeks, just look at the people who surround him now that he's out of prison. Specifically, Jim Jordan. I've introduced you to him, and now you will read his origin story, which I've copied and pasted directly from New York Magazine:
About a decade ago, in the wake of some "gnarly spiritual stuff" that culminated in a scene where Jordan found himself huddled in a fetal position on the floor of a Malibu church, speaking in tongues, while Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock watched from across the aisle, he had a Christian awakening. "And I started, like, going out into the world and looking to where need was," he tells me. "And you know, some people are like, I want to go to Haiti, and I want to go to Thailand, and I want to get orphans, and I want to get prostitutes off the street," he says. "I realized that my heart was to help beautiful people. This is my mission."
If that doesn't reassure you that Jeremy Meeks in is good hands, perhaps this will: Meeks also has an "entertainment manager" who is a former porn star and whose clients include Honey Boo Boo and Octomom.
Godspeed, you beautiful felon.
Tanning Mom's Life Is A Sad Downward Spiral Of Fame-Seeking
There's a subgenre of internet celebrity made up of people who've used their eccentric appearances in news reports as launching pads to stardom. The club includes the "Ain't Nobody Got Time For That" lady and the "They Rapin' Errbody Out Here" guy. Tanning Mom is another example that proves this club has really low barrier for entry.
Her real name is Patricia Krentcil. She became a viral star the second we laid eyes on her burnt face as she denied again and again that she had snuck her 5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth. The whole thing about her being arrested on child endangerment charges immediately took a backseat to her ridiculously deep tans, the degrees of which wavered between Donald Trump:
And a well-roasted campfire marshmallow:
Within months, she proved to be a classic case of someone who didn't have all their shit together suddenly being thrust into the spotlight, surrounded by a storm of controversy that was exasperated and prolonged by her need to be famous, all the while never realizing she had already become infamous. The story of Krentcil maybe burning her own daughter in a tanning booth as a possible extension of her own problems with "tanorexia" opened the door to a wide glamorous world with dozens of new, exciting ways to be a wreck. She was bumbling, stumbling drunk on the red carpet of a New York drag queen event; she emailed (and was harshly rejected by) porn production company Vivid Entertainment to find out if they wanted to film her having sex, which would probably look like bat wings flapping against a couch; she filmed a sexless cameo in a gay porn; and she made a horrendous music video for a terrible song she wrote and sang but could not remember the lyrics to when it came time to lip-sync.
Here's one more, in case you haven't gagged enough today.
By posting a third one, I think I summon some kind of charred demon.
And now, a rundown of a few miscellaneous bits from her post-fame life:
She may or may not have been kidnapped at one point.
She's boxed in sleazy celebrity boxing matches, one of them against some other pseudo-celebrity called MILF Mom. You can watch the first round of the match below, but don't. Please don't encourage this.
In happier news, she's given up tanning! Yay!
But she replaced her tanning obsession with Botox. Boo!
The Mental Health Struggles Of The "M'Lady Meme" Guy Prepared Him For The Horrors Of Internet Fame
One man was caught in the middle of the bloody and stupid war between Gamergaters and all of the reasonable people on Earth. This man had not chosen a side in the war. Yet, still, he was dragged into the fight, both sides using his face to slander the other.
Gamergaters would claim that neckbearded, fedora-wearing "white knights" look like this ...
While everyone else who thinks the "ethics in game journalism" argument is a horseshit cover for outright misogyny said Gamergaters were neckbeared, fedora-wearers who look like this ...
The guy in the picture couldn't catch a break. That guy's name is Jerry Messing. Jerry was a child actor. He played Pugsly in the direct-to-video movie Addams Family Reunion. Here he is showing off his acting chops in one of the greatest shows ever, Freaks And Geeks, where he had a recurring role as one of the ancillary geeks, Gordon Crisp.
Holy shit. He was even in a Mr. Show With Bob And David sketch.
That now-famous picture of him tipping his trilby (it's not a fedora) was one of Messing's headshots. The internet gods randomly selected it to be the mascot of the fabled fedora-clad neckbeard subspecies of geek. Gamergate became a thing and Messing's face got dragged into the horrible, putrid muck of the controversy. Imagine your face suddenly having a negative connotation attached to it and countless people posting it all over the internet to disparage others. Sounds like a nightmare. It would tear most people apart. Luckily, all of it hit Messing at the right time in his life. Any earlier could have been disastrous.
You might feel anxious sometimes, but there's a good chance your anxiety isn't so paralyzing that the government considers it a handicap and you receive monthly disability checks to make up for the cash you want to work for but are psychologically unable to. That was Messing's situation in the years prior to becoming the "M'lady meme" guy. His life was ruled by catastrophic moments of intense fear. It was so bad, there was a point where he couldn't bring himself to leave his home. He was self-imprisoned for two months.
He worked through it. He stopped acting, deciding to focus on getting better. And he did, slowly, over time. Once he felt like he had some control over the fear he tried to get back into acting. He took some new headshots, and one of them became a hurtful meme.
Talking about it after the fact, Messing sounds at peace with his memeification, if not entirely happy with how it's been used and why.
"I'm certainly not thrilled with the communities the photo has come to represent," he said, "but it isn't something I can really do anything about -- so I don't let it bother me."
You might be one of the people who loathes the type of person the M'Lady meme represents -- whoever that is in your head -- but you might learn something about moving on from that anger from the meme's subject.
"It would be very easy to be angry and spiteful, but what purpose would it serve? It wouldn't do me any good. Nothing has any meaning, save for the meaning we decide to give it. And ultimately, who am I going to be shaking my fist at?"
With a quote like that, Jerry Messing should be the new Success Kid.
Zoroastrianism used to be one of the biggest religions in the world, but their idea of heaven had a slight twist on it: to get there you'd have to cross a bridge. Sometimes rickety, sometimes wide and sturdy, if you fell off you'd go to the House of Lies for eternity. Fun! Not terrifying at all! This month, Jack, Dan, and Michael along with comedians Casey Jane Ellison and Ramin Nazer as they discuss their favorite afterlife scenarios from movies, sci-fi and lesser-known religions. Get your tickets here and we'll see you on the other side of the bridge!
To check up on more of your favorite internet celebrities read What 5 Internet Celebrities Did After They Got Famous and also check out what Rebecca Black's been up to in What 4 Internet Celebrities Did After They Got Famous (Part 2).
Also follow us on Facebook where you'll find celebrity sightings in the comments the likes of Hubert Baldwin, Michael B Jordan's hair stylist, and Howard Stern. (The attorney, not the radio personality.)