For a brief history lesson that may entertain for a few seconds, “meme” is essentially a term that refers to an idea, behavior or otherwise item of cultural significance, that spreads from person to person. For the purposes of most of us however, a meme is just another aspect of the internet that causes us to waste time and get nothing done. Depending on your views on internet based memes, this may be awesome or a sad reality; but memes are becoming a significant method of interaction.
Did a friend post what you consider to be an obvious and pointless “realization” on Facebook? Sudden Clarity Clarence is there for you. Did you just make a profound realization and want to creatively share it with your friends? It may be time for a Philosoraptor. Did your significant other just do something unexpected but pleasant between the sheets? ME GUSTA! Finally, if you decided to do something violent, destructive and ultimately horrible, my own personal favorite; Insanity Wolf is at your service. Of course, these are all advice animals, just one subsection of the internet’s vast labyrinth of wasted time and pseudo-creativity that we know as memes.
But they aren’t all wastes of time. Given the nearly never-ending amount of money now circulating the online world, advertising can now be found everywhere and meme creators have been making money off their ideas, videos and pictures for years. Here are twelve of the memes that have made their creators money. None of these numbers are completely exact, as many of these people don’t publicize numbers, but they do show how some creativity and a funny, viral product can lead to either a bit of passive side income or a complete change of lifestyle.
12. Kyle Craven – Bad Luck Brian
That hilarious photo of the awkward looking kid making a weird smile with captions depicting the worst luck in the history of man is number twelve, starting off our list. Kyle Craven originally dressed up and smiled that way as a gag, but years later, his friend posted the picture online and it went viral. At the time of the picture, he was actually forced by his principal to retake the photo.
After the popularity of the meme exploded, Craven enjoyed money from products such as t-shirts, ad campaigns and some YouTube videos and claims to have made around $20,000. He now works with his father’s construction business, but having an extra twenty grand to his name couldn’t hurt.
11. Rick Astley – Rick Roll
The song came out back in 1987, and just a few years later, Astley retired from music. After over a decade out of music, his song gained notoriety with a new generation when its video was used by online pranksters. While some have reported that because he was not the writer of the lyrics, nor played the music, and was just the performer, he made less than twenty dollars, Astley himself indicated to metro.co.uk that he had earned “quite a bit of money from it”. As he never discussed details, there is no sure number.
10. Antoine Dodson – Hide Yo’ Kids, Hide Yo’ Wife!
For one young man and his family, a nice little pile of money results from a near tragedy. An intruder had broken into their home, and attempted to sexually assault his sister but when a news crew arrived on scene, an on-air tirade earned then 24-year old Antoine Dodson national renown. His catch-phrase, “hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wife” was auto-tuned by the Gregory Brothers, selling over 200,000 copies on iTunes. A video of his rant was the most watched video of 2010. Through his own fundraising, ad sales and products having to do with his notoriety, Dodson claimed to have been able to move his family out of their former neighborhood. His total earnings from his video and related products is estimated around $50,000.
9. Keyboard Cat/Nyan Cat
Love them or hate them, cats own the internet. Keyboard Cat and Nyan Cat are two very different memes, but both have and continue to earn money. For some background, Keyboard Cat is an old video of a feline playing a keyboard, with his arms controlled by his owner; Charles Schmidt. Nyan Cat is an animated cat who floats through space with a pop tart body with a (subjectively) catchy song in the background.
When these two cats were used in a video game made by Warner Brothers, Schmidt and Chris Torres (Nyan Cat’s creator) sued the company. They won the lawsuit and have been paid an undisclosed amount for the use of their creations in the games.
8. Samwell – What What (In the Butt)
The highly suggestive video from back in 2007, “What What (In the Butt)”, earned singer Samwell some interesting recognition as an internet celebrity. The video (along with a couple more on our list) was referenced in a brilliant South Park Episode, “Canada on Strike”. The notoriety has reportedly earned Samwell a steady stream of money since 2007, with numerous talk show appearances and interviews, a few other songs and videos and a couple of film appearances.
7. Paul Vasquez – Double Rainbow
Back in 2010, Paul Vasquez, who also goes by the name “Bear”and “Yosemite Bear” posted a video of his reaction to seeing a double rainbow. He didn’t go completely berserk, but Vasquez was clearly in some higher level of awe. His video results in over forty million views on YouTube and a couple of television appearances. He was also contacted by Microsoft for an ad a couple of years ago. While the amounts he was paid for these deals was not made entirely clear, Vasquez’ video certainly earned him some fairly easy money.
6. Gary Brolsma – Numa Numa
Gary Brolsma made a video of himself dancing and lip-syncing a popular European dance song back in 2004. He originally uploaded it to Newgrounds.com but later to YouTube. The song in question is actually “Dragostea Din Tei” sung in Romanian by a band called O-zone, which wasn’t well known in the United States at the time, but was a massive hit in Europe.
Brolsma’s video went viral, and he has been a highly considered internet based celebrity ever since. He has been a part of many other popular videos and has been featured on several talk shows, and continues to appear at various events. It is unknown exactly how much he has earned during his time as an internet personality, but it has been suggested it is between $50,000 and $100,000.
5. Laina Morris – Overly Attached Girlfriend
After uploading a video to YouTube as part of a Justin Bieber related contest, in which she pretended to be a possessive, near-stalker girlfriend, Laina Morris achieved internet stardom in the form of an advice animal type meme on top of her YouTube channel. When she isn’t wide eyed and making jokes about GPS devices, Morris is actually a fairly normal girl, apart from being the face of unhealthy relationships.
She has continued to make videos and has over a million YouTube subscribers. Furthermore, she has appeared on TV a few times and also uses her fame to raise money for charitable causes.
4. David After Dentist
After a trip to the dentist, young David Devore acted a bit (okay, maybe a lot) silly from the drugs, and since early 2009, the video taken by his father has practically been the basis for the Devore family’s second income. While they already made plenty of money through YouTube, there have also been plenty of licensing deals for the family, which have reportedly earned them over $150,000. Not too shabby for just taking their kid to a regular dentist visit.
3. Charlie Bit Me
A baby bit a toddler’s finger and the internet completely lost it. The video started slow but gradually built up several million views. The family has since earned a ton of money, and not just from the video and ad revenue itself, but also from ad campaigns with companies such as Google and Sprint, not to mention shirt sales, other products, more videos their own YouTube channel and cameos on other channels. Wow. It is estimated that the Davies-Carr family have earned over half a million dollars since the video first hit the web.
2. Tay Zonday – Chocolate Rain
Way back in 2007, the Tay Zonday’s video “Chocolate Rain”was extremely popular and went viral, earning him instant recognition, despite a lack of formal singing training and a simple recording system. Zonday’s song dealt with racial issues in the United States, but his celebrity career since has been much more lighthearted. For the last eight years, Zonday has been included in many commercials, on numerous talk shows and is estimated to have earned well over half a million dollars.
1. Tabetha Bundesen/Tardar Sauce – Grumpy Cat
Remember when I said something to the effect that “cats rule the internet”? Well, Tardar Sauce (Grumpy Cat) is their queen. Over the past couple of years, her delightful frowny face has become the go-to meme for anyone trying to express any negative emotion from slight displeasure to absolute rage. Her owner, Tabetha Bundesen, has been able to quit her day job, as ad campaigns for pet foods and a list of other companies have rolled in, along with book and movie deals.
Some sources have claimed Grumpy Cat to have earned over $100 million dollars, but Bundesen has indicated that such a number is way off. Suffice it to say, the beloved kitty, who owes her pout face to a case of feline dwarfism, has earned her grateful owner millions.
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