Bad Luck Brian: People Often Don't Realize That The Photo Was Made On Purpose (Interview)
Familiar face, which you must've seen thousand times as a meme reaction to a situation, came through Slovakia. Kyle Craven shared his perspective on his online fame.
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Bad Luck Brian - real name Kyle Craven - became famous with a photo that was published on Reddit in 2012. It quickly turned into a cult meme, which people most often use to describe embarrassing or unpleasant situations.
Kyle visited Slovakia as a part of a campaign for a dental clinic, appearing in its digital campaign, but the well-known meme also appears on a billboard in Bratislava. "We often receive bold offers, usually on Instagram, to engage in advertising campaigns. I would say that 98% of them don't happen, " Kyle told us at the beginning of our conversation. Usually marketers are excited about the idea, but their clients don't like it or they just don't have the budget. This time, however, it worked out and he got to walk his first steps in Europe on the streets of Bratislava.
Kyle and I talked about his life, work and family. He told us how he spent the pandemic, what he did with all the money he earned and which meme is his favorite.
What do you think about Slovakia, Kyle? Did we make a good impression on you?
I really like the country. I've already tasted a few local specialties, but I still can't say anything in Slovak language.
The meme with your face is called Bad Luck Brian, but in interviews you often say that you are very lucky in life.
I am, especially in contests. I've already won with PSP and Xbox, but I've also won in some lotteries.
Your photo from 2012 is easily found everywhere on the internet. How do you determine the value of something that everyone knows and practically everyone uses? Do you have a minimum charge for a license that you wouldn't go under?
That depends on many factors. The fee for online use, for example, is minimal. But we've also done some things for free with some non-profit organizations. I have no problem with that whatsoever. But you're right, anyone can use that photo, technically. We only interfere when there's companies or people using it to make a profit.
You and Ian have sold the original photo just a few months ago as an NFT on an auction that took place on Foundation. The final price was 20 ethereum, which at the time was about $ 36,000. What did you do with the money - did you keep the cryptocurrency or cash it in?
We've left them invested and shared the profit.
Which actually means that you don't have 36,000 at the moment. Quite theoretically, before our conversation is over, you could be broke.
(laughs) Yup, you're totally right. There is a certain risk. In any case, we do not have any plans for our cryptocurrency. For now we're just leaving it loosely invested.
What do you think about the NFT market or digital assets?
I love it. It's the best thing I've ever tried! (smirk)
Well, I certainly don't think you have as much power as Elon Musk to suddenly increase the value of the cryptocurrency with your statement ...
(burst of laughter) Even more people should invest in it.
But no, honestly. At first me and Ian didn't understand much of it. We were approached by the author of the Nyan Cat meme, who sold his own for about half a million dollars. He continues to sell other NFTs, which we are as well. We have sold another three.
Have you already bought an NFT?
We've already considered it, we're closely watching the crypto market and we'll see when I actually buy something. I own two NFTs, both of which I've received as a gift.
Speaking of money, can you tell me how much you've made with the meme? I'd be interested in your advertising revenue from the McDonald's ad, for example.
I'm not sure if I can tell you. We have signed a non-disclosure agreement. (laughter) But earnings change from one year to another. Sometimes we earn good money and some other times we don't earn anything.
All right, so how about you give me at least an approximate amount. What do you consider good earnings?
Anything over ten thousand dollars a year is good for us.
Working with licenses and campaigns is not your regular job. How do you make a living?
I own a construction company. We mainly work on churches and religious buildings. Recently, we've completed a building project for Jaguar Land Rover, but we've also worked on some veterinary clinics.
Do you yourself work on construction sites or are you more of a manager?
Our company is responsible for the design and construction of each building. But we don't do it directly on the construction site. We outsource everything.
When did you first realize that your photo was becoming a phenomenon and you might need to consider licensing?
Almost immediately after it exploded, we began to hear from licensing companies. They wanted to secure exclusive rights and proceed to sell the license to make T-shirts and other merch, for example. We did not agree with the exclusivity, found a lawyer and solved it with his help.
But those phone calls and emails started coming in right away, so we immediately knew something was up.
What did you first buy with the license money?
Honestly speaking, we didn't really spend any of our extra money. We will either use it for our trips or invest it somewhere.
Do you regularly go on trips with Ian? Do you guys take your families along?
Ian lives in LA and I live in Cleveland, so we don't get to see each other that often, maybe once a year. But we call or text every day. We've been best friends since second grade.
You've said that you didn't spend much of the money from the meme. How would you then describe your relationship to money?
I'd say I'm conservative. There are a few necessities that we have to buy and we we'll use the money for that, but besides that, we don't spend much. On top of that, there are years when we don't earn anything, so we don't even have anything to spend. (smile)
The pandemic has left its mark on people's mental well-being over the last two years. For many, humor, perhaps even memes, was often one of the ways to deal with the pain. How did you experience the pandemic and the lockdown yourself?
I don't think I created any new memes with my face over the last year... We still do it, but we usually just send them to each other privately.
The past year and a half has been tough. It was also quite busy - pandemic aside. I have two small children, so I'm always busy. At home it wasn't so bad and we didn't have full lockdowns. I just had more time for my family.
Your face is almost everywhere. You've appeared in an ad for McDonald's in 2018, made a few other campaigns and now you are even smiling at me with your braces from the billboard in Bratislava. Does it ever bother you that you see your face all over the place?
No, it has never bothered me. Really never. (laughter)
People keep saying, "Oh, it must be so hard to be an Internet star," and I always tell them that it's not true. It's the best to be an internet meme, because I no longer look like I did in that photo. Nobody knows about it at work and I'm not even bragging about it myself.
Few people recognize me, maybe once every few months someone will notice. Usually when I do an interview for the media or when a new video comes out. For example when a video for Buzzfeed was released, certain people connected the dots.
Do they ever pity you for spreading such an embarrassing photo of yourself on the Internet?
Yes. Many people don't realize I took the picture on purpose. It's not a failed photo and it didn't even end up in my yearbook.
What about the reactions of girls, or girlfriends? Did ever you manage to impress someone with your fame?
My wife and I have been a couple since we were sixteen, so the picture was taken during our relationship. She was not excited. (laughter)
Why?She was a year older than me, I was a junior and she was a senior at the time in high school. So the photograph would ruin her graduation yearbook. She was really pissed. (laughs) Eventually I had new photos taken and those are relatively normal.
What about your children? I assume they're aware of the meme.
Yes, they know the guy in the picture is me. We even have a doll at home that looks the same way, so they run around with it and scream: Look, Dad, it's you!
Do you think they will grow up to be as mischievous as you were?
I hope so. I still like to mess with people to this day. I'm still doing it.
What kind of practical joke or prank do you like to reminisce on?
During high school years, Ian and I used to throw banana peels under people's feet, and they always slipped on them and fell. (laughter)
You started uploading videos on YouTube at some point - it was at a time when BuzzFeed was showing interest in meme characters. You have also collaborated with others, such as Overly Attached Girlfriend (real name Laina Morris), but you're not adding any videos anymore. Would you ever like to return to your career as a YouTuber?
Not at all, we even ended up deleting some of the videos. It didn't make us much money, yet it had cost us quite a lot of time - especially because of the distance between us, since Ian lives far away from me.
What's the funniest item you've seen your picture on?
Once I saw a target, that was pretty good. There's also a stuffed toy that has feces painted on its ass (reference to one of the first memes where the point of the joke is the "shits" - editor's note).
Do you have a favorite meme with your picture?
My favorite is probably about parents: "Parents get divorced. No one wants custody."
And what about other memes that you like?
I like the oldschool ones like Scumbag Steve. Because each of us probably knows such a jerk (Scumbag Steve usually references to opportunists or freeloaders - editor's note).
In total, there were only a few memes, maybe 15 tops, each one of them covering a particular emotion or situation. Nowadays a lot is being created very quickly and none of them really catch on.
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