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When You're A Meme: The Ballad Of Ken Bone


If the internet had a mascot — besides the Reddit alien -- it would be their hall of fame of human memes. Yes, I realize that would be a lot of mascots, but that is how the internet works.

You have some of the OG human memes like the melodic Tay Zonday...

or the inspiring work of this young man...

Ben is team "Charlie bit my finger."

Amory is team "Jessica's 'Daily Affirmation'."

And I, intern James, am team success kid:

I like to keep it #wholesome.

(And Meghan, popping in, is forever Awkward Sea Lion):

However there is definitely one human meme that, in my mind, is the epic-est. *Commence dramatic voice when reading*: In a country where political divisiveness was at an all-time high. Where an election had become so all consuming that the only thing we could agree on was that we wanted it to end. One man will put on his red sweater and step up to the call (made by Anderson Cooper) and ask....

And the legend of Ken Bone was born!

Ken quickly blew up on Twitter, Facebook, Gooogle, cable news!

He had a wholesome tune written about him.

He was the "it" Halloween costume.

Speaking as someone who was witness to the Halloween of Bone on a college campus, let me tell ya, that Halloween had weird vibes...

He was more searched for on Google than "Kardashian" and "cats."

So he basically broke the internet.

He was a human meme. And he was a meme who knew about memes. He told Ben "I've always been a big fan of internet culture, you know, memes and things that make me laugh. [...] I just didn't foresee myself being one." A meme who likes memes. Memeception!

Ken Bone, with his mustache and iconic sweater, was able to put a smile on our faces in a time when we'd forgotten what smiles were.


But unfortunately, our heroes only disappoint. Because it turns out...

His famous, sold-out-everywhere red sweater was a fluke. Ken told us, "My nice suit that I was going to wear was too small, and I had ripped the seam out of it and had to switch into something else. [...] And that's when my wife ran downstairs with the sweater for me."

Well that's a bummer, his iconic red sweater wasn't his planned garb. But that is forgivable, it can't get wor-


This is where Ben and Amory stepped in, to learn more about Ken Bone directly from the source.

First, the basics. Ken is a 35 year-old, Midwestern, middle-class American with a wife and a son he adores. He works in the energy sector, hence his energy-related question at the debate, and he says his job looks a lot like this:

Ken said, "The most familiar person you could think of that does my job is Homer Simpson."

To appease the masses of people who wanted to know more about Ken Bone in the wake of the presidential debate, he did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit.

The problem was, he used his one-and-only Reddit account, which he'd been using for more than a year before he went viral. This meant that the public could see his entire Reddit history. Ken told Ben and Amory, "I didn't think anything I had ever posted before was relevant or important."

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    But Redditors took issue with some of his comments — like the one where he called the killing of Travon Martin "justified." Ken told Ben and Amory, "I used the word justified, which was a poor word choice. What I meant by that comment, was George Zimmerman didn't do anything technically illegal. [...] What he did was shoot a kid. That's not right. But the way he did it wasn't against the law. And that's all I was trying to say."

    He had other noteworthy comments, like the one he made in the "PreggoPorn" community. Ken said he was just browsing random Not-Safe-For-Work subreddits when he stumbled upon a PreggoPorn post of pregnant women in bikinis and thought:

    People also focused in on a comment he made about his vasectomy. Ken was trying to offer support to someone who was scared of getting one, so he wrote:

    Ken told Ben and Amory, "that made me mad — people were saying that made me some kind of weirdo or a pervert, when I answered a person's question."

    Just 4 days after Ken Bone became an "American hero," the headlines changed. Dramatically.

    And then came the "think pieces," which basically concluded that Ken Bone's downfall was inevitable. Ken says, "I never pretended like I was some awesome superman or a paragon of Midwestern virtue and holiness, that's just what people kind of made out of me for a couple of days. And so they didn't know me as person; they didn't know that I am a flawed human being, like everyone else, who's just trying to do his best."

    Like many a viral moment, Ken's moment was just that — a moment. But he's still trying to do his best. He visits high schools and colleges around the country to give talks about the importance of being politically active, paying attention to the news and reading beyond the headlines.

    Ken wouldn't tell us who he voted for in the 2016 presidential election, but he did share a personal mantra of his: "I always tell myself, 'You're just a regular guy.' When I look at myself in the mirror, the first thing I usually see is my bald spot. It reminds me that I'm not perfect."

    Memes are people too, my friends.

    Thanks to Redditor u/Future_Mrs_Nic_Cage for this week's artwork. You can find her on Twitter and on Instagram at @lisa_bizzle.

    We're on Twitter at @endless_thread and on Reddit as /u/endless_thread. Subscribe to the podcast with Apple PodcastsStitcherRadioPublic or RSS.


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