Michael "Mikey" Bergin and his friend Jason "Jay" Foster have become Internet video celebrities, thanks to their raucous, expletive-laden discovery of an ocean sunfish near Boston. But what happens after a viral video vaults two unsuspecting stars to fame?
Mikey's sister Leanne Bergin, who is now also his agent, discusses the promises and pitfalls of social media stardom with Here & Now's Robin Young.
On waking up to a viral video
“We went to sleep and woke up and there were hundreds of thousands of views, tons of comments, and I said 'oh boy this could be something.' Before it went viral, I went, 'oh here’s Michael again swearing,' you know? So to me it wasn’t a surprise.”
On Michael’s past
'He has a big heart - he’s had a very tough life, he has a past, had a battle with drugs, he’s been sober for almost three years now so when I saw this I said wow this is his opportunity to get some positive attention for the first time in his life. I also wanted to protect my big brother so I went to work right away, making sure I did that. ... We talked about it, my brother hasn’t hid who he was through all of this. I said 'listen guys, this could go away as quickly as it came, you have not been pillars of the community. But everybody gets a second chance in life, why are you not worthy of blessings?'"
On getting calls from reality TV shows
“A lot of suggestions were average – ‘let’s take Mikey and Jay around the world and show them ridiculous things and get their reaction’, and you know it’s a sick world we live in. This criminal background thing has fueled [the reality shows], they want them more now. And that’s why I’m here, I don’t want to see them exploited either.”
On going viral while battling recovery
“I know where my brother is in his recovery. Is this a lot? Yeah it absolutely is. But opioid addiction is an epidemic and if Michael can be an example and help people that are also going through the struggle I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Am I worried for his sobriety? Absolutely. We talk about cyberbullying all the time, for us to spend almost eight days bringing somebody up to tear them down, I think it’s unfortunate.”
On the licensing agreement with Jukin Media
“They take care of licensing, they also protect and promote the video. Michael still owns the video however Jukin can go after infringement. So if somebody makes a parody of his voice or creates another video that doesn’t get Michael’s video the view, they go after. We worked out a revenue split, so every click and license to the video, Michael makes money. Nobody’s leaving their day job, nobody’s rich, unless he gets signed to a big reality show, that’s where the money would come in. But for going on a boat with your buddy, he’s made more than he did the day before that… let’s just say that.”
- Leanne Bergin, Michael Bergin's sister, and agent. She tweets @LeanneBergin.
This segment aired on October 2, 2015.
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