I once asked a comedian how he got the courage to do stand up. He’d just finished a gut-busting set that endowed every audience member with six-pack abs. The response he gave will probably stick with me forever. “Everyone wants to be funny,” he said, “but no one wants to be laughed at. The minute you realize that they’re the same thing is when your fear goes away.”
I suppose it’s the lack of control associated with the latter that makes people uncomfortable. When someone laughs at you, it’s usually unintentional on your end. You have zero control over the catalyst that inspired the mockery they hurl in your direction. In opposition, when the trigger behind their laughter is under your control, the same response from the audience becomes pleasurable. Possessing an ego that’s malleable enough to divorce your intentions from whatever response reality offers you, even if oppositional, is impressive trait. There’s a beautiful amount of receptivity inherent in the concept that reflects the most ancient Zen teachings.
The same idea applies to fame. Most people want to be famous, but very few people aspire to be a meme. The minute you become a meme, you lose control of the audience’s perception of you. We judge celebrities based on the field of endeavor they pursue. When a random person becomes a meme, we just judge them. Someone’s moment of intense vulnerability can inexplicably become the cornerstone of the next big meme. And the scariest part is that it could potentially happen to anyone. Right now, you’re probably sitting on a picture that could be your gateway to immortality via mockery. Could you handle everyone on the internet offering their interpretation of you?
The dude in the video linked above, named Michael Mcgee, seems pretty chill about it. Since Mcgee was attempting to become a meme, he couldn’t care less about whether the audience was laughing with him or at him. He made the same realization as my comedian friend. “When you’re facing a laughing audience, what’s the difference?”