Internet Famous: Kevin Mack: "My Life"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Kevin Mack’s accidental foray into internet fame was a case of spontaneous combustion that started with lunch at the North Market.

“I rarely eat lunch, because I'm usually very busy during lunch, but there was a day, and I was hungover, and I was like, I need to eat food,” said Mack, a consultant for a technology firm.

During that lunch break, Mack was approached by anAlive writer for a weekly person-on-the-street feature. That week’s question: What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received? Mack’s off-the-cuff response: My life.

“That was the first thing that literally came to my mind at that time,” said Mack. “And he was like, oh, OK. Can I take your photo?” Mack posed with a sad face. As he and a friend walked away, a friend questioned his judgment.

“My friend was, like, ‘That was super dark. Are you sure you want that printed out there?’” said Mack. “I was like, yeah, I don't care. It's justColumbus Alive. My friend was trying to be the voice of reason.”

When the December 15, 2011, issue ofAlive came out, Mack thought some of his friends in local bands would get a kick out of his answer, and he was right. “I get a text from my friend Mary Lynn (Gloeckle),” said Mack. “She's like, oh my god, I just sawColumbus Alive. That's so perfect. Classic K-Mack.”

Mack laughed and told Gloeckle to post it to Facebook and tag him. She did. Then another friend posted it to her Tumblr. Then things got weird. “I never was and never really have been a huge Tumblr fan, and I didn't even really know what it meant. What's the phrase for ‘Tumbling’?” said Mack. “It had so many of those in a couple hours. It was outrageous.”

From there, the usual suspects of aggregation sites took over, as Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post and more made Mack the official face of holiday bummers (and millions of pageviews).

Mack takes his internet fame in the same dry humor as his original joke. “I'm always amazed. Like, well, I said a funny thing once. That was clever,” Mack deadpanned. “And now I never have to say anything else again.”

And he actually may not. Mack’s meme life has had surprising staying (and traveling) power, popping up annually around the holidays and in ubiquitous Buzzfeed lists (“29 Things That Escalated Way Too Quickly”). “The weird thing about it is the geographic location of it. I saw a Spanish version of it, so it was translated, which is cool,” said Mack. “But people from other countries … like all of a sudden I'll get a bunch of friend requests from like Australia or some country I've never even heard of and I have to look it up.”

As for why this joke went viral? “I don't know. Maybe it was a combo,” Mack said. “Right place at the right time. Good holiday dark joke. We all need those.”

He’s also been the recipient of hundreds of interactions with strangers via Facebook and other social media sites. Most get the joke. Some reach out with genuine — albeit misplaced — concern. “You don't know me, you just saw this photo, but you went out of your way to look me up and send me a private message on Facebook,” said Mack. “I'm like, I'm literally OK, and I don't know how to respond.”

“I always send back a Facebook sticker, because that seems like the best way to do it. My go-to is the ‘Ahoy’ sailor guy. Classic. There's no other way to interpret that: ‘Oh, this person's clearly a goofjob!’”

Mack generally gets a kick out the comment section (“My favorite would be when people were making fun of me. I find that to be the funniest thing out there.”), but he’d warn any future internet-famous people to have a thick skin when the comments get vicious.

“Things I could never imagine saying about my worst enemy in person, but some 12-year-old kid in, like, Missouri. That's what he wanted to say. It's a weird, weird world.”