Here's the Real Story of 'Bad Luck Brian' Meme

Kyle Craven has made about $20K from his awkward high school photo
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2015 11:40 AM CST
Updated Jan 10, 2015 7:00 PM CST
An Internet Meme's Real Life: Building Churches
Poor Brian.   (Bad Luck Brian Meme Generator)

Kyle Craven is a 25-year-old guy who lives with his wife and dog in Ohio and builds churches for a living, but he's got a secret that might surprise those who first meet him: He's a meme. Thanks to Ian Davies, an old buddy who submitted Craven's geeky high school photo—complete with plaid sweater vest and a mouth full of braces—to Reddit three years ago, Craven became known as "Bad Luck Brian": His likeness went viral, accompanied by user-generated text that poked fun of "Brian's" often unfortunate conundrums (check out featured memes on one of the various Bad Luck Brian Meme Generator sites). To date, Craven estimates he's made between $15,000 and $20,000 from licensing and T-shirt deals, he tells Jessica Contrera, another former school acquaintance who interviewed him for the Washington Post.

Craven first found out about his online notoriety when he got a voice mail from Davies in January 2012 that said, "Dude, I just made you Internet-famous," Contrera writes. (Craven was also able to hold onto some anonymity since Davies thought "Bad Luck Brian" sounded catchier than "Bad Luck Kyle.") His photo soon entered meme territory, garnering Craven invites to Internet conventions, T-shirts with his face on them, "Bad Luck Brian" stuffed animals, and spots in Volkswagen and RealPlayer ads. Although he retains his YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram pages, the initial hubbub has died down, but he's staying busy taking care of his new dog Louie and overseeing the logistics for building churches for his dad's construction business. About his alter ego, he tells Contrera, "It's something to show my grandkids one day, right?" (Read the Post to find out what Kyle was like in high school.)

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