veryone has their favorite piece of internet lore, whether it be the strange story behind a meme, the enthralling history of an online legend or simple curiosity about the truth behind a classic viral video forgotten in time. Wavywebsurf launched his YouTube channel in 2016 after developing such a curiosity himself. Now with an established following and a penchant for deciphering online history, Wavy has covered tons of iconic pieces of internet lore over the last four years, with no plans of slowing down anytime soon. We caught up with him to discuss the origins of his channel and learn more about his curiosity for the web. No stranger to memes, Wavy also shared his thoughts on the potential future of their evolution, as well as some of his personal favorites from over the years.
Q: Hey, Wavy. Thanks for joining us. So how are things going for you currently? Working on any special topics or other projects in the near future?
A: Things are good. I just got back from a well-needed vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Spent plenty of time outdoors, which was a nice mental reboot. I’m back on the video grind now. In the mountains, I found myself wondering whatever the hell happened to DeShawn Raw and his Supa Hot Fire character, so that's what I’m researching at the moment for a potential video … That “ooOOOooooOOOOoohhh!!!” clip from his famous parody battle rap video is so iconic, I think It would be interesting to see what happened to the guy.
Q: Funny you mention him because I’ve tried to track him down for an interview and had no luck so far. Anyways, for those who aren’t familiar with your channel, would you mind briefly explaining a little about what your content is and what sorts of topics you focus on?
A: Generally, I talk about the legacies and stories behind iconic internet phenomena, memes and online controversies. If you have ever wondered what happened to the creator of some bizarre viral video from 10-plus years ago who seemingly fell off the face of the earth, there's a good chance I have made a video about them. Or perhaps if you remember a big internet debacle, for example, say “The Fappening,” but only know surface-level information about it … I likely have an exhaustive analysis of the controversy on my channel. A lot of the topics are things that occurred when I was getting into online culture in the mid- to late 2000s, so it’s also a bit of a nostalgia trip in that sense as well.
(Wavy outside of his parent's house near Nashville, Tennessee. Circa 1997.)
Q: Can we start out by hearing a bit about your background? Where’d you grow up, and what were some of your earliest and most influential experiences with the internet that ultimately led to your interest in covering such topics?
A: I grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Nashville. I would describe my town as, “suburban, yet country.” As a kid, I was really into gaming and my first real introduction to the internet was through looking up Nintendo 64 cheat codes on sites like GameFAQs. My late ‘90s online exploration was limited, as my house had dial-up internet which was extremely busted. I’d say the moment when I truly realized how great the internet was is when my cousins (who had fast DSL internet) introduced me to Albino Blacksheep in the early 2000s. “Gonads and Strife” was the first viral video I ever watched, and from there, I was hooked. I spent hundreds of hours just consuming weird flash video content and playing half-baked flash games throughout middle school on sites like Albino Blacksheep and FunnyJunk. The first online community I feel that I was truly a part of was a gaming forum called “Gametalk.com.” I joined around early 2006 and talked with other users on a daily basis for some time. It’s now defunct, but I used to be a regular on their Mario Kart DS and Runescape forums. And then there's YouTube. YouTube was big for me, it's pretty much been my favorite website since its inception, which I think becomes pretty clear considering how much of my content is oriented around YouTube and the history of its community.
Q: Do you recall a particular story or individual back then that you were really interested in learning more about that sort of led you to the desire to create content surrounding those kinds of things?
A: I remember feeling rather perturbed the first time ever watching the Angry German Kid Keyboard Crasher video on YouTube. I think it was 2006 when I first watched it, and there was all this speculation in the comments that the kid was some kind of psychopath. It's silly looking back on it, but that video always stuck with me, and I always wondered what happened to him. Turns out, the whole thing was just satire, and the joke was sort of lost in translation with American viewers. There are a lot of weird, one-off viral videos like this that I obsessed over and shared with friends as a kid. As an adult, I revisit this stuff out of interest or simply nostalgia and often find there's a crazy story attached to an old meme or video that nobody really knows about.
Q: Seeing how you only launched your YouTube channel about four years ago, were there any other creative endeavors similar to wavywebsurf that you attempted before? If so, what were they and how did you ultimately decide to settle on your current name and concept?
A: I made my first YouTube channel in 2007 under the name “SkullzofGT.” Skullz was my old username that I went by on the Game Talk forums, hence, “SkullzofGT.” That channel has a few YouTube Poops and some Super Mario 64 death compilations. One of the death compilation videos got like 70 thousand views, which was crazy for the time, but I never really followed up on it and that channel is long since abandoned. About a decade later, I became interested in making YouTube content again with the rise of the commentary community in 2016. I was really interested in following all the beefs at the time between creators, such as LeafyIsHere, h3h3productions,GradeAUnderA, Idubbbz and Keemstar. It was a crazy time for the YouTube community, and something about the spectacle of it all inspired me to create again. That being said, the videos I began making at the time weren’t drama-related at all, they were essentially reactions to weird videos that I would discover on the subreddit /r/DeepIntoYouTube. These are now private because of cringe, and that ties into the name of the channel, wavywebsurf. It’s essentially a wavy (tumultuous) surf of the web and its oddities.
Q: The wavywebsurf channel started in May 2016, and focused on explainers and internet history. When you initially launched your channel, what led you to focus on these types of topics, and how did it evolve over time?
A: Honestly, at the time, I think I was really just interested In how internet culture had evolved over the years and wanted to put it into words. Back then, I seemed to think that the SpongeBob neanderthal meme was like peak comedy. I’ve since changed my stance, but in a way, the rapid progression and obsoletion of the memes I suggested would stick around, sort of ironically, and proves my thesis in that “Evolutionary History of Memes” video. Memes are this sort of organic, Darwinistic enigma.
Q: One of these early videos was “The Evolutionary History of Memes,” which went on to receive half a million views, making it one of the most successful from your first year on YouTube. What sort of history did you have with meme culture, specifically, and was it always something you were interested in exploring or explaining?
A: I’d say my first run-in with meme culture would probably be with YouTube Poop. Granted, you could argue that YTP sort of transcends memes and is an art form in itself. I got into memes in a more traditional sense through Rage Comics, Demotivational Posters and image macros, specifically on the Advice Animals subreddit. I’ve always enjoyed staying in tune with whatever is currently on top of the meme meta, as it allows me to keep a pulse on the internet's current sense of humor.
Q: As time went on, your channel continued to focus on memes, but narrowed in on the people behind them and the stories of those individuals outside of the memes themselves. Can you tell us more about why you decided to explore this side of memes instead and what interested you in this aspect of their lore?
A: I think when Advice Animals started to get popular is when I really started to wonder about the stories behind the memes themselves. For example, Scumbag Steve. I couldn’t help but wonder what the story behind the guy in it was. The meme had such a negative connotation surrounding it, so I was naturally curious as to who he was and what his response to being the butt of the joke would be. I like having the entire context in a neatly packaged story.
(Wavy and fellow YouTubers posing outside VidCon 2019.)
Q: Given your extensive history with covering internet personalities, viral stars and online celebrities, we’re curious about why they so often share a tragic or negative outcome after their fame. What have you learned about looking into these individuals and what happens to those who go viral? What ways does this fame affect them?
A: A lot of viral stars and living memes didn’t ask for their fame, it was sort of thrown into their lap by the internet. Many aren’t prepared for it or don’t want it at all. I think in that case, it's highly likely that the attention will be mishandled -- leading to problems. The Angry German Kid was relentlessly bullied because of his video, and Ricardo Milos apparently isn’t too fond of his meme status either. Granted, there are exceptions, as some people turn an accidental living meme status into a positive one. People like Antoine Dodson, Back Luck Brian and Rebecca Black all sort of spun their living meme status into a profit. At the end of the day, I think a general rule of thumb is if you find yourself becoming a living meme, try to embrace it and things generally go better for you. That being said, sometimes the internet can take things too far.
Q: In addition to this topic, you also began exploring some of the internet’s more captivating online controversies. So how did this avenue of content make its way into your lineup?
A: I like the idea of covering online controversies because they not only involve the happenings of one singular person, but also sort of contextualizing what the culture of the internet was like at the time of the controversy/event. My Storm Area 51 video is a great example of this. I think, in the future, people will be able to go back to that video and really get a taste of what the internet's sense of humor was back in 2019.
Q: It seems like online controversies pop up pretty much every day now, especially on platforms like Twitter. What do you make of this internet phenomenon? Why do they go viral and create such an uproar?
A: While I do generally enjoy using Twitter, it’s absolutely dogshit for having honest debates. People gravitate to the extremes and use the most incendiary rhetoric because that's what gets likes and followers. EmpLemon made a pretty funny analogy about this in his video regarding Twitter, essentially saying something like, “Twitter is if you took the YouTube comment section and made that an entire standalone website.”
Q: As fellow meme and internet culture historians here at KYM, we’re interested in what tools and techniques you use for your research. What’s your fact-finding process like when researching the topics you cover to ensure their accuracy?
A: It depends on the topic. Generally speaking, sites like this [Know Your Meme] and Encyclopedia Dramatica are great jump-off points. Reddit threads, old forum posts and web articles are frequently used sources as well. Wayback Machine has also proved invaluable in digging up old videos and websites which have useful information. If Wayback Machine didn’t exist, it would be a massive blow to my workflow. Honestly, I use it quite often for research. Sometimes if the video is about a person/living meme, I am able to get into contact with them directly, which is pretty sweet when that comes together. Some of my favorite videos have first-hand interviews, like the Pruane2Forever video and my Jones BBQ and foot massage video. As far as accuracy goes, it just comes down to double- and triple-checking your sources and cross-referencing them with other sources. I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes throughout my time making videos, but I always try to be as accurate as possible.
Q: Aside from the research itself, can you tell us more about your creative process? What goes into making one of your videos, and how do you keep them engaging for viewers?
A: Usually the way topic selection goes is that I’ll find myself becoming curious about what happened to an old meme or content creator I grew up with. That being said, I have made plenty of videos about topics that I wasn’t necessarily familiar with but thought they were interesting. One example is Marilyn Hagerty’s Olive Garden review. From there, I try to find an overarching story or theme with the topic, such as the Pruane2Forever video. On the surface, it’s essentially a history video about his channel, but tucked away in it is a story about a kid’s struggle with YouTube fame and how his relationship with fans became so toxic that he had to walk away. I think just point by point explaining the history behind a meme or controversy is cool, but it's even better if there's a relatable story behind it all.
Q: All these years later, you’ve amassed quite a following and fan base for your channel, but what were some of the biggest hurdles and challenges you faced leading up to your current success? Were your friends and family always supportive of this career?
A: I’ll say, for the most part, I’ve had pretty good fortune on YouTube, but there have been some periods of struggle. In 2017, I came back to YouTube about a year after releasing “Evolutionary History of Memes” and made trending topics commentary videos for quite some time that never really performed too well. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun during my commentary video and “Your Merch Sucks” era, but I was just spinning my wheels. It took me about a year to realize that my audience was more so interested in the meme-history-style videos, and when I finally moved back to that, my channel blew up. I guess what I’m saying here is that I’m hesitant to reinvent myself when it comes to content creation, but as a YouTuber, that's something you have to do to stay relevant. As far as friends and family, they have always been supportive of my YouTube stuff.
(Wavy and fellow YouTuber Justin Whang.)
Q: Looking back on the numerous videos you’ve produced over the past four years, is there any one that particularly sticks out as a personal favorite? Building off that, what’s the one individual or piece of internet lore that you’d say is a sort of “dream topic” to cover in the future?
A: It’s hard to give my absolute favorite, but if you put a gun to my head, I’d have to say my Pruane2Forever video. I was really satisfied with the way I was able to tell that story, and Pruane was a YouTuber who people either forgot about or never even knew existed. Not only that, but the video also had a positive impact on Pruane himself, as it led to him garnering thousands of followers on Instagram. He has sort of a diehard fanbase now over there, and he has been nothing but grateful to me. Pruane is a legend. As far as a dream topic, I’d have to say the creator of “Ram Ranch,” Grant Macdonald. The Grant Macdonald rabbit hole is deep and gaping. The guy has a crazy story behind him and is quite the enigma. I’ve got a script mostly written for it, but I want to get an interview with him before finishing that video. It’s a work-in-progress, but just know that I’m in contact with him.
Q: So, how long do you plan to continue wavywebsurf, and what does the future look like for you? Got any new ventures or projects you want to share with us?
A: I’ll continue making wavywebsurf videos as long as people care to watch. I generally do enjoy making these videos, and I’m sure I’ll change up the formula a bit as time goes on, but I always envision the channel being structured around internet lore.
Q: Apart from YouTube, where else do you spend most of your time online currently? Any favorite platforms or sites you’re active on?
A: As far as social media, I really only use Instagram and Twitter nowadays. On those, you will find occasional hot takes, but mostly memes.
Q: We know you’re a big fan of memes from viewing your channel, so do you have a few favorites that’ve been making the rounds as of late, or any memes you’ve created yourself?
A: I think the presidential bid 2020 wavywebsurf has potential … but maybe that’s just me?
Q: As a follow-up, what do you make of our current memescape as opposed to previous years? Do you have any insight about what you think the near future of memes will evolve into?
A: It seems like irony is the name of the game in the current meme landscape, but the irony is quickly giving way to the absurdists. For example, those 21st-century humor meme videos on YouTube where it's just an entire minute of unrelated memes and fart sounds amalgamated into one chaotic giga-meme. Those are fantastic.