An Interview With @youvegotnomale Who Literally Makes Memes for a Living
Instagram's meme lord talks getting blocked by Lena Dunham, and the evils of Anna Kendrick.
@youvegotnomale makes memes for money and seems to have a good time doing it. At the very least, his memes are more than covering his NYC rent, and they once got him dinner reservations at a restaurant that was pre-booked for three months. He sounds like a type of person worth talking to, right?
VICE: Hey Sebastian, tell me how you got here—to meme notoriety.
Sebastian Tribbie: I was doing marketing for a lot of the comedy clubs in New York. I have good taste so I'd help with the booking. I started making memes through that, and they would just get posted everywhere—the Fat Jewish started stealing them. I have a crazy ex-boyfriend, so I'd always kept my Instagram on private. I said that if I hit 1,000 followers I would go public, and that happened a year ago. From there, it just catapulted. My current boyfriend said that when he first met me, I had like 2,000 followers. Now I can't walk down the street without someone being like, "Oh I love @youvegotnotmale!" [My BF] works in PR, so he has sort of media trained me. I naturally get super awkward when I'm caught off guard, but I'm like a politician now.
When did you first start getting paid actual money for memes?
The first meme I got money for was for a food company—a marketing executive approached me in a DM. It was a play on the "You vs the girl he told you not to worry about" meme. They loved it. I think it ran overseas. I never saw it, but I got paid so I don't care. Once I hit 30k, that's when the brands really started running. I actually got approached by an athletic brand, which is insane. Like, do you know my brand? I've never been to a gym in my life. Basically, anything to do with the internet I do. I call what I do "experiential marketing."
Okay, backtracking—can you pinpoint your big break of sorts? When did things explode? You've gone from 2,000 followers to about 37k.
The first meme I made that went crazy was the one @thefatjewish stole. It was or Marilyn Manson looking stern with matrix sunglasses on. It said, "When you're 52 weeks deep in someone's Instagram and you don't give a fuck about liking a photo." I only had 2,000 followers at the time, but it went everywhere! The other big one I made high on Adderall one night. I'd realised that Cher had worn the same t-shirt for three decades, so I put them all together with the caption, "That one shirt you won't let anyone borrow." I met Cher at a Hillary benefit later on and showed it to her. She was like, "I fuckin' love that shirt, I packed it with me!"
I think my starter packs are what really catapulted me. I'm like the pioneer of the starter pack—me and my friend Jack, @versacetamagotchi. I'm not good with Photoshop so I used to have people do [the starter packs] for me. I took a class though and now I can do it myself, which makes my deadlines go so much quicker. I did the "Goes to Berlin once" starter pack, and the NYFW starter pack.
I love the Gucci starter pack you made. There was something in it like, "Contact Lena Dunham's publicist and tell them she's not on brand."
I'm blocked by her and Taylor Swift now.
Are you blocked by Anna Kendrick yet? (Fans of Sebastian will know his distaste for the actress well.)
No! I don't think she would ever block me. I think she'd like to be in on the joke. She tries to be so funny, and that just annoys the fuck out of me. She's what I see Trump country as, and that's why I go after her. She's so basic, so boring, and yet gets all these roles that she's not qualified for, then literally ruins movies, which Trump and his voters did to our country. She's just awful. At a party I was hosting last week, I was standing next to a designer who just leant over and told me "Just so you know, I live for you dragging Anna Kendrick. We will not give her any clothes."
Oh my god. Okay, back to corporate memes. Do they pay your rent?
Yeah, corporate memes pay a lot. I freelance, some weeks I'm extra busy, but at minimum I have two clients a week. A typical client asks for three to five memes over two different concepts. I talk in such slang—instead of saying hi I'll say, "What's Gucci?"—and end up having to explain so much to the clients, because they're older.
I imagine they've got a few more rules too.
There are certain things I can't use for brands, like drugs obviously. You can't really come after a certain individual, and they don't want it to be a meme of the moment: they don't end up using the memes I make them until six months later. You have to think of the next big meme. It could never be the guy that's huge right now, "Can't get caught if you never did anything." That's the difficult part of the job, but I like being a sort of trendsetter in memes. It's fun.
Do you ever get stressed about being funny, or worry you'll run out of ideas?
No. Never. That's why I don't get platforms like the Fat Jewish—because he actually is funny! So like, just try making a fucking meme! It drives me insane. In the middle of eating sushi, working on something else, I still have time to make a meme because it only takes like two minutes. You go to Twitter, you upload a photo, put text above it, post it, screenshot it, then Instagram it. It's not difficult. It really drives me insane.
A lot of meme makers have talked about those big pages stealing their work.
I hate watermarking my memes, but I have to. I'll go to the explore page and see them all over the place with no credit, and it's technically my intellectual property—Instagram has talked to me about it. People will literally Photoshop the watermark out of my memes and replace it with their own. It's insane.