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“We had no idea about the plot or the characters when we gave them the copyright,” said Ben Huh, the chief executive officer of I Can Has Cheezburger. (Yes, the site has a CEO. You cannot imagine how surreal it was to hear that job title in an answering machine message.) “We essentially went into it blind.”
That decision may not seem very business-savvy for a site that rakes in millions of views and must make a mint in ad revenue, but Huh brushed off the possibility that the play could come back to haunt him.
“We weren’t worried that it would be embarrassing to us; people make fun of us all the time. I mean, we’re pictures of cats with misspelled captions. We don’t take ourselves that seriously,” he said, echoing a theme I would hear repeatedly.
Huh added that, “the thing about memes is you have to let people own it. If people want to take it a certain way, we have to let it go that way… We’re trying to capture the world’s imagination in user-generated content.”
Does this make the show just like any other of the 5,000+ entries on the site, just more ambitious and with more work put into it? Possibly, but despite Huh’s mission statement, and the support he showed in giving the duo the copyright (“Once we reached out to him, he was all ‘ZOMG HOW CAN I HELP?” Pomranz reflected.), he initially backed away from advertising the play on the website.
“I don’t know how marketing it would fit with the site’s audience,” Huh said. “They come to the site to get their five minutes of daily play, to get away from work, and a long-format play may not tie in with what people like about the site. When you take one format and turn it into a musical it may not resonate.” (The play has since been advertised on the site.)
To help it resonate with those who aren’t fans of the site, K&K rewrote the script “to make it a bit more accessible to people outside the ICHC cult,” but acknowledged the limitations of their source.
“LOLCats has a niche audience,” Steinberg said. Pomranz added, “It’s a meme. I mean, it’s a super-epic meme, but it’s a meme. It will die.” The two’s next project, which they have been commissioned to write by Beyond the Wall, will have a more “evergreen” story, they said, declining to provide details.