Bad Luck Brian meme

Meme History: Bad Luck Brian

What began as a self-deprecating way to make people laugh…has continued to be a deprecating way to make people laugh.


Kyle Calise


Posted on May 5, 2024   Updated on May 3, 2024, 9:19 pm CDT

It’s a good thing Kyle Craven was the class clown in high school, because that means we know he at least has a sense of humor. He would need it, considering the fact that some people kind of are their memes, and if you have to be Bad Luck Brian, you’d do well to be able to take it in stride.

What began as a self-deprecating way to make people laugh…has continued to be a deprecating way to make people laugh.

Kyle Craven’s junior-year high school photo was a joke from the moment he decided to go thrift shopping for the most hideous sweater vest possible at the local store. Widely known as the class clown, this photo was intentionally bad—and his principal actually made him retake the photo for the yearbook. 

But 6 years or so later, in January of 2012, Kyle’s longtime friend Ian Davies made him internet-famous by getting a hold of the outtake and posting it to reddit/r/AdviceAnimals—titling it, “Bad Luck Brian.” The name “Brian,” is a contrivance of Ian’s who, like high school Kyle, was purposely trying to get laughs.

The original post didn’t gain too much traction—less than 5 upvotes—but the second one did, receiving 3,300 in under two months. Shortly thereafter, the second meme was reposted to Pinterest and 9gag, where it received 48,000 likes in just one day. So, seemingly overnight, Bad Luck Brian became one of the internet’s most entertaining and beloved punching bags.

Before the end of the first year, it had also spread to TumblrFunnyjunk, and Facebook. Whole collections of Bad Luck Brian memes were posted as listicles on sites like BuzzFeed and Funny or Die.

One of the most famous memes ever to come out of Advice Animals, Kyle’s first Reddit Ask Me Anything was actually pretty in-character—because the mods immediately shut it down. User and moderator “karmanaut” justified the shutdown by saying the meme “isn’t particularly unique,” suggesting he go elsewhere if he wanted to give an AMA. (As a side note, this comment is one of the most downvoted in all of Reddit history.)

Another time, Kyle commented on an AskReddit thread about himself, but nobody noticed until much later. Bad Luck Brian was part of a wave of (mostly) young people who became memes in the mid 2010s, and all in one way or another tried to cash in on their fame.

Zoey Roth, aka Disaster Girl, paid off her student loans and then some by selling an NFT of herself.

In Body Image
Dave Roth/Know Your Meme

Hide the Pain Harold got his own Ted Talk.

Blinking Guy used his fame multiple times to raise money for multiple sclerosis research,

In Body Image

and Overly Attached Girlfriend became a YouTuber

She even made a crossover video featuring Kyle, where both of them, in character, go on the worst, most awkward, and gross blind date in internet history.

For his part, Kyle’s attempts at monetizing Bad Luck Brian are all pretty true to the spirit of the meme.

He tried starting his own YouTube channel but kind of failed.  

He appeared at conventions selling t-shirts but only made $15-20,000 in three years.

He starred in TV commercials that have since been wiped from the internet.

And whereas the Disaster Girl NFT netted Zoe Roth half a million dollars, Bad Luck Brian’s sold for a mere $36,000.

Kyle now works at his father’s construction company, where they mostly build churches in suburban Ohio.

All kidding aside, most of us anonymous internet-goers will only ever dream of the fame and good fortune that became Kyle Craven. The guy appears to have a stable, comfortable, and pretty normal life 99% of the time. People don’t recognize him on the street from his high school yearbook outtake. But he can bring other people joy and laughter, at basically no cost to himself, and he got 15 minutes of fame.

All things considered, it’s not such bad luck after all.

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*First Published: May 5, 2024, 6:00 am CDT