What Hath the Potato Salad Kickstarter Wrought? Surveying Its Unfunny Imitators.

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
July 15 2014 8:03 AM

What Hath the Potato Salad Kickstarter Wrought? Surveying Its Unfunny Imitators.

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The potato salad Kickstarter, in its younger, poorer days.

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In the past week, the potato salad Kickstarter—an ironic attempt to crowdfund a recipe that requires almost no funds—has spawned criticism, infographics, and think pieces after raising more than $50,000. Now, virtually every right-thinking person in America is tired of hearing about it.

L.V. Anderson L.V. Anderson

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

Except for a few folks who apparently think they, too, can raise tens of thousands of dollars by copying Zack Brown’s formula, which is 1) to promise to execute an extremely simple, inexpensive culinary task and 2) to wait for the cash to start rolling in.

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I want to make 3 different kinds of Yakitoris,” writes David Shaw of Newark, California. “My Mum’s secret fudge recipe tastes awesome and I thought I’d make some,” remarks Simon Wadsworth of Greater Manchester, U.K. “We want to make bacon cupcakes, but we ran out of bacon. We need more,” explain Melissa and Margaret of Eugene, Oregon, who set the ambitious fundraising goal of $12.

Given that no one can agree on what the success of the potato salad Kickstarter says about humor, money, and fame in the Internet age, surely there can be no consensus about the meaning of its many imitators. Like the projects that declare, “I was just sitting here thinking how much I would love a cookie,” “I really like hot sauce,” and “I want to see how high I can stack bacon... then I’m going to eat a bunch of it.”

What we all can agree on, though, is that Kickstarter should have shut this meme down back when it had its chance. Kickstarter, having recently loosened its standards for proposals, approved the potato salad campaign, even though its status as a “creative project” was dubious. Now, in the name of fairness, it’s allowing these unfunny copycats—e.g., “Cranberry Glazed Stuffed Pork Chops” and “Get a Pancake in the Mail”—to run their course as well, even though they are clogging up Kickstarter’s food page.

Maybe Kickstarter could hire a humor czar to at least make sure that joke projects meet a standard of originality. Then again, as Adrianne Jeffries of the Verge notes, even the potato salad Kickstarter didn’t meet that standard.