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Photo by Chris Casella
Photo by Chris Casella

They Started a Joke: Zack “Danger” Brown

Zack “Danger” Brown, subversive crowdsourcer

“I’m making potato salad.”

While everyone else in the crowdfunding world was fretting over final edits to their marketing videos, or lining up their clever rewards, Columbus’s Zack Brown made Internet history with that simple, four-word promise.

His Kickstarter campaign “Potato Salad, by Zack Danger Brown,” with its minimum $1 pledge and Onion-level humorous rewards and FAQs cut through millions of goofball Internet memes and videos to set the online world on fire, earning thousands of dollars in pledges by the end of its first few days. Brown’s campaign caught the attention of Buzzfeed, Business Insider, and CNet, and he also earned him a brief appearance on Good Morning America.

By then, he was the already the pilot of one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in Columbus history, topping the $30,000 mark.

“It’s so bizarre,” said the Upper Arlington-born Denison grad. “I posted a joke on the Internet Thursday morning, and that afternoon I had my first interview request. On Tuesday, I told Michael Strahan I was gonna tackle him. It’s the two strangest weeks of my entire life.”

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Strange indeed, but in the best way possible. As of this writing, Brown is sitting on a $55,492 pile of potato salad pledges, with 10 days still to go on his campaign.

“The Potato Salad Guy” didn’t just draw donations, but also drew the skeptical ire of many, who wasted little time in counseling Brown about what he should do with the money – past, of course, making a delicious potato salad (deliciousness not promised).

Brown found the backlash curious, considering that he adhered to the core tenets of any good Kickstarter campaign.

“It’s strange that people think I got this money by some sort of deception,” he said. “I told a funny joke and people thought it was amusing. They felt that whatever they chose to give would give them more value in return.”

And before you picture Brown sitting on a stack of creamy cash, he estimates that currently the price tag for the various rewards promised to pledgers (from hats to T-shirts to, of course, potato salad) will cost him around $25,000. And as far as cooking up something “good” with the remainder of the potato salad pot, Brown is way ahead of everyone. Once the final total is in and rewards have been delivered, he (in addition to making the promised potato salad) plans to throw a large local festival of some kind with the help of CD102.5.

The money made from festival tickets and beer sales would be donated to the Columbus Foundation, which would deliver the funds each year as grants to those fighting hunger and homelessness in the city.

If it all turns out, it’d be hard to complain about something so simple that results in such far-reaching effect. But, in the end, the man who claimed his middle name was “Danger” was just doing what most people do: trying to be funny on the Internet.

“[$55,492] isn’t just for amusement – but a lot of it is,” he laughed.

To check back on Potato Salad’s final totals, visit www.kickstarter.com.

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.