It’s easy to think of the people you see in memes are simply that: Memes. There is no human behind “Ermahgerd” or “Neck Vein Guy,” only the larger umbrella archetype that they’ve come to represent. But these images all had an original sources, as evidenced by the case of “*Tips Fedora,”the ubiquitous meme that’s become associated with the “neckbeard” subculture and its regressive, entitled views on women, politics, and ethics in gaming journalism. The gentleman tipping his fedora above is actually actor Jerry Messing, who, if you were a fan of ‘90s-era alternative comedy, you might recognize from his recurring appearances on Freaks And Geeks and Mr. Show.
Messing was a delight on those series and, considering he doesn’t share the views of the culture for which he’s become a visual shorthand, it’s a bit of a bummer that his visage has become linked with it. Such is the focus of a new profile on Messing from Hopes & Fears, in which the actor reflects on his internet popularity.
The pic itself is a gag photo, an outtake, from a headshot session he hoped would help reignite his acting career after he split Hollywood for college. The good news is that its ubiquity doesn’t seem to bother him all that much. “It would be very easy to be angry and spiteful, but what purpose would it serve?” he says. “It wouldn’t do me any good. Nothing has any meaning save for the meaning we decide to give it. And ultimately, who am I going to be shaking my fist at?”
The ambiguous answer, of course, is The Internet, a place with which Messing has little connection beyond playing World Of Warcraft. “If this is what the norm is,” he says of places like Reddit, “then perhaps it’s better if I stay distant.”
That said, he’s not impervious to the trolls who seek him out on Facebook. “I have lost track of how many people have assumed I’m an atheist, that I have no hygiene skills. People have assumed that my favorite drink is Mountain Dew.” Coupling that with Messing’s own struggles with severe anxiety, which have impacted both his college ambitions and his attempts at building a career in other fields, hasn’t made things easier for the guy.
It’s a fine lesson in the humanity existing beneath the images we proliferate online with abandon. Check out one of Messing’s most memorable performances, but also one of Mr. Show’s best skits, below:
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