Nigel Farage probably isn’t getting ‘pranked’ into saying rude or stupid things in online videos. He just doesn’t care.
If you’ve been anywhere near the internet the last couple of days, you’ll have seen viral video clips of the former Ukip leader looking semi-blankly into the camera and offering his best wishes to “Hugh Janus.”
In a classic Bart Simpson vs Moe prank, the Brexit Party founder – now ‘retired’ from frontline politics for the third time, by our count – read out a name that sounds like a hilarious body part.
But how, you may wonder, did a man who claims to be one of the most significant figures in modern politics come to have his leg apparently pulled in such a fashion?
Well, it all starts with a website called Cameo.
Cameo is a platform where many stars of the stage, screen and public sphere – many of whom could unkindly be described as “washed up” – can log in and accept cash in exchange for personalised videos.
You know that company that used to let you pay to have minor celebrities record your answering machine message? It’s that, but for awkward vertical videos.
At least, that’s how it started.
As with so much of the internet, much of the commerce of Cameo is now focused on the creation of memes and inscrutable inside jokes that only make sense to a tiny subset of gamers, YouTubers and TikTok creators.
You know when Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo get people to say “hello to Jason Isaacs”? It’s that, but more obscure and occasionally racist.
And the beauty of Cameo is that once you’ve paid your fee, you can take the video you’re provided with and share it wherever you want.
So long story short, people are getting celebrities to wish a happy anniversary to Ivana Humpalot and Seymour Butts, posting the videos to social media and waiting for the Likes to roll in.
Nigel Farage joined Cameo a few months ago, and was immediately pranked by someone who paid him to send an encouraging message tho a friend called “Carol”, assuring her that “the truth will come out.”
It turned out the video was aimed at Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who has spent several years investigating the funding of the pro-Brexit campaigns Mr Farage has been involved in.
Fast forward to this week and Farage is going viral with the aforementioned “Hugh Janus” video, which included shoutouts to TikTok creators Shzwheelie, Cal the Dragon and Darth Crunk.
(One of those is made up, but I bet you don’t know which one without checking. Ask your kids.)
He’s also produced several clips that include references to “Big Chungus” – which refers to a meme of an overweight version of Bugs Bunny.
Big Chungus is so obscure that not a single person on this Earth really understands the joke, but lots of people claim it’s funny anyway.
Removed a step from the planning and creation of Nigel’s viral gaffes, the joke seems pretty straightforward. Famous man gets fooled into saying something stupid. What japes.
But that’s not really what’s happening here.
Let me explain.
Firstly, all evidence suggests Nigel Farage has a very high tolerance for people thinking ill of him. He simply doesn’t care if you like him or not.
To quote his Cameo bio: “Some people say I am controversial, and I couldn’t care less.”
That may be why he was perfectly comfortable, for example, standing in front of this poster.
Cameo is an absolute goldmine if you’re even moderately famous and don’t care what people think of you.
Farage charges £75 a pop for each video. Seventy Five Pounds.
Helpfully, he owns a string of distinctive shirts, so assuming he changes his clothes every day, and doesn’t own more than one of the same brown and white striped polo neck, you can have a good guess at how many he can crank out in a day
Scrolling down his Cameo “Fan Page” shows he made at least 26 videos in his most recent sitting.
That’s £1,950. Minus Cameo’s 25% commission, that’s still almost a grand and a half.
Even on his quieter days he can knock out 10 or 12 – which is still worth getting out of bed and putting a polo shirt on for.
And the added bonus for doing the odd shoutout to “I P Freely” and “Mike Rotch” is that it goes viral – which means Nigel Farage’s face goes viral.
Not only that, it gets his face into places it doesn’t normally reach. Farage is a staple on TV and radio and on Facebook and Twitter.
But this gets him in front of new eyeballs on Reddit, TikTok, Snapchat and probably other social networks you’ve vaguely heard of but don’t understand. Ask your kids.
Getting pranked on Cameo is massive, nationwide publicity for a man who loves the limelight and doesn’t care what you think of him. And he gets paid for it.
As a source close to Nigel Farage told me today: “He’s not stupid.”