Last week, the world opened its hearts and wallets to Zack “Danger” Brown, who took to Kickstarter with a goal of getting $10 to make a potato salad—a goal that quickly became the American dream, to the tune of thousands upon thousands of dollars. Not surprisingly, the longer Brown’s potato salad dream has been left in the Internet sun, the more it’s spoiled: Some have decried it as dumb, demanding that he just donate that money to charity. Others have lamented the way it’s flooded Kickstarter with other pointedly stupid food projects, like some guy who wants to stack bacon into a tower then eat it. Many have just flat out told you to not to participate. And yet, all these virtual eggs chucked in its direction has only made Brown’s potato salad richer, to the tune of more than $44,000.
So now that it’s settled that Brown is making potato salad, and that his backers have voted with their dollars, the controversy shifts—for instance, to the fact that his campaign just lost around $30,000 overnight. After all the “Please don’t donate to this dumb Kickstarter campaign” articles had people rushing to donate to this dumb Kickstarter campaign, Brown topped out at well over $70,000 on Wednesday evening, only to drop back down to today’s figure. What could explain this sudden tumble from an astronomically absurd number for potato salad to one that was merely ridiculously absurd?
As BuzzFeed reports, some speculated that backers were withdrawing their pledges en masse after Brown controversially switched the campaign page’s photo to one of a potato salad he’d eaten at Columbus-area restaurant Sidebar. This was not the potato salad of the people; it was a snooty concoction that uses pan-fried potatoes and onions, and dared to incorporate Spanish paprika. To his followers, it was tantamount to Bob Dylan going electric.
However, it turns out that such ideological outcries over potato salad were probably unnecessary. Kickstarter said the drop was due to three large donations it had to cancel after they didn’t meet their review criteria—suggesting some people think this crowdsourcing campaign for some guy to make potato salad is just one big joke. Not so for Brown, who’s spent the past few days appearing on shows like Good Morning America, and giving interviews where he’s renewed his pledge to “make the world a better place” and “take that money and do the most good with it.” (In the meantime, he’s started by switching the photo back to a potato salad with more god-fearing, Midwestern values.)
And while Kickstarter’s rules are murky as to whether Brown can use the funds directly for charity, he can use whatever profits he has left over for whatever he wants. And Brown has already assured Mashable that, after he’s fulfilled his obligations, “One thing’s for sure, that money will not go in my pocket,” saying he’s interested in working with charities aimed at combating homelessness and hunger.
But most immediately, of course, he has to combat his donors’ hunger for potato salad—and the pizza party he initially promised is now snowballing into a massive potato salad party and possible benefit concert (called Potato Stock), where he’ll make and serve all of the many potato salad recipes that have been submitted. “The entire Internet is invited,” Brown said on GMA, of the party he plans to have filmed and presumably simulcast.
He could also have to deal with a hefty tax bill, according to the Tax Foundation, which put Brown at owing around $21,000, when his Kickstarter tally was at its $70,000 peak. Since funds raised on Kickstarter are considered income—and can only be offset by expenses toward the project, as well as any charitable donations he makes after the fact—he’ll be liable for various federal, state, city, and tons of payroll taxes, levied on the money he’s paying himself for making potato salad. And with some companies already stepping up to donate the essential ingredients he’ll need to make that potato salad, his expenses may continue to dwindle. This is increasingly no longer a potato salad campaign, but a potato salad movement.
All of this, with a month still left to go on the Kickstarter deadline. Who knows what else will be added to the mix before then? Such is life’s rich potato salad.