Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Read this: The "discomfiting authenticity" of Cameo, the internet's strangest app

Illustration for article titled Read this: The "discomfiting authenticity" of Cameo, the internet's strangest app
Screenshot: Pauly Shore, Mark McGrath, and Vince Neil (YouTube)

Cameo is, and we can’t stress this enough, an app where you can pay Chris Hansen, former host of To Catch A Predator, to insinuate that you are a pedophile. For those fascinated with the blurry line that exists between celebrity and normalcy, Cameo, which allows you to book customized messages for celebrities from every corner of the cultural sphere, is a landmark creation that, due to it still being in its infancy, has become a playground for online anarchists. Cameo pranksters, who topped our list of the best things on the internet in 2019, paid Mark McGrath to facilitate a long-distance breakup. They’ve tricked Arli$$ star Robert Wuhl into providing kind words for a fictional 10-year they say is bullied for “loving Arli$$,” then paid a bodybuilder to pretend to be that bully. And then there’s Stefan Heck and John Cullen, who, as hosts of the excellent Blocked Party podcast, have elevated the Cameo prank into an art form, ordering a threaded string of messages relating to circumcision and apologies for their crassness in discussing circumcision. Pauly Shore, Kato Kaelin, and McGrath are among their marks.


It’s only fitting, then, that the pair be called upon to unpack Cameo’s place in modern culture, which is exactly what they’ve done in a new piece for The Atlantic. “As a window into the deluded culture of celebrity obsession, Cameo is unparalleled,” they write. “It’s fan service taken to its most literal extreme, celebrity mania mediated by a front-facing camera and monetized with gig-economy efficiency, its product accessible to nearly anyone and clearly designed to be shared on social media.”

But, they add, what’s so singular and indelible about Cameo is the intimacy of it all, the way it “offers discomfiting authenticity in the era of the professionally managed Twitter account and the 15-person celebrity social-media team.” They continue, “It is incontrovertible video proof that stars are Just Like Us—they have gross apartments and weird facial-hair phases and sometimes poor reading comprehension, and they are willing to humiliate themselves for some quick cash.”

As someone who paid $50 to have a 90 Day Fiancé star wish my friend a happy birthday, this writer can confirm all of this to be true.

Read the full piece here.

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Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.