A large chunk of the Internet knows Ben Dudley as that guy who got “booped” on the forehead by a meowing cat’s paw. His 11-second viral video featuring himself and Pouncy the pussycat, titled “Interspecies Bonding,” has gotten more than 1.2 million views, landing him a fat 200 euro payday courtesy of his decision to license the video for advertisements. BuzzFeed called “Interspecies Bonding” one of the 30 most important cat videos of 2013.
But he has a lot more going for him.
Dudley is an independent writer, actor and filmmaker who specializes in witty, often awkward comedy. Getting to know him absolutely requires a sense of humor, which is intended to be a compliment, as the Cincinnati native produces comedic stories and short films on a regular basis. He also works as a pet sitter, which is how he met Pouncy. After offering the now-famous cat’s family half his earnings from the video, they declined.
“Whenever I pet sit, Pouncy always ruins my computer charger with chewing, so they said this was payback,” Dudley says.
Dudley, who earned a master’s degree in creative writing and then briefly taught writing at the University of Cincinnati, recently added “playwright” to his already diverse credentials. He is one of three actors in Where Edward Went, a stage play he co-wrote with his friend and fellow author Adam Sievering. Part of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, their play features the acting talents of Dudley, MaryKate Moran and Aaron Maas. Directed by Carter Bratton, it’s the pensive story of a young man’s emotional response to a close friend’s sudden death; it brings up serious questions that test memory against reality.
The play is produced by Untethered Theater.
“It’s so exhilarating to see talented people putting so much thought and effort and expertise into interpreting and bringing this script to life,” Dudley says.
Working alongside a cast is nothing new to Dudley. He’s been making films for 13 years. Much of his work is targeted at the Internet. His YouTube series, Life Hacks, Immediately, is not a typical advice page that doles nifty tips on mundane household efficiency like audiences have come to expect from similarly named efforts.
Instead, it’s a short series of skits based around seemingly innocuous subjects, leading to bizarre insight. He even gets a shout out from Yoni Wolf of the band Why? in one of his videos.
Dudley is in the process of raising funds to complete The Day the Cat Got Shot, a graphic novel he wrote that is being illustrated by 18 different artists. An unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign didn’t stop him, as he’s preparing submissions for prospective publishers.
Another of his comic series to garner online interest is Fetus and the God, an absurdist homespun mythology that claims every person has a brief Q&A session with God before they’re born, forgetting everything once they’re “alive.” Dudley’s illustrations are crude and elementary, simple line drawings that evoke a sense of innocence and naivety. He’s working the concept into another play.
“I’m not sure what my ideal job would be, truthfully,” Dudley says. “It’s why I’m staging a play, making a comic, doing standup, videos. I just like being able to try new things. That’s what I like about creating: There’s nothing stopping me from working on multiple projects in different media.
“Joining YouTube in 2006 changed a lot of stuff. I had tons of short, low-res movies on my computer that I could immediately upload. View counts were low, but people were still seeing my things. To this day, I don’t understand how the tagging system works, but somehow random videos get a huge number of views. I posted a scene from a high school film where we dug a grave, and for some reason it’s one of my highest-viewed videos ever. A video of me sneezing at a roadside rest stop has thousands and thousands of views — including one guy who is convinced it’s a fake sneeze.”
As many modern creatives will tell you, achieving online virality — stirring up worldwide acclaim — is often a random, inexplicable business.
“The first real sense of virality from a YouTube video came when a band from Sweden asked to use footage of me dancing in my kitchen to Chumbawumba in their music video,” Dudley says. “I heard from them later and they said they played it on a projector at all their live shows and that people asked them how they got Brad Pitt to dance for them. Flattery will get them everywhere.”
For schedules and ticket information to see BEN DUDLEY in Where Edward Went, visit cincyfringe.com/tickets.