Meet Grumpy Cat’s manager, a Seattle native who manages the Internet’s richest cats

Feb 11, 2015, 6:21 PM | Updated: 11:02 pm
The very first Grumpy Cat meme, that started it all. (Photo courtesy of grumpycats.com)
(Photo courtesy of grumpycats.com)

The Internet. Where cats have been crowned king.

Nyan cat, an animated, cartoon cat with a Pop Tart body, a cat’s head and a rainbow trailing behind him, has racked up more than 117 million hits on YouTube. And Grumpy Cat, the dwarf kitty with the underbite and permanent scowl, has everything from his own movie to a line of Grumppuccino Coffee.

But these Internet cats certainly can’t manage their own careers, they need help. Which is where Ben Lashes comes in. Ben used to tour the country as the singer of the now defunct Seattle band, The Lashes. Now he runs his own company called A Weird Movie.

“I am a meme manager,” says Ben, from Los Angeles, where he now resides. “I represent some of the most iconic Internet meme characters that have come out over the last several years.”

Yes, representing Internet meme cats is a real job.

For Ben, it all started with online phenomenon, Keyboard Cat. Keyboard Cat is a real, live, orange cat who wears a shirt and plays the keyboard. Keyboard Cat’s owner, Charlie Schmidt, is a family friend and told Ben that he had put the video online and got tons of clicks but wasn’t sure how to make any money off of it. At the time, Ben was working at a music distribution company, but he figured he could apply the same strategies towards an Internet cat.

“I would call and go, ‘Hey, you know, I’d love to make a toy of this. I’ve got this cat in a shirt and a keyboard.’ And they would laugh at me or hang up on me or think that I was pranking them. So I ended up having to kind of think a little bit punk rock about how we make some of these things happen a little bit less traditionally.”

When Ben couldn’t get a licensing agent to take him seriously, he taught himself to be one and eventually quit his job to run his own company. And today, he runs a successful business representing Nyan Cat, Keyboard Cat, Grumpy Cat, and a couple other feline-free memes.

“Just in the last two years, with Grump Cat alone, we’ve done the MTV Movie Awards, we’ve done two episodes of American Idol. Grumpy Cat was the host of WWE Monday Night Raw. We were at the season finale of The Bachelorette with Grumpy Cat. So I can’t guarantee that the whole thing isn’t just made up in a dream right now. It’s been one, big, crazy-long pinch-me moment.”

Ben isn’t the only one able to make a good living off of this. So is Tabby, Grumpy Cat’s aptly named owner, whose brother put a photo of Tardar Sauce (Grumpy Cat’s real name) on Reddit, where the cat gained international attention literally overnight.

“She worked at a Red Lobster restaurant when Grumpy first exploded,” says Ben. “She quit her job, it was less than a year after it first broke.”

In case you’re concerned, all the cats are taken care of. They are not overworked or overhandled, but they do get quite a bit of work.

“Keyboard Cat just had a Super Bowl commercial. First time an Internet cat has ever been in a Super Bowl commercial and that was a giant leap for catkind. Brittany Spears was in it, the Lego people were in it, My Little Pony was in it and Keyboard Cat was in it!”

Ben, who has never actually had a cat of his own, is used to getting laughs when he tells people what he does for a living.

“People always want to know, this has got to be a joke, can you actually make money off of this? I mean, the Pet Rock has made billions of dollars. The United States is based off of crazy ideas becoming worth money!”

  • listen to rachel belleTune in to KIRO Newsradio on weekdays to hear Rachel Belle.
Who is Rachel Belle?

Your Last Meal

Rachel Belle

mike's chili parlor...
Rachel Belle

City of Seattle honors 100 years of Mike’s Chili Parlor in Ballard

One hundred years ago, a Greek immigrant opened a chili cart in Ballard, and 100 years later the business is still thriving on the family's secret recipe. 
1 day ago
no phone...
Rachel Belle

Comedians and musicians are adopting ‘no phone’ policies at their shows

Artists like Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Madonna are using a service called Yondr, that requires audiences lock up their phone in a pouch for the duration of a show. 
8 days ago
library...
Rachel Belle

Does checking out library books hurt authors and indie bookstores?

Do authors and bookstores miss out on sales when we check out books for free at the library? Seattle Public Library and publisher Sasquatch Books weigh in. 
18 days ago
seahawks...
Rachel Belle

What to eat at Seahawks games this season: new menu is local and diverse

Seahawks season officially kicks off tonight at Lumen Field, and if you like meatballs just as much as footballs, this report is for you. 
19 days ago
college clean...
Rachel Belle

Most college kids say they ‘were not prepared to clean’ their dorm or apartment

A new American Cleaning Institute survey revealed that 75% of college students landed on campus, unprepared to clean up after themselves.
24 days ago
hospice nurse...
Rachel Belle

Local hospice nurse says death is not what you see in the movies

Death is not always peaceful and never pretty, but hospice nurse Katie Bracken says their job is to prepare people for a loved ones death. 
29 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Meet Grumpy Cat’s manager, a Seattle native who manages the Internet’s richest cats