How Internet star Lil Bub clawed her way to fame
Lil Bub is a kitten from outer space. She has a deep fondness for yogurt and fish (but prefers space yogurt and space fish). She doesn't have any teeth, but makes up for it with a bubblegum-pink tongue that permanently sticks out. Basically, she’s the cutest little creature you’ve ever seen—and next week, you'll be seeing her little face all over YouTube during the site's week-long comedy festival.
Okay, so Bub is obviously not from space. But her owner, Mike Bridavsky, has created a wacky origin story to explain Bub’s interesting looks and behaviors—she’s permanently kitten-size and doesn’t walk so much as crawl. The mythology Bridavsky has woven around Bub adds to her already adorable persona, and has spawned an incredibly popular blog, Lil Bub merchandise, a book, a documentary film, and soon a Web TV series.
Before Bub's Web series begins, she'll appear in YouTube’s upcoming Comedy Week, which runs May 19-25. Bridavsky proposed a staring contest between Bub and Will Ferrell as one of the opening show’s skits, but you’ll have to tune in to see which comedians Bub menaces with her gaze.
How a kitten becomes a Celebrity Cat
Lil Bub is not the first pet to paw her way to fame. Grumpy Cat, Colonel Meow, and Maru are Bub’s feline competitors, while Boo reigns supreme as the World’s Cutest Dog. People even love fake animals, like Nyan Cat, which has a cat’s head and the body of a flying Pop Tart. The sociological reasons behind the cat meme’s enduring popularity have been well-documented, but Bub’s popularity might just boil down to the fact that she’s just damned cute.
Bub’s meteoric rise to Celebrity Cat status captured the attention of Vice Media, which produced a documentary about her life with Bridavsky. Lil Bub & Friendz followed Bub as she prowled around the inaugural Internet Cat Video Film Festival in Minneapolis last year, weaving footage of Bub being her cute self with a larger look at why Internet cats are (and long have been) a Big Thing. The film premiered last month at the Tribeca Film Festival and took home the Tribeca Online Festival Best Feature Film award. Lil Bub & Friendz is hopefully coming to a theater near you; filmmaker Juliette Eisner said Vice is still figuring out distribution.
As Lil Bub’s regular followers know and viewers of Lil Bub & Friendz will find out, Lil Bub’s adorable looks and eccentric ways are not the result of alien parentage. Bub was born the runt of a feral litter to Bridavsky's neighbor. Her physical problems made her hard to adopt, so he decided to make her the fifth cat in his family.
She has several genetic deformities that render her permanently kitten-size, with short limbs, a long body, a short lower jaw, no teeth (which is why her tongue is always sticking out), and one extra toe on each paw. It doesn’t sound cute on paper, but Bub is one amazing-looking cat.
Sometimes Bub’s genes cause health problems, but Bridavsky told TechHive that she is currently happy as a clam, even with a steady stream of public appearances, film screenings, and soon a documentary Web series for Animal Planet.
“When there’s another cat around, she freaks out. She hisses,” Bridavsky says. “But going to Times Square or having 600 people pet her, she’s totally fine with it.”
Bub’s busy schedule
Bridavsky considers Bub’s busy schedule a secondary concern compared to keeping her healthy. Many Internet-famous animals work with well-known meme manager Ben Lashes to make some cash off of their popular blogs, but Bridavsky manages Bub’s time on his own. (Though he is friends with several other famous cat owners, there is no official Celebrity Animal Owner Club. At least not yet.)
He has a musician’s DIY ethos due to playing in bands and owning a record label, so his friends create the Bub swag he sells online, and he gives 30 percent of merch sales to animal shelters. Managing Bub’s busy schedule has caused conflicts for her owner, particularly in the early, hazy days of fame.
“My cat got famous and then my band got asked to go to Japan,” Bridavsky says, laughing.
Not that he’s complaining. Bridavsky plans to keep having fun and ride out Bub’s popularity wave, which is now about a year in and shows no signs of slowing down.