The Kickstarter potato salad is the eBay auction stunt for a new era: Peter Nowak

Has Kickstarter jumped the shark?

plate of potato salad


Right now there’s a guy raising money to make potato salad on crowd-funding site Kickstarter – and he’s making a decent salary of it, having surpassed $44,000 with three weeks still to go.

It’s crazy, right? Of course it is, which is why Zack “Danger” Brown – the potato salad maker in question – is getting all kinds of media attention. Kickstarter is normally reserved for individuals trying to raise money for artistic pursuits, or for those trying to get new products and gadgets off the ground.

READ: 3 Hidden Dangers of Crowdfunding »

Brown’s stunt isn’t just unusual in this regard, it’s something of a subversive statement on the nature of crowd-funding. It points out that people can get behind anything with their dollars if it’s funny, clever or offbeat. Needy charities, however, continue to go needy, which is why there’s now a big debate over what Brown should do with the money.

That’s a debate for others to have. What strikes me about the potato salad stunt is how familiar it feels.

Ten years ago, hardly a week went by without widespread media reports of the latest crazy eBay auction. Whether it was somebody trying to sell a F-18 fighter jet, the original Hollywood sign or even William Shatner’s kidney stone, it was one goofy stunt after another.

Fast forward to the past two years or so and it’s the same thing. Frying pans attached to sword hilts, the world’s largest jock strap, bacon-scented soap… the list of weird Kickstarter projects goes on and on, with the media coverage inevitably following.

How similar are today’s projects to yesterday’s eBay stunts? Consider the Grilled Cheesus, a device that burned the face of Christ into toast that was successfully funded in 2011, to the toast with Jesus’s face on it that was sold on eBay in 2006. Deja vu, anyone?

As the folks on Battlestar Galactica like to say, all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again. A decade from now, we’ll be seeing reports of somebody making money from Jesus’s face on whatever is the hot internet platform of the day.

As far as Kickstarter goes, the potato salad episode may represent its official jumping-of-the-shark, at least in terms of media coverage. Because really, the ridiculousness of potato salad – in all its innocuous, subversive glory – is going to be tough to top.