Lauren Goode

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Move Over, Grumpy Cat: Honey Badger Comes to SXSW

It’s hard to buy the idea that the Honey Badger meme is still a thing more than two years after the original video went viral on YouTube.

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But at a discussion titled “Why We Still Love the Honey Badger,” the industrious little endangered species packed the room and burrowed its way back into the minds of SXSW attendees.

Animal-rights activists can breathe easy, by the way: Unlike Grumpy Cat, the actual Honey Badger wasn’t put on display. “Randall,” whose campily effeminate voice is dubbed over the now-infamous National Geographic footage, showed up instead. He wore dark shades, a plaid jacket and a five-day beard, blending right in with the SXSW crowd (with the exception of that voice).

“Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have Honey Badger with me today,” he said. “I got a call asking if I was bringing one. Like, are you [expletive] out of your mind? Like the TSA would let a honey badger through.”

The conversation was pretty loosely focused, spanning topics from the virality of the video to consumers’ video-viewing habits to Randall’s ambitions to narrate more than just animal videos.

Randall, who attended (and later dropped out of) an exotic-animal-management training program, said his original intent with the Honey Badger was both to be funny and bring awareness to the animal.

The first narration, he said, “was dry as toast on a hot summer’s day in Austin. You couldn’t even butter it. I said, I have to do something about this.”

“I actually got scared of the badger while I was doing it,” he continued. “I love animals but, like, nothing can really stop this animal. The fact is, this thing eats a cobra, passes out and then bounces back up. Like they’re flapjacks.”

Despite the meme’s immense popularity, however, Randall never made any money from the YouTube video, he said, due to the fact that Nat Geo owned the rights to the footage. “I care more about working with animals than I do about making nine cents a click,” he said.

Still, for Randall, animal videos on YouTube are where it’s at. “People like animal videos. No one ever says, ‘Have you seen that video of grandma going into the retirement home? She didn’t want to go. It was so funny.’”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik