SAN FRANCISCO — You’d think that the chief executive of an internet humor company would be happy to talk about how his company is disrupting the way we think about what’s funny. You’d be wrong.
When Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh took the stage today at the Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco, he confessed that the humor network isn’t really interested in disrupting anything.
“A lot of technology people will stand up on this stage, or on any other stage, and say ‘we’re here to disrupt airline travel, dishwasher installation, whatever,’ okay? We are not here to disrupt anything,” he said. “We’re here to enable more people to have moments of communication and connection with one another. We’re a bit like Bob Ross. We want to teach people to paint happy little trees like Bob Ross, we want to teach people to paint happy little moments.”
Huh, who runs the Seattle-based website network that includes I Can Has Cheezburger and Know Your Meme, might have seemed out of place on stage at a real estate conference. But the annual event, run by Inman News, has a tradition of hosting a variety of tech execs to share lessons with the real estate pros.
Cheezburger is in the midst of some lessons of its own these days — recently laying off 35 percent of its staff as it adjusts to the tougher advertising environment on mobile devices.
“When you post an image or a video that makes somebody else instantaneously laugh, what you’re saying is: ‘if you get this, if you understand this, you understand me,” Huh said.
To illustrate his point, he showed an image of Tom Hanks in “Castaway” with the caption: “Still a better love story than Twilight.” As he pointed out, laughing at that image requires knowledge of three key facts.
“One: there’s a movie in which Tom Hanks has a love affair with a volleyball. Okay? There’s second, a movie called Twilight, third, everybody loves to hate on Twilight,” Huh said. ”The moment you laughed at this image, I knew that you understood those three things.”
Blair Hanley Frank is a technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.