I spend most of my time on Instagram scrolling through the endless supply of crudely made memes on the app’s discovery page. It’s not exactly what Instagram’s founders had in mind when they decided to simplify the process of editing and uploading photos, but start-up founders don’t get to decide how people use their services. They evolve organically, like Twitter’s descent into a digital haven for entry-level white supremacy. So naturally, it was on the discovery page, among Squidward macros and IG baddies slinging FitTea, that I found this work of art:
Did Master P resurrect No Limit Records and put a suburban white teenager from 2001 in charge of their iconic album covers? Nope, this ‘gram is the work of Kyle Mabson AKA @selfies_food_and_pets. Kyle is a musician and DJ who does everything from playing in noise rock bands to being the producing half (along with Fat Tony) of the rap duo Charge It To The Game. Kyle also pops up in the LA comedy scene from time to time as a DJ for Brandon Wardell’s monthly Teen Party dance party as well as the monthly comedy show by 2 Wet Crew (DJ Douggpound, Jay Weingarten, and Mikey Kampmann). It’s these varied interests that translate naturally to his bizarre mash-up Photoshops that aren’t as random or sarcastic as you might think from first glance.
Spend a few minutes scrolling through Mabson’s Instagram and you’ll eventually spot the repeating themes he touches on: Nu-metal, post-Attitude Era WWE, Disney stars, chain restaurant logos, and stock images ranging from mystical lakes to sterile hotel rooms. Some pieces look like the aforementioned No Limit album covers while others, like this one that includes Sonic the Hedgehog, President Obama, Arby’s, Slash, The Indian in the Cupboard, and the Southwestern fertility deity Kokopelli, are something entirely different. It’s like you entered an alternate dimension and decided to spend your time looking at the Marriott Seattle web page.
If Picasso had a Blue Period and a Red Period, then my favorite @selfies_food_and_pets era was the Video Game Period where Mabson birthed a slew of disorientating video games into existence. You ever have a family member get you a supremely wrong video game a la Marge giving Bart a copy of Lee Trevino’s Putting Challenge? You ever have a family member give you that gift… while you were concussed? His fake video games are kind of like that. Along with the perfect Sega CD, Xbox 360, and 3DO case framing that your Art History major friend will one day explain subtly changes the relationship between you and the piece, I love the smallest details in these Instagrams. The PAL logo in the top right signifying that this nightmare video game won’t play on your American TVs? You can’t see me, but I’m kissing my fingers like an old timey Italian chef.
I talked to Mabson and he told me that he started making these Photoshops, which average out to about one a day, for band fliers until he realized they looked better without any of the concert info. After his first Instagram @dirty_vegas_official was taken down for not actually being the official page of British house band Dirty Vegas, he settled on the ironically named @selfies_food_and_pets. But while his Photoshops occasionally feature living memes like Guy Fieri and DJ Khaled, there’s not as much cynically laced randomness as you might think from first glance. Mabson is a metal-loving, classic video game collector whose digital mosaics are built piece-by-piece from obsessions of his life, past and present. And the only non-Photoshops on his Instagram are live videos taken at independent wrestling matches. I’ve noticed some copycats lately on Instagram and Facebook who are aping, whether on purpose or subconsciously, Mabson’s style but the sincerity is lacking. It’s like a member of one of the world’s most famous, fashion-conscious families trading in her heels to rep one of the most famous heel turns in history.
There’s a lot of comedy out there, too much to ever watch or listen to in your lifetime. And yet, our curated timelines with like-minded people make it difficult to feel like the podcast you discovered is really that much of a hidden gem. But Mabson’s page reminds me of one of the oldest JPEGS I have on my computer, transferred from one hard drive to another over the last 15 years. Way before iPhones and apps, you had to scour message boards like Ebaums and SomethingAwful for memes… before we even used that term. And somewhere along the way, someone posted a D-Generation X yarmulke. This kippah wasn’t digitally altered. Someone actually stitched it, then tried to sell it. And you don’t enter a house of worship with that covering your head unless you’re fully on-board, with no irony in your heart, for HHH and HaShem.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.