The unlikely internet heroes of 2012

21 Dec 2012

Tard the Grumpy Cat

The beauty of the internet is that we can all get to know characters that would have otherwise been lost to obscurity. Here’s our countdown of the top 10 internet sensations of 2012.

While some people (or animals) on our list were making headlines in traditional media, others would have been overlooked without the culture of sharing we have built online, and perhaps none of them would have become household names (or nicknames) if they hadn’t gone viral and captured the much-in-demand attention of the internet population.

10. £1 Fish Man

A video of this London market stall holder’s unique sales pitch was uploaded to YouTube in April and has since seen over 5m views. The singer, dubbed ‘£1 Fish Man’, became a viral sensation and his new-found popularity inspired him to audition for The X Factor.

Revealed to be Muhammad Shahid Nazir, £1 Fish Man has thrown his hat into the ring as a Christmas No 1 contender with the release of an overblown redux of the catchy little ditty, complete with a cheesy pop video. This is guaranteed to get stuck in your head, so watch at your peril!

9. Ann Grimes

When a video of a pretty violent fight between four men on Talbot Street, Dublin made it on to YouTube, viewers were won over by the woman who fearlessly stepped into the fracas demanding, “Ah here, leave it out!” in a signature Dublin twang. The audio from the video took off and has been applied to various other videos for comic effect, while the now-famous originator was later identified as Ann Grimes from Sherriff Street. (Warning: Grimes uses some colourful language, which is audible in the otherwise adorable video below).

8. Ikea Monkey

Dress a monkey in a double-breasted shearling coat, set him loose in an Ikea car park in Toronto and watch the internet melt.

Ikea Monkey

Ikea Monkey

The seven-month-old rhesus macaque, called Darwin, had escaped his owner’s car and was taken into care by Animal Services and later transferred to Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Ontario.

7. Jason Sullivan

Jason Sullivan (also known by his pseudonym Andrew James) is the Cork artist behind Sminky Shorts, a series of comedic animated shorts depicting animals with distinctly Irish accents. (Again, I must warn you of some NSFW language.)

The 27-year-old self-taught animator has now signed with United Agents in London and a series is said to be in development.

6. Níl Kid

Alex Meehan from Dundalk delighted the audience with his brief one-on-one as Gaeilge with host Ryan Tubridy on this year’s The Late Late Toy Show. The five-year-old’s response to the question, “Any craic?” was one of the highlights of the beloved annual showcase and was circulating the internet within minutes.

5. Tard the Grumpy Cat

When a redditor posted images of his sister’s grumpy cat on Reddit this September, the internet fell in love with this sour puss. Though his owner claims Tardar Sauce – or Tard for short – isn’t really grumpy, his perma-frown says otherwise.

Tard the Grumpy Cat

Tard the Grumpy Cat

Tard the Grumpy Cat

Tard the Grumpy Cat

Tard the Grumpy CatTard the Grumpy CatTard the Grumpy CatTard the Grumpy Cat

4. Karen Huff Klein

When 68-year-old school-bus monitor Karen Huff Klein was bullied by students, the internet showed its best side in setting up a donation page on Indiegogo in order to give the beleaguered woman a holiday. Initially setting a target of US$5,000, the crowdfunding project ended up raising US$400,000 in donations for a very grateful Klein. Well done, Internet!

3. Cecilia Gimenez

Cecilia Gimenez made the headlines this year when she botched the restoration of 19th-century fresco, Ecce Homo. The childlike drawing that resulted from Gimenez’s restoration efforts was heavily criticised but somehow garnered a devout legion of followers intent on keeping Gimenez’s work intact. Maybe they just wanted to maintain what had become prime meme material.

Botched Ecce HomoBotched Ecce HomoBotched Ecce HomoBotched Ecce HomoBotched Ecce Homo

In September, it was reported that Gimenez was claiming royalties from the church organisation that apparently earned over €2,000 after imposing an entrance fee of €1 on visitors intent on seeing the botched painting. Gimenez is said to be planning to donate the royalties to charity and has already earned money for Catholic charity Caritas through sales of her work on eBay.

2. Caine

Our hearts were won over by 9-year-old Caine and his elaborate cardboard arcade. Having waited a long time for a customer, Caine will be ever grateful that his first was Nirvan Mullick, who was inspired to return with a flashmob of many more customers for Caine’s Arcade, much to the young boy’s delight.


1. PSY

In fairness, though, we simply couldn’t have a countdown of this year’s internet heroes without mention of the daddy of them all, PSY. ‘Gangnam Style’ has seen the South Korean rap star become a worldwide celebrity, and the video, already the most viewed in YouTube’s history, is fast approaching 1bn views.


The video inspired a wave of parodies, and PSY and his patented dance moves began appearing everywhere.

Gangnam Style

Gangnam Style

Gangnam Style

Gangnam Style

Gangnam Style

However, not everything borne of ‘Gangnam Style’ has been high quality, and we leave you with this train wreck of a tribute from a US high school, proving that internet heroes are often their own worst enemies too.


Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.