#TBT: Ken Bone Becomes 2016's Greatest Meme

He was the viral sensation that emerged during the 2016 presidential debates. Here, Ken Bone explains how he's now working to end political divisions.

Just a regular-joe celebrity

Remember Ken Bone? He became a viral sensation during the 2016 presidential election after his debate question about energy policy, which had a town hall format in which selected undecided voters ask questions directly to the candidates. Almost instantly, Bone was a household name giving way to talk show appearances an SNL parody and even cosplay.

“You know, looking back at it, I can see that my picture was trending on Twitter just because I was the funny-looking guy in the crowd before I ever said a word. Then when Anderson Cooper calls on me at the very end of the debate, he says my name is Ken Bone and everybody's like, "That's not a real name. That is totally fake." Well, I can assure you that is my real name. I was always essentially the same guy I am now, just nobody knew or cared who I was. I work at a power plant in southern Illinois. I am a control room operator, which is kind of the same thing you see Homer Simpson doing on TV. Sitting at the controls, monitoring the process, and making adjustments. I don't pretend like I'm representing people. People who are in similar situations to me might have wildly different ideas and views and I don't pretend to speak for anybody but myself. But it is nice that somebody from a working-class background is able to be a little bit more visible, so I guess that helps working-class folks out a little bit. So, I guess that part's cool,” says viral celebrity Ken Bone.

Within an hour of the debate's end, New York Magazine's internet-focused blog wrote a piece devoted to the popularity of Ken Bone on Twitter. Other major news sites including CNN, The Daily Dot, and Business Insider immediately covered Bone's rise to internet stardom. 3 years later, his life has normalized, and he's working to encourage political engagement. As for being a regular-joe celebrity? He’s all for it.