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Louis Theroux on why he loves being an internet meme



Louis Theroux
Documentary maker Louis

Pumpkin/Festival of

  • Documentary maker Louis Theroux gave us his theory on
    why he has become a viral internet meme.
  • He said it’s because his onscreen persona is funnier
    and more awkward than the real Louis Theroux.
  • Even if he doesn’t fully understand the phenomenon,
    Theroux said he likes being a meme.

Louis Theroux is known for delving into strange and difficult
places. His last documentary series, “Dark States,” examined
heroin use, sex trafficking, and murder in America. But one realm
he hasn’t quite figured out yet is the world of internet memes,
where he is undeniably a star.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Louis Theroux memes started to
take off, but several social media accounts have popped up
celebrating the documentary maker, who himself has nearly 2
million followers on Twitter.

The No Context Louis Twitter account commands
134,000 followers, while the Louis Theroux Bot twitter
 has over 40,000. Over on Facebook, Louis Theroux
Reactions has more than 310,000 likes, while No Context Louis
Theroux boasts a modest 32,000.

You can even buy Theroux merchandise. Fancy sampling the
“Sleeping Theroux the Night” pillow, or a “Dashing Theroux the
Snow” Christmas jumper? It’s all on Amazon and other good online

So what is it about the documentary maker that makes him so

Business Insider asked the man himself. At first he seemed
stumped by the question. “I don’t know…” he whispered in
response, “do you know?”

We posited the idea that his documentaries lend themselves to
highly localized meme humour. Many of the memes on “Louis Theroux
Reactions” use British language or describe quintessentially
British experiences.

“You mean I’m a tiny little phenomenon in a tiny country, is that
what you’re saying? It’s an in-joke, I hadn’t thought about that…
so I’m actually a meme because I’m so irrelevant…” mused

He then put forward his own theory. “I’d like to imagine that
they recognise that the me that they see onscreen is to some
extent a construction. That it’s a curated version of who I am,
created by myself, my editor, my director,” Theroux said.

He thinks the Theroux people see in his documentaries is in some
ways an exaggerated version of himself. “The me you see on screen
is a bit funnier than I actually am, maybe a little bit more
awkward than I am, is certainly doing more interesting things
than I normally do,” he said.

Awkwardness is certainly a key element of Louis Theroux memes.
Especially in the case of his “Weird Weekends” series, bizarre
situations result in Theroux keeping a straight face while
strange things happen around him, and sometimes to him.

Theroux says heightened awkwardness is an inevitable consequence
of making his documentaries.

“I think because of the challenges of having to negotiate an
environment where I’m not completely at ease, the programmes
almost by definition take me out of my comfort zone,” he said.

We asked some Business Insider employees why they think Theroux
memes are so popular. “Memes as a general rule need to have a
certain level of relatability,” said one. “I guess a lot of us
are used to feeling awkward in situations and he just kind of
takes that to extremes.”

“It’s the perfect combination of being overly-British and
bumbling, making awkward situations even more awkward,” said

For his part, Theroux said he likes being a meme. In the past he
has engaged with memes on social media, once reading out a line
generated by the Louis Theroux Bot.

Theroux has
a new documentary called “Altered States”
will air on the BBC
in November, and it’s already providing fresh material for the
internet’s meme artists. 

“I like it,” Theroux concluded.

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