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How to Go Viral: The Art of the Meme with Richard Clay

Art historian Professor Richard Clay explores how internet memes are shaping our culture and politics, experimenting by devising and releasing some himself.

Art historian Professor Richard Clay immerses us in the febrile world of viral media, exploring the popularity and meaning of internet memes, from LOL cats to emoji, pratfall videos to ‘dank’ alt-right satire. Playfully fusing the conventions of a BBC Four authored documentary with a throwaway YouTube video style, the film examines the rise and rise of this new visual language and asks what makes a few memes cut through and spread so intensely, while the vast majority fall quietly by the wayside.

To explore this question, Richard Clay experiments with devising and releasing his own memes, applying what he finds out in interviews with meme creators and influencers. These include Tom Walker, the comedian who plays YouTube sensation Jonathan Pie; Amanda Brennan, meme ‘librarian’ at Tumblr; Richard Dawkins, the biologist who coined the word ‘meme’; Christopher Blair, a self-proclaimed liberal troll; and Sam Oakley from LADBible, a video creator company that reaches a billion people a month.

58 minutes


Tuesday 00:30


Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:01



  • 00:01

    Hot Chip

    Ends of The Earth

  • 00:04

    Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band

    A Fifth Of Beethoven

  • 00:06

    Mac DeMarco

    On The Level

  • 00:08

    Todd Terje

    Inspector Norse

  • 00:09

    Antônio Carlos Jobim

    Teresa Meu Amor

  • 00:14



  • 00:25


    Attack The Doctor

  • 00:16

    My Chemical Romance

    Goodnite, Dr. Death

  • 00:21

    Deetta Litte, Nelson Pigford

    Gonna Fly Now

  • 00:27

    Crystal Castles

    magic spells

  • 00:32

    Nick Murphy


  • 00:32

    George FitzGerald

    The Echo Forgets

  • 00:38



  • 00:39


    Sun Models

  • 00:52

    Boards of Canada

    Chromakey Dreamcoat

  • 00:59

    Rick Astley

    Never Gonna Give You Up


Role Contributor
Presenter Richard Clay
Director Russell Barnes
Producer Katie Johns
Editor Henry Norgrove
Executive Producer Russell Barnes
Production Manager Clare Burns


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