Like all great stories it started with a tweet.
A second year media student from Melbourne's Swinburne university, Jocelyn Seip, was asked during her "media, crime & policy" class to think about how newspaper covers are often politically biased.
Her mind went straight to one of the most iconic newspaper images of all time.
The picture of former Australian prime minister John Howard, killing it on the decks, with the words: "Howard DJs Like A Mad Cunt"...
"I thought of that meme because it was SO big when I was in high school and I literally could never forget how funny it is – nothing Tony Abbott has done is that funny," Seip told BuzzFeed News.
Her tweets were RT'd into many political nerds' feeds: creating a massive nostalgia rush for the meme masterpiece.
She's right. We all remember it.
Any Australian who has spent time on the internet in the last decade has seen the pre-social media meme more than a few times.
It continues to pop up on Reddit, meme aggregators, Facebook, and porn magazines. Yes porn mags (allegedly). It has even been spotted printed out and stuck on the walls of Aussie bars around the world.
But little is actually known about how the most viral, iconic meme in Australian political history came to be. So BuzzFeed News went looking for the artist(s) behind the masterpiece.
The hunt started with a tweet, which, with a surge of goodwill, spread very quickly.
The replies were awesome and predictable. Everyone had seen Howard on the decks.
Could it have been something drawn at a school in Newcastle in 2009? (We had our doubts because Howard stopped being PM in 2007.)
A lot of people reported copycats and gave us other timelines.
And everyone had a mate who knew the girl, who once saw it on a guy's phone.
Some weren't helpful.
One guy simply told us he loved the meme so much he got it printed on a coffee mug!!!! Which again didn't help but is awesome nonetheless.
Someone then pointed us to another Reddit thread where a user claimed the artist went to Melbourne's Footscray City College.
Before we thought, "Ah shit, are we going to have to go through Footscray College's yearbooks?" a man came forward with our first clue...
A Twitter user named "Geoffrey" deciphered the headline and the top-line.
And found it matched a Herald Sun article from May 31, 2007. Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first bingo!
While there was now a date (May 31, 2007), we needed to confirm the drawing was done on the Herald Sun and not the News Corp group's other papers.
So we went to the NSW State Library, rifled through some microfilm...and...found the edition!
Holy blimey! There it was. The original layout of the meme in the actual paper.
It was an exciting moment. Side-by-side it was like seeing a great Renaissance painting in the flesh – the true beauty of the art had been unlocked.
Armed with the date (May 31, 2007) and the paper (Herald Sun), we narrowed down the location to the Victoria-state area. Good areas. Next was to try to find where the meme first appeared online.
It had popped up in quite a few early meme websites, like You'reTheManNowDog on June 7, 2007. Which is very close to May 31.
A lot of the times it was popping up in music/DJ forums. Like NuSkoolBreaks a few days earlier on June 3 (which was even closer to May 31).
The very earliest we could find was on a truly old-school WordPress blog called "my pitch of pixels"...on MAY 31, 2007!!!!!!!!!!
MATCH MATCH MATCH. It even had the title: "In the news today..."
The caption for the post:
"Courtesy of Teh Ravejet (your talents are indeed wasted in construction)."
Now we had our earliest post, with a name and another clue: someone who worked in construction. mmmmmmmmm.
It felt like we were getting closer.
We also found that it had made its way to Flickr on the page of "Matt Adams" on June 5, 2007.
The caption reads:
"Something I knocked up at work, which I sent as an MMS to one person and since then its gone fucken apeshit, in those spam emails and forums. I've got the original in my car. As now seen in Beat Magazine from two weeks and this weeks men's magazine Zoo Weekly..."
Here was the first discernible name, "Matt Adams", of someone claiming to create the image. Everything was beginning to line up...but who was "Teh Ravejet" then mentioned in the earlier blog post?????
Out of nowhere an anonymous source contacted BuzzFeed News. The individual claimed to know who drew the meme and then sent screen-caps to a Facebook page from 2007. And again a "Matt Adams" is attributed to the meme's authorship.
But "Matt Adams" appears to be known on Facebook as "Matthias Von Man Train". Add another name to the list with "Ravejet".
After digging our way out of a huge internet hole, dusting our fronts off, getting his number, we called...
Meet Matt "Ravejet" Adams, creator of the greatest Australian meme of all time.
After sharing some pleasantries and having a laugh about our quest to find him, Matt launched into a long story, explaining how he came to doodle on John Howard in the Herald Sun.
*set the scene*
It's May 31, 2007, Matt is working as a glazier on a construction site, somewhere in the north eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
"When we had smokos on site there was always a copy of the Herald Sun or some men's magazines lying around - I've always worked in construction - I found myself doodling on the paper during that time," he said.
"Well, because I grew up playing music and DJing and playing parties, it just seemed appropriate to turn John Howard into a DJ."
And there on that day, Matt, who DJd under the name "Ravejet" and put on parties with his mates, drew "Howard DJs Like A Mad Cunt."
"I didn't think anything on it," he said, pretty frankly.
"I took a photo of my artwork on one of those early Sony Ericssons and sent it to my mate, Dean Millson, who was also a DJ in Melbourne at the time."
"He put it on his MySpace and it was well before Facebook was popular. He then moved it to his Word Press blog."
This was all happening before Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. Instead, it skipped from MySpace to WordPress, to music forum InTheMix, then into old school email chains. And then, seriously, men's magazines.
"It then showed up in Picture (which is a porno) and it showed up in Zoo," he said.
Matt also drew the link from his meme to the wildly popular Facebook page, Drawing Dicks on the Herald Sun, saying there's some clear inspiration going on there.
When pushed on his views on politics, Matt said he doesn't really care. But he thinks the funniest thing is that despite DJ'ing and dabbling in graphic design, something that took him seconds to anonymously create is his most famous piece of work.
"I try not to take too much notice of people trying to claim credit for it. Funnily enough, my fiancé gets more upset about those people."
Our next direct question is obvious then, well, where's the original?!?!
"To be honest it could be anywhere. I've moved house three times since then. I didn't think much of it at the time and wasn't overly careful of it."
"I remember taking it home when I was living in Richmond though. I have no idea where it ended up."
BuzzFeed News was approached by eight separate people who, under questioning, all corroborated Matt's story.
These checks along with the time-stamps on blogs and accounts linked to Matt and his mates mean it's highly likely the drawing is his.
Like everything in this world, we will stand corrected if proved otherwise.
Well it only felt appropriate to approach John Howard himself to see what he thought of being turned into a landmark pre-social-media meme. We needed to know whether he did, in fact, DJ like a mad cunt.
We'll let you know if we hear back.
So that's it, case closed. Finally, our great Australian meme (the meme zero, if you will) has been given its authorship... *phew*
The only thing left to do is soak it in, over and over again.
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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