We had some very good suggestions for this feature this week, but if we don't go with the particular story we chose, well... there's just no point in having "This Week in Schadenfreude."
To start, for those who are not familiar, Cameo is a website where you can hire notable (and notorious) people to record short video greetings for... anyone or anything you want, pretty much. The prices are usually pretty reasonable—less than $100 in many cases, and less than $200 in nearly all cases—so for people who are looking for a little something different to give as a gift, it's not a bad option.
As you might imagine, the people for hire tend to be kind of B-list and C-list. You're not getting Tom Cruise or Michelle Obama for a C-note (or, in fact, for any price, since they are not on the site). But you can get Tommy Chong ($150), Mick Foley ($99), Randall Cunningham ($100), Jamie Farr ($125), Mia Hamm ($125), George Wendt ($125) or Jesus Christ ($45). Clearly, the King of Kings is not clear how much inflation there's been over the last 2,000 or so years.
Demand for Cameo performers follows some interesting... patterns, for lack of a better term. The most successful people on the site tend to be reasonably priced, but also somewhat cult-y, in the sense that they (or the character they played) will be of high interest to a sizable subsection of the population. In fact, the only person earning $1 million a year on Cameo right now played a supporting character on a semi-cult-y network show that went off the air more than a decade ago. Care to guess who it is? Or, at least, their show? We'll put the answer at the bottom of the page; to guess the performer's name would require a near-miracle, but you might at least get the right show.
Anyhow, given his sudden lack of income, and given that he's more than willing to do just about anything for a buck, it should come as a surprise to no one that Cameo's newest star is... "George Santos." His price is actually on the high end ($500), because he's got to get while the getting is good. But you can absolutely imagine that there are a lot of politics-watchers and lobbyists and politicos out there who will have no problem laying out five bills for a laugh.
And now we get to the schadenfreude, because one of the first people to scrape together $500 was the U.S. Senate's most talented troll, namely John Fetterman (D-PA). It's not too hard to be an a**hole as a troll; it takes much greater skill to be funny and to make a salient point. Anyhow, the performers on cameo don't know who they are working for; they just get general instructions as to whom they should address in the video and what they should say ("happy birthday," or "good luck during your first day at the new job," or whatever). And so, "Santos" did not know that it was Fetterman who requested and paid for a video addressed to "Bobby from Jersey," asking for some encouragement for "Bobby" in face of some ongoing legal problems. Here is the video (it's less than 30 seconds):
As you can probably guess, "Bobby from Jersey" is Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). You just have to tip your hat to that kind of trolling-jitsu.
Incidentally, while "Santos" has effectively transitioned into a role as town fool, don't feel too badly for him. He was already playing that role, to a large extent. Further, at least in the short term, his salary has skyrocketed. He was making $174,000 as a member of Congress; he's expected to make many times that on Cameo. Ain't America great? (Z)