Behind The Viral Image: ‘Pug Man’ Tells The Story Behind His High-Level Dog Troll

A few weeks ago, I came across this picture on Tumblr and posted it on Facebook. Sometimes I do that, share weird/funny/incredible images with my friends, most of whom don’t get to spend all day dicking around on the internet like I do. “Pug Man” really hit all the buttons for me. It still makes me laugh every time I look at it. The amount of effort that seems to have gone into pranking a dog is impressive, and the look on the dog’s face makes it all worth it. It’s high-level dog trolling. Which is strange, yet also universal – I always find myself singing weird songs and performing impromptu dances for dogs or babies. Getting a reaction out of them is so satisfying for some reason. Plus, it’s a pug, which have more or less been transformed from ferocious beasts into the ideal butt of jokes through thousands of years of genetic engineering – like clowns we built so we’d have something to throw pies at. It says a lot about how much time humans spend solely on entertaining ourselves, and this picture seems like the logical extension of that impulse.

Soon after I’d posted it, a friend tagged someone who turned out to be the actual Pug Man in the comments. It’s rare that you get the backstory on the random images you use as a substitute for real connection with your friends (and people you haven’t seen since high school), and I thought, what an opportunity. Not that the picture itself isn’t worth more than a thousand words already, but I asked Pug Man, aka Mark Potts, if he could tell us a little more about it.

FILMDRUNK: First of all, tell us, who and why are you?

MARK POTTS: My name is Mark Potts. I live in Los Angeles and am a freelance editor by day, writer and videomaker by other parts of the day and night. I’m a part of the sketch group Heckbender, which you’ve featured before. I’ve made a few feature films, the last being Cinema Six, which is a film you’ve featured the trailer for as well as let us use a Filmdrunk shirt in. I like getting up early and I think breakfast should be eaten for every meal.

Okay, so I guess the obvious question I have to ask, since this is the internet…  ‘shopped or not shopped? Be honest, is this picture fake and/or gay? If not, how did it come to be?

It is 100% real. I own that mask, that shirt, and that pug. Though all were bought at different times. Here’s the original tweet by my wife.

(Borat voice) MAH WAHFE.


Sorry, force of habit. Where did you get the mask? Is the tongue part of the mask or is that your tongue sticking out of it?

I bought the mask after seeing it through the window of an Urban Outfitters. The man checking me out was very confused why I was paying $20 for it. As was I. The tongue is built into the mask.

Are you kidding? I’d pay at least… $29 – $35 for that mask. So, what’s the dog’s name? How many different takes did it take to get that perfect look of surprise? 

Gizmo T. Pug is six years old, from Texas, and enjoys sleeping, eating, and reading Chuck Klosterman’s essays on Billy Joel. He was that surprised/scared the entire time. That’s the first picture we took. There is a second where I am looking at him and he hasn’t changed expressions at all.

As you can see, Gizmo’s reaction hasn’t changed. I felt sort of guilty afterwards, but I gave him a new bone and some bacon treats and he was fine. I imagine he forgot about it quickly. I also realized at that moment I think of my dog too much like a real person, which is an entirely different issue.

So was it your wife taking the picture?

Yeah, she took the picture.

What did your wife say about this? Was she in on it? Is she just used to these kinds of games? Have you done any other dog trolling?

Oh, my request for her to take the photo was met with a hearty sigh, but full support. I’m proud to say we are both fully aware of how absurd and slightly stupid or obsession with our dog is. He has a Twitter and a Facebook page and she updates those more than I do. Seriously. It’s so dumb. But pugs are better than cats and it’s something the internet needs to learn. And if we have to be the stupid looking people who lead the revolution, then so be it. History will be on our side.

Did you get any flack for “cruelty” from any of the online brigade of animal crazies? How many different places have you seen it show up? Oh yeah, and WHEN did you take the pictures?

Shockingly, nothing about cruelty. People always point out how scared Gizmo looks, but pugs sorta always look scared by everything. A few people on reddit seemed to be slightly upset by his look, but there will be people upset about anything and everything. I’m sure someone hates that we are using a typewriter as a computer stand in the background.

The picture was taken last August, towards the end of the month. She posted it on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Then I posted it on reddit and that’s when it exploded. Now, I’ve seen it used all over the place. It pops up on random Twitter accounts. I know a few sports websites have posted it as “shocked reaction” pics. It’s popped up a lot on Instagram. I get notifications a few times a month from friends who see it. Instagram user thefatjewish posted it a while back and he has a huge following.

And of course, you comment on these posts and say, “Hey, that’s mine!” but you get nothing because many of these users have tons of fans and receive tons of comments as it is. And I’m not expecting takedowns or anything like that. I don’t want it taken down from anywhere, actually. I bought the mask for a feature, Spaghetti Man, my comedy group Heckbender is making and this was just a silly pic to show the guys what it looked like and it’s awesome the pic, and my dog, will live on forever, popping up in random places at random times. And I’ve learned I should probably watermark anything like that, but I also hate watermarks. My BS artsy side says it ruins the image, but my rational, business side says that is stupid. And it probably is, so I’ll watermark any pics that contain more than one image of a pug from now on.

Thank you very much for this. I think we did important work here.

Thank you. I really appreciate it. Finally, the credit I deserve!

Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the Uproxx network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.