Oatmeal Spells F U in Money Shots

I am kneeling on a sun-dappled hardwood floor with stacks of $20 bills in $2,000 bundles in each hand helping to spell out the word "douchebaggery," and thinking: $220,000 just doesn't seem like that much money. I found myself in this position after asking Matthew Inman, the artist behind the cartoon and business The Oatmeal, if I could take pictures when he withdrew the cash he will ultimately hand over to the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation in order to use it to make fun of a Web site that threatened him with legal action.

This is the latest episode in a saga that BoingBoing has documented in quite some detail, and which began June 11, when Inman posted an annotated version of a letter he had received from Charles Carreon, a well-known attorney representing FunnyJunk, a user-submitted content site, complaining about a post Inman had made a year ago. Inman complained in 2011 about FunnyJunk's business model, noting, "Most of the comics they've stolen [have] no credit or link back to me. Even with proper attribution, no one clicks through and FunnyJunk still earns a huge pile of cash from all the ad revenue." It's a common problem with sites that rely on submitted items, and each site has different policies on how to manage such unauthorized postings. Inman didn't issue DMCA takedown notices, though he would have been within his rights. He says he's just not interested in engaging in that sort of behavior. (By the way, did you know you have to register an agent with the copyright office to qualify for the safe-harbor provision of the DMCA? Me, neither! FunnyJunk's registration was received May 29, 2012, shortly before its lawyer sent the letter to Inman.)

In Inman's response to the letter, he said instead of avoiding potential litigation by, among other things, paying FunnyJunk $20,000, he would instead raise that much money and give it to the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation. If he achieved that goal, he would take a picture of the money in cash and send that photo along with a "drawing of your mom seducing a Kodiak bear" to FunnyJunk. In the actual event, Inman raised $220,024 via an Indiegogo campaign. Hence the cash in his office.

(Between posting his annotated letter and the collection of cash, as we wrote here, Carreon expressed bewilderment to MSNBC about Inman's response, threatened to sue Inman and other parties, and then actually filed suit against Inman, Indiegogo, the National Wildlife Federation, and the American Cancer Society, among other unnamed parties. I also highly recommend Popehat's legal discussion of the filings. Inman is represented by Venkat Balasubramani, who wrote this marvelous response to Carreon's initial legal letter. After Carreon filed a suit on his own behalf, the EFF joined Balasubramani to provide aid to Inman. As Popehat notes, Carreon might run afoul of anti-SLAPP [strategic lawsuit against public participation] laws, too. BoingBoing knows something about anti-SLAPP suits. On June 30, Carreon updated his suit with even more allegations, and proposed a settlement. On July 3, Carreon withdrew his suit. I'm not even getting into Carreon and his wife's fascinating political Web sites with photoshopped images nor their poetry.)


This all leads to the money I (sadly, temporarily) have in my hands (see full photo set). I'm in an office in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, near where I had my own office space for several years, with Inman's mother (who handles merchandise fulfillment), his girlfriend, his sole employee, and an old friend with whom he used to work. The office is nearly empty. They've just moved in. A few digitally printed "oil paintings" adorn the walls. A stack of prints of a Wookiee holding a light saber with a crucifix emerging is on one table.

Inman had arranged with his bank a few days before to receive the money at a branch, where they took him into a vault to receive his cash. The bank typically has less than half that amount in cash on hand, a fact that perhaps it shouldn't have shared. He was told to bring four backpacks to hold the cash, but did his own estimations and brought a modest duffel instead.

I am apparently implicitly trustworthy enough to handle the cash, and we all assisted Matthew in arranging bills first to spell "FUCK YOU" and then "F.U." and then, in two passes, "PHILANTHROPY > DOUCHEBAGGERY" in a sort of dot-matrix/bitmap style. At one point, Inman's mom suggests he pose inside the U, which he does, and then holds out a middle finger. "Oh, don't do that," his mother says. He puts his hand down for a moment, and then holds up both hands with middle fingers extended. (Matthew is a mild-mannered, pleasant chap.)

The more you handle large sums of money, the more ridiculous the concept becomes. A $20 bill, on its own, feels like it has some worth; 1,100 of them are absurd, like confetti or Monopoly bills. There are too many to take seriously. I have this same feeling every time I try to explain to my young children how money and the economy works: "Kids, this piece of paper is different than all others. It's been imbued with magical ink properties and a sort of religious faith in the United States government."

Inman says confronted with the cash in his hands, he's uncomfortable with what he's doing. "It seems boastful," he says, worrying that it is childish spelling out obscenities and insults with hundreds of thousands of dollars on his floor. His buddy says, "When did you stop being willing to be ridiculous, Matt?" "When I turned 29." He is nearly 30 now.

Photos were taken from many angles. Inman finished up with a rough "drawing" of one of his typical Oatmeal faces with some crazy hair to make it look more like the "mom" in his drawing. And then we packed up the money so he could take it back and re-deposit it in the bank.

The final sum was roughly $205,000 after payment processing costs and Indiegogo's fee, some paid via PayPal and some direct to Indiegogo. Indiegogo has disbursed, on June 29, $96,000 to the two charities, and Inman has checks written for the remainder in the hands of his lawyer to send off as soon as the legal coast is clear.



  1. Huh! I am only familiar with the use of the term “money shot” as a synonym for jizz. +1 informative.

    Anyway, more to the point: what a fucking mensch this guy is, and what a photograph and what a wonderful end to a bizarre tale.

    1. lol. I don’t believe “money shot” refers to the actual jizz. It refers to the framing and composition of the shot in which the jizz (or whatever) features.

      I hope my colleagues don’t immediately think of this when I use the phrase, though I do like and use it because of how seedy it sounds.

          1. I once found it hilarious when I heard Andrea Mitchell use the term “down to the short strokes” in describing the last days of an election.

            Please don’t ruin it by telling me that’s really a golf term.

          2. But that’s derived from porn. In the porn context, it still seems to refer to spunkage.

          3. @antinous

            I’m pretty sure in the porn context it refers to the shot that involves the splooge, hence money ‘shot’, it wouldn’t even make sense if it were used to describe splooge itself.

          4.  It doesn’t really matter what filmsite.org says money shot means, if everyone thinks it means something else.  Mrs. May in junior English class always said “words don’t mean – people do”.  In language, when everyone is “miseducated” the language changes.

          1.  Money Shot was my favorite band.  But you didn’t want to be within 5 feet of the stage.  You just didn’t.

          2.  @PopeRatzo:disqus : Have you ever been to a Rammstein concert? They used to have this routine involving a prosthetic penis, trick pants, some well concealed tubing, and diluted skim milk…

            Then there was An Incident in Australia where the tubing clogged at exactly the WRONG moment for the lead singer, and they quietly dropped that sketch.

          3. @PopeRatzo:disqus  Disqus appears to have eaten my post. Short version: Have you ever been to a Rammstein concert?

            EDIT: AAaaand now my post reappears. Sigh.

          4. Disqus has been malfunctioning since yesterday. Comments just sort of come and go at random.

    2. I’ve never heard ‘mensch’ used in this way before; in fact, the word seems to have positive connotations. Or at least its normal meaning :) Can someone enlighten me as to this usage?

      1.   I’m sure she’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but Xeni is referring to Matt Inman as a mensch, in an entirely positive way. If she was talking about Charles Carreon, she would have called him a “fucking schmuck”.

      2. As others have said, it’s Yiddish for a stand-up kind of guy. That said, you may’ve heard it used otherwise, as the Jewish population has a fairly intimate relationship with sarcasm.

    3.  How about a cookie shoot?  It could even be an Oatmeal ooky cookie.   Eww.
      As others have said, at least this is hopefully the last we will read about either party involved.

      1. Not oatmeal, because The Oatmeal,  hates oatmeal. Chocolate chip. Now THAT’S a cookie!

  2. With all due respect: it’s philarctia that trumps douchebaggery. 

    Free bear hugs!

  3. Cant think of a better thing to do with this money than draw with it and give it to charity.

  4. Is that how indiegogo actually works?  They hand over the money to you in cash, and then its up to you to hand it over to the charities?  Huh….. hmmm…. eh?  uhh… Is there any accountability involved? I need to start me an IndieGoGo campaign.

    Also, does he get to write this off on his taxes as a charitable donation?

      1. I’m not convinced that is the case, but I’m not an accountant. In the case of Karen Klein, the “bullied bus monitor,” a commenter on her IndieGoGo said that as long as each individual contribution was underneath the annual limit on a person’s gift-giving ($12k I think?), no taxes needed to be paid. And if taxes did have to be paid, in the case of a gift, it was the giver of the gift who had to pay the taxes, not the receiver.

        Again, IANA(ccountant), but that’s what someone who claims to be an accountant said.

        1. Disclaimer: I’m not an accountant, nor a tax lawyer – but I’ve read at least one of these threads.

          If he declares it as income, he may (or may not) be able to deduct it as a charitable donation (there can be limits to this). If his income is moderate, declaring this much income and then deducting it would certainly land him in trouble RE the Alternative Minimum Tax (which basically says that if you’ve got a declared income above a certain threshold and an effective tax rate on that declared income that’s too low, you owe a lot more tax) – but it was asserted in another thread that he actually makes quite a lot of money, so maybe this isn’t an issue. It is however possible that he doesn’t really make all that much money as net income, but rather this includes all the receipts from book sales and the like, with a large part of this gross income balanced with business expenses. 
          He may be able to neither declare the money as income nor deduct it from his taxable income, by saying the money was never truly his, he was just conveying it to the charities. This might also make it possible for the donors to deduct their charitable donations, which might be problematic if he were to declare it as income, as he is not an accredited charity.
          If he doesn’t declare the money as income, there is no way he can conceivably claim the donation as a tax deduction – you can’t give away what you never legally had.

        1.  Actually, the money he photographed was actually his own money, withdrawn from his own bank account, so there’s no income to declare there; it’s money he already had (and presumably paid taxes on) just transferred into a different form. The money he received in the campaign ended up being sent directly to the charities in order to avoid legal issues.

          1. Details in the story. Indiegogo disbursed some directly, but Inman collected some via PayPal linked to the Indiegogo account, which he then paid out through checks directly. I am not an accountant, either, but he may owe taxes on the money he received directly, and then use a charitable deduction of the same amount.

        2. He won’t be declaring anything. He withdrew his own money to take the photos, and will be returning it to the bank. The ‘real’ money is on it’s way to the charities. He already said he will be providing receipts from said charities, to prove his intent.  Carreon can eat his shorts. And everyone elses.

    1. Alex, that’s how most fundraisers work. You hand your money to someone collecting on behalf of a charity and trust that it makes it’s way there. Like at the grocery store when they ask you to donate a dollar to yada yada save the flarps. Or when you buy candy bars from some kid. The list goes on and on. 

      1. The flarps are a very important cause. They are made of furry flippers so it can be very difficult to navigate from breeding ground to breeding ground over hard stone. For just $40, you can save a flarp by buying it gloves.

    2. Inman had IndieGogo send money directly to the charities that users paid to IndieGogo on credit/debit cards. 

      Other funds were sent directly to Inman from people who used paypal on IndieGogo to check out. That money was delivered to his attorney in 2 checks the week the fundraiser ended.

      All of that was explained to Mr. Carreon days upon days before his “emergency” temporary restraining order was filed. The judge was likely to dismiss it as moot as the money was already on its way to the charities when Carreon filed his TRO.

    3. IndieGoGo is not a *charity* fundraising website.  They presumably have some process where they vet people wishing to start campaigns. If you read their TOS:

      2. You will be required to designate the legal entity to which funds will be directed (the “Project Entity”). By providing the name of your Project Entity to Indiegogo, you represent and warrant that you are an authorized representative of the Project Entity with the authority to bind the Project Entity to the terms of this Agreement, that the Project Entity is the legal entity responsible for the Project and accountable for the use of any funds raised for it on Indiegogo, and that you accept this Agreement on the Project Entity’s behalf. 3. To receive Contributions, your Project Entity must establish an account (a “Funding Account”) with the payment processor designated by Indiegogo at the time you post your Project (the “Processor”). You understand and agree that your Funding Account will be governed by your agreement with the Processor, and that Indiegogo shall have no liability for your Funding Account or your transactions or interactions with the Processor.  


      It is solely your choice to contribute to a Project. You understand that making a Contribution to a Project does not give you any rights in or to that Project, including without limitation any ownership, control, or distribution rights, and that the Project Entity shall be free to solicit other funding for the Project, enter into contracts for the Project, allocate rights in or to the Project, and otherwise direct the Project in its sole discretion. You further understand that nothing in this Agreement or otherwise limits Indiegogo’s right to enter into agreements or business relationships relating to Projects. Indiegogo does not guarantee that any Project’s Campaign Goal will be met. Any Perks offered to you are between you and the Project Entity only, and Indiegogo does not guarantee that Perks will be delivered or satisfactory to you. Indiegogo does not warrant the use of any Project Funding or the outcome of any Project. 


      Indiegogo makes no representations regarding the deductibility of any Contribution for tax purposes. Please consult your tax advisor for more information.

  5. The “money shot” is the shot in a movie that would bring people to the theater with their cash in hand. The money maker. The ‘climax’ of the movie. It’s not exclusive to porn. Exploitation filmmakers also used that term. The reveal of a monster at the end of a film or gore scenes are also money shots, as are shots of girls taking their tops off.

    1. This always seemed obvious to me, I’m not sure where people got the idea it referenced splooge, other than spending too much time on urban dictionary.

      1. Its usage in mainstream films derives from the porn term, not the other way around.

    2.  The last incisive dissection of the term I read appeared when the statue of Saddam was torn down during the invasion of Iraq.

    3.  There’s industrial jargon and then there’s slang. “Moneymaker” is slang for the ass, for example.

  6. Post monster ate it. this is in response to teapot.

    That still does not give the porno description, only that it was pulled from porn.

    Go with Stephen Ziplow’s deffinition:

    (pulled from wiki, and the book)
    According to Stephen Ziplow, author of The Film Maker’s Guide to Pornography , “…the cum shot, or, as some refer to it, ‘the money shot’, is the most important element in the movie and that everything else (if necessary) should be sacrificed at its expense.”

  7. If only the comics were nearly as good as this saga of comeuppance they’ve led to …

    1.  After the discussion upthread, I am not convinced that “comeuppance” is the ideal word.

  8. What will the new dawn bring?

    Rob! Why did you have to ask that? Because ths is the answer: Rapeutation.com. On Carreon’s new venture, he posts a music video written lovingly for The Oatmeal, talks about the problem about being butthurt over evil people on the internet who dare criticise him, and rambles about sweeping, oppressive, and unconstitutional laws to allow him to sue anyone he doesn’t like.

    Bonus: Features the acronym “Distributed Internet Reputation Attack” to describe what most of us would call “comment threads” and “justifiable criticism of someone who is clearly trying to abuse the legal system because he was offended.”

  9. Ken over at Popehat said that he was going to allow Indiegogo to donate the money directly to charity and use his own money for the pictures.
    “Or perhaps Carreon believes he achieved victory because the cash Mr. Inman photographed was technically his own funds, not the funds he raised and forwarded to worthy charities. If this is what Mr. Carreon needs to live with himself, I say we let him cherish it. Oh, very well done, Mr. Carreon.”

  10. Maybe I’ve seen too many Pez videos, but I kind of want to see the bundles dancing around the floor in stop-motion animation.

  11. This is awkward, because I’ve been meaning to mention this for some time, and I’m sorry I waited.

    You see, the American Cancer Society has, by overwhelming report, been taken over by a bunch of thieving scumbags who pay themselves “executive”-level salaries and lunch all afternoon on the contributions of well-meaning folks like yourselves.   It’s easy to google up the reputation of the ACS among those who pay attention to such matters.  When last I checked the ACS was collecting over $700M each year, and spending almost all on “overhead”.

    (This phenomenon is a distressingly frequent problem with well-known charities, obvious in retrospect: once “volunteers” achieve control of an organization, they can begin milking it.  Most often the culprit is a direct-mail vendor, who then ensures that receipts mostly just pay for overpriced mailers.)

    Please give the money to the American Cancer Institute, instead, which seems actually to spend it on something besides collecting more.  Stuff like research and, you know, patients?

    Full disclosure: I have never had any knowing contact with the American Cancer Society or Institute or their respective employees and associates, but my grandfather died of cancer before I was born.

    1. You see, the American Cancer Society has, by overwhelming report, been taken over by a bunch of thieving scumbags who pay themselves “executive”-level salaries and lunch all afternoon on the contributions of well-meaning folks like yourselves.

      [citation needed]

      And the onus is on you to find citations, not tell us to Google it. That being said, there has been documented corruption in large charities like this, so it wouldn’t surprise me.

    2. Highly inaccurate information, easily factchecked by a visit to Charity Navigator. The ACS raised nearly $950m in 2011 and spent $700m on program expenses. It has a ridiculous amount of cash on hand, and it is very inefficient relative to fundraising ($200m in fundraising to bring in $950m is relatively terrible, but not criminal). There was a report in 1999 that criticized it heavily, and I can find articles that are full of venom (and not in publications I’m aware of) that talk about ACS steering money to drug companies, etc. It would be interesting to see a great independent evaluation of that from a publication known for fact-checking.

      I’ve had cancer, and I typically give to the Leukemia and Lymphona Society.

    3. What’s new? I would really like to see ‘charities’ of this sort made to account for every penny. Most should go to the cause, but it doesn’t.  Thank you, politicians with selfish agendas.

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