As It Happens

Artist behind 'This is fine' meme can't escape it 10 years later — and he's fine with that

Much like the dog in his iconic comic strip, K.C. Green has learned to quietly accept the fact that he has no control over how people use and interpret his art.

K.C. Green embodies the dog from the comic in more ways than one

Two comic panels show a yellow dog in a hat sitting at a table drinking coffee while flames grow around him. In the second panel, he says: "This is fine."
K.C. Green says his On Fire comic strip struck a chord with the public and became an unstoppable meme. (K.C. Green)

Much like the dog in his iconic comic strip, K.C. Green has learned to quietly accept the fact that he has no control over how people use and interpret his art.

It's been 10 years since the Massachusetts artist first posted the six-panel comic strip, On Fireas part of his Gunshow webcomic series.

Since then, the first two panels have taken on a life of their own as one of the world's most recognizable internet memes. A yellow cartoon dog sits at a table drinking coffee complacently as a fire rages around him. "This is fine," he says to nobody in particular.

The infinitely relatable pooch has been used to comment on everything from the stress of exams to the ravages of climate change.

"It helped me understand the perception of one's art. Like, it might have been just a comic I had to dash off because I had a self-made schedule for my webcomic at the time. But, you know, people take what they want out of your art — without your permission half the time," Green told As It Happens host Nil Köksal.

"Art is open to interpretation, and that is just something I would have to live with — and I'm fine with."

Six comic panels of a yellow dog in a hat sitting at a table sipping coffee as a fire grows around him. In panel 2, he says "This is fine." In 3, he says: "I'm okay with the events that are currently unfolding." In 4, he says: "That's okay, things are going to be Okay" as his arm burns. In the final panel, his face melts off.
The full six panels of On Fire show a dog named Question Hound becoming engulfed by the flames he opts to ignore. (K.C. Green)

While the comic's message is universal, its original meaning is deeply personal.

"I started taking antidepressants, something that I just hadn't done before. And I was kind of scared about doing it as an artist," he said.

He worried, he said, that the medication would change him somehow — that he wouldn't be himself anymore.

"And that's not the case at all. It makes you get out of your own way when you sort of figure that stuff out," he said. "But for me, it was still new and still kind of a little scary."

A selfie of a bespectacled man with chin-length chair making a goofy face.
Green is a comics artist based in Easthampton, Mass. (Submitted by K.C. Green)

He was in his 20s, living alone, far from his family in Oklahoma, and trying to deal with these big questions about his mental health and his personality.

But he had to learn to live with the chaos. Because what else can you do?

"There was a lot happening. It just felt like I was just ignoring the bigger picture, which is eventually just how you sort of live life," he said. "That is just normal for everyone to some degree."

That was in 2013. About a year later, the memeficiation of his work began.

At first, he'd see it pop up on Instagram. University students shared it as final exams approached, a perfect encapsulation of how they were coping — or not coping — with the overwhelming stress.

Then, it started showing up everywhere. With every new social and political crisis the world had to deal with, the meme became more ubiquitous. 

"I try not to push it as much because I know that can be kind of annoying, but the fact that people still use it here and there ... shows that, yeah, it kind of struck a chord, didn't it?" he said. 

Sometimes, he says, it's used in ways that don't align with his values, like when the U.S. Republican Party account tweeted it in 2016 in reference to the nomination of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic presidential candidate.

But like the dog in the meme, Green let it roll off his back.

"I was just like, well, it's a meme. Everyone uses memes, including these losers," he said. "Sorry to editorialize."

@GOP tweets: Well ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ #DemsInPhilly #EnoughClinton on July 25, 2016, with an image of a cartoon dog sipping coffee has as fire rages around him. A text bubble reads: "This is fine."
In July 2016, the U.S. Republican Party used the meme to Green's dismay. (@GOP/Twitter)

Despite his complicated relationship with On Fire, Green has resurrected it more than once. 

In 2016, he collaborated with Adult Swim to create an animated version of it. Later that year, he published a sequel called This Is Not Fine, in which the dog — whose name is Question Hound — puts out the fire before the flames can destroy him.

Question Hound also makes appearances in Green's newer webcomic, Funny Online Animals.

Green also has a whole body of unrelated work that he wishes more people would associate with his name. He just recently completed a comic adaption of Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio that he's particularly proud of.

But nothing quite achieves the level exposure as that complacent, coffee-sipping canine.

"How I'll be remembered is, again, out of my hands," Green said. "So if it happens to be this or any of the other number of memes that have been made out of my work, then that's just what it is, I guess."

Interview produced by Sarah Jackson.

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