Stefan Karl Stefansson: When Memes Fight Cancer

In 2002, a show premiered called LazyTown which featured both puppets and real-life actors. It was mainly about the hero of the town called Sportacus who is played by Magnus Scheving and his sidekick Stephanie played by Julianna Rose Mauriello and Chloe Lang. But probably the most memorable character out of all of them was Robbie Rotten, played by Stefan Karl Stefansson. Robbie Rotten was an eccentric villain who everyone loved. From Stefan, he had to keep a quirky fun persona but have a little bit of villainy in him in order to not scare the little kids. He says “There is no difference in preparing for Robbie Rotten or any classical serious role…. Every part you prepare for you have to be honest and truthful and wholly believe that the character exists – otherwise no one will accept your acting. Kids are a demanding audience and they KNOW when something is untruthful.”

Poster for LazyTown (from left to right) Robbie Rotten, Sportacus, and Stephanie. Copyright Nickelodeon

LazyTown ended in 2014, finishing the quirky schemes of Robbie Rotten, but Stefans story doesn’t end there. In 2016 he was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma also known as bile duct cancer. It is a cancer that arises from the cells within the bile ducts both inside and outside the liver. When he announced it, LazyTown head writer Mark Valenti created a GoFundMe page to help support him as due to his treatments he was unable to work anymore.

Unsurprisingly, the meme community took notice of this cause. They used a few of the songs he sung on the show such as “Cooking by the book” and “You are a pirate” for the memes. But the most used one was a song titled “We are number one”. The song first premiered on the 107th episode of the series entitled “Robbie’s Dream team” which was about Robbie trying to get together a team of clones of himself to be villains. At the bottom of the picture or end of the video they would always include a link to his GoFundMe page to help support him


An example of one of the memes created to support him. Copyright KnowYourMeme

Stefan took notice of these memes that came forward for his fight and enjoyed them very much. In fact on December 11th, 2016, he hosted a reunion of all the clones of Robbie Rotten on Facebook live to perform “We are number one” live with the composer of the song. The video is currently on Youtube under his channel Stefan Karl. The outpouring of support for this man was astonishing. They raised close to 170,000 American dollars to support his cause.

In August 2017, he announced he was in a state of remission, which meant that there was an absence of activity in his cancer. It had been removed from his liver, but still had the disease and refused further therapy. In March 2018 he was diagnosed with inoperable Cholangiocarcinoma, which meant that very soon, he would die. In April 2018 he announced he would deactivate all his social media accounts in order to focus more time on his loved ones and decided to discontinue chemotherapy.

Then on August 21st, 2018 Stefan Karl Stefansson died from Bile duct cancer. His death rocked the meme community and put it into a state of mourning. This was a challenge rarely seen by this community and so many took part to support this man and now he was gone. Videos and meme pictures came up immediately afterward to celebrate the man’s life as he would have wanted it.

Although Stefan is gone, his influence and words still live on in the community.

Although Stefan is gone, his influence and words still live on in the community. It will be a while before the community moves on but for now its best to remember the man at his happiest moments. He says it best in one of his last tweets.

“It’s not until you realize you’re going to die soon that you realize how short life is. Time is the most valuable thing in life because it never comes back. And whether you spend it in the arms of a loved one or alone in a prison cell, life is what you make of it. Dream big.” 

Rest in peace Stefan. You will be missed. 

If you would like to help support his family or legacy after his death, there is currently a petition being signed to erect a statue of him in his hometown in Iceland which has gotten more signatures than the entire population of Iceland itself. Also there is a movement to get his Youtube channel to 1 million subscribers so his family can get the Golden Play button as a final thank you for his work.

Stefan in the hospital. Copyright Hello Magazine


Author: Ryan Deguire

Ryan Deguire is a second year reporter of The Eye. He is a Senior at SAS and has been here for 3 and a half years. He is the son of a Platoon Sergeant in the U.S. Army and has lived in six places including Singapore. He enjoys watching movies, video chatting with his friends in San Antonio Texas, and playing with his puppy Kaya. He can be contacted at either or

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