Memes are a lot different today than they were at their inception, now these spicy internet gems are everywhere. Back in my day, we had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to get our memes, and they were about as spicy as a saltine. The term meme was coined by Richard Dawkins, and he described them as being to pop culture what genes are to humans. The definition doesn’t correctly fit anymore, but they do drive pop culture. The first internet meme is usually considered to be Baby Cha-Cha-Cha or just the Dancing Baby. That was in 1996, but the term didn’t actually take off until 2012. They have come a long way from rage comics and images with bold white text overlaying them, and we’re going to take a trip down memery lane. Here are ten incredibly viral memes and the story of where they came from.
The fact that this meme originated in Soviet Russia is a memeception that truly just adds to its legacy. The actual title of the song that this deep, insightful quote hails from is “I Am So Happy to Finally Be Back Home” and it is by well-loved artist Eduard Khil. The song came out in 1976, and was popularized in 2009 when it was uploaded to YouTube under the seemingly cryptic title of “I am very glad, as I’m finally returning back home.” The style in which it is sung is called volkaiz. Khil said that there were lyrics to the song that just didn’t make it as part of the track.
Don’t Tase Me, Bro
On September 17, 2007, during an event at the University of Florida, Senator John Kerry was speaking. After questions had finished for the evening, an announcement was made that only one more could be taken. A student named Andrew Meyer got up and insulted the Senator, but Kerry insisted he be allowed to ask his question. Andrew continued, and probed him about his involvement in Yale’s secret society, and made vulgar comments about Bill Clinton which resulted in his microphone being shut off. Four officers ended up having to escort him away, and he was fighting the entire time. One officer was threatening him with a taser to encourage him to comply, and he still wouldn’t. He then shouted “Don’t tase me, bro!” right before being drive stunned.
In 2000, a Saturday Night Live skit gave birth to this enduring meme. Christopher Walken played music producer Bruce Dickinson, and Will Ferrell had the role of Gene Frenkle, a cowbell player. The skit was a fictional recreation of the band Blue Öyster Cult recording “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” and the cowbell was annoying all of the band members, but Dickinson was enjoying it greatly. The band keeps expressing their frustration, and getting interrupted, as Frenkle dances wildly while playing, and yet Dickinson keeps demanding “more cowbell.” This skit is considered one of the greatest in SNL history, and you can still purchase graphic tees at shops like f.y.e. with Christopher Walken’s stoic face and the message, Needs More Cowbell.
That’s What She Said
Chevy Chase was the first one to utter these exact words, all the way back in 1975 on Saturday Night Live. It was kept alive over the years by Mike Myers in Wayne’s World and many other shows, like The Office. What many people don’t know, is that while middle school hallways continue to be filled with the phrase, it’s a play on something much older. The first-ever “that’s what she said” joke originated sometime before 1910. Back then, the line was “as the actress said to the bishop,” which was similarly used to highlight a particularly naughty double entendre. Actresses used to be… available as hired entertainment after shows, and the joke was referencing them confessing their sins.
The Navy Seal Copy Pasta
What the fuck did you just fucking say about me, you little bitch? I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I’ve been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Quaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in gorilla warfare and I’m the top sniper in the entire US armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target. I will wipe you the fuck out with precision the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my fucking words. You think you can get away with saying that shit to me over the Internet? Think again, fucker. As we speak I am contacting my secret network of spies across the USA and your IP is being traced right now so you better prepare for the storm, maggot. The storm that wipes out the pathetic little thing you call your life. You’re fucking dead, kid. I can be anywhere, anytime, and I can kill you in over seven hundred ways, and that’s just with my bare hands. Not only am I extensively trained in unarmed combat, but I have access to the entire arsenal of the United States Marine Corps and I will use it to its full extent to wipe your miserable ass off the face of the continent, you little shit. If only you could have known what unholy retribution your little “clever” comment was about to bring down upon you, maybe you would have held your fucking tongue. But you couldn’t, you didn’t, and now you’re paying the price, you goddamn idiot. I will shit fury all over you and you will drown in it. You’re fucking dead, kiddo.
Kabosu, the precious Shiba Inu that unwittingly posed for the original photo, was first introduced to the internet in 2010. She was adopted by a kindergarten teacher in Japan who found her too cute not to post. This meme has been referenced in songs, by congressmen, and spawned an internet currency called the Dogecoin. In 2013, images began to surface with comic sans statements on them on Tumblog, Shiba Confessions. 4Chan and Reddit took the meme and ran with it, and Walmart even sold some graphic tees printed with Kabosu and some signature statements like “wow” “so space” “very star” on a galaxy background. There was another more popular shirt that just said things like “lol” and “so amaze.” While doge images aren’t as prevalent, the manner of speaking continues to be used in internet jokes today.
The first time cute photos of cats were published with funny captions was in 1903. Harry Whittier Frees would photograph various small animals dressed up in outfits. They were used as postcards with captions like “What’s delaying my dinner?” and other things cats definitely would say. In 1929, there were also similar photos in Parents Magazine. 4Chan got its hands on these pictures in 2005, and they began to spread and take new forms. The first time the term Lolcat was used was in June of 2006, shortly before the domain LOLcats.com was registered. Icanhazcheezburger.com would follow a year later. These photos still get millions of Facebook shares, mostly featuring cats in funny situations with captions in the made-up language of kitty pidgin or based on other memes or popular phrasal templates.
Trogdor the Burninator was created by StrongBad on his show, put out by Homestar Runner. Homestar Runner is the source of many older memes, but Trogdor has held its weight the longest. StrongBad was explaining how to draw a dragon, and Trogdor was the result, complete with his own theme song. Hilarity ensued across the internet as this spread like wildfire, moderate popularity of the original clip was enough to get the burninating started. Trogdor has found his way into many a macro, and also was featured in a web-based game where you could take part in the rampant burnination. The theme song was featured in Guitar Hero 2.
U mad bro?
Bill O’Reilly had rapper Cam’Ron as a guest on his show in 2003. The two of them started to discuss how rap music affects children, and it quickly escalated into an argument. When O’Reilly was clearly very worked up, Cam’Ron taunted him by saying “You mad?” over and over again. It eventually evolved to u mad bro? over time, and is still a very popular taunt used today. There are graphic tees, and plenty of references in other forms, such as in television shows and songs. It has several variations, but the message is, all the same, a simple question, u mad bro? It’s used to spur on people who are clearly getting unnecessarily worked up about something they’re wrong about, or something that’s ultimately inconsequential. It’s often accompanied by the rage-comic style Troll face.
The first ever bait and switch style meme popularized on 4Chan was called the Duckroll. A piece of code on the site made it so the word egg would automatically become duck in posts made on the website, and users began to post the image of a duck on wheels with exciting titles. Rickrolling took over in 2007 and was even part of the Macy’s Day Parade in 2008. Many other bait and switch memes exist today, like the John Cena intro playing randomly in the middle of an otherwise ordinary video. Despite the many variations, Rickrolling has withstood the test of time and is still popular (and hilarious) a full decade after the first time it happened. The original video on Youtube now has almost 400 million views, and this meme is heavily referenced in pop culture. Every now and again, it recirculates; which is no surprise considering Mr. Astley’s promise to never give you up, never let you down, never run around, and desert you.