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Cool teens are intentionally injuring themselves with the #BananaPeelChallenge
Watch your step.
For everything Twitter lost when it evolved from a “microblogging” platform into a full-fledged media platform, one thing it has gained is short video—and with it, the potential for physical comedy.
Teens have been doing slapstick gags (sometimes unintentionally) on Vine since its inception. That’s why, in 2016, the time is ripe for slipping on a banana peel to become a meme.
The #BananaPeelChallenge trend started with Jason Oakes, a teen with a modest Twitter following of 2,000, who “tried to see if banana peels were rlly slipper like in cartoons.”
Yes, they are. There’s a reason the trope has been around since the Vaudeville days of the early 20th century: Apparently discarded banana peels were a major public safety problem in the American cities back then, but times (and waste disposal standards) have changed.
More than a century later, slipping on a banana peel is no longer a topical joke, but it has been passed down through the ages to the teen comedians of the here and now. They’re pretty sure it’s real, but they’ve got to confirm for themselves and stage a pratfall in the process.
Naturally, the response has involved a lot of tut-tutting about millennial idiots and their penchant for lowbrow, self-destructive humor. You can pin a lot of things on Kids These Days, but don’t act like they invented the banana peel gag, a comedy bit that predates even the Greatest Generation.
Adults big on personal responsibility will suddenly blame the hashtag as soon as someone screws up a banana peel slip and gets horribly injured, though. We’ve seen it happen with other controversial teen challenges.
No one would have predicted this would be a relevant public service announcement in the 21st century, but here we are: Safety while performing old-timey comedy routines is everyone’s responsibility. Check yourself before you Charlie Chaplin yourself.
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.