From Roll Safe to Cash Me Ousside, it’s already a banner year for memes.
Two thousand seventeen, the year: Will it be better than its predecessor, which was full of dead celebrities, dead apes, and a presidential election that never seemed to end (until it did)? Maybe! All we can really say for now is that it will be full of memes, and some of them will be good, provoking a laugh or capturing some current of emotion within the culture. Here’s our running list of the best memes of the year.
The best memes of 2017: January
Turkish restaurateur Nusret Gökçe captured the public’s imagination with an Instagram video that showed him applying salt to a steak like it was some kind of shimmering fairy dust. The hot butcher was soon dubbed “salt bae,” and he used his fame to expand his business into Britain and the U.S.
The saltbae “sprinkling” image can be used to indicate that you’re either adding a little extra flair to something, or you’re completely overdoing it.
Memesters spent January obsessed with the idea that everyone and everything in Italy is made of pizza, pasta, and meatballs. It all started with joke about a Google Image search for “Italian navy” that just returned images of floating pizzas, and it escalated into the idea that Italy’s planes have pizza wings, their aircraft carriers are pizza peels, and their bombs are meatballs raining from the sky.
This, of course, meshed will with the existing “colorized historical images” meme, and created an alternate history where part of World War II was fought by Italian food. That’s a spicy meme-ball.
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay entered the pantheon of memes thanks to a decade-old clip from Hell’s Kitchen where he shouts at his team, “Where is the lamb sauce?!” Someone distorted the photo, added glowing red laser eyes and the caption “Lamb sauce: Located,” and the rest is meme history.
Lamb Sauce is one of those total non-sequitur memes that’s funny for its sheer weirdness. Because it barely means anything, it can be used in any context, and that’s what makes it one of the year’s new classics.
Did President Donald Trump‘s special counsel, Michael Cohen, meet with Russian officials in Prague in August 2016? Probably not, but the way Cohen tried to clear himself on Twitter was so ridiculous that it turned into a meme.
“I have never been to Prague in my life,” he tweeted, with a photo of the front of his passport. People found it bizarre that he would show a photo that proves nothing—the stamps are on the inside, bro—and immediately began mocking him.
It was the first good political meme of the year.
This meme started with an October 2016 tweet, but it didn’t come into its own until 2017. When markyannna posted a painting of two pigs and captioned it with one asking the other “bröther may i have some öats,” some found it extremely funny, but no one knew it would become a big deal on 4chan.
Throughout January, posters on 4chan were engaged in “oatposting,” spamming boards with variations on “bröther may i have some öats” and Photoshopping the pigs into various images.
Just as oatposting died down on 4chan, it made the leap to Reddit, and oats memes went mainstream.
What’s the meaning of the pigs and oats? There may not even be one, and that’s what makes it funny.
When a prankster changed L.A.’s iconic Hollywood sign to “Hollyweed,” the internet reacted by posting their owned edited signs, often with the caption “They changed the Hollywood sign again.”
And what did they change it to? Anything and everything.
“The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead.” “Bush did 9/11/.” That System of a Down album cover. The script of Bee Movie and the first verse of Smash Mouth’s “All Star.” The longer they got, the funnier they got. The real-life sign has been changed back, but we’ll never look at it the same way again.
President Donald Trump’s first executive order authorized agencies to stop implementing parts of the Affordable Care Act. It also offered America a blank sheet of paper onto which it could Photoshop whatever the heck it wanted.
And what did America—or at least, it’s internet-dwelling shitlords—want to see? How about an anime ban, a shutdown of derivative meme websites 9gag and iFunny, and an order to deport all furries? Oh, 4chan, you never change.
Two of his lines from the film, “I am the Senate!” and “Did you ever hear the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the wise?” became shitposting catchphrases and inspired countless Photoshops. General Grievous’ collection of lightsabers and Obi Wan Kenobi’s higher ground in his duel with Anakin also became memes, but Palpatine proved to be the true winner of the Episode III resurgence.
The best memes of 2017: February
Teenage Dr. Phil guest Danielle Bregoli proudly admitted to stealing cars and hitting her mom, and when the show’s audience challenged her on it, she challenged them back: “Cash me ousside, how bow dah?”
You’re forgiven if you need some explanation, because Dr. Phil did, too. It’s “Catch me outside, how about that?”—in other words, let’s go outside and fight about it. Bregoli’s unintelligible accent—she says it comes from “the street”—made her fodder for one of the biggest memes of late January and early February.
If you object to a situation, or to someone’s behavior, just tell ‘em to cash you ousside.
Roll Safe originated in Kayode Ewumi’s 2015 webseries “Hood Documentary,” as the type of streetwise London guy who acts like he knows everything. The meme version of the character, developed by Black Twitter in February, focuses on one frame of Ewumi pointing knowingly at his own head. Roll Safe has it all figured out, but he also has it all wrong.
“If I don’t check my bank balance, I can’t be broke” and “you can’t disappoint your family if you’ve never made them proud in the first place,” are typical Roll Safe sentiments. Even if you instantly recognize that his logic doesn’t hold up, you might be able to relate to the feeling behind it: there has to be some clever way out of our dismal failures, right? The meme broke in late January but really hit its stride in February.
Trash Dove, a cute purple pigeon, is a character from an iPhone sticker pack by designer Syd Weiler. It’s also a nonsensical bit of Facebook spam that flooded the comment sections of popular pages throughout February.
Trash Dove first went viral in Thailand, where it’s apparently part of a sex joke that puns on the Thai word for bird. The practice of spamming the headbanging pigeon quickly made the jump to the U.S., where even the New York Times wasn’t immune from the attack. People started to ask whether it would possible for Facebook to ban Trash Dove altogether.
Dank meme heads on sites like 4chan consider the bird a “cancerous” mainstream meme, and there was even a brief attempt to kill it off by associating it with Nazis and the white supremacist alt-right. Trash Dove isn’t the new Pepe the Frog, though. It’s just a bird.
- 34 surprising exceptions to Rule 34
- The unbearable dankness of memes
- Donald Trump memes are making the internet great again
- On Shitposting
When Drew Scanlon, of the video game site Giant Bomb, reacted on video to one of his friends making a dumb joke, he had no idea he was launching the blink heard ‘round the world. The video is from 2013, but in February 2017, a couple seconds of Drew’s bemused blinking has turned into one of the most popular reaction GIFs on Twitter.
If you need to express surprise, confusion, or bewilderment at something, Drew’s your guy—your blinking white guy.
“Whom” sounds smarter and more formal than “who,” even though many people don’t use it correctly. And if is whom is smart, then “whomst” has to be really smart, right? And forget about whomst’d and whomst’dn’tve; they’re for geniuses only.
The rise of “whomst” on Reddit in early February also helped popularize a new meme format, a grid of three or more glowing brains, signifying increasing excitement about the subjects next to them.
“Whom” is meh. “Whomst’d” is where you want to be.
Best memes of 2017: March
Vice President Mike Pence bears a strong resemblance to secret agent Race Bannon from the classic cartoon Jonny Quest, a fact that memers are using to put Pence into all kinds of adventurous situations. And, given Pence’s anti-LGBTQ positions and his alleged support for “conversion therapy,” they’re also using it to make edgy jokes about Pence plotting against gay people. Are these memes meant to mock Pence or celebrate him? Given the pro-Trump bent of many meme communities, it can sometimes be hard to tell.
How do everything things get their names? According to the “I have a better idea” meme, someone steals credit for an invention and slaps their own name on it, screwing over the original inventor. These are sometimes called “Bill and Phil” memes, due to the canonical version of the joke:
What should we call this giant advertising board?
PHIL: A philboard
BILL: I have a better idea
— Hippo (@InternetHippo) April 6, 2015
There’s even an entire subreddit, called r/billandphil, dedicated to posting new variations on this format for bad puns.
The “Why Not Visit?” meme is part of the internet’s grand tradition of giving silly names to everyday things—calling dogs “doge” or fire ants “spicy boys”—but applied to the flora and fauna of specific environments. Why not visit the ocean? We got spikes, scrundls, and blobl blobl!
These grids of six weird animals, which popped up all over Reddit’s r/me_irl in mid-March, were later named “biomemes,” a clever portmanteau of “biome” and meme.
Student athletes never stop their grind. But more importantly, they never stop documenting their grind on social media, usually with tons of emoji. Student athlete memes mock these kids’ mistaken conviction that they’re working so much harder than the rest of the world, and they were apparently the release valve people on Twitter needed
Following on from February’s Italian Memes trend, where things from Italian history and culture were replaced by pizza, spaghetti, and meatballs, this month’s big Italian meme is “How Italians do things.”
The basic idea is that you replace any hand in a photo with the stereotypical Italian chef hand gesture, fingertips held together as if to say, “That’s-a spicy meatball.”
The meme relies on a totally cultural stereotype, but it’s such a goofy, over-the-top one that it’s still funny—especially because the best ones are pictures of people fumbling through basic tasks with their fingers held together.
How Italians drink coffee pic.twitter.com/RYWE2Zems4
— Donny Drama (@donny_drama) March 13, 2017
One of the most fun memes of March 2017 comes from a two-year-old screengrab of Meryl Streep cheering for Debbie Reynolds at the 2015 SAG Awards, which has now been co-opted as “Meryl Streep finishes song lyrics.” Just take the line of any song that you can’t help but finish, slot it into the meme, and you’ve got comedy gold.
Best memes of 2017: April
“I had to grind for this view” is a meme that’s all about hard work and prosperity but actually makes fun of people who brag about their material wealth on social media. The gorgeous landscapes that people had to “grind for” are all backgrounds from video games like Minecraft.
Soundcloud and Bandcamp are the two biggest online hubs for artists to upload their own music, but they couldn’t be more different: one thrives on hip hop and party music, the other on hipster indie rock. In April, a meme broke out that made fun of the contrast using side-by-side photos of things or people that are metaphorically “Soundcloud” or “Bandcamp.”
These two pics of Donald Glover (a.k.a. Childish Gambino) say it all:
With the release of DAMN. on April 14, rapper Kendrick Lamar officially inserted himself into the meme pantheon. The photo of a disgruntled K. Dot, with DAMN. in plain serif lettering on top, was instantly iconic online—so much so that people suspected Lamar had made a memeworthy cover on purpose. The possibilities for edits and captions are limitless.
Tate Parker’s “Scroll of Truth” webcomic is all about coming face to face with uncomfortable reality. The main character has been searching for the scroll of truth for a long time, but when he doesn’t like what it tells him, he throws it away. Meme-makers could put any text they wanted on the scroll, which turned it into a Reddit sensation, with everyone applying their own politics to the comic.
In 2014, Vice published photos purporting to show what people’s eyes looked like under the effects of various drugs. In April 2017, those eyes became a meme, with people adding their own “drugs” below beer, marijuana, and cocaine. Most of the entries referenced pop culture—especially cartoons—some were totally vulgar, and others referred back to previous memes. Unsurprisingly, the meme popped up around 4/20, the internationally recognized weed holiday.
13 Reasons Why
Hannah: Can i get some guac?
Chipotle Employee: Guacamole is extra.
Hannah: Welcome to your tape.
— Leo Blake Carter (@LeoBlakeCarter) April 16, 2017
“Welcome to your tape” was a repeated phrase from the hit Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, released in April. The show centered around a teenage girl who had committed suicide and left behind a box of tapes, addressing each person she blamed for her death. In the show, “welcome to your tape” prefaced some very serious, truly horrible accusations. As a meme, it was a way of joking that trivial things make you want to kill yourself.
Hannah Baker: Can I get a milkshake?
McDonald's: Sorry out machine is broken
Hannah Baker: Welcome to your tape
— 13 Reasons Why (@fansof13reasons) April 20, 2017
“Welcome to your tape” was perhaps the most controversial meme of April. The joke about overreacting to small things was kind of funny, but many also felt it made light of suicide and depression.
After a woman confessed to her crush by spelling out a note using track names on a Spotify playlist, the streaming music site became the locus of a new meme craze. People all over the internet—but especially on Twitter—were writing their own, mostly jokey Spotify messages. Some of them brought back old memes (like Rickrolling), but others added entirely new jokes to the canon. This playlist about owls was particularly inspired:
Best memes of 2017: May
The latest, and possibly greatest, in a long line of Spongebob Squarepants memes, Mocking Spongebob is a sarcastic response to … well, anything. Using a screengrab from an episode where Spongebob acts like a chicken, it also employs mIxEd CaPiTaLiZaTiOn to repeat someone’s statement back to them in a mocking, sarcastic tone. President Donald Trump has become a favorite target.
On President Trump’s first trip abroad, he was photographed touching a glowing orb in Saudi Arabia. The sinister lighting and the way Trump posed with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made the image an instant meme. Most jokes feigned awe at the orb, and set it up as a powerful magical artifact:
Child: do you remember when Trump touched the Orb?
Me: Yes. None of us realized what it would-
Orb Police: HAIL ORB
Me & child: hail orb
— Gödel, Escher, Baka (@jephjacques) May 21, 2017
This meme will still be funny when the orb controls the global economy and rules us all.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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