Salt Bae illustration

Illustration by Jason Reed

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

Saltbae

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.

Italian Memes

best memes of 2017: Italian Navy

x2k284/Reddit

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.

Lamb Sauce


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.

I Have Never Been to Prague

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.

Brother May I Have Some Öats

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.

Hollyweed Sign

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.

Trump’s Executive Order

best memes 2017: Trump's executive order

skinkbaa/reddit

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.

Chancellor Palpatine Memes

For some reason, Revenge of the Sith,  the best of the bad Star Wars prequels, became a rich source of memes in January. And no character benefitted more than the nefarious Chancellor Palpatine.

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

Cash Me Ousside, how bow Dah?

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

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

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.

best memes of 2017: Purple Dove

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.

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White Guy Blinking

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.

Whomst

“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

Mike Pence Is Race Bannon

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.

funny memes 2017: Mike Pence is Race Bannon Screengrab via Daily Dot

I Have a Better Idea

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:

There’s even an entire subreddit, called r/billandphil, dedicated to posting new variations on this format for bad puns.

best memes of 2017: I have a better idea

Why Not Visit? (Biomemes)

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!

Best new memes 2017: Why not visit

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 Athlete Memes

Best memes 2017 : Student athlete Screengrab via @StudentAthSays/Twitter

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

Italian Hand Memes

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.

Meryl Streep Finishing Song Lyrics

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.

funny memes 2017: Meryl Streep Screengrab via @asialatrish/Twitter

 

Best memes of 2017: April

I Had to Grind for This View

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.

best memes 2017 : i had to grind for this view Screengrab via @Wiz_Kela/Twitter

Soundcloud vs. Bandcamp

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:

Screengrab via @Emmanuel_S18

Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. album cover

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.

best memes : Kendrick Lamar Damn Screengrab via Kendrick Lamar/Twitter

The Scroll of Truth

best memes of 2017: scroll of truth some of your problems are your own fault gidonka/Reddit

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.

Your Eyes on Drugs

best memes of 2017 : eyes meme with jimmy neutron croissant boy alienghost27/Reddit

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.

Welcome to Your Tape

“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.

“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.

Spotify Playlist Memes

rickroll spotify playlist meme la_ramz/Reddit

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:

funny memes 2017 : spotify playlists Screengrab via @NicSampson/Twitter

Best memes of 2017: May

Mocking Spongebob

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.

best memes 2017 : mocking spongebob meme

Trump Touches the Orb

funny memes 2017: trump touches glowing orb

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:

funny memes 2017 : Trump orb Screengrab via @jephjacques/Twitter

This meme will still be funny when the orb controls the global economy and rules us all.

Skeleton and Bullet

Taken from the video game Sniper Elite 4, the skeleton and bullet meme is a metaphor for anything ruining something else. The skeleton is the U.K., the bullet is Brexit. The skeleton is Smash Mouth, the bullet is the movie Shrek. Replace with the victim of your choice, and the force that threatens to destroy it.

Cracking Open a Cold One With the Boys

funny memes 2017: cracking open a cold one with the boys

A great meme for summer, “cracking open a cold one with the boys” implies all the enjoyment of sharing a refreshing beer with your bros, but its humor is metaphorical. Rather than showing friends opening cold beers, it depicts anything cracking open anything else. You just have to label the boys, the cold one, and the cracking.

If you’re thinking this is a lot like the skeleton and bullet meme, you’re not wrong.  Cracking open a cold one with the boys is less about conveying what’s wrong with the world and more about whimsical fun, though.

History of the World memes

Bill Wurtz, creator of 2016’s smash-hit viral video “History of Japan,” made waves again in May with his “History of the Entire World (I Guess).” It’s extremely funny, somewhat educational, and an absolute gold mine for meme creators.

Dozens of screenshots from “History of the Entire World” have gone modestly viral, and at 20 minutes long, it has the potential for plenty more jokes. Who’s making this meme so popular? Merchants, probably.

Bone Hurting Juice

best memes 2017 : bone hurting juice

Bone Hurting Juice first appeared in a 2016 edit of a webcomic strip featuring Winnie the Pooh. Pooh thinks he’s eating honey, but he’s really eating bone hurting juice, a juice that causes your bones to hurt. The joke of the meme (more of an anti-joke, really) is that no such substance exists, but “owww, my bones” is a great punchline.

Underappreciated in its own time, bone hurting juice became a real meme in late April and early May 2017, and it filled up a thriving subreddit with material. Ow, my funnybone!

Best memes of 2017: June

Mr. Worldwide

best memes 2017 : mr worldwide

Pitbull, the singer with the larger-than-life moniker “Mr. Worldwide,” became a different kind of icon in June: a meme. The “Mr. Worldwide” meme, which shows Pitbull holding the Earth in one hand, is a wry, self-deprecating joke about people who are definitely not worldly. You can be “Mr. Worldwide” if you know the word “Hola,” eat at Panda Express, or watch anime with subtitles instead of dubbing. That’s all it takes.

Understandable, Have a Great Day

best memes 2017 : Understandable, Have a Great Day meme

Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal, one of the most popular personalities in the meme world, returns with the “Understandable, Have a Great Day” meme. In the three-panel meme, Shaq pulls up to McDonald’s, only to find out that the “food broke.” “Understandable,” Shaq says, “have a great day.” It’s the latest big entry in the “deep-fried” genre of memes, distinguished by glowing eyes and layer upon layer of distorting Photoshop filters, and the “understandable” punchline, which has been applied to all kinds of other scenarios.

memes 2017 : shaq everything broke

One Thicc Bih

http://dolce-dandy.tumblr.com/post/160867635653/if-u-know-what-i-mean

The Ditty app sings any text you put into it, and the text everyone was entering in June was “One thicc bih.” It all started with a meme about Spongebob Squarepants character Mr. Krabs: “Mr. Krabs is one thicc bih / let me see that krussy,” and then expanded into songs about other “thicc” characters, including former FBI director James Comey and horror movie icon The Babadook. Good luck getting the song out of your head.

Milkshake Duck

new memes 2017 : milkshake duck Screengrab via @pixelatedboat/Twitter

A Milkshake Duck is a popular internet personality who inevitably ends up disappointing their audience by expressing unpopular or offensive views. The term was coined in 2016 by Twitter user Pixelated Boat, but it became a meme in June after the creator of a popular video game appeared to align himself with the conservative Gamergate movement and against “social justice.” Milkshake Duck became enough of a Thing that even the Oxford Dictionaries acknowledged it.

The Floor Is …

2017 memes : the floor is Screengrab via @KUJ0TENN/Twitter

The internet resurgence of the childhood game “the floor is lava“—where the object is to avoid stepping on the floor at all costs—has led to a versatile meme where the floor can be anything. Each panel features a character high above the floor, which represents whatever they don’t like or can’t attain. The most common version features a guy jumping off a wall and doing the splits in the air, but he’s sometimes replaced with other characters. An alternate version, where the floor is something good, shows someone pressed against the ground or trapped in a hole.

Gay Babadook

best new memes : gay babadook Screengrab via @jacobbullards/Twitter

When horror flick The Babadook was accidentally filed under “LGBT movies” on Netflix, people on Tumblr decided to take the classification and run with it, declaring the title character a new gay icon. There’s nothing to suggest the Babadook is queer—it’s kind of a physical representation of anger and sadness—but there’s nothing to say it’s not, either. And because June is Pride Month, it was the perfect time for the “B” in LGBT to stand for “Babadook.”

Best memes of 2017: July

Boneless Pizza

Pizza doesn’t generally have bones on it, but that didn’t stop YouTuber Sethical from ordering “Boneless Pizza” in a prank that reverberated through the meme internet. “Boneless Pizza” became a video series and spawned several catchphrases, including “deadass,” “lemme get uhhhh” and “swear on Yeezy.”

CNN Blackmail

best memes 2017 : cnn memes

In June, meme fans on Reddit went to war with news network CNN after accusations that CNN had blackmailed the creator of a pro-Donald-Trump meme. The wide-ranging meme war insulted CNN in every format imaginable, including classics like “Who would win?” and Drake memes. Never cross memers; their arsenal of propaganda is extremely deep.

I’m The Sheriff

best new memes : I'm the sheriff Screengrab via @chacketttt/Twitter

A meme born on Twitter, “I’m the sheriff” uses emoji art to create themed characters. They’re all the “sheriff” of something, whether it’s vegetables, socialism, cats, dogs, copyright… or even the sheriff of sheriffs. Twitter doesn’t always lend itself to visually creative memes, but emoji was a natural fit, and once the first sheriff showed up, the game of creating new ones became unstoppable.

Best memes of 2017: August

Crash Bandicoot’s “Woah!”

The reboot of the classic game franchise Crash Bandicoot ended up making a meme out of a streamer who shouted “Woah!” whenever Crash jumped.  “Woah!” has now been mashed up with every meme-y song or video you can think of, and it’s amazing.

Right In Front of My Salad

This one comes from a gay porn clip starring a woman who ends up unexpectedly watching two men have sex while she eats. “Seriously? Right in front of my salad?!” has now become a general catchphrase used to express shock or disgust. The woman, a model named Nikki V., has become a meme star as a result of her viral performance.

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.

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