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Boneless pizza all started with a prank call: “Can I get that pizza … boneless?”
Ordering “boneless pizza” is one of those teen pranks with a dad-joke sensibility. It’s totally innocent and totally stupid, which makes it hard not to laugh, even if you’re the poor pizzeria employee on the other end of the line. Now that boneless pizza is everywhere, a real meme phenomenon, let’s talk about how it started and how it blew up the internet this summer.
The creator of boneless pizza is a YouTuber who goes by Sethical. Here’s the video that introduced the joke to the world, scoring more than 2 million views in the process.
The character ordering the pizza in the video is “Baku,” Sethical’s version of the witch doctor character Aku Aku from the Crash Bandicoot video game franchise, and the conversation is based on a prank Sethical pulled in real life.
“Honestly, it was a joke between me and my friends a few months ago, and I had actually ordered a pizza once and asked to get it boneless,” he told the Daily Dot. “Then I made the video just because I thought it would be a funny recreation of that.”
He said the video was a “very much exaggerated” version of the actual call he placed.
“I actually did get the pizza delivered, unlike Baku.”
The video was so popular that Sethical expanded it into a whole series of videos, all starring Baku. “Baku Adventures” typically involve some kind of food order, and sometimes it’s boneless. The videos also frequently make reference to other memes, including “understandable, have a great day” and “yaint.” They’re presented in a “deep-fried” style, characterized by distorted video and blown-out audio. Other common threads include mentioning Kanye West’s Yeezy shoe line and using the word “deadass.”
But “boneless pizza” has become a meme of its own, perhaps funnier and more important than any of the older memes Sethical references.
“It was first posted to Instagram by some meme accounts on June 1st, then it was posted and featured on iFunny a few days later, and it quickly spread all over the Internet after that,” Sethical told the Daily Dot.
Boneless Pizza now even has its own subreddit, where fans make their own memes, videos, and even music featuring Baku. The memes are all boneless, of course.
People have even started recreating the prank call, much to the consternation of pizza employees everywhere:
Sethical has also started selling shirts based on his videos, with slogans like “lemme get it boneless” and “swear on Yeeezy.”
Boneless pizza perfectly embodies everything great about internet teen culture in 2017, without being edgy, sarcastic or malicious. It’s got a deep-fried style, a spirit of fun, and an almost complete disinterest in the exhausting culture war (between alt-right white supremacists and progressive “social justice warriors”) that has sucked all the enjoyment out of many meme communities.
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It was also created by a young black man, in a meme landscape where a lot of the black teen slang you see comes from white kids who are either mocking or appropriating it. Black memers are usually not the ones pushing “ghetto memes” or using the “B” emoji to say “ni**a” without really saying it (“niBBa”). In this case, though, Sethical has mastered the deep-fried style and authored his own catchphrases—you may see white kids copying it, as in the prank video above—but he’s getting the credit and glory, running the community around his videos, and even selling the t-shirts.
In a world where black creators like Peaches Monroee, who gave the world the slang term “on fleek,” can watch celebrities and companies cash in on it while they get next to nothing, Sethical is making sure he gets his. And he’s getting it, uhhh, boneless.
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.