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A high schooler, Elmo, and the ‘Always Sunny’ gang explain it all

"Assorted improbable questioners" merge Explain Like I'm Five with I Am A, and the results are pretty astounding.


Mike Fenn

Internet Culture

Posted on Sep 20, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 6:02 am CDT

How would you go about explaining the meaning of Christmas to Jesus Christ—provided you were the cast from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia?

Such informative role-playing is what powers r/explainlikeIAMA, a community of nearly 78,000 subscribers on Reddit. Kicked off in November 2012, the subreddit takes the concept of default subreddit r/explainlikeimfive, in which redditors explain various topics to others as if they were 5-year-old children, to entirely new levels. Each day, its dedicated army of “assorted improbable questioners” flock to the subreddit, explaining everything from basic life concepts to current events as if they were one specific entity and their audience were another.

While the subreddit is largely for entertainment, some of its challenges can provide an interesting perspective into the human condition. Take, for example, an r/explainlikeIAMA submission from May 2013, in which TheCat5001 challenges members to explain the need for space exploration to someone who has just said “We should put that money into fixing the problems we already have on Earth.”

“Well, it’s simple. The earth is not a closed system. We’re on a rock revolving around a nuclear reactor revolving around a super-massive hole of death revolving around who knows what. And then, there are an astronomically large amount of things floating around in the between that at any given moment could just poof all life on earth out of existence. Earth will always have problems; people are nuts. If we want to KEEP having those problems instead of being fossilized under a sheet of ash and starvation, I say we start figuring out where else we can bug out to as a last resort.

“But still, forget the pragmatic reason for a moment. We’re human beings. We’re the only species capable of leaving planet earth and, as far as we can tell now, so far the only ones in the Universe. Human beings aren’t the strongest nor the fastest. We don’t have claws or powerful jaws. What we do have, however, is the ability to run. In every direction. Nearly indefinitely. When running wasn’t enough, we built ships and vehicles to get us there faster. Just because we had to see what was over the horizon.

“Now, we have a new horizon. A scary, awesome horizon effectively infinite in all directions. And it’d be a damn shame if we didn’t see what was on the other side.”


We scoured the subreddit for some of its best prompts—and the best answers. Here are 10 of our favorites.

1) Explain hipsters to me like I’m a hipster and you’re a hipster and neither of us believe or are willing to believe we’re both hipsters.

“Hipsters are people who take on affectations because they want to feel connected to some idea of ‘authenticity.’ Which is total bullshit because you see them driving around in their beat up cars, drinking their PBR, and you know there’s nothing ‘genuine’ about that at all.

“It’s this culture of nostalgia, but it’s all nostalgia for stuff they had nothing to do with. Like, I’m so sick of hearing guys playing country music ironically. It’s annoying because you and I actually like country music. For that matter, I genuinely like PBR. It’s not to look cool, it’s just what we like.

“And American Apparel – OK, I refused to wear Am Appy for a long time because it was such a big trend. But you know what? The clothes look good, they fit me really well, and they make me feel good about myself. It’s fashionable. I think they’ve been around long enough that it doesn’t have to be such a big deal anymore. And they’re really well-made.

“Honestly, I’d love to get all my stuff from Goodwill, like you do, but I just don’t have the energy, you know? But it’s so much cheaper, and I love how all your clothes have that worn look. That shirt looks like something Magnum, PI, would have worn. See, that’s the difference between us and actual hipsters – they’d probably be like ‘oh that’s hilarious,’ but I just think it’s cool to look like that. I mean, what’s wrong with being fashionable? It’s retro.

“It’s funny, because there’s such a fine line – everything I like would make me a hipster, but it’s the way I like it that makes me different. I don’t, like, have a collection of disco singles because I think it looks cool, I have a collection of disco singles because I got really into disco when I was living in Chicago. I’m so sick of people giving me shit and calling me a hipster just because of the music I like, or, like, becuase I’m wearing a Patsy Cline shirt. What am I supposed to do, avoid wearing this shirt I think is cool because I’m worried someone will call me a hipster?

“I think it’s all a class-based thing. I read this philosopher, or I mean, I read an article about him in the New Yorker – Pierre Bourdieu. He says people hate hipsters because ‘hipsters’ are usually the people with the social and financial flexibility to be fashionable without the social consequences other people would have. Or something like that. Like, I can imagine that people resent it when they see someone with $200 sunglasses who can afford to go around with a big handlebar mustache and a sleeveless shirt – it’s like by pretending to be a working man, or something, this guy is making it obvious that he’s a rich kid who doesn’t have to worry about getting fired from a job for looking like an idiot.

“I know I probably wouldn’t have my beard if I didn’t work from home, but at least I work. I mean, and that’s why I hate those hipster guys in Echo Park so much. The fact that they’re playing music at 5 in the morning just reminds me that they have enough money to get by without having a job. I wish I could be that lucky.

“Anyway, I’m tired. Let’s go to the park and take that awesome vintage Scrabble set we got at that random yard sale on Larchmont. I love that the pieces are from, like, two different sets.”


2) Explain Mark Hamill’s Joker like you are Heath Ledger’s Joker and I am Jack Nicholson’s Joker.

“So….there’s this ehem guy. OK?

“He’s one of us, y’know? One of the ‘bad guys’. But not just that, he’s a different….version of us.

“You remember how you once flew over the cookoo’s nest Jack? Well this guy once flew the damn trench run. He brings something to this smacks lips….persona that neither of us do. It might be the voice, or the laugh.

“I think it’s the charm. Let’s face it i’m too dark, you’re just damn ridiculous…But tell everyone that the Joker is being played by Luke Skywalker and everyone loses their minds.”


3) Explain what is about to happen like I am your dog of 13 years who you are about to have put down.

“Let’s go for a ride, Spot. We’ll go for a ride and drive slowly through the park. I know you’re not feeling up to chasing the ball these days, and that’s okay. You’re not letting me down, boy. It’s really okay; I don’t even like throwing the ball. No, I mean, I liked throwing the ball…but just I don’t anymore. Oh, fuck it. It’s okay, Spot. It’s really okay.

“I’ve noticed you’ve liked sleeping a lot these days. And yesterday you wanted to sleep even more than you wanted to eat. And that’s okay, Spot. I’m really, really not upset. I’m not mad at you for not eating the hamburger meat last night. If you’re not hungry, you’re not hungry. I’m not upset with you, really. I just want you to do things that you want to do. And you like to sleep now. And that’s okay. That’s really okay with me. I’m okay with that. I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay.

“We’re going to go for a ride and then we’re going to go take a long nap. You’re going to forget about your arthritis and the cancer and all this shit. You’ll feel so much better, so relaxed. And I’ll be there with you. We’re just going to take a long nap together. And it’s going to be okay, Spot. It’s going to be okay.”


4) Explain the meaning of Christmas like I am Jesus and you are the gang from It’s Always Sunny in Philidelphia.

On a Friday
Philadelphia, PA

Charlie: Well, it’s like that holiday where you bring us your birthday presents. So the meaning of Christmas is presents, right? I’m giving Frank the chocolate bar that I told him I ate last year. He’s gonna be so happy.

Dennis: Charlie, you’re just gonna give him chocolate poisoning. Get him pigeons like you do every year.

Frank: I heard that!

Dennis: Now, Mr. Christ, I’m told that your holiday represents charity and goodwill, but every year I have to buy presents for these morons. There’s no goodwill there. You’re just a swindler!

Dee: Dennis, Jesus isn’t a swindler. He’s Jesus. He’s like the perfect guy. Pretty cute too.

Frank: No, I believe in Dennis’ thing! Why does everything go on discount on Christmas? So Jesus can make more dirty money!

Dennis: I’m not sure that’s how discounts work, but I agree in principle. In fact – Mac, what are you doing?

Mac: Sorry bro. I guess I was raised more Catholic than you were –

Dennis/Dee: Oh yeah/Absolutely.

Mac: – but I was taught to fear God. So I’m gonna stay in this corner doing Hail Marys until he leaves or whatever.

Dennis: OK Jesus, if you leave us alone, and don’t steal from us, then we’ll sacrifice a rat to you.

Charlie: Nah, dude, you gotta go bigger. At least a goat.

Frank: At least. Maybe a pig. Or two goats.

Charlie: Two goats, dude.

Dennis: We’ll sacrifice two goats if you don’t steal from us. OK? Good. Buh-bye.

door slams

All: Whew, thank god, etc.

Dee: Hey guys.

Dennis: What?

Dee: holds up leather pouch Jesus dropped his wallet.


5) Explain the birds and the bees like I am a Sesame Street viewer, and you are Elmo.

Elmo’s world Intro song ‘Elmo loves his condoms, and birth control too! That’s elmo’s world!’ Today we are going to celebrate the body and learn about sex – I’m so happy to see you! Guess what I’m thinking about today? Did you guess yet? That’s right – vaginas and penises! kazoo music as sperm finds an egg And guess what! It makes babies! YAY BABIES! …I wonder what Mr.Noodle thinks about this! Hey! It’s Mr.Noodles brother, Mr.Noodle! Oh! He has something in his hand! What is that Mr. Noodle?! Pulls out condom and dildo Ohhhh! You know about safe sex! Runs in a few circles and looks clueless — HA HA! Mr. Noodle! Do you not know how to put a condom on?! Disagrees Mr. Noodle! You have to stretch it and slide it onto the dildo! Confusingly puts it on halfway No no Mr. Noodle! The whole way on! Puts it on the whole way as kids in the background chant “keep going Mr. Noodle” Thanks Mr. Noodle! See ya later! walks over… Now we know how to have safe sex! TV runs around Hey! It’s the TV! Now we can watch the sex channel and learn all about sex!”


6) Explain LOLCATS to me like IAMAn Egyptian Pharaoh.

“The superiority and elegance of cats has remained divine for more than 3000 years. Although our craft has improved to an imaginable technological level, our adoration for cats is stronger than ever. Modern humans engage in many forms of feline veneration, including one called LOLCATS. This art consists in humbly guessing what their intellect is trying to express with their graceful dances. Humor is the only speech worth of their brilliant minds.”


7) Explain your most recent masturbation session like you are delivering a book report in high school.

Ambles to the front of the room in no particular hurry

“Uh…hi. I’m aquaneedle and this is, uh, my report on last night’s wank session.

“As some of you may know, masturbation is when, uh, a guy grabs his ween and shakes it up and down when he’s got a boner. My time last night was like this. It all started with a trip to the bathroom.

“In the beginning, I had itchy nuts. As some of the people in this room of the male variety may know, if you’ve got itchy nuts, you’ve gotta scratch ’em. So I did. I scratched. Then, I started to get a little stiff. I thought to myself, man, this feels pretty good. That was the moment when I knew.

“Soon, I was on the floor furiously working my massive boner (ladies) through my hand, like, really fast and all. It was fun. For some reason, my grandmother popped in to my head. I, like, couldn’t not think of her, ya know? So I kept going. Too bad, granny.

“As my session drew to a close, I felt the load coming. Sure enough, there it was. It went, like, all over the place. So I wiped it up with a towel.

“As you can see, I had a very interesting fap last night. It started as nothing, grew to a lot, i thought of my grandmother, then it ended with a bang. I hope you enjoyed my report. The end.”


8) Explain killing someone in self defense like you’re Mr Rogers.

“Come here, friend. I tell you this a lot, but this is very serious, and I want you to pay attention. You are special. Every one of you who sits down with me and listens to what I say is special, and it’s your own individual specialness that makes you such a great friend. But not everybody is your friend, and we’ve talked about that, too.

“But some times, life isn’t very fair, and people aren’t very nice. And as little girls and little boys, and even as adults, there may be people who try to hurt us. And it’s always alright to get help, and to call the police.

“But boys and girls… This is very hard for me to discuss. But I’ve always tried to be very honest with you. Sometimes, a person who is not your friend wants to take something from you that you can’t go on without. This won’t be something simple like a thing or money, or even just hurting you.

“If someone will not stop, and you are afraid for your life, I always want you to run. Run to get help, to get someplace safe. And if you can’t do that, if there is truly no other way… It is okay to defend yourself. There are all too many times in life that violence is tempting. And even more times when it will feel right.

“You can’t let someone take away the one thing you can’t replace. And that’s the one thing that makes you such a good friend. Your life. You can do anything that will protect that.

“Let’s… let’s go feed the goldfish. Okay?”


9) Explain twerking like you are John Madden narrating a football game.

“Young Jeanette on the offense here, she is approaching the 10-yards-from-the-bar line, looks around. Doesn’t look like team Twerkers has figured out who will be the dark horse of tonight’s game and is stilllooking for who they should collectively be tackling. The DJ plays the ‘Whistle’ and off there they go. What a convoluted mass of bodies, this ain’t no flag football, kids. Last season Jeanette was out with a concussion for three consecutive weeks after grinding on our pour Gents linebacker for four hours.

“We see the target has been selected and now Jeanette’s teammates have resorted to the sidelines to watch this beautiful pass. We see them cheering her on as she first snuggles one buttock into the Gents’ QB crotch, and then nestles a second one right on the family jewels. No amount of jock guards will be able to prevent his crotch from feeling theheat of the friction of her gyrations. Do we have an ambulance on the standby by the side of the field? Good.

“She continues the circular moves until both teams ask for a break and regroup to decide further on their strategy. the Gents coach, who has spent 15 victorious seasons on this dancefloor, is advising the QB to stay in and hope for a Hail Mary one night stand at the end of the night. Twerkers are advising Jeanette to keep going until the QB can not handle it anymore and orders bottles for her entire entourage.

“DJ drops the base and they are at it again. The quarterback can not conceal the tense pleasure he is experiencing, no amount of locker room pep talk has prepared him for this. Jeanette might need a hip replacement at the end of this season but she is surely going strong tonight. Oh, no, the quarterback might bring defeat to his team by not being able to conceal his excitement and cave in to make all drinks on him. Jeanette decides to gamble it all on a tricky one-legged twerk, wrapping her other leg around the QB backwards and oh, no, we have a TOUCHDOWN! Team Twerkers gather around and shower Jeanette with a victorious flood of mocktails out of a huge orange keg.

“A rematch is in the works, folks. Great game tonight and don’t forget to tune in for an after-game special tomorrow on Good Morning USA to learn more about secret butt-bouncing techniques from the All-American Twerker Jeanette tomorrow morning!”


10) Explain the 21st century like you are a time traveller and I’m your dad from the 70s

“Hi Dad. Don’t marry mom. She’ll get Alzheimers and forget both of us, then later get breast cancer (mercifully) and die, leaving us both scarred from years of caregiving.

“Though I suppose that means I won’t be born and can’t go back in time to tell you th-“


Photo via Jamie Wilkinson/Flickr

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*First Published: Sep 20, 2013, 9:37 am CDT