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To be fair, the word “meme” itself was first coined by English biologist, author, and well-known God hater Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which sounds like a kids’ story about DNA but totally isn’t.
But the internet meme as we know it today didn’t really get cooking until around the year 2000, with a little thing called “All Your Base Are Belong to Us”. Or, for you sticklers out there, four years earlier with Baby Cha-Cha, at the time simply known as “Dancing Baby” because we had no idea that the internet would wind up being so full of dancing babies videos that we’d need to be very specific about which one we were referring to.
The Simpsons, on the other hand, first appeared on The Tracey Ullman show in 1987, and were given their own series in ‘89.
Memes were like The Simpsons’ younger brother, always following it around and trying to get it to play. With over 600 episodes, The Simpsons has spawned enough memes to fill a novel. It’d be almost impossible to list them all, but here are few of the best, most enduring, or interesting examples.
The best Simpsons memes
1) The Chalkboard Gag
Bart Simpson writing sentences on a chalkboard started in Season 1, Episode 2: “Bart the Genius”. In the opening sequence, Bart is seen writing “I will not waste chalk” repeatedly on a chalkboard. It lent itself perfectly to the meme format, offering a blank canvas for anyone to apply whatever message they wanted. In fact, in August of 2007, someone created a “Bart Simpson Chalkboard Sign Generator” on the now-defunct site called Text2pics.com. That site allowed users to easily customize their own chalkboard image with a message of their choosing.
This led to a few other Bart Simpson chalkboard sites, some of which are still available today.
It’s a great meme to remind yourself, or others, to refrain from obnoxious behavior. Over the years, people have created some great ones, although since The Simpsons writers are basically doing the exact same thing, it can be hard to tell what’s fan created and what actually came from the show.
In case you wanna a check out all the original chalkboard gags, you can do that on a site called Bart’s Blackboard, which has an image of every line the little deviant was ever forced to write.
2) Steamed Hams
“Steamed Hams” is one of the best absurd Simpsons memes to come out of the show.
It originates from the Season 7, Episode 21 of the show called “22 Short Films About Springfield”. The show featured 22 short skits about the Simpson’s hometown, one of which was entitled “Skinner and Superintendent” but will forever be known as “Steamed Hams”.
The segment features Principal Skinner fixing dinner for his boss Superintendent Chalmers (or, as he’s known to Ralph Wiggum “Super Nintendo Chalmers“). After telling Chalmers that the smoke pouring out of his oven is actually steam from the steamed clams he’s making for dinner, Skinner slips out and the window and returns with hamburgers from the nearby Krusty Burger.
“I thought we were having steamed clams?” Chalmers asks. “No, no, I said ‘steamed hams,’” replies Skinner. “That’s what I call hamburgers.” Things only spiral out of control from there.
Although the episode originally aired in 1996, and was certainly beloved at the time, the meme really took off in November of 2017 when a Reddit user posted the clip simply because it was their favorite Simpsons moment. At first, this just led to people agreeing that it was indeed great, but soon, in the way of Reddit, people began making remixes of the scene. Starting with this excellent Guitar Hero version.
3) Old Man Yells at Cloud
In Season 13, Abe, otherwise known as Grandpa Simpson, convinces Patty at the DMV to use a newspaper photo of him for his new license. The photo shows him angrily shaking his fist at a cloud, along with the headline “OLD MAN YELLS AT CLOUD”.
The newspaper article since become a popular reaction meme for responding to a person who doesn’t understand or hates something about our modern, technology-filled reality.
There have been some great variations of the meme, like when Shawn Handyside, a user on Halolz (a website primarily devoted to video game memes), created a Photoshopped version of Abe yelling at Cloud Strife, the main character from Final Fantasy 7.
In 2012, a FARK user going by the name of Furiousxgeorge replaced the picture of Abe Simpson with that of actor Clint Eastwood and changed the headline to “OLD MAN YELLS AT CHAIR”, in response to Eastwood’s somewhat bizarre speech to an empty chair at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
But the original meme is most often used as a straight up reaction to older generations being resistant to change. In fact, here’s a perfect example of people turning the meme on Simpsons creator Matt Groening and his response the Apu controversy.
4) Homer Backs into Bushes
Another classic reaction meme, Homer Simpson backing into the bushes comes from Season 5 Episode 16, “Homer Loves Flanders”.
The episode centers around Homer suddenly wanting to become close friends with his neighbor Ned Flanders, whom he normally despises. At one point, he shows up in the Flanders’ yard and asks if they want to hang out. When they respond negatively, Homer seems to mysteriously float backward, disappearing into the bushes.
The GIF is the perfect way to say you’re leaving an awkward situation.
In November of 2012, Tumblr user kompajunior removed the bushes from the GIF, making it easy to have Homer backing into anything.
The meme is a good way to just say “nope” to any situation, although if you’re looking for an alternative, this GIF of Grandpa Simpson entering and immediately leaving a room works just as well.
5) Milhouse is Not a Meme
One of the more interesting examples of a Simpsons meme is “Milhouse is not a Meme.” The statement itself is true. Milhouse the character is a not a meme, but the phrase “Milhouse is not a Meme” is most definitely a meme.
Milhouse has been around since the very first episode of The Simpsons and has traditionally been used as an example of a hapless nerd who tries too hard to gain acceptance.
Which is exactly what “Milhouse is not Meme” is all about it. It’s usually employed to say someone is trying to force something to become popular. It’s kind of like “Stop trying to make fetch happen,” only it’s more focused on memes themselves.
This one comes to us from 4Chan, where it’s still hotly debated, although usually in jest. The story goes that someone was spamming Milhouse memes on the site, causing users to start responding with the phrase “Milhouse is not a meme!”—which ironically became a meme.
This Simpsons meme is not as well known as some of the other memes on this list. Using it is considered, appropriately enough, a little nerdy.
6) I For One Welcome Our New Overlords
The line “I for one welcome our new insect overlords” was uttered by Springfield news anchor Kent Brockman in Season 5 Episode 15 “Deep Space Homer.”
While airing live footage from a space shuttle, Brockman sees an ant that floats close to the camera lens, making it appear enormous. Assuming that it is, in fact, a giant ant, Brockman says:
Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve just lost the picture, but ah, what we’ve seen speaks for itself. The Corvair spacecraft has apparently been taken over—conquered if you will—by a master race of giant space ants. It’s difficult to tell from this vantage point if they will consume the captive earthmen or merely enslave them, but one thing is for certain: there is no stopping them; the ants will soon be here. And I for one welcome our new insect overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.
Some people have suggested this speech was a reference to the 1977 film Empire of the Ants, and that the line “I for one welcome our new insect overlords” as spoken by actress Joan Collins. However, a YouTube video from Today I Found Out claims that the line never actually appears in the movie.
Regardless of the meme’s origins, it’s now used to acknowledge someone’s, or something’s, superiority. For instance, Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings used the phrase when he was defeated by a computer program named Watson.
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7) Stupid Sexy Flanders
Another Homer/Flanders meme, this one is used to show something sexy, or at least exciting, is distracting you from the task at hand.
In Season 11 Episode 10, Homer is getting ready to ski down a mountain when Ned Flanders shows up in a skin-tight suit. “It feels like I’m wearing nothing at all!” proclaims Flanders. This causes Homer to shut his eyes and accidentally start sliding down the mountain. He tries to remember the advice of his ski instructor, but instead can only think of “Stupid sexy Flanders.”
8) I’m in Danger
This is an interesting meme because it doesn’t actually come from an episode of The Simpsons, but rather an episode of Family Guy where the Griffin family visits Springfield. During the episode, Homer and Peter end up in a prolonged fight similar to Peter’s epic giant chicken fights. At one point during the fight, Homer ends up driving Otto’s school bus when Peter begins strangling him. “Hey knock it off!” yells Homer “There’s a kid back there!” We then see that Ralph Wiggum is in the back of the bus. Ralph chuckles and says, “I’m in danger!” before the bus takes a sharp turn and throws him through the window.
The meme is used to indicate someone being in a dangerous situation, especially one they don’t remove themselves from.
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9) Am I So Out of Touch?
In Season 5 Episode 20, “The Boy Who Knew Too Much,” Principal Skinner goes to look for Bart, who he believes forged a note so he could skip school. While checking places he would go if he was “a truant boy out for a good time,” Skinner fails to find Bart at either the Natural History Museum or the 4-H club. “Am I so out of touch?” He wonders, before concluding “No, it’s the children who are wrong.”
It’s the perfect meme for when someone stubbornly refuses to admit they are wrong. People have edited the meme by changing the character:
Or changing the text:
10) Bart Hitting Homer With a Chair
One of the newest Simpsons memes shows Bart hitting Homer over the head with a chair. The meme originates from a clip from the eighth season of the show called “A Milhouse Divided.”
People turned the scene into a meme in which the chair represented something that you were trying to give to someone over and over again.
The internet also turned the original clip into a video meme. Here’s Bart hitting Homer over the head with a Bruno Mars song:
And here’s the clip with the Gamecube startup theme:
Bart Hits Homer With a Chair but it's the Gamecube Startup pic.twitter.com/u23aORApBR— JedDabs [EPIC] (@JedDraws) May 7, 2018
11) Bootleg Bart
In first several seasons of The Simpsons, it was Bart, not Homer, that everyone was quoting. Bart Simpson merchandise was everywhere, and you couldn’t walk down the hall of any junior high school in America without seeing some kid in an “I’m Bart Simpson. Who the hell are you?” T-shirt.
With a market that big, there was bound to be a ton of bootleg merchandise. At the time, it was more of a nuisance, but now people have embraced “Bootleg Bart” and finding one of the old bootleg T-shirts is more brag-worthy than finding the original item.
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Pictures of these bootleg items are often posted just to show off their own kitschy glory, but they are also sometimes employed to tell someone you think they’re ripping off someone else’s idea or style.
12) Simpsons Did It
Here’s another Simpsons meme that came from a different show. In Season 6 Episode 7 of South Park, Butters, in his Doctor Chaos persona, is trying to find a way to bring havoc to the town, but every time he comes up with what he thinks is an original idea, his assistant tells him that it’s already been done on The Simpsons.
South Parker creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone said in an interview at the 2016 San Digeo Comic Con that this idea was based on their real-life experience of trying to write jokes for their show and being told that The Simpsons had already done it.
The meme is usually employed to point out something new in pop culture that was previously done on The Simpsons, but can be stretched to include anything new that has a past doppelganger. All you need to do is replace The Simpsons with whatever the original work may be. For instance, if someone is talking about The Distracted Boyfriend meme, you might post “Chaplin did it,”along with this still from his 1922 film Pay Day.
And as it is with The Simpsons show, so it is with Simpsons memes. A big part of the show’s appeal is its short, punchy, quotable jokes. With over 600 episodes, and who knows who knows how many jokes per episode, there’s bound to be the perfect Simpsons meme to express how you feel about any given topic or situation.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
David Britton is a writer and comedian based in Rhinebeck, New York who focuses on internet culture, memes, and viral news stories. He also writes for the Hard Times and is the creator of StoriesAboutWizards.com.