5 Hilarious Memes With Messed-Up Origins
Existence can get pretty bleak sometimes, and we all need a good laugh every now and then, so it's great that we have memes. You don't even need to know where a meme came from to enjoy it, you just have to recognize it and say, "Oh yeah, that thing!" In fact, as the following examples show, sometimes, you're better off not knowing the meme's origin. Because once you know it, suddenly, you don't feel like laughing anymore.
Leeroy Jenkins Was a Racist Caricature
Okay, hold back your skepticism. This is true. It's not the reason you find the meme funny, but it's how it was intended.
First, let's recap the story of the meme, as the world knows it. In 2005, the World of Warcraft guild "Pals for Life" went on a raid, which is basically a really difficult fight requiring multiple players. One player, Leeroy Jenkins, was away from his computer making chicken and missed the conversation where everyone planned their attack. Then he came back and ruined the plan by just running at the monsters, shouting, “All right guys, let’s do this! LEEEEROY JENKINS!" The players all died, everyone blamed Leeroy, and the video ends with Leeroy saying “at least I have chicken.”
This exploded into meme popularity and pretty soon everyone was imitating Leeroy’s famous yell, with even sitcoms and Jeopardy referencing the legendary video. No one knew why the player chose that name or yelled it like that—the weirdness was what made it funny.
Well, it turns out that a bunch of those players chose their names because they got drunk and decided to pick names they thought it would be inappropriate for white gamers like them to pick. So there's an Abdul and a Jamal, and for his own dark-skinned character, player Ben Schulz picked "Leeroy Jenkins." Ben yelling the name like that? That's him doing a minstrel bit. And if you never recognized it as that, well, we said Ben was trying to do a stereotype, not that he was any good at it.
Even Leeroy’s “at least I have chicken” line was a nod to the Black-people-love-fried-chicken racial stereotype. Because, no, Ben wasn't actually AFK heating KFC. That line was scripted, and the whole video was staged. We should have guessed that because if they'd filmed a couple minutes of unscripted gamer chat, well, then the result would have been even more racist.
“Don’t Tase Me Bro” Was Pretty Unfunny Police Brutality
Remember "Don't Tase Me, Bro"? In September 2007, a college student begged police officers not to tase him, and this was funny because he called the cop "bro." But it's kind of weird how readily we made light of police shooting a jillion volts into a kid.
University of Florida student Andrew Meyer, then a 21-year-old senior studying mass communication, attended a forum held by presidential candidate John Kerry. Meyer was in line but the Q&A session ended. Meyer forced himself onto the mic anyway and asked Kerry a series of questions, like whether he was part of the Skull & Bones society and whether he supported efforts to get George W. Bush impeached.
Campus cops aggressively escorted Meyer away from the stage. Meyer questioned his arrest, they forced him to the ground and pointed a Taser at him, and Meyer screamed, “Don’t tase me bro!” They tased him anyway, and he cried out in pain.
In a post-George Floyd era, seeing a protestor brutalized by cops, begging for his life, all while an entire room full of people not only ignore his pleas but cheer the arrest on, is terrifying as hell. Mockingly quoting "don't tase me bro" might not be as bad as mockingly quoting "I can't breathe," but it's the same basic joke.
Meyer didn't become a symbol for protesters. He became a punchline. Also, he spent the night in prison, was sentenced to 18 months of probation, and had to leave college for a semester. Sometimes, you've just got to say, "That's effed up, bro."
Slenderman Led To An Actual Attack
Slenderman is a popular creepypasta meme that was created by Eric Knudsen in 2009 on the forum Something Awful. He’s a tall, slender, literally white man in a suit who abducts people, which has led to a video game series, a comic book, and even a film adaptation, because they’ll make anything a movie nowadays.
Outside of movies, the Slenderman character has gone on to frighteningly inspire real-life attacks, which itself sounds like the plot of a creepypasta. In 2014, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, both twelve at the time, lured their fried Payton Leutner into a forest in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in an attempt to imitate the Slender Man mythology. They stabbed her 19 times.
Leutner, near death, crawled towards a nearby road and called for help. She was taken to the hospital and recovered. Weier and Geyser were caught and sentenced to years in mental health hospitals. That's as close as we're going to a judicial ruling that Something Awful memes should stay quarantined on the forum for good.
The Excited Bowler Guy Is Nuts
Pete Weber is a bowling god. Weber’s legendary bowling career includes 37 Professional Bowlers Association titles, 13 PBA50 Tour titles, voted bowler of the year twice, and he's one of the two only bowlers to ever earn 100 PBA titles. On top of that, he’s the only bowler in history to win every PBA triple crown event twice. If there’s a ball with three holes in it somewhere and something resembling an alley and pins, Pete is going to kick ass and take names.
But perhaps Pete’s most famous accolade comes not in the form of his impressive bowling accomplishments but a single 26-second video. On February 26, 2012, Pete Weber scored his fifth ever US Open title win, leading him to scream furiously in celebration “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE I AM.”
This line, as baffling as it is funny, became an meme overnight, being shared across the internet to millions of people. It was used as an out-of-context reaction to many different types of posts by people unaware that the context is a bit more disturbing than they thought.
See, Weber’s angry reaction/bragging was directed entirely at some kid in the audience. This kid had been loudly rooting against Weber the entire time, which set him off big time, leading to him blowing up at someone not old enough to drive. On top of that, Weber himself is not exactly a well put together person, as he blew a small fortune on alcohol, cocaine, and gambling back in the '80s, which everyone conveniently forgets when praising the guy. It’s too bad his personality isn’t as good as his sick bowling skills.
The Woman Yelling At A Cat Is Yelling About Being Abused
In 2019, someone combined a photo of a cat with a scene from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and boom, we got a classic meme. The housewife's anguished and the cat's indifferent, inviting you to write your own fitting captions, but did you know what that woman's really so anguished about?
This all starts with actress Taylor Armstrong, Real Housewives star for three years. Taylor’s ex-husband killed himself in 2011 after being a pretty big shithead toward her while they were together. She faced a lot of domestic abuse during their marriage but kept it a secret for years.
That’s where cast mate Camille Grammer comes in. Grammer somehow found out about this abuse and spread rumors on the set to others in the cast. As you can tell, this did not go well at all, as things often don’t when someone acts like a massive asshole towards you. Frustrated, Armstrong called out Grammer in an episode at dinner, which gives us the famous screengrab.
And while the sordid backstory of this meme is sure to rain on your comedy parade, don’t feel bad about using it, as Taylor herself said she finds it funny, and she and Grammer nowadays are on fairly good terms. She has also healed since the abuse and finds herself in a much better position nowadays. Now she can be forever immortalized on the internet, frozen in time as a woman yelling at a cat for not liking vegetables.