These are the most popular, best, most memorable and funniest internet memes of 2011. To catch up on the goings on of 2012, head over to the best memes of 2012. Check out Ranker's other popular meme lists like The Best of the Anti-Joke Chicken, the Sexiest Youtube Stars and 20 Pics That Prove You Have a Dirty Mind.
It all started with Scumbag Steve, as the first huge meme of the year in January of 2011. Easily the most widely spread singular meme of 2011(not including the advice animals), this meme has had so many variations on it that it feels like it's been around for years already.
Blake Boston, a white guy rapper (more on those later) had a picture of himself that his mom took of him poking through a door. He was helping his mom with an art project for a class she was taking. In the picture, he looks like he's about to ask for a favor, and once Reddit got a hold of it (well, mainly /r/Trees, Reddit's leading Marijuana section and /r/AdviceAnimals, a section that became HUGE this year) they just kinda went nuts with the picture -- because we've all known a douchebag exactly like this meme.
But who is Scumbag Steve?
Scumbag Steve (not Blake Boston, the guy from the original image, but Scumbag Steve) is that guy we all knew in High School (or unfortunately know in "real life") who was the biggest inconsiderate, ignorant, egotistical, idiotic, mooching, freeloading, all-talk-no-walk, would-ruin-at-least-one-thing-at-parties tough guy who looked exactly like Blake Boston.
So many of us know someone so unreliable, and downright horrible, though, that after the Scumbag Steve was huge, the hat he's wearing in the picture started being put onto foreign objects which, then, would become scumbags themselves.
Thus, dozens of spinoffs of the Scumbag Steve meme populated the internet in the form of The Scumbag Meme (click here for a great round-up of about 50 variations on the Scumbag Meme). Some notable great examples of the Scumbag Meme include Scumbag Brain and Scumbag Alcohol.
Here are some good examples from the Buzzfeed's huge round-up of the rest of the Scumbag meme
2011's New Advice Animals
The concept of an "advice animal" started on 4Chan back in 2006 with the introduction of Advice Dog. He was an adorable puppy, set against a color wheel background, that dispensed nonsensical, terrible or ridiculous advice.
Since '06, the Advice Animal format has exploded, encompassing now hundreds of different memes, each utilizing the same basic format of a photograph and a rotating series of humorous captions.
Here are the best new advice animal spin-offs we met in 2011:
The image of a cat (named Emilio!) in front of the traditional starburst backdrop. Business Cat jokes combine traditional corporate and managerial speak with the sort of things a typical house cat might say (were it able to talk, of course.)
Based on the character of Dwight Schrute from NBC's "The Office" (played by Rainn Wilson), "Schrute Facts" images take a trnaditional idiom or folksy saying, then add the word "false" and an obvious ref*tation of the original figurative claim.
Also known as "Science Cat," Chemistry Cat is based on a comical photo of a cat wearing glasses and a bow tie, posed to resemble a science teacher. (Know Your Meme suggests the original image may be a stock photo of Russian origin.) Captions take the form of corny chemistry jokes, particularly puns.
Ordinary Muslim Man
One of the most prevalent examples of a "bait-and-switch" or reversal-style Advice Animals entry, the Ordinary Muslim Man at first appears to be saying something pro-terrorist or anti-American. The lower half of the caption, of course, then reveals that he's in fact saying something innocuous and mainstream in nature. The photo itself is from iStockPhoto and features an unidentified middle-aged Pashtun Muslim.
Also called the "X is Coming" meme, this is a reference to the popular HBO fantasy series "Game of Thrones." The character of Eddard "Ned" Stark from "Thrones" (played by Sean Bean) is captioned with a warning to "Brace Yourself," because something is coming. The joke plays on the refrain "Winter is Coming" that is repeated ominously in the show (and the books on which the show is based.) The Imminent Ned meme is most often used for meta-humor, particularly on message boards and Reddit, predicting what types of posts are about to dominate the conversation.
Annoying Childhood Friend
The "Annoying Childhood Friend" image is actually a photo of a boy originally posted to Flickr in February of 2009, and titled "Quite an annoying kid..." The photo didn't inspire a meme until April of 2011, however, when the first captioned image appeared online. The captions function as sort of a younger version of Scumbag Steve, nostalgically recalling irritating or obnoxious behavior readers would have experienced with playmates back in their school days. (Manners and etiquette surrounding video game playing is a common theme.)
The Baby Godfather image features an upset-looking baby, dressed in a tuxedo, pointing down at the ground. Captions surrounding the image typically depict the baby as a Mafia kingpin, giving blunt orders to an unseen member of his crew. (Often, the jokes combine things a mob boss might say with concerns that a baby would have.) Alternate variations of the image have substituted the baby in for recognizable gangster figures like Don Corleone and Tony Soprano.
Harmless Scout Leader
A photo of an older man wearing a Boy Scouts of America uniform, making kind of a creepy half-smile, inspired the "Harmless Scout Leader" meme. (See Ranker's ultimate guide to the Harmless Scout Leader here.) Another bait-and-switch meme, this time the top caption makes it sound like the man is molesting the boys in his care. The lower caption then makes it clear that the statement is innocent, and something any scout leader might say.
A more traditional advice animal, Anti-Joke Chicken submissions feature a photo of the titular bird in front of a familiar starburst backdrop. The top caption is usually the set-up of a familiar or classic joke, but instead of the expected punchline, the lower caption instead applies logic to the humorous set-up, or otherwise ruins the joke by taking things too literally.
Also known as "Never Alone," the "Shadowlurker" or the "Uninvited Guest," the Horrifying Houseguest was born in June 2011 from a random pencil sketch of a creepy, hooded figure posted to 4Chan. The strange face is now captioned with "scary" narratives or imagery, reminiscent of campfire ghost stories or other "shock" stories that keep kids (and some anxious adults) up at night.
Dating Site Murderer
Also known as the "Good Intentions Axe Murderer," this is yet again a bait-and-switch meme, similar to Ordinary Muslim Man. It features a creepy, low-lit photo of Reddit user spawn02000. The captions initially make it seem like the man is plotting a murder, while the lower caption reveals he's actually trying to be romantic or sweet.
Internet Grandma Surprise
A photo of an elderly woman gawking in shock at a laptop screen is at the center of the "Internet Grandma Surprise" meme (or sometimes just the "Grandma Meme.") The captions indicate the Grandma's upset (and often naive) reaction to recognizable explicit or shocking Internet content. Many selections refer to specific, infamous Internet content, like the below entry, which includes an allusion to the notorious "2 Girls 1 Cup" video. (DON'T GOOGLE THAT!)
In February of 2011, a few days before Valentine's Day, the internet graced us with what was being sent around as one of the worst songs ever written. The song was from the perspective of a 13-year-old girl getting ready to go to school on a Friday.
The lyrics were so obvious, so horrendous, so inane, that they inspired hatred throughout the internet. People were sending it around furiously, stating that the person who wrote it should die and that nobody should ever have to hear anything like this.
And then the dust settled. About a week later, people started making fun of it. Everyone from Steven Colbert, to Conan O'Brien had a parody of the song within a few days. The song reached 10 million views within a month, and it even surpassed Justin Bieber's "Baby" in total number of user downvotes (which means 4Chan was paying attention too).
It was huge. Like, really huge.
Conan O'Brien made a parody
The singer? 13 year-old Rebecca Black, who had paid Ark Music Factory to make her own music video, a gift from her parents no doubt. After the video hit the mainstream media, she started getting everything from interview offers to death threats (ah, fame).
She even took over the comedian-owned Funny Or Die website for April Fool's Day in 2011, much like Justin Bieber had done in a pervious year. She actually outperformed people like Lindsay Lohan and January Jones's runs on SNL with some of these skits like: Friday: Behind the Music, A PSA on Seat Choosing and of course, a look back on Rebecca Black's Greatest Hits.
She even got to song on Leno, for all the old people who actually watch that show to experience the horror of the song just as the internet did for the first time, a week later.
She also starred, later in the year, in a Katy Perry video:
Basically, she was huge. For making the worst song ever, which ended up endearing her in the hearts of most people, because she had inadvertently released a song that stood out as a perfect parody for the current state of pop music. It's not any worse in lyrics than a Black Eyed Peas song and is actually kind of catchy.
Rebecca Black is now famous and the rest will be history. Personally, I'm kind of sad that in 2012, she won't be that famous anymore. She'll be a little more remembered than Antoine Dodson is right now.
BONUS: A video FAQ with the awkward dancing white girl in pink during the limo scene in Friday. see more on Rebecca Black
Nyan Cat (or Pop Tart Cat, for the plebeians) is one of the biggest memes of 2011, reaching huge heights despite its simplicity and just how unbelievably annoying it is. Click above for the original Nyan Cat video. I've gone ahead and embedded the 10-hour long YouTube version, just because.
On a daily comics site called LOL-COMICS, artist Chris Torres (prguitarman) did an original drawing based on his very own cat (a Russian Blue cat) named Marty. During a drawing event for the Red Cross, he got two different suggestions for a cat and a pop tart, so he combined the two.
Thus, the image for Nyan Cat was born. After the animation started irculating the web, the GIF was spread around in early April of 2011. Then on April 5th, a YouTube user calling themselves saraj00n posted a video with the title "Nyan Cat" (after the Japanese name for the sound a cat makes, which we here in America identify as "meow").
The song is from a really well known video series of repetitive anime characters swaying side to side and is called, not-surprisingly, Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya!
The song itself was so popular, that it has Karaoke versions of it where people would actually try to sing the song for some reason: here's a weird version.
So after Nyan Cat itself became popular, it got over a million views int he first two weeks alone. The original video has over 51 million views now, and the 10 and even 100 hour version (which yes, include Nyan Cat on loop for that long) each have over 1 million views.
You can see how long you can last by going to Nyan.cat. I lasted 2011 seconds.
You can try and play damn-near-impossible game at Nyan-Cat.com (hold down X, don't try to fire individual shots like a fool).
You can check out Nyan Cat keychains, plushies, sweaters, knit hats, blankets ,pins, headphone covers, jewelry and pretty much everything else you could possibly think of over at Etsy, where you can really see the far reach of theme.
And, of course, the remixes:- Smooth Jazz Nyan Cat
- Death Metal Nyan Cat
- And for the Slipknot video version of Nyan cat, check out Ranker's very own Best of the Nyan Cat Meme page.