In TV, when a series "jumps the shark," it means that it runs out of steam, and reaches the point where the premise has become tired and threadbare. (The term refers to an infamous episode of "Happy Days" in which The Fonz jumps over a shark on water skis.)
But the idea of "jumping the shark" shouldn't just be limited to television. It happens on the Internet, too, when beloved running jokes and memes wear out the welcome and start to get stale. Typically, there is a lot of debate about when exactly TV shows have their shark-jump moment. Did "The Simpsons" start to wind down in Season 8? 10? Or even later? (I think we can all agree it's now a shell of its former self.) With Internet jokes, however, the timeline is much tighter, and the meme mention that would have made you a comment thread hero only days – even HOURS earlier–- will now get you downvoted to hell.This list attempts to break down the exact moments when some of the favorite memes of the past few years lost their luster and became lame.
Double Rainbow Guy for Windows Live
The so-called "Double Rainbow" guy – Paul "Bear" Vasquez – posted a video to YouTube shot outside his home in Yosemite National Park in January of 2010. In the video, Vasquez was observing a double rainbow and had an excited, some might say over-the-top reaction.
After comedian Jimmy Kimmel tweeted about the video – which he called "the funniest in the world" – it very quickly became a viral Internet sensation. To date, the video has received nearly 30 million YouTube views. Everything seemed to finally be going alright for Bear, the oddly-goateed hippie with a love of multiple simultaneous prism effects.
But it wasn't soon after when the allure of the "double rainbow" concept started to wear off. First, Bear appeared in an advertisement for Microsoft's Windows Live Photo Gallery, doing what can only be considered a poor impression of himself from his previous video. (Apparently, Microsoft's got some CRAZY corporate policy about taking eight fistfuls of psychotropic drugs before recording corporate branded messages.)
But the final nail in the coffin of "double ______" being funny was KFC's introduction of the "Doubleicious" sandwich, combining the healthiness of a fried clump of KFC chicken with the sugariness of Hawaiian bread. Now, saying "Whoa, Double anything" is the rough comic equivalent of saying "Schwing!" In other words, it's the Windows Vista of punchlines.
Charlie Sheen Tours
Has any catchphrase gone from beloved to universally despised faster than Charlie Sheen's "Winning?" OK, aside from Charlie Sheen's references to "Tiger Blood?" I think no.
After a year-long string of embarrassing public humiliations – from twice leaving his post at CBS' hit sitcom "Two and a Half Men" to enter rehab, to being removed from the Plaza Hotel after tormenting a prostitute – Sheen was finally dismissed from the show in February of 2011. He reacted as any rational person would be – by publicly issuing anti-Semitic epithets at the show's producer and doing interviews calling himself underpaid and bragging about slamming 7-gram rocks. (That means doing cocaine, kids. Let's make better choices than Charlie Sheen!)
Many of these interviews gave way to a series of catchphrases – including the aforementioned "Winning" and "Tiger Blood" and also a lot of other nonsensical crap that looks good on a T-shirt if it happens to be the day you send out your Ed Hardy's to get dry cleaned and to have the awesome skulls re-sequined. Some of them also became songs, as in this remix from the Gregory Brothers:
But when Sheen decided to hit the road and meet his newfound, most-likely-ironic fans in his "Violent Torpedo of Truth Tour," it became immediately apparent that this meme didn't really have legs. Just repeating the same hackneyed, barely coherent statements about "goddesses" will only get you so far in this world, apparently. Then people sort of want to hear if you have something actual to say. I know the Nyan Cat, Mr. Sheen, and you, sir, are no Nyan Cat.
[NOTE: I had wanted to find a clip from Sheen's first stop on the VToT Tour, in Detroit Michigan, but every single TV network that put up a good-quality clip has decided not to allow embedding. Because the LAST thing you want if you are a TV network running ads on your content is for a lot of people to be able to WATCH them. So this clip is from Sheen appearing before the Gathering of the Juggalos, and getting booed and also having garbage thrown at him. Bear in mind, though, this is how the Juggalos express fondness. If they really hadn't liked Sheen, they would have pelted him with their own feces or, possibly, battered and deep-friend him. One of those two.]
Sad Keanu: The Book
In May 2010, photographer Ron Asadorian took a photo of actor Keanu Reeves sitting on a park bench eating a sandwich. The photo happened to catch Keanu in a downbeat, introspective moment, and inspired a PhotoShopping Trend that came to be known as "Sad Keanu" (or alternatively, "Keanu is Sad.") Typically, Keanu was removed from the original photograph and put in a different setting, as in the below example:
OK, all well and good so far. But in the summer of 2011, Keanu himself announced that he was planning to sell a limited-edition art book called "Ode to Happiness," which would include blurry drawings accompanied by particularly emo quotes from Keanu Reeves. (Sample quotes include: "I draw a hot sorrow bath" or "It can always be worse.")
Reeves insists that he only recently learned about the "Sad Keanu" meme and that the book has nothing to do with it: "Oh, the Internet deal... It was brought to my attention. Yeah, it was funny. But no, the book predates that by a long time. We finished it in August 2009."
To be fair, he also continues to insist that "Chain Reaction" is a watchable movie. So take all of this with a grain of salt.
Cherry Chocolate Rain
You may have noticed a theme on this list, of memes becoming not funny after they are used for advertising or promotional purposes. This is not some authorial prejudice against consumerism or capitalism or anything like that. (I'm not even 100% sure I know what all those words mean!) Instead, it's just a good indication of the moment when a meme gets too big and popular for its own good, and when the subject gets too self-aware to continue being funny.
Witness the transformation of Tay Zonday. He started off as the gangly, baritone, genuinely awkward songsmith behind the smash viral hit "Chocolate Rain":There's a amateurishness and a lack of self-awareness here that makes the whole thing kind of charming (but still weird... very weird.) Now take a look at the video for "Cherry Chocolate Rain," made to plug a somewhat vile-sounding soft drink concoction, Cherry Chocolate Dr. Pepper. (Was Tutti Frutti already being worked on by a competitor?)
Now he's surrounded by dancing girls, perched atop a throne (years before Kanye or Jay-Z! Think about it!) and has rappers saluting his signature "move away from the mic to breathe" move. The innocence is gone and instead we're left with just another guy trying to squeeze a few more minutes of fame out of a joke that, in retrospect, wasn't even all that funny the first time. Just kind of odd.