On Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter… memes are everywhere, and funny memes really seem to take hold even better than any of the others. These could be funny memes based on school experiences, funny memes based on work, or funny memes just based on life in general. Whatever the occasion, there’s a funny meme that’s appropriate. And if you can’t find one, you can always make one (more on that later). But for now, here are some of 2020 Funniest Memes.
The interesting question would be whether there’s a Darwinian process, a kind of selection process whereby some memes are more likely to spread than others, because people like them, because they’re popular, because they’re catchy or whatever it might be. — Richard Dawkins
What Are Memes?
There are a couple of really cool things about memes that I would like to point out before we begin. But I just want you to know that, just because I’m unpacking the idea of memes, that doesn’t mean that I picture you, our internet savvy reader, as some cartoonish old lady with trifocal glasses who doesn’t know what the internet even is.
The fact of the matter is that memes are everywhere around the internet. But there are memes and there are memes, and it’s interesting how memes (in the internet sense) have become their own thing.
The term meme was originally coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Now, I am not an evolutionary biologist, so I may be getting a few finer details crossed on the following. If that’s the case, please correct me in the comments. But essentially, it deals with forms of imitation. Genetic imitation, which our cells constantly do through mitosis, and which happens in human reproduction through meiosis, genes are (pardon my simplicity) copying themselves, and so we may say that genes are the basic unit of information in this copying (imitation) process.
Then we come across a fancy work: mimesis. Mimesis essentially means “learning by copying someone else’s behavior.” When nobody teaches you how to use a tool, or an app, or navigate a social situation, but you just learn by watching other people do it, that’s called mimesis. And if genetic copying is done through genes, then mimetic copying must be done through… memes. Which wasn’t even a word, before Dawkins made it up.
So memes are those little bits of social information and survival that we learn just by picking it up from those around us (as opposed to being specifically taught, or researching into it), and then copy into our own behavior.
And then someone made a funny picture with a caption. I make no claim of knowing what the first one was, but it probably had a cat in it. Yes, it may have been lolcats — and even if it wasn’t, lolcats still make a good example of the process: Somebody is first; somebody pairs a funny picture of a cat with a strange caption that changes the context of the picture and makes it something completely new.
Certain things are repeated: it contains a cat, the font is the same, the intentional use of bad grammar. These things are just sort of picked up (mimetically). Nobody sat him down and said, “oh, so you want to make a lolcat? Well, here are the rigid standards it must follow…” No, he just copied the gist of what he saw. Then somebody else built on the theme established by the first two, and then somebody built on that theme, and next thing you know, it’s an entire cultural movement. And it all (in this hypothetical description) happened mimetically, and so these images that informed future editors how to make similar images become the memes of instruction.
Somewhere down the line, the word “meme” came to mean any picture paired with text (usually humorous, and usually the same white font), whether it’s used for mimetic instruction or not. And this brings us to our current situation.
Funny Memes of 2020
Funny Memes are great.
Let me rephrase: memes have the potential to be great. Case in point:
This one, I’m not too fond of. I mean, I think the line is funny. But it’s paired with a picture of Ron Burgundy, and that picture doesn’t do anything. I mean, there’s nothing particularly Ron Burgundy about it. Why not Beyoncé, since it’s obviously riffing on her song? Here, someone just thought it was a funny line, and so they paired with a funny guy. Not that there’s necessarily wrong with that (after all, if we start handing down instruction on how to do this “right,” these go even further away from memes), but I just think that the image and caption pairing isn’t the best.
But that’s fine; humor is entirely subjective, and what I think is a funny meme, you might think is not a funny meme. Meanwhile, what you think is a funny meme, I might think it isn’t a funny meme.
This image, at least Will Ferrel’s facial expression in it adds to the creepiness of the scenario described in the caption.
Here’s a little meta-commentary for you. It seems to say, “I don’t like memes, and so here’s a meme about it.” But it reveals something interesting. Memes (we’re now using it entirely in the internet sense of the word) are sometimes used to communicate. You’ll see this on message boards all the time: some pretentious doofus is throwing words around which he clearly doesn’t understand, and someone can call him out on it using only this image:
That’s an image and quote from The Princess Bride. And it can be copied and pasted into most comment sections.
And speaking of the all-important copying:
All three have the same picture, the same white text, and even the same idea: they’ve taken the almost Ernest Hemingway guy from the Dos Equis commercials, and his interesting anecdotes, and they use them to point out really un-epic events from daily life, as a way of either making the mundane sound more awesome, or of revealing just how mundane it really is. Oh, and again with the meta-commentary:
This is something fun that goes on in funny memes. The image becomes a genre, and it will stay constant while the text is swapped out, but they’re all working in the same sort of vein;
There’s no telling what’s going to become a meme. Something just captures the imagination, and it takes off. Or sometimes, a specific image or phrase may fill an important need in common communications, such as when you have to tell a group of people that something is not as easy as you think it’s going to be, and you do so with an image of Sean Bean in The Fellowship of the Ring advising the rest of the Fellowship that “One does not simply walk into Mordor…”
And for all of this talk of using memes in conversation, sometimes memes appear to be in a conversation with each other.
If you want to get in on the game, there are a lot of things you can do. The photos, you can find anywhere. A lot of programs will let you put text on them (although not all programs are created equally — PhotoShop might help you arrange your text and images better than, say, MS Paint), but even if you’re not on top of the latest photo-editing software, don’t worry, you don’t need it.
There are multiple websites that can help you build a meme. You pick an image, you type in the text, and voila, it’s done. It’s as easy as picking out a cake in the bakery.
One site where you can go to do this is Meme Generator. It’s really easy to use, and there are a lot of pre-loaded images in there already. Take a look around, and you’ll see how each image lines up in a genre, so that each one is used to communicate a sort of general theme. Play around with it, and maybe you’ll make something that goes viral and ends up on this site.
So, sometimes memes use repeated, common images.
(and sometimes, they appear to be in conversation with each other)
Sometimes, the image isn’t repeated, but it’s just something that somebody thought of a goofy caption for, which completely changes your perception of the image. For instance, an image of a squirrel stretch its front claw out for no apparent reason becomes this:
And now, it’s no longer just a squirrel; it’s a tiny, furry Donna Summers fan, in full on disco mode. (Full disclosure, I have always preferred the Cake cover of this song, though I may be alone in that.)
A little girl enjoying herself too much on a swing becomes this:
And now she’s not just a little girl, she’s an epic warrior leading a raid of Vandals.
Sometimes, there’s no real juxtaposition at work; it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time:
Alright, I’ve talked enough. Without further ado, here are just some funny memes (or, at least, memes which I found funny).
So, what did you think? Tell us in the comments which of these funny memes was your favorite. If we didn’t have your favorite funny meme, maybe give us a link below.