Once upon a time, in a darker age, the world did not know Maru
(who is now a hero to all of us here at Switched). We were unfamiliar with 'David After Dentist
,' and how awkward some family photos
were. But no longer are Net jokes and viral videos the exclusive domain of in-the-know college kids and über-nerds. Now, even CNN knows the truth behind keyboard cat
. In 2009, the world went viral, passing around nonsensical streaming video, sharing the power of Susan Boyle
and the energy of JK's Wedding Dance
Yet, in periods of reflection, it's always valuable to return from whence we came. Though the '90s had small hits and cheap thrills like the Hamster Dance, it was the year 2000 that really laid the groundwork for the LOLing we'd do for the rest of the decade. Many of these became memes -- Internet jokes or ephemera that took on lives of their own -- while others have gone the way of dial-up and Geocities. Then, there's a third category: that of jokes that have neither been forgotten nor memorialized, but have informed the way jokes unfold on the Internet (e.g., the pop-culture meets nostalgia hilarity of the G.I. Joe public service announcements).
So, if you'll join us, we'll revisit the memes and ROFL's that originated in the year 2000 -- long before YouTube, Flickr and Digg started disseminating the laughs. (It should be said, though, from our estimates and research, that finding the birth date of an older link or site isn't an exact science.) If there are any we've forgotten, please use the comment section to mention them, or just to reminisce. We certainly are.
Still kicking after 10 years of popularity, Web-show 'Homestar Runner' is about a daft, weirdly shaped protagonist named Homestar who lives in an idyllic, if weirdly shaped, community and dates a sweet, if weirdly shaped, vegetarian named Marzipan. Although the site bears his name, the real star of 'Homestar Runner' is Strong Bad, a robotic-boxer-type character, who answers e-mails. To younger viewers, the site may not be as hilarious as it was to us nearly a decade ago, but the character Trogdor the Burninator
proved to be so popular that the eponymous song spun off its own album
'All Your Base Are Belong to Us'
Possibly the most important, oft-referenced, and revealing of any of the memes on this list, 'All Your Base' had several crucial qualities that will be forever copied by Internet jokesters: badly translated English (from the 1991 video game 'Zero Star'); mash-ups; other popular viral images of the time; clever photoshopping; and, of course, a frighteningly catchy techno song. Why it was made, what inspired it, and why 'The Laziest Men on Mars' decided to create this video will always be a mystery, but it will remain with us -- until the end of time.
Possibly the only viral video to ever be nominated for the Academy Award, 'Rejected' was in the running for the Best Animated Short Film of 2000. Cartoonist Don Hertzfeld took a surreal, absurdist, and slightly violent world of rejected cartoons, and made it hilarious. As a result, most individuals between the ages of 20 and 30 will crack a smile if they hear the phrase, "MY SPOON IS TOO BIG!" After a tour with Spike and Mike's Twisted Animation Festival (alongside our next entry), 'Rejected' has gone down in pop culture history as an essential animated movie.
'Happy Tree Friends'
Having the distinction of being one of the first cartoons to premiere on the Internet in 2000, 'HTF' takes the spirit of the Simpson's 'Itchy and Scratchy,' and ups the gore level about 500-percent. Small, friendly animals do normal, innocent things until something goes awry; teeth are lost, brains are spilled, and the viewer feels pretty grossed out. 'Tree Friends' relies on the same gag over and over, and while it's important that the show debuted on the Net, we wouldn't mind this one fading into obsolescence. Violent animals don't give us the LOLs.
Like the G.I. Joe Public Service Announcements, 'Blundercats
' imagines 'Thundercats' bloopers (many of them involving Snarf and ridiculous swearing). While not exactly a classic, it is a great instance of reappropriating a beloved cartoon for lewd and adult comedy -- something later utilized famously by shows like 'Robot Chicken
' and 'Family Guy
Lollerskates and Lollercopters
Apparently, ROFLcopters came from 'World of Warcraft' Gyrocopters, and LOLruses were spawned by LOLcats. The practice of sticking "LOL," "ROFL," "LMAO," or any other acronym suggesting laughter into other words started back in the year 2000 with Lollerskates, Lollercopters, Steamlollers, Lollercausts, and Lmaonaise. Of course, as most things around the turn of the century, each appearance was marked by ASCII art (and gifs). Some may say that this was the advent of LOLspeak.
G.I. Joe PSAs
The fake G.I. Joe PSAs, created by Fensler Films, were an early version of the mash-ups flooding the tubes today. It took an old concept (the cheesy PSAs tacked onto the end of the original '80s cartoon), and added nearly indecipherable voiceovers, having those action heroes talk about everything from pork chop sandwiches to body massages. You could watch the YouTube link above, or view the originals as they were meant to be seen
: in full 320x240 pixel glory.