Over the years, the Internet has brought us a number of amazing, uproarious, and at times downright confusing, viral sensations. The fact that everyone who wants to can post just about anything they want at any time has ensured that anyone who wants can potentially have their own 15 minutes of fame.
Almost every single one of these videos, stories, follies, and fundraisers has become a cultural phenomenon in its own right, for a time anyway. And we’re here to remind you of all the hilarious, baffling folks who have graced our computer screens in recent history…
Kylie Jenner and the Egg
This one is fairly recent, but sets the tone for the concept behind this nostalgic journey. On January 4, 2019, the account @world_record_egg posted a photo of an egg. Their goal was to get enough likes to supplant a picture of Kylie Jenner’s daughter as the world record holder for “most likes.” The egg succeeded with 5o million and broke the record.
Evolution of Dance
In 2006, American motivational speaker and semi-professional dancer Judson Laipply emerged onto the Internet with a unique, comic dance routine that encapsulated many familiar dances from the Twist to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Judson’s unassuming appearance only heightened the hilarity and enjoyment of the six-minute routine for its 294 million viewers.
In 2015, someone posted a picture of a black and blue dress…or was it a white and gold dress? The subject of the dress’ colors became a viral sensation and the phenomenon which it referenced made many aware of the subtle and unique differences in human color perception. The dress’ retailer, Roman Originals, has a major surge in sales as a result, though color preference varied.
Yanny or Laurel
A year later, another pseudo-scientific viral video hit the Internet. This time, someone posted a video of someone saying either “Yanny” or “Laurel,” both of which seemed to sound different depending on who heard it. When the meme had run its course, 53% of 500,000 people had heard Laurel and 47% heard Yanny.
Walmart Yodel Boy
2018 was the year of Mason Ramsey, otherwise known as the Walmart yodel boy. This 12-year-old singing singular sensation became an overnight success after posting a video of him performing at an Illinois Walmart. He became so popular that he went on Ellen and even performed at Coachella.
2018 also saw the Philadelphia Flyers ice hockey team reveal their new mascot to the world. Thanks in no small part to comedian John Oliver, the bizarre creature known as Gritty became an instant viral success. We may not know what Gritty is, exactly, or what his appearance means, but we sure know we like him.
The 2016 election was the talk of the Internet for obvious reasons. Yet, despite all the political importance of the ordeal and the two flamboyantly opposed candidates, the Internet was more focused on one, seemingly-innocuous aspect of one of the debates: a man in a red sweater named Ken Bone. Due mostly to his allegedly impromptu choice of attire, Ken became a social media darling for a time, until the world learned some controversial facts about him.
Hot Mugshot Guy
He may have committed a crime but that didn’t stop Jeremy Meeks, otherwise known as the “hot mugshot guy,” from captivating the Internet with his come-hither stare and uncommonly good looks. When the Stockton Police Dept. released Meeks’ photo on their Facebook page, they had no idea it would receive 20,000 likes and eventually earn him a modeling career – after he served two years in prison of course.
Kim Kardashian’s Derriere
Kim Kardashian herself is a viral sensation in her own right, but many people don’t remember that her rear-end is equally, if not more famous than she is. She posed nearly nude on the cover of Paper magazine and by the next day, the magazine’s website had nearly 6.6. million page views. Kim Kardashian sells papers, no butts about it.
In 2017, the talented Turkish chef nicknamed “Salt Bae” came onto the scene. One video of him sprinkling salt over a slab of cooked, delicious-looking meat and he was a viral hit. The thing is, Salt Bae was actually pretty well-known before his video for his prestigious skills as a chef. But hey, extra fame never hurts.
Going back to 2009, we come to a bizarre incident involving 6-year-old Falcon Heene, soon after known as “Balloon Boy.” The situation involved a homemade balloon aircraft owned by the Heenes which inadvertently took off from their Colorado home with Falcon in tow. Eventually, after media, law-enforcement and the army helped “save” the boy, it was found that the whole thing was a hoax.
Change My Mind Meme
Steven Crowder is a political commentator, and by all accounts, a pretty aggressive one. But despite whether or not you side with his views, most of the Internet can agree that the meme of him sitting down at a table with a sign challenging people to change his mind, has birthed a new, clever class of memes across the web since its arrival.
The Harlem Shake
When YouTube personality Filthy Frank released a video a few years back using an electronica version the song Harlem Shake by Baauer, no one could have predicted it would spawn hundreds of hilarious copycats. The videos all feature the same thing, one person, dancing or acting strangely among a room full of others just going about their normal business. Then suddenly, when the music breaks, everyone in the video engages in the unchoreographed hilarity.
Numa Numa Dance
If you were on the Internet in 2004, you will certainly remember the video of viral sensation Gary Brolsma, lip-synching and dancing to the soon-to-be-popularized song Dragostea Din Tea, by Moldovan pop band O-Zone. The video brought untold fame to the unknown group and was watched more than 700 million times by 2007 alone.
In 2010, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel posted a video to Twitter which he called “the funniest video in the world.” The video, viewed more than a million times within a few days of its posting, featured Paul “Bear” Vasquez likely tripping out over a double rainbow that he’s seeing from his own front yard.
Planking, otherwise known as the Lying Down Game is an activity that consists of lying face down flat in an unusual, incongruous or potentially dangerous place. The idea is that you are supposed to mimic a precariously-perched wooden plank. So, of course, it’s no surprise that people fell and hurt themselves as a result.
In 2012, the grumpy, Wilfred Brimley-looking cat named Tardar Sauce became one of the Internet’s most recognizable cats. Considering the number of popular cats on the Internet, that’s saying something! Because of her feline dwarfism, Tardar Sauce looks like she has a perpetual scowl but that hasn’t stopped her from getting her own merchandise and starring in a feature film.
Bird Box Challenge
A late 2018 viral sensation involved the Netflix original film Bird Box, which features Sandra Bullock and her movie kids running for their lives from alien invaders while blindfolded. People loved the concept so much that they started attempting a slew of everyday activities fully blindfolded like cooking, walking in the street, and even driving cars.
Ice Bucket Challenge
The Ice Bucket Challenge was true proof of the power of the Internet. This charity-driven effort worked on the premise that a person could tag three others over social media, challenging them either to donate $100 to the ALS Association or douse themselves with a bucket of ice-cold water on film. Many did the challenge including celebrities, and though most chose the water, they also donated anyway.
Such Funny. Very Doge.
It’s hard to pinpoint where memes like “Doge” come from, but the iconic image of a Shiba Inu covered in poor grammatical expressions, usually in Comic Sans MS font, is something that seems to make everyone giggle at least a little. The same type of word/font/grammar/Shiba Inu combo has been applied to other pictures as a form of commentary since Doge first arrived.
McKayla Maroney Not Impressed
American Olympian McKayla Maroney has won a number of gold and silver medals over the years, but when she took the silver in the 2012 Olympics, a picture of her looking “not impressed” became a popular Internet meme overnight. The slanted half-smirk became her trademark expression after that.
The mysterious Slender Man is a being obscured in mystery and associated with violence, human sacrifice, and the occult. But luckily, despite some pretty compelling photographs and first-hand accounts, the Slender Man is not real. Nevertheless, the compelling legend of this supernatural figure seemed real enough for two young girls to brutally attack their friend in his name, in order to appease the monster.
Ted Cruz–Zodiac Killer
Another interesting tidbit of the 2016 Presidential race involved Senator Ted Cruz’s Republican candidacy. The meme that emerged had little to do with his political standpoint, however, and more to do with the fact that someone spread a rumor that he was allegedly the unidentified Californian serial killer of the late 1960s known as the Zodiac Killer. Cruze denied it of course, until Halloween 2018 when he posted the Killer’s cipher on his Twitter feed. I guess we all need to learn to laugh at ourselves.
On May 28, 2016, a three-year-old boy climbed into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. Harambe, a 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla, grabbed the boy and fled. The zookeeper fearing for the boy’s life shot and killed the gorilla and the whole thing was caught on camera. The Internet erupted in a stream of support for the deceased gorilla, some sincere, some just plain silly.
Even before the Internet became an invaluable part of our everyday lives, Beanie Babies were the most viral of viral sensations. The stuffed toys emerged as a major fad for kids and collectors in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, the bottom on Beanie Babies fell out and many investors are now stuck with storage boxes full of beanies no one wants.
In 2013, a bunch of punk kids decided to be real jerks and go into grocery stores so they could purposefully create a mess. Gallon smashing usually involved taking gallons of cow’s milk and “accidentally” falling and smashing them on the floor of the stores, while videotaping it. Thankfully, a few folks got in trouble and the practice mostly stopped.
October 2016 saw people in everything from offices to classrooms standing perfectly still while a person recorded video of them to the sound of Black Beatles by Rae Sremmurd. Odd as this may seem, the strange phenomena video became exceptionally popular among sports teams and athletes.
Kids will do really stupid things if it means they will gain some small amount of notoriety, including eating something that will absolutely make them sick. Take for instance in 2017, when a bunch of young people started “challenging” one another eat the delicious-looking laundry detergent known as Tide Pods. So many kids ate them that Tide had to release an official statement and change packaging.
JK Wedding Entrance Dance
Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinze got married in July 2009 and the video of their wedding party dancing up and down the church aisle has become a perfect example of just how much fun you can have at a wedding. In its first 48 hours on the Internet, the viral video of them dancing to “Forever” by Chris Brown garnered more than 3.5 million views.
Dog shaming is a cute way that dog owners contrived as a way to make themselves feel better about their dog’s misbehavior, while also helping them commiserate with other dog owner’s over the Internet. It involves uploading an image of a dog wearing or standing near a sign of other indication of some recent negative behavior perpetrated by the dog
Hide Yo Kids
Antoine Dodson is one of the first internet sensations to create a catchy song out of a news interview. Dodson’s interview, which saw him relating the story of the attempted home invasion and rape of his sister, went viral in 2010 and was soon transformed into an auto-tuned song. It even made it onto the Billboard 100 list!
Charlie and his big brother were a couple of the first kids to go viral in the Internet’s infancy. The video of little Charlie biting his brother’s finger was so popular that it was the twelfth-most-viewed video on YouTube in 2008. The boys’ family has made more than $128,622 from the video since it was first posted.
Cash Me Outside
Danielle Bregoli found internet fame a few years back when she appeared on an episode of Dr. Phil to defend her delinquent behavior. Her catchphrase “catch me outside how bout dahhh” gained her viral renown and became the cornerstone to her newfound rapping career. “Bhad Bhabie” even has a Billboard 100 single and recording contract with Atlantic Records as a result.
Show Me Potato Salad
Zack “Danger” Brown had a theory. He believed that he could start a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise the paltry $10 he needed to make some homemade potato salad. When the campaign had run its course, he had made an astonishing $55,000 and ended up using the money to throw a public party called PotatoStock in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. The potato salad was served.
Miss South Carolina
Many might not remember that time that Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss South Carolina 2007, was asked why one-fifth of Americans can’t locate the US on a map during the interview portion of the Miss Teen USA pageant, but the Internet never forgets. Her response was a confused, garbled, nonsensical tirade that earned her much repute over the often cruel, but hilariously sarcastic Internet.
In 2011, the Internet was treated to the angelic, golden-voiced homeless man named Ted Williams. Ted lived in Columbus, Ohio and had, despite his circumstances, a ready-for-radio baritone. Once people got wind of it, there was an outpouring of support from folks looking to get him onto TV. And luckily for Ted, they did just that.
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was, as it usually is, an event of great triumph and magnitude for the fans and competitors. Unfortunately, what most of us remember is the near-constant playing of the buzz-sounding vuvuzela instrument during each and every game. It spawned a number of vuvuzela-based memes and even a soundboard app.
This 2018 viral sensation almost managed to pull Nintendo into it. The Bowsette meme started with a fan-made depiction of the Super Mario character Bowser using Toadette’s Super Crown power-up from an upcoming Nintendo Switch game to transform into a lookalike of Princess Peach. It saw dozens of cosplayers and video game fans shifting their plans for the coming Halloween and convention season.
This is less a viral sensation as it is an internet epidemic. The scam involves a fake email from some high-ranking official of Nigeria being sent to a random user. The content usually involves the “royal” Nigerian asking for funds to release even more money and offering a large sum of money in return.
We close out the list with the Internet’s first king of the viral video, K-Pop star and well-dressed entertainer Psy. His 2012 video and dance for the song “Gangnam Style” went viral almost overnight and was the first YouTube video to ever receive 1 billion views. It also cemented his fame across the world.