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The Slow Death of Relatable Comedy

Justin Stark

Posted on February 29, 2020 00:48

1 user

What passes for online meme comedy has been reduced to a "wow that is so me!" standard. Hate waking up early to go to work? Yeah? Well, look at this photo of a very grumpy tired man! Can you relate? Did you chuckle? Because that's the format.

When my in-laws come to visit, we typically end up playing lots of board and card games. One of these is “What do You Meme?” a game just like “Cards Against Humanity” except instead of black cards its pictures and you play cards that caption the photo.

While playing, I noticed that all the caption cards are “when you” statements. I understand this is a popular meme format, but I think this trend has gone too far as I see and hear it more often. Relatable comedy is dying from misuse, ease of use, and overuse.

At this point, I’m not sure if the goal of online relatable memes is comedy. It’s become relatable for the sake of being relatable. Typically, when comedians use this style of comedy there’s some sort of punchline, but with these, the joke ends at the “ha, I do that too!” moment. Meme makers are aware of the problem, even making memes about the meme. However, those outside the loop seem unaware of its overuse and growing monotonous nature.

The most aggravating element of the “when you” format has been its reduction to low-effort, mundane, humorless humor. Someone posting a picture of spilled coffee all over the driveway with a caption “when you leave your coffee on the car” is an example of what I’ve seen plenty of on social media.

But recently, I heard the meme spoken in real life. At the library, I overheard two ladies working on a laptop. While one typed and backspaced multiple times over a 10-second time span, her friend commented, “when you forget how to type.” If you remove the “when you” and just made them normal sentences, do these examples lose their relatability or become less funny?

Using “when you” is often a lazy attempt at being funny, or simply following a popular trend even when it’s unnecessary. The format is often misused, as it’s supposed to be text with an image from an unrelated source that works to fit the context, but instead people use it as a straightforward observation. The image matches the text exactly.

Although this trend seems to be far more popular with the under 24 crowd and as a university student, I spend a good amount of time with this demographic. So yes, this is something that bothers me, as someone who is also big on internet culture, comedy and memes.

The problem is simple. When you “when you” too much you attempt to relate when you know you it's a subject that is highly relatable. You know when you “when you” you’re secretly looking for affirmation that others feel the same way.

If you “when you” and your photo (punchline) isn’t transformative or creative than you might not need to “when you.” I hope you “when you” appropriately from now on. You might think I’m making too big of a deal about this, so search "when you" on Twitter and judge for yourself.

Justin Stark

Posted on February 29, 2020 00:48

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