Before the advent of mainstream meme conduits like Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, the internet was both more lawless and innocent than it is today. On one hand, primordial forms of social networking and message boards dedicated to hyper-specific topics made it seem like the internet was geared toward “computer people” — in the late ’90s and early 2000s, the corner of the Web that spawned bizarre classic internet videos still seemed sectioned off from the part of the internet your parents used.
But those early viral videos also played a key part in bridging that gulf. Today, in an era of tech ubiquitousness, where everyone from your grandma to chain brands like Pizza Hut has a Twitter presence, it’s tough imagining the internet ever seeming “novel.” It had practical applications then, too, of course — email, instant messaging, to name the two big ones — but for many, the internet was less a life-governing entity and more just a baffling new form of media.
The first time I bonded with my parents over something related to the internet was when we started sharing viral videos with each other. These days, viral content is transient — a gazillion funny pictures and videos are posted on Instagram and Twitter every day, and it takes something truly exceptional to penetrate the mainstream consciousness. But 10 or 20 years ago, you didn’t need that much. “Badger, Badger, Badger, Mushroom, Mushroom” might as well typify Shakespeare’s “brevity is the soul of wit” adage.
Some of these classic internet videos feel confined to a bygone era, but many are as funny and relevant as ever. There’s a possibility you’ve forgotten all of them. You’ll thank melater.
8.) Dancing Baby
It should come as no surprise that one of the first viral web videos ever is the most mind-numbing. “Dancing Baby” features a clip of a creepy 3D baby model dancing to an excerpt from Blue Swede’s version of “Hooked on a Feeling” against a black background.
The video notably circulated via email chains beginning in the mid-’90’s, and, in hindsight, it’s hard to tell what all the fuss was about. Is it funny? Barely. Was it considered technologically impressive at the time? Almost certainly. This video isn’t a joy to go back and watch, but it’s important from a historical perspective — like the video game Pong or the human discovery of fire.
7.) Peanut ButterJelly Time
Now imagine the Dancing Baby meme, but even more grueling. This meme surfaced in the early 2000s, and features a dancing “banana man” sprite set to the song “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” by Buckwheat Boyz, a Miami-based group that included Snoop Dogg’s brother-in-law Jermaine Fuller on vocals.
This meme is one of the most widely parodied, and the dancing banana itself went on to appear in a variety of Flash animations for the remainder of the decade. It’s noteworthy for being one of the first viral videos that went out of its way to be really, really annoying.