Thanks for the Lolz: Funniest Memes of 2012

Memes—super-viral content that spreads like wildfire on the web—are a staple of any good email chain or Facebook wall, and 2012 supplied no shortage of them. Here, we've selected a sampling of funny favorites.

By Damon Beres and Alison Caporimo

Animal Memes: Stingray Photobomb

"The picture has that quality, implausibly common to viral Internet photos and rarely seen outside the genre, that makes you believe that it might be, literally, the funniest thing you have ever seen," wrote Andrea Denhoed for The New Yorker. For that reason, this shot of surprised young ladies vacationing in the Cayman Islands became wildly popular online, prompting Internet wiseguys to add their own captions, as is meme custom:

Political Memes: Texts from Hillary

Tumblr blog Texts from Hillary became a sensation for its imagined dialogues between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other politicians or celebrities. Yep, that's it, but the lighthearted images struck the right nerve, perhaps because of Clinton's often serious demeanor.

Animal Memes: IKEA Monkey

Darwin, a stylish seven-month-old rhesus macaque, was found (and photographed) wandering in a Toronto IKEA this December. The story's since taken a not-so-happy turn (poor Darwin is locked up while its owner faces a complicated legal battle), but it generated plenty of laughs while it lasted:

Olympic Memes: McKayla Is Not Impressed

Imagine being 16-years-old and hanging out with the President of the United States. Impressive, right? Not according to McKayla Maroney. The Olympian turned her asymmetrical expression into a stamp of the unimpressed. The results are hilarious.

Pop Culture Memes: Gangnam Style

The "Gangnam Style" dance is to 2012 as the Macarena is to 1994, but something about pretending to ride an invisible horse and lasso a confused bystander feels so much more fulfilling. Naturally, spoofs followed. Our fave? Probably NASA's rah-rah version:

Pop Culture Memes: Call Me Maybe

Baseball teams, Olympians and celebrities couldn’t help but burst into song (and get it all caught on camera) with the "Call Me Maybe" phenomenon. One of our favorite renditions: The U.S. Marines getting their grooves on. Buzzfeed naturally rounded it up here. Also love Biebs, Franco, Fallon, Cookie Monster, and the Wookies:

Animal Memes: Falling Bear

In April, a bear was safely knocked out of a tree with tranquilizers at the University of Colorado, and photographer Andy Duann captured the moment. The well-timed shot, which shows the fuzzy beast plummeting downward, limbs splayed, tickled the Internet's funny bone and led to spoofs like the one seen here.

Pop Culture Memes: One Tiny Hand

Considered the spiritual successor to a Saturday Night Live sketch in which Kristen Wiig plays a variety show actress with bizarrely under-sized hands, the One Tiny Hand blog launched in spring. It features, well, pictures of famous people that are altered to include one tiny hand.

Pop Culture Memes: Ridiculously Photogenic Guy

Zeddie Little, 25, became an online sensation after a systems analyst uploaded to Reddit a photograph of him running, most gorgeously. The viral snapshot led to a spot on Good Morning America and funny takes on the image:

Animal Memes: Lil Bub

This genetically mutated cat (and self-proclaimed "most amazing creature on the planet") was born in 2011 but made a huge splash this year after appearing on Good Morning America.

Bub's on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, where her oddly compelling videos ("BUB! YOU'VE GOT YOGURT ON YOUR HEAD") have attracted millions of views. There's something undeniably appealing about the little fluff's tenacity, and we're not too proud to admit that we at Reader's Digest appreciate the quirky cat, alot, in our spare time:

Animal Memes: Dogshaming

Writing about the popular "Dogshaming" blog back in September, Reader's Digest humor editor Andy Simmons said, "It’s filled with repentant pooches staring soulfully into the camera while swearing off a life as a canine ne’er-do-well." That's about the long and short of it, but don't let the simple premise fool you: The submissions from readers are often surprising and completely hilarious.

Pop Culture Memes: Overly Manly Man

Born from a Reddit thread, Overly Manly Man dispenses macho (and sometimes off-color) advice that would leave your dad blushing.

Photo Memes: Fake Hurricane Sandy

Maybe not so funny: As Hurricane Sandy buffeted the East Coast, bogus images surfaced on social media. Users were fooled and quickly passed them around. Once the dust settled, Mashable collected seven of the most prominent fakes.

Political Memes: Mean Girls of Capitol Hill

When Obama’s digital team used a GIF featuring Lindsay Lohan to promote the presidential debate this past October, Mean Girls fans around the world knew that the president was still trying to make “fetch” happen. Guess what? He succeeded. The result: A pairing of catchy quotes and political players that make a little too much sense.

Political Memes: "Binders Full of Women"

Mitt Romney's a funny guy, but his off-the-cuff remark during a presidential debate at Hofstra University lit up the Internet.

"We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our Cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks,' and they brought us whole binders full of women," said Romney.

The image spawned the humorous Binders Full of Women blog on Tumblr and tons of cheap merchandise. Even President Obama was dragged into the meme.

Political Memes: Big Bird

Children and adults cringed when Mitt Romney suggested that he would cut the subsidy to PBS, home of Big Bird. It only took a matter of minutes for Twitter to explode with Sesame Street fans shouting their love for the jumbo fowl and ultimately creating a bevy of hilarious memes.

Twitter Memes: Zooey Asks Siri

Perhaps you've seen the Apple ad featuring actress Zooey Deschanel and the iPhone's "Siri" program, which responds to voice commands. Shortly after its debut, a parody Twitter account was born, suggesting funny questions the indie sweetheart might've posed to the software.

Twitter Memes: Sarcastic Rover

In early August, the Curiosity rover arrived on Mars—and the Sarcastic Rover arrived on Twitter to offer sour commentary on the mission: "I just get to roll around this lame crater forever. Awesome."

Twitter Memes: Your Away Message

If Twitter existed in the 90s, we know that 80s kids (and their smaller-by-the-second attention spans) would be tweeting about what was popular then: Mariah Carey, Coyote Ugly, and UNNeceSs@Rily CAPiT@lized WORd$ with WeiRD Letter $ub$titution$. Luckily, you won’t have to leave the results to your imagination. @YourAwayMessage lampoons the "away message" conventions of ye olde AOL Instant Messenger and captures what would have been said if you had access to social media on your dial-up desktop.

Pop Culture Memes: Feminist Ryan Gosling

Though it launched in Fall 2011, the "Feminist Ryan Gosling" blog blew up this year with a book, major media coverage, and commentary on the presidential election.

And now: "Hey, Ryan, you're in Reader's Digest."

Keep the laughs coming every week!

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