Guest Column: A Look At The Humor of Gen-Z

Guest Column: A Look At The Humor of Gen-Z

Kristin Cowden, Guest Writer

Gen-Z is really wacky. There’s a lot we have accomplished, and more that we are doing every day. By far one of the most bizarre things we have done is create a new type of humor and a kind of culture; meme culture. Today I’m going to show you exactly what Gen-Z humor is, and its origin 

Meme culture, what is it? According to William Mercado, author of “The shocking and Absurdist Humor of Gen-Z,” he states that “meme culture has taken over the internet in such a dramatic and powerful way that memes have quite literally become the main communication devices for millions of teenagers and young adults.” Now, if you don’t know what a meme is already, Webster’s dictionary defines a meme as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Most memes are often found on Reddit, a platform where topics are divided into communities, as well as TikTok, another social media/ video platform. The most common form of Gen-Z meme found in meme culture is pessimism. (See below for reference) 


Some memes, however, are not necessarily pessimistic, but rather just absurd. Now, I’m not criticizing them, because they are my favorite. However, I am saying that a lot of people do not understand them. Even if I don’t understand them, still get a good laugh. The absurdity in the memes can range from just the words not making sense to the whole picture being blurred and absolutely ridiculous, with bad grammar as well as misspelled words. (See below for reference.)  


Now, you are probably wondering; “Where did all this come from?” Luckily, I have done a bit of research on the origin of memes, and put together a sort of timeline. According to Erhan Aslan, Author of “The surprising academic origin of memes,” the term “meme” was originally coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976, while written in his famous book “The Selfish Gene.” Although Dawkins version of a meme is the same as how Webster dictionary defines it, his idea of it was a song, a joke, catchphrases, etc. However, in 1996, the term meme started to evolve. The 25 second video of an animated dancing baby, also know as “Baby Cha-Cha” became the first viral internet meme, created by Robert Lurye. Then again in 2003, a site called 4-chan was created, popularizing many memes that others have created, giving life to the beginning of the ones we see today. In 2008, a Youtuber named Erik Helwig claimed to have made the first “Rick Roll,” where he played Rick Astley’s “Never gonna give you up” over a radio station talk show in Michigan (Story explained in his video “I did the first Rick roll w/proof.) From there on out, memes have evolved into dark humor memes, dank memes, and many sub categories.  

As mentioned before, Reddit is a platform where a lot of Gen-Z get their memes. “r/FellowKids” is a community on Reddit where people have posted memes in advertisements, as well as other generations using memes. This is often seen as cringey in the community and with the rest of Gen-Z. For example, see below. 


Why it’s weird for other generations to use Gen-Z humor is because of the constant evolution of the meme, and how the meme evolves every day, and a lot of outside generations may not understand that. The nature of Gen-Z memes may often consist of an edited stock photos/a bad animated drawing, a depressive punchline, and maybe a random sentence that doesn’t fit in (and don’t forget bad spelling.) See below for reference. 


For someone outside of Gen-Z, this humor maybe concerning. That’s also because another part of Gen-Z humor has to do with existential crisis. Perhaps this is influenced by such events having to do with/ that Gen-Z has been a part of, which include the Corona Virus Pandemic, climate change, the fight for equal marriage, etc. I believe this because some Gen-Z memes that have dark humor/pessimism typically surround Gen-Z events.   

Long story short, memes are evolving every day. There are many memes and subcategories of memes, and perhaps the absurdity in the it is what makes the meme ironically funny. Whether you like memes or not, I do hope this article was of use to inform you of exactly what Gen-Z humor is, and its origin.