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(Rory Panagatopolis for WBUR)

MEMES, Part 10: Makmende

Western media told countless stories about Kenya's viral music video character known as “Makmende.” They called Makmende “Kenyan Chuck Norris,” or a sound-alike of his famous line, “Make my day.” But, according to the music artists, none of these characterizations are accurate. We explore American myopia, and the peril and...

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Endless Thread

36:02Dec 3, 2021
(Rory Panagatopolis for WBUR)

MEMES, Part 9: I'm not done yet

Anybody old enough to remember infomercials has probably seen the work of TV pitchman Billy Mays. But younger people still know his face and squeaky OxiClean personality. While Mays died years ago, he’s lived on in meme form. We ask his son Billy Mays III, his biggest frenemy, and others...

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Endless Thread

46:52Nov 19, 2021
(Rory Panagatopolis for WBUR)

MEMES, Part 8: The scream

If you typed “inauguration” into your web browser around 2017, you likely saw an image of a person screaming "NOOOO!". That person was Jess, who didn’t know was that they were being filmed during Trump's inauguration. Within hours, this became the scream heard ‘round the world. Four years later, Jess...

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Endless Thread

34:02Nov 12, 2021

Hosts Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Sivertson dig into the internet's vast and curious ecosystem of online communities to find untold histories, unsolved mysteries, and other jaw-dropping stories online and IRL.
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(Rory Panagatopolis for WBUR)

MEMES, Part 7: Dead giveaway

In 2013, four white musicians turned a news clip featuring a Black man, Charles Ramsey, into a song. The meme erupted, but when Ramsey discovered it, he couldn’t tell if it was flattery or mockery. We examine The Gregory Brothers and the lives of Ramsey and other Black “unintentional singers”...

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Endless Thread

38:21Nov 5, 2021
One of Eric Knudsen's, A.K.A. Victor Surge's, renderings of Slender Man for the Something Awful online forum.

MEMES, Bonus: Slender Man

When two 12 year-old girls attacked their friend in the woods of Waukesha, Wisconsin in May of 2014, they claimed to have done it to please Slender Man -- a fictional monster created on an internet forum called "Something Awful." In this bonus episode of Endless Thread, we examine Slender...

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Endless Thread

25:07Oct 31, 2021
(Rory Panagatopolis for WBUR)

MEMES, Part 6: Call me... The Punisher

The Punisher has always been a complicated Marvel antihero: a man whose creator imagined him as a reaction to the failures of government at home and in the Vietnam War. So why is the Punisher’s trademark dripping skull insignia being painted on police vehicles, adopted by members of the military,...

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Endless Thread

40:32Oct 29, 2021
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MEMES, Part 5: Big Man Tyrone

When Gordon Hurd fled Cameroon for the UK, he faced racism as he tried to support his family. He started his own video-making business and adopted another name: Big Man Tyrone. He became a viral meme and the leader of a fictional alt-right country. But where is the line between...

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Endless Thread

43:48Oct 22, 2021
Four year old Zoë Roth in the original photo that became known as "Disaster Girl" (Courtesy Dave and Zoë Roth).

MEMES, Bonus: Zoë 'Disaster Girl' Roth

Zoë Roth was 4 years old when her dad took a photo of her smiling mischievously in front of a burning house. That photo would later spread like wildfire as the internet meme "Disaster Girl." We hear more about how the photo came to be, and who really started that...

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Endless Thread

21:01Oct 19, 2021
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MEMES, Part 4: Woman yelling at a cat

The funny "Woman Yelling at a Cat" meme that made “Real Housewife” Taylor Armstrong internet famous in 2019 has bitter roots. In this episode, we tell a little-known origin story of a meme that might make you think twice about using it, and we explore why losing context is crucial,...

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Endless Thread

41:27Oct 15, 2021
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MEMES, Bonus: A billion Ricks

Last week, we explored the origin of the “Rick Roll,” a meme that evolved from Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Since the music video resurfaced in 2007, the internet has also never given up on Rick – it recently hit a billion views on YouTube. This bonus episode...

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Endless Thread

19:06Oct 12, 2021
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MEMES, Part 3: Gotta make you understand

Usually, nobody gets credit for starting a meme. But in the case of one of the most famous bait-and-switch memes of all time, the Rick Roll, we may be looking at something experts call convergent evolution. We explore the meme’s origin, the history of the song, and its impact on...

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Endless Thread

42:06Oct 8, 2021
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MEMES, Part 2: Scumbag Steve

Scumbag Steve spread across the internet like wildfire in 2011. But the full story of what happened to Blake Boston has never been told. In this episode, we go past the meme's origin story and learn about Blake’s struggles with PTSD and abuse — and how trauma has brought him...

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Endless Thread

40:12Oct 1, 2021
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MEMES, Part 1: Kilroy was here

We often think of memes as living solely online. But the image that's often considered to "the first meme" appeared around the globe during World War II. In the first episode of our meme series, we tell the story of "Kilroy Was Here" -- where came from, how it spread,...

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Endless Thread

36:05Oct 1, 2021
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