Holy smokes, Internet, you treated us to a bucket of laughs this year. High-profile events like the Summer Olympics and U.S. presidential election provided an abundance of meme-able moments. But not every highly shareable piece of web culture debuted on a big stage.
Curators like Reddit surfaced the Internet’s hidden gems, and Tumblr shined the spotlight on bits of hilarity that may have gone ignored elsewhere.
After consulting a jury of highly respected cats and corgis, we put together a list of picks for the top 12 memes of 2012. It's a selection that is sure to make you ermahgerd in disbelief.
12. The photoboming stingray.
Five years ago, three college girls on a Caribbean vacation got a serious case of the heebeejeebies when a stingray photobombed their “say cheese” moment. The hilarious photograph could have ended up as just a fond vacay memory if it weren’t for a friend, who shared the image on Reddit in September of this year.
11. Paul Ryan: Gosling and Iron Pumping
Paul Ryan may have lost his bid for vice president, but the Wisconsin congressman achieved something far greater: Internet fame. The hot-bodied politician inspired not one, but two memes in 2012.
The first, Paul Ryan Gosling, took inspiration from the Ryan Gosling “Hey, Girl” meme that caught fire in 2008. The Hey Girl, It’s Paul Ryan Tumblr made Ryan something of a small government sex symbol, while @PaulRyanGosling offered 140-character sarcasm on things like Medicare.
Paul Ryan’s other meme-able moment of 2012 happened when TIME released workout photos of Ryan in October. He may look like an extra on “Saved By the Bell,” but you can’t deny his impressive physique.
10. Ridiculously photogenic guy
Zeddie Little was happily jogging along in the 2012 Cooper River Bridge Run in South Carolina, when a photographer snapped a shot of Little and his perfectly pearly teeth.
The photo of the dashing runner was posted to Reddit in April under the title “My friend calls him ‘Mr Ridiculously Photogenic Guy.’”
Ridiculously Photogenic Guy ended up charming the Internet enough to earn a spot in meme history, even if he did lose the race.
9. Potato Jesus
Octogenarian Cecilia Gimenez attempted to restore a 19th century church fresco, but instead, her amateur painting skills turned Jesus into a cartoon version of himself.
A BBC Europe reporter described the finished piece as “a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic.” The botched fresco also drew comparisons to Rowlf the Dog and Brutus Buckeye.
The bad makeover dropped jaws across the web over the summer, especially after Gimenez demanded payment for her shoddy paint job.
The Photoshopping wizards of the Internet put the Potato Jesus face on other famous works of art.
8. Grumpy cat
The sourpuss mug of a cat named Tardar Sauce scratched the Internet with delight in September. A Reddit user shared a photo of the grouchy-faced feline and the Grumpy Cat meme began spreading its crabbiness around the web.
Grumpy Cat (and her brother, Pokey) now have their own website, which posts a “Daily Grump” and sells merchandise like t-shirts and Scrooge-like holiday cards.
7. Eastwooding and Invisible Obama
Clint Eastwood’s somewhat surprise appearance at the GOP Convention had Republicans excited for Dirty Harry badassness. Instead, they got 10 minutes of the Hollywood legend talking to an empty chair.
The bizarre appearance spawned both the @InvisibleObama Twitter account and the Eastwooding photo fad, in which people shared images of empty chairs.
Sorry, couches, but Eastwood crowned chairs the hottest furniture of 2012.
6. Overly Attached Girlfriend
An intense-eyed 20-something named Laina scared the crap out of men everywhere when her face first went viral as an advice animal macro this summer.
The Overly Attached Girlfriend meme featured a screengrab from a parody Justin Bieber fan video created by Laina. The stalkerish lyrics and potent stare made Overly Attached Girlfriend the most loveable clingy lady friend in Internet history.
5. Dog shaming
In 2012, dog humiliation caught on like fleas at the dog park. Tumblr Dogshaming featured photos of pooches wearing signs that spelled out their transgressions — for the whole Internet to see.
Dog owners with poop scoot marks on carpet or drawers filled with chewed up panties punish their furry friends with web-blasted embarrassment.
The Triple B threat ensured that election season had plenty of laughs to help distract from the real (and boring) issues.
Mitt Romney may not have scored the White House gig, but at least he’ll have something to laugh at. Or maybe not.
3. Texts from Hillary
A photograph of Hillary Clinton looking like a badass diplomat while donning sunglasses and checking her phone went seriously viral. And thus, Texts From Hillary was born.
The Tumblr created multi-pane pics that feature Hillz’s faux reactions to texts from people like Sarah Palin and Barack Obama.
The creators of the Tumblr made the decision to go out on top after meeting the secretary of state. The dignified goodbye earns extra kudos, especially when most of the Internet would be happy to stretch its fame.
The Swedish Chef may have coined Börk speak, but in 2012, the Internet couldn’t get enough of Berk speak.
A photograph of a vest-sporting girl holding Goosebumps books debuted on Reddit in March and soon inspired a series of advice animal knockoffs. The widespread use of Ermahgerd talk (or Berks speak) even spawned web translators to help people perfect their lisped quips.
1. McKayla is Not Impressed
U.S. Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney did not win the most medals amongst the Fab Five, but her ‘tude-filled face did help make her the most Internet famous.
After a tumble on her signature event, Maroney had to settle for a silver medal in the vault competition. During the medal ceremony, a photographer snapped a shot that seemed to sum up the gymnast’s feelings about her second place finish. The scowl flipped its way across the web and got ‘Shopped to gold medal glory on the Tumblr McKayla Is Not Impressed and elsewhere.
President Obama even got in on the unimpressed action recently, solidifying McKayla Is Not Impressed as the meme for 2012.