A new image floating around Twitter shows that the first meme ever made far predates the days of Pepe the Frog and Michael Jackson eating popcorn. In fact, this cartoon from the 1920s proves that some jokes are still hilarious 97 years later. The image plays on the “expectations versus reality” genre of the meme world, contrasting two drawings side by side. Check it out below.
The language and the setup of the joke is reminiscent of the modern day "you/the guy she tells you not to worry about,” and “if you can’t handle me at my worst/you don’t deserve me at my best” memes. The comic was uncovered in a 1921 edition of the satirical magazine The Judge, published by the University of Iowa.
The word meme, according to BBC, was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. In his book he called memes "ideas that spread from brain to brain,” which broadly defined the way memes work today. Memes are not a joke in and of themselves; they are replicated and reproduced. By that definition, this image is still a meme, because it was reproduced from an image in the 1919 or 1920 edition of the Wisconsin Octopus magazine.
This may or may not be the first meme in existence, but it does prove that humans have been trying to make #relatablecontent for nearly a hundred years. Long live the memes.