Let’s Talk About These Harlem Shake Videos

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February 19, 2013 by NowhereButPop

By Steve Secular

For those of you who either live under a rock or are off being productive members of society, there’s a new craze taking over the internet: Harlem Shake videos.

There’s a really good article over here that sums up how it all happened. But if you’re too lazy to look, here’s a few examples:

I think this may be our peak as a society. “Our PEAK??” you cry, spitting out your Cinnamon Toast Crunch. YES, I say. Our peak. It’s all downhill from here.

These Harlem Shake videos perfectly capture everything great about a global, interconnected world. Everyone, across states, nations, and continents can contribute to the phenomenon. Everyone is together in creating and enjoying this: it’s like an international and public inside joke. You laugh at the people in the video and you feel connected. It’s natural, that’s what laughter does.

And maybe more importantly, this humor is WEIRD. It’s amazing. But it’s weird.

1)   Multiple appearances of Stormtrooper helmets

2)   Animal costumes

3)   Animal masks

4)   Someone is always upside down? Why?

5)   Humping. Lots of humping.

6)   Slow motion

7)   There’s a guy punching an inflatable giraffe for a whole video.

I remember in high school, watching episode after episode of Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and cracking up. Hell, I saw them live on tour. Now this isn’t a hipstery, “I liked it before it was cool! thing.  It’s about how our cultural, mainstream sense of humor has changed.  Because I couldn’t take that humor to school then. Trust me, my friends and I made a 20-minute video for a Spanish project about a black market crayon dealer that featured the Nicolas Cage movie The Family Man as a plot point. People either fell asleep or begged the teacher to turn it off.

I point the finger at Zach Galifianakis for the change. A strong case can be made for Andy Samberg and the early Lonely Island digital shorts too. But eventually Lonely Island started making primarily music videos, and the sense of humor changed.

Not Galifianakis. He was a frequent guest on Tim & Eric, existing in relative obscurity until the release of The Hangover changed everything. It was a major hit, and with the unfiltered comedy of Zach Galiafanakis front and center. It had his trademark weirdness mixed with a more acceptable sense of vulgarity.  Now we’ve come to the point where he’s interviewing Oscar nominees in a two-part edition of his webshow, Between Two Ferns.

Over the years, through the rise of Reddit and Imgur, with cat memes and all things Nicolas Cage, we’ve entered a globalized sense of humor, one based around the obscure, around the particular. It’s non-sequiturs and pop culture references. It’s one giant inside joke that everyone understands.  It’s a world where an internet phenomenon consists of 30-second videos of people dancing in animal costumes while holding life-size cutouts of Sylvester Stallone.

These Harlem Shake videos capture the whole of what makes us us. The humor, the music, and the internet, all at their absolute best.

Harlem Shake videos, I love you. Don’t ever change.


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