Harlem Shake & All the Memes the ‘Today’ Show Killed (VIDEO)

From the Harlem Shake and ‘Call Me Maybe’ to lip dubs, Kevin Fallon looks at memes the show has ruined.

Matt, Al, and Savannah (and Kathie Lee and Hoda) are reliably clued in to the latest pop-culture craze. They just seem to be the last ones to hear about it.

As adorable as the excited aunt who emailed you last week to ask, “Have you heard about this thing ‘Gangnam Style'?” the Today show in recent years has reliably been among the last media outlets to pick up on zeitgeist-sweeping memes. The latest example of the NBC morning crew being cringeworthily late to the game? Its take on current Internet craze the Harlem Shake.

The Harlem Shake meme involves 30-second videos that begin with a sole person, typically masked, casually bopping to music while a handful of people around him go about mundane business. Then “the beat drops,” as the kids say, the camera shot changes, and suddenly an entire crowd appears in bizarre costumes and they go ape shit, flailing their limps, and, well, doing the Harlem Shake.

Versions have already been made by the University of Georgia swim team, Anderson Cooper’s staff, four different U.S. service academies, and a countless number of more anonymous fans. And now, the Today team:

As David Wagner at The Atlantic Wire says, “the hosts of the Today show committed meme murder.” It’s like when your mom says “I love that song”—the song immediately becomes uncool, and you hate it. And it’s not the first time. From “Call Me Maybe” to lip dubs, here’s a tour through all the memes the Today show has killed.

‘Gangnam Style’

When did we reach peak “Gangnam Style”? Was it when anti-American comments by Psy leaked? When he vowed that the song’s ubiquitous reign would end New Year’s Eve after months of overplay? Or when he performed it in a Super Bowl commercial six weeks later anyway? Nope, it was when Savannah Guthrie, Natalie Morales, Al Roker, and sacrificial meme-killing guest David Gregory donned sunglasses and clumsily danced like ponies this past September.

‘Call Me Maybe’

Carly Rae Jepsen’s infectiously sweet earworm Call Me Maybe was already well on its way to pop-culture domination, but received a bit of a breakout moment when the Harvard baseball team and the Southern Methodist University rowing team released competing videos of themselves doing choreographed dances to the song while in vans on road trips. The moment was promptly soured, however, when the Today anchors attempted to recreate the choreography in their studio. What’s more cringeworthy: the anchors acting like they’re totally killing it while actually absolutely botching it, or the panned-out camera shot revealing that they required producers to coach them on the choreography like a Toddlers & Tiara mom or preschool dance teacher?


“I’m not sure if you’ve heard of this young girl,” Today’s fourth/cocktail-hour host Hoda Kotb says introducing a segment on Rebecca Black, the warbler of the noxious viral hit Friday, whom, rest assured, Hoda, every single viewer had already heard sing the song an insufferable amount of times. Not even some awkward shoulder dancing from White Collar’s Adonis, Matt Bomer, could save the segment.

‘I Gotta Feeling’ and Lip Dubs

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In the fall of 2010, there were two things that most of America had absolutely had enough of: the Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling and lip dubs. Leave it to Today, then, to combine both into one mass meme-murdering extravaganza.

Flash Mobs

Over the past few years, many of us who live in urban areas have been walking around in a constant state of terror: please, oh please, don’t let me walk through this public square and be caught in a crowd of manic, dancing lunatics! In fact, it was almost two years ago that Gawker proclaimed that “flash mobs have reached the tipping point.” So when the Today show staged a flash mob earlier this month, it had the effect of beating a dead horse. A long-dead, rotting horse.

‘Dirty Dancing’

While Dirty Dancing never really left the pop-culture conversation, entering its second decade of release, the Patrick Swayze classic enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in the 2010s. Jennifer Grey won Dancing With the Stars. The Black Eyed Peas co-opted its iconic “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” for one of their songs, which was also covered on Glee. Then in 2011, the film figured prominently into two of the year’s biggest entertainment hits: the pilot of New Girl and a particularly swoonworthy scene in the romantic comedy Crazy Stupid Love. When Ryan Gosling re-created Patrick Swayze’s indelible lift in Crazy Stupid Love, it was the best PR Dirty Dancing ever got, with countless people imagining themselves in Emma Stone’s place. When Al Roker decided to give the Jennifer Grey part of the lift a go during an interview with Gosling, however, the effect was markedly different.