October gave us countless memorable memes but the best one made its debut earlier in the month — the Key & Peele handshake meme.
The meme stems from a 2014 sketch from Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key‘s comedy series Key & Peele titled “Obama Meet & Greet.” Peele, as Obama, meets a handful of black and white supporters, notably favoring the former over the latter. Hilarity ensues as Peele happily hugs his black fans — and even cradles a supporter’s baby — but remains formal with his white fans, offering nothing more than stern handshakes.
Comedy Central describes the sketch as follows: “President Obama is introduced to a group of onlookers after giving a speech, but not everyone receives the same treatment.”
The sketch resurfaced as a meme in late September when Twitter user @matte_black assigned films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to the supporters.
The video, which the user said took 20 minutes to make, has had over 155,000 retweets and close to 400,000 likes. It appears that @matte-black kicked off the viral meme as countless other ones popped up after, and although most of these memes came shortly before the end of September, the phenomenon wasn’t really covered until early October.
There’s one that ranked the best viral memes of the year so far.
This one that ranked JAY-Z albums.
And this one that ranked Sonic the Hedgehog video games.
Peele himself addressed the meme, specifically one that highlighted self-care and mental health.
“Appreciate an honest and vulnerable meme,” the Get Out director said along with the meme.
What makes the Key & Peele handshake meme the most notable is that every recreation took some time to do. From choosing what the topic would be and assigning the right item to each person to actually editing them into the video, the meme is a great example of how creative meme culture can be. Arguably the best part of each meme though was seeing how each one handled the standout moment of the sketch — when Peele encounters a supporter (portrayed by Key) who is one-eighth black.
In the sketch, Peele jokingly acknowledges Key with “Afternoon my octoroon” before embracing him. Why this moment is integral to the meme is because it represents uncertainty — where you’re not quite sure about something but ultimately you give it a pass of approval.
Take @matte_black’s use of this exchange for example, when Key is assigned Spider-Man: Homecoming. Homecoming wasn’t only different from previous Spider-Man movies but also other MCU films too. The blend of superhero action and coming of age comedy reminiscent of films by John Hughes worked in Homecoming‘s favor. The movie is the second-most successful Spider-Man film and was the sixth-highest-grossing film of 2017.
Turns out that the viral Key & Peele sketch was inspired by an actual experience the show’s creators witnessed.
Back in 2014, the pair did an interview with HuffPost where they said that they actually saw for themselves how Obama addressed different supporters.
“We witnessed that happen when we met him,” Key said of Obama’s greetings.
Aside from Key & Peele‘s handshake meme, here were some other notable black memes October gave us. But before we get to those, let us honor arguably one of the greatest black Halloween memes to ever hit the internet — @skateboardraga, who created the viral video of herself dancing and playing along to the Goosebumps theme song.
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