Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Read this: At last, a “steamed hams” oral history

Illustration for article titled Read this: At last, a “steamed hams” oral history
Screenshot: YouTube

An oral history of a scene that’s also an oral history of a meme? How delightfully devilish, MEL. This piece on The Simpsons’ “Chalmers Vs. Skinner,” a segment from the classic 1996 episode “22 Short Films About Springfield” that’s now better known as “Steamed Hams,” is well worth your time.


First, a refresher:

MEL calls the scene “one of the most famous comedy shorts of all time” and “the funniest Simpsons scene ever recorded.” Whether or not you agree with that assessment, it can’t be denied that the segment has taken on a life of its own, and that’s especially true of that two-word phrase. It has its very own tag on this very pop culture website, for crying out loud. That’s part of what makes Brian VanHooker’s piece for MEL such a fun read—it details the origins of the segment, yes, but also its evolution into a strangely resilient meme. That’s why it has the tag—we posted a “Steamed Hams” story just last month.

VanHooker’s sources for the story include former co-showrunner Bill Oakley, the creator of the “Memed Hams” subreddit, and the editor-in-chief of KnowYourMeme.com, making it a surprising look at the evolution of a joke, from its origins to its many transformations and variations. For example:

It’s a fair bet that VanHooker’s article will spur someone out there to come up with yet another variation. Maybe this time it’ll be “Steamed Hams but it’s My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” or “Steamed Hams but it’s My Cabbages.” But the best aspect of this story isn’t its impressive collection of steamed hams memes, but its willingness to make leaps just as absurd as those Skinner makes in the scene. There’s a contribution from a gym owner about the definition of isometric exercise, a quote from a burger expert in Albany, thoughts from an astrophysicist, and more.

In short, it’s great. Give it a click. 

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Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!