Memetic Mutation/Theater

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As seen on stage, and repeated endlessly on the streets (okay, one of them you're not supposed to say in public, but that's never stopped anybody before).

Please keep in mind that this is for memes which have mutated beyond their original form, not any meme you think of. KnowYourMeme is the place to simply catalog memes in general.


Please add entries in the following format:

  • The name of the play.
    • Meme name: description of meme and how it's used.
      • Source of meme and fandom it relates to in the form of a hot tip.
      • Famous instances (such as the Rick Roll during the Thanksgiving parade).
      • Further mutations and successor memes, if any.

  • "The Hills are Alive": The famous opening sequence [dead link] of the film The Sound of Music.
    • The cimematography is widely copied and parodied, the most common forms are "person spinning joyously in a meadow sings about something stupid or depressing"; "person spinning joyously in a meadow has something bad happen to them"; and simply "Person spinning joyously in meadow singing (badly)". Another common parody is to overlay the soundtrack of birds and music with unpleasant noises.
    • The phrase has also become a memetic mutation, crossing over into Horror fandom, where it is used to herald something bad about to happen.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan:
    • The Pirates of Penzance:
      • "I am the very model of a Modern Major-General." It has its own page. Go there for details.
      • With Catlike Tread! *STOMP* Upon our prey we steal! *STOMP*. The "sneaking about while making a lot of noise or talking about how stealthy they are being (or both)" is widely used in crime-caper and spy-thriller parodies. Admittedly, most such uses don't involve singing. The melody itself has also become a memetic mutation, spawning first "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here" which in turn mutated to the Black Comedy variant "Hail, Hail the Gangrene's Here".
    • From HMS Pinafore:

"What, never?"
"No, never!"
"What, never?"
"Well, hardly ever!"

      • The Memetic Mutation on this one was so big back in Gilbert and Sullivan's day that Gilbert remarked he never wanted to hear it quoted again. "What, never?" some nearby wag remarked. The writer was unable to stop himself from responding in kind.
      • The ending of The Pirates of Penzance originally had, after the revelation that the pirates were noblemen gone wrong, a variation on this exchange: "What, all noblemen?" (etc.)
      • Shows up in satires, for self-deprecation, or to question the truth of a negative statement ("I don't...", "They won't...", "He'll never...", "She didn't...". Often shortened to "'<Negative statement>', 'What never?', 'Well, hardly ever.'" or "<Negative statement>, well, hardly ever."
  • 525,600 minutes, "Seasons of Love" from Rent
    • Mutated into being used to refer to almost anything related to the span of a year
    • Oh, Rent! Rent!
  • According to No Exit, "Hell is other people." It is most commonly mutated into either "Hell is X" or ""X is other people"
  • "Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no fibs." (She Stoops To Conquer)
  • Little Shop of Horrors: "FEED MEEEEEE, SEYMOUR."
  • It's becoming increasingly common on MLIA to write a comment actually related to the post, then, at the end of the comment, begin singing a Wicked-song.
  • "The Time Warp" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show: used when things are getting weird, possibly also part of the inspiration for the Peter Panda Dance in the movie The Pacifier.
  • "We love you Conrad, oh, yes we do-ooooo!" from Bye Bye Birdie. a common mutation is simply appending "Oh, yes, we do-ooooo!" to the end of a statement.
  • A very old meme comes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's play Götz von Berlichingen, in which the titular character's castle is under attack in the third act and a bishop demands his surrender. Götz responds with "Leck mich im Arsch," which translates to, essentially, "kiss my ass." Almost immediately after the play's debut, it became the most famous quote from the play, to the point where "Götz von Berlichingen" is a common German euphemism.
  • The line "never forget and never forgive" originates from "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Stephen Sondheim (more specifically, "The more he bleeds the more he lives/He never forgets and he never forgives"). Today it is most (in)famous in the Badass Creed of 4chan, who probably don't realize they're quoting a Broadway musical.
  • Avenue Q:
  • The King and I gives us memes, tropes, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
  • From Cyrano De Bergerac, "I have a wife and three children!"
  • The Vagabond King: "And to Hell with Burgundy!" Originally the final line of the rousing "Song of the Vagabonds," wildly divorced from its original context by haters of fine wines.

Shakespeare gets his very own section.[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Hamlet:
    • "To be or not to be?": Parodied, punned on, and played with innumerable times. Also used seriously in fiction to indicate that a character is suicidal.
      • From the same speech, "Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune..."
      • "To sleep: perchance to dream..."
    • "Though this be madness, yet there's method in't." In its most common modern mutation, turned into "There's method to my madness."
    • "Murder most foul..." . Used for the title of an Agatha Christie murder mystery, at least one non-fiction true-crime book, a game, and used surprisingly often in articles about real life murders.
    • "Alas, Poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio." Both the speech itself and the visual of a guy talking to a skull have mutated. (And the line is often misquoted as "Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well.")
    • "The play's the thing"
    • "O! I am slain!"
    • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern became the basis for Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which led to "Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads."
  • Macbeth, or "The Scottish Play":
    • "Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire, burn and cauldron, bubble. Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog." This scene has long served as the basis for a common presentation of witches in general, stooping over a steaming cauldron. It's also a likely source of "eye of newt" as a standard ingredient in witches' brews, magic potions, and spells in general.
    • Out, Damned Spot!!
  • Romeo and Juliet:
    • The entire balcony scene became a theatre meme.
    • "Romeo, Romeo... wherefore art thou Romeo?": Mutated into being understood as "where are you, Romeo?" rather than the real meaning, "why did you have to be Romeo (Montague)?"
    • What's in a name?
      • That which we call a rose, if called by any other name, would smell just as sweet.
    • A Plague on Both Your Houses!
    • Two households, both alike in dignity...
    • Star-Crossed Lovers.
    • The Analogy Backfire of describing a relationship as "like Romeo and Juliet". What, you're both going to kill yourselves in the end?
  • Henry V:
  • Henry VI:
    • The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers!
  • Julius Caesar:
  • The Merchant of Venice:
    • A "pound of flesh", a lawful but nevertheless unreasonable recompense that is ruthlessly pursued.
    • Shylock, as a term for a loan shark.
  • A Winter's Tale: