The Brief: Le monke memes started as an image of an orangutan edited to have human eyes and lips. Initially posted to 4chan in 2016, the meme-ified photo spread throughout social media before going viral on TikTok in September of 2019.
Le monke originated in January of 2016 on 4chan, when a user posted an edited image of an orangutan from the Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia with the words “le monke” next to it. In March of 2016, two videos featuring le monke were uploaded to Youtube. The first, titled “UH OH,” featured a narrator reading copypasta from 4chan explicitly about poop as the video zoomed in on the monkey’s face. The second clip with the image was titled “le monke” and set to a song from the soundtrack of the film Requiem for a Dream.
That May, a Facebook page called le monke was created for the purpose of sharing le monke related content and a few days later the r/lemonke subreddit was formed. At the time, the hype over le monke was real with The Daily Dot even writing an article on it.
Even Overwatch character Winston, who is also an ape, made it into a le monke meme:
The unedited photo that started it all:
Three years after its initial appearance, the internet went bananas once again over the image in January of 2019, when a YouTuber combined the narration from the “UH OH” video with the Lavender Town theme song from the video game Pokemon Red/Blue, calling it “UH OH Town.” Starting in May of 2019, le monke memes were frequently seen on Reddit, Instagram, Twitter, and iFunny.
Le monke for president 2020 pic.twitter.com/w6v9Qe3BSu
— thi.ccmemes (@thi_ccmemes) June 16, 2019
Finally, in September, le monke made its way to TikTok when a user uploaded the “UH OH Town” video to the platform. The audio was then used in over 135,000 TikTok videos in just a month, with one clip by @gabriela.bee accumulating over 800,000 likes in two weeks and many others featuring le monke also going viral.