As I've mentioned, LOLcats is just a cuter version of Caturday, an old forum tradition of posting cat pictures with captions in broken English on Saturdays. Caturday itself is just a more formal version of the image macros that have floated around ever since the Internet found pictures. Every popular Internet meme is in fact a lamer version of a more obscure one, including Lazy Sunday, the Rickroll, Badger Badger Badger, Hot or Not, Ask a Ninja, and Chuck Norris Facts. I've traced them back to their edgier ancestors.
Lazy Sunday < Lonely Island
Andy Samberg used to be funny, honest! Before Saturday Night Live had him recording "The Chronic(what?)cles of Narnia," his comedy group "The Lonely Island" made what is possibly the only truly funny white-man rap, "The Heist," which contains the epic line "Chamomile, motherfucker!" If you'd heard of Samberg before, it's probably because of The 'Bu, TLI's series for the indy comedy show Channel 101.
Rickroll < Duckroll
Rickrolling, the practice of sending someone a link that unexpectedly leads to the music video for Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up,' is just bland; it's the Internet equivalent of saying "What? Chicken butt." It's Goatse for people too cowardly for shock sites and too unoriginal to find their own random red herring. But the Rickroll's predecessor, the duckroll — sending a link to a photo of a duck with wheels — was actually unexpected and maybe a little funny.
Badger Badger Badger < Weebl and Bob
While the animation of badgers and mushrooms is cute, it's a simpler form of the absurd humor in the creator's Weebl and Bob series. The cartoons of these two egg-shaped characters with a pie fetish are an acquired taste, and by that I mean you can't complain that it's unfunny unless you waste nine hours watching every episode.
Hot or Not < Am I Hot
Every popular social site is stolen from another. Friendster is a ripoff of Ryze.com; Facebook was ripped off from like fifty Harvard projects. Hot or Not changed its name from "Am I Hot or Not" because of threats from an older site called "Am I Hot," which the newer site's owners bought three years later, once they'd made tons of money through ads and a delicously shallow dating service. However "Am I Hot" was, the sheer volume of traffic, the reduction of every score to a 7.3, and the Facebook app make Hot or Not worse.
Ask a Ninja < Real Ultimate Power and Homestar Runner
I like Ask a Ninja. I mean kudos to them for being more than the same joke over and over. But asking a ninja for advice is just a combo of the pure ninja-fetish fun of "Real Ultimate Power" and the Strong Bad E-mails from Homestar Runner. No comedy advice series comes anywhere close to Strong Bad's growly cartoons.
Chuck Norris Facts < Vin Diesel Facts
The joke just makes more sense with Vin Diesel, because it's not so desperately ironic and catch-phrasey, so joke writers can revel in actual creativity. Compare:
"Apple pays Chuck Norris 99 cents every time he listens to a song."
"When Vin Diesel goes to donate blood, he declines the syringe, and instead requests a hand gun and a bucket."
If you've seen the gun-and-bucket joke as a Chuck Norris fact, that's because it was stolen.
The commenters on Gawker, who already knew all of the above, will now tell you all the fads I forgot.