So long Grumpy Cat... and other notable meme-folk of 2019

Patrick Freyne on some noteworthy names that made news this year

With another year over and a new one soon to begin, here are some noteworthy names that made news this year (inclusion here is not an endorsement except for the times when it clearly is an endorsement).


Youngsters largely know Keanu Reeves as a meme, much like his best friends Grumpy Cat and Dancing Baby. He is, in fact, an actor in his fifties known for olden days films The Matrix and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Keanu is also beloved by women of my generation because he has never sexually harassed anyone, seems a bit melancholy, has a partner who wasn't recently a child and is sort of gorgeous. Let me acknowledge that the bar is set quite low for famous men these days (it's now set at "not accused of a crime") but it's true that Keanu seems like a nice person. I was once likened to "a fat Keanu Reeves" by a tipsy barfly and I took it as high praise.

Grumpy Cat

While we’re on the subject of likeable meme-folk, let’s have a moment’s silence for Grumpy Cat, a feline icon for a melancholy age. He died back in May. Sleep well, sweet prince.

Unnamed Question Time Audience Member

"It's going to sound crazy but Ireland being referred to as the island of Ireland, why don't we try and get that as an Ireland again and we can carry on with our own thing?"

You’ll recall these words as those of estuary-accented Unnamed Question Time Audience Member, when he invented the idea of a united Ireland live on BBC Question Time earlier this year. You probably have the Irish language version of that sentence etched on a tricolour in your house. Yes, of all the leaders of the Irish revolution – Pearse, Connolly, Clarke – I think my favourite is Unnamed Question Time Audience Member.

Is it the way his cheeky smirk emerges from his turtleneck jumper like our nation state emerged from the shackles of empire? Or is it his tragic martyrdom when they tied him – and the rest of the Question Time audience – to a chair and shot them in Kilmainham Gaol? It's hard to pin it down really. What are your favourite rebel songs about Unnamed Question Time Audience Member? Mine are A Nation Once Again and Suga Mama by Fifth Harmony.

Adam Neumann from WeWork

At some point the sociopaths of Silicon Valley convinced workers that a pool table in the office made up for the fact they had no pensions or job security and were forbidden to unionise. Barefoot gonk-doll Adam Neumann then founded WeWork and convinced institutional investors ito give him billions of dollars to fund a low-rent office sharing gambit that everyone pretended was a tech company. He did so by using technotopian jargon and skateboarding in the office. By the time people realised he was creating a Me-Topia not a You-Topia, their IPO had collapsed, he had already extracted hundreds of millions of dollars and we had more confirmation, if any was needed, that we’ll all be socialists before the coming decade is over.

Greta Thunberg

This youngster and Time magazine cover star is a brave and outspoken climate activist who has inspired millions of young people. She is also a useful diagnostic tool for psychologists, because if you show some people a picture of Greta Thunberg they will start ranting incoherently about how climate change isn't happening, or climate change is happening but cannot be fixed, or how Greta is being manipulated, or how she is an uppity youngster, or how nobody has visited them in ages and they feel lonely, or how climate change needs to be tackled but not if it means a young woman is listened to. Then you can medicate them appropriately.

Maura and Greg on Love Island

There is an island, an island where carefree hunks and hunkettes frolic and gambol and hump. It is Dorian Gray to Britain's Picture of Dorian Gray, a humptopia where the body politic belies the notion that there is a sickness in the land (and what a body politic it is; ooh matron, etc). This year was particularly special because we Irish infiltrated the so-called Love Island. Yes, one half of the winning couple was our fifth columnist "Greg", who is now, as you know, head of the Bank of England. And who can forget breakout star, earthily poetic Longford woman "Maura", now lobbying for our fourth green field on the staff of Good Morning Britain? The trigger word for these agents of the state was, for the record, "humptopia", but you'll know all about that by now.

Prince Andrew

It's hard to be sure if Prince Andrew's deeply uncomfortable, shifty-eyed demeanour during his interview with Emily Maitlis was due to a worried mind or simply because he'd never before met a commoner who hadn't been sourced for him by a rich friend. The onetime pal of the paedophile sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein succumbed to this interrogation on BBC against the advice of PR consultants and so we got to watch, over 40 minutes, as the folds of his face, his malfunctioning sweat glands and improbable hairline crept up his neck and over his scalp to try and strangle his stupid troublemaking mouth. Yes, he was a twitchy, jerky mass of royal privilege and we learned nothing to dispel any suspicions that he knew more than he was saying. He was subsequently fired by that doyen of cancel culture, the Queen, proving once more that a political system built on hereditary privilege works just fine.

Everyone in the weird trailer for Cats

“I have an idea for a film for all the family. It’s called CGI Animals with Human Breasts.”

“That could be a hard sell.”

“Nonetheless, it is my dream to have a film filled with CGI Animals with Human Breasts. I have dreamt of this since I was a boy.”

“Why haven’t you done it before?”

“Only recently has the technology to create realistic animals with human breasts been available to us.”

“Okay, I can see you’re committed to the idea. What if we cloak this in some existing intellectual property – say Andrew Lloyd Webber’s thematically incoherent but delightfully tuneful Cats?”

“Go on.”

"And then why don't we get Judi Dench involved. I hear she'll do absolutely any old shite."

“Dench you say? I’ll do it as long as we cleave to my core vision.”

“Which is, ‘CGI Animals with Human Breasts?’”

“Exactly. For that is why I got into cinema.”

Baby Yoda

Like almost everyone else on Earth, The Mandalorian’s break-out star, Baby Yoda, has made me broody. This is problematic. I don’t want a stupid human baby. Ugh, who wants one of those, with their poor motor skills, hideous dimples and grotesque jowls? No, I wish to conceive and bear an animatronic space Jesus with green skin and floppy pointy ears. Is that too much to ask? According to medical science, “yes”, but according to the self-help book I’m reading, you can do anything if you follow your dreams. Happy Christmas everyone!