The Steamed Hams meme is one of the most popular viral gags on the internet, but which episode of The Simpsons does it originate from? Recently, Disney announced their full lineup of launch content for the upcoming Disney+ streaming service and among the wide selection of animated movie classics and timeless blockbusters will be the complete 30-season box set of The Simpsons. This major attraction is only possible following the completion of the deal between Disney and Fox earlier this year, which saw lucrative properties such as The Simpsons fall under Mickey Mouse's sizable umbrella.
Although the height of Simpsons fever came at a time when you couldn't use the internet and home phone at the same time, Matt Groening's most famous creation has proved to be a rich source of meme material in more recent years, yielding classics such as Ralph Wiggum's "I'm in danger" line, Lisa doing a presentation on a topic of the internet's choice, Homer disappearing into a hedge and Grandpa Simpson entering and immediately exiting a building. Perhaps the most persistent, diverse and fascinating meme to come from The Simpsons, however, is the 'Steamed Hams but...' phenomenon.
This meme is taken from The Simpsons season 7, episode 21, "22 Short Films About Springfield." As the title suggests, this fan-favorite is a collection of stories starring the cartoon's wide selection of colorful supporting characters, the most popular of which is undoubtedly "Skinner & the Superintendent." In this sketch, Principle Skinner is hosting a "luncheon" for his boss, Superintendent Chalmers, but in an exaggerated sitcom style, every little detail goes wrong.
Skinner attempts to lie his way out of each calamity, with the crazy explanations gradually becoming more and more ridiculous. The meme's name comes from Skinner's lie that the smoke pouring out of the burning oven is steam from the "steamed clams" he's cooking. After serving up shop-bought Krusty Burgers, Skinner informs his boss that he actually said "steamed hams" which is, as everybody knows, a colloquialism for burgers.
The 'Steamed Hams but...' meme largely exists on YouTube, where savvy video editors have remixed the scene in all manner of creative ways. Popular examples include melding the sketch with Guitar Hero, auto-tuning the lines to an instrumental of Green Day's "Basket Case" and having Skinner's dialogue read out by Jeff Goldblum. Undoubtedly, the skit is an iconic part of Simpsons canon and, in many ways, contains all the ingredients that first earned the series worldwide renown. There's overblown visual comedy, black humor, satire, musical gags and slick one-liners, all centered around the inherent desperation of Seymour Skinner as a character.
As is the case with most of the internet's top memes, however, it's not entirely clear why the Steamed Hams scene in particular was singled out for an eternity of wacky reedits. The trend seems to have originated on dedicated Simpsons meme pages, and the creativity of some versions then carried Skinner and his Steamed Hams over into the mainstream. With the entire Simpsons back catalog soon to drop on Disney+, it's likely that the meme will experience a resurgence over the coming months, and fans might even discover new scenes to rework and mutilate for the internet's amusement.
The Simpsons will be available to stream on Disney+ at launch on November 12th.