The dancing cockroach meme refers to a video featuring an animated cockroach dancing to music that became popular on TikTok in early 2020. The meme features a 3D rendered cockroach doing a silly dance to the song “Pen Pineapple Apple Pen” by Pikotaro. The dancing cockroach quickly became a trending meme on TikTok, with users creating their own versions featuring different songs and dance moves.
The original dancing cockroach video is believed to have first been posted to TikTok by user @gregdiesel in December 2019. The clip features a realistic 3D model of a cockroach dancing on a wooden surface to the 2016 novelty song “Pen Pineapple Apple Pen” by Japanese comedian Pikotaro. The odd pairing of the catchy pop song with a random 3D insect dancing unexpectedly struck a chord among TikTok users.
The meme really took off in popularity when @gregdiesel posted an updated version in January 2020 where the cockroach performs a more energetic dance routine. This version gained over 800,000 likes on TikTok, helping launch the dancing cockroach as a viral trend.
Popularity on TikTok
After @gregdiesel’s initial videos introduced the concept, the dancing cockroach quickly became a popular meme format on TikTok in early 2020. Millions of TikTok users began creating their own interpretations of the meme by adding different music tracks and having the cockroach perform new dance moves.
Some of the most popular songs used in dancing cockroach videos include:
- “Whip/Nae Nae” by Silentó
- “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion
- “Toosie Slide” by Drake
- “Crab Rave” by Noisestorm
- “The Box” by Roddy Ricch
Dancing cockroach videos using trending TikTok dance challenges also became quite popular. These included dances like the Renegade, Mood Swing, and Out West Challenge.
Adding fun accessories like hats, masks, and glasses to the dancing cockroach became another trend within the meme. Popular iterations included the cockroach wearing a cowboy hat, a durag, and 3D glasses.
Reasons for Popularity
There are several factors that help explain why the dancing cockroach became such a far-reaching meme on TikTok:
- Absurdity – The inherent absurdity and randomness of a realistic cockroach dancing to pop music resonated as strange and funny among Gen Z users.
- Relatability – Finding humor in an animated bug dancing poorly but enthusiastically makes it somehow relatable.
- Customization – The meme’s simple format meant TikTok users could put their own spin by picking songs and dance moves.
- Escapism – The silly lightheartedness of the meme provided entertainment and escapism during the uncertainty of the early COVID-19 pandemic.
Ultimately, the dancing cockroach’s quirky appeal and adaptability as a meme template struck a chord among TikTok users looking for humor and distraction in early 2020.
Certain dancing cockroach videos stood out for their enormous popularity and creativity:
- The “vibe cat” meme mashup by @gaudyjulia added the famous vibe cat bobbing its head to the dancing cockroach.
- @mrfreshasian’s video used the Uberduck.ai text-to-speech generator to make the cockroach “sing” along to the song.
- @isaacgg’s green screen version placed the dancing cockroach in the middle of iconic movie or TV scenes.
- @nicoleee82742’s “Cockroach Doing TikTok Dances” compilation video featured the bug dancing to over 20 different TikTok hits.
These innovative takes on the meme helped further boost engagement and cemented the dancing cockroach as one of the most viral TikTok memes of early 2020.
Spread to Other Platforms
The dancing cockroach soon spread beyond TikTok to other social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Reddit. Many users downloaded the TikTok videos and reposted them across other apps to share the amusing meme more widely.
On YouTube, various compilations of the best dancing cockroach videos went viral as they allowed the meme to reach users who didn’t use TikTok. Short-form video apps like Dubsmash, Triller, and Likee also saw dancing cockroach clips gain traction.
The meme’s spread was further accelerated by news articles and mainstream media coverage of the viral TikTok sensation. This helped introduce the dancing cockroach to demographics who weren’t already familiar with the trend.
Evolution and Offshoots
As with most viral internet memes, the dancing cockroach spawned numerous offshoots and creative derivations as it spread:
- Green Screen Versions – Using green screen filters to place the dancing cockroach in iconic movie/TV scenes or real world settings.
- Duets – Duetting the original video with recordings of people, animals or other things dancing alongside the cockroach.
- Original Songs – Remixing the meme with original songs, raps, and beats inspired by the dancing bug.
- Merchandise – The meme got adapted to merch like t-shirts, phone cases, and stickers sold online.
Some found clever ways to blend the dancing cockroach with other popular memes. Mashup videos combined the cockroach with memes like the distracted boyfriend, spongegar, and expanding brain to make meme hybrids.
The dancing bug also got added to animated emoji packs and sticker sets to extend its reach. As with most viral memes, people got creative in finding unexpected new ways to remix and iterate on the original dancing cockroach video.
Despite its overwhelming popularity, the dancing cockroach meme did garner some criticism and backlash:
- Bug Phobias – Some found the realistic 3D animation of the cockroach unsettling or creepy due to fear of bugs and verminophobia.
- Overexposure – The meme’s omnipresence became annoying to some who felt it was overused, unoriginal, and no longer funny after being so pervasive.
- Animal Exploitation – Animal rights activists accused the meme of exploiting CGI animal depictions for mindless entertainment.
However, the vast majority of users enjoyed the dancing cockroach as a harmless and fun internet meme. The backlash was generally limited to a vocal minority on social media.
Decline in Popularity
Like most viral internet fads, the dancing cockroach saw a steep decline in popularity and engagement after peaking in early 2020. Memes have a typical lifecycle where they spread rapidly once a trend catches on but soon get supplanted by the next viral meme that comes along.
By mid-2020, dancing cockroach videos went from receiving millions of likes and views to only getting a few thousand. The meme remained recognizable but usage greatly reduced as users moved on to fresher TikTok trends.
Factors contributing to its waning popularity:
- Over-saturation – Familiarity and repetitiveness made the meme less novel and exciting.
- Emergence of new memes – New viral phenomena like Sea Shanties and WandaVision overtook interest.
- Pandemic shift – Lockdowns lifting and life returning to normal made the escapist humor less appealing.
The dancing cockroach had a typical quick burn as a viral meme. But it remained one of the most memorable and iconic TikTok trends of 2020.
There have been some attempts by loyal fans to revive interest in the dancing cockroach meme even after its initial popularity burst faded. But efforts to revive overused memes often come across as forced or fall flat.
@gregdiesel himself has tried reposting updated cockroach dance videos or mashups with new songs to recapture the initial buzz. Other users have tried animating new 3D environments and dancers to provide a fresh spin.
However, these attempts largely garnered engagement only in the tens of thousands rather than millions. The dancing cockroach enjoyed a fleeting moment as an enormously viral meme. But like most viral fads, it appears to have largely run its course as internet tastes moved on.
Lasting Cultural Impact
Despite its temporary lifespan in the online zeitgeist, the dancing cockroach had some lasting impact on internet culture:
- Helped further establish TikTok as the epicenter of 2020 meme culture and trends.
- Provided a fun, escapist distraction amidst early pandemic lockdowns.
- Spawned a popular TikTok meme format using 3D rendered creatures dancing to pop music.
- Contributed to the pop song “Pen Pineapple Apple Pen” having a resurgence.
- Showed meme potential of pairing discordant audio and visuals for absurd humor.
The dancing cockroach meme will be remembered as one of the biggest TikTok phenomena of early 2020. While it faded in prominence like most viral fads, it had a significant moment in the spotlight of online pop culture.
In conclusion, the dancing cockroach was one of the most popular and widespread memes to originate on TikTok in early 2020. The absurd video of a 3D animated cockroach energetically dancing to pop music resonated with TikTok users looking for entertaining, lighthearted content during challenging times.
The meme bled over from TikTok into wider internet culture as people everywhere reacted to and riffed on the viral dancing bug. It spawned countless remixes, mashups and creative derivations during the height of its popularity. But like all viral sensations, the dancing cockroach had a fleeting moment in the limelight before fading in prominence as internet tastes moved on to the next trend.
Nonetheless, the dancing cockroach meme had a significant impact in its heyday. It reflected the internet’s taste for absurd, ironic humor as well as people’s desire for frivolous comedic distractions amid a serious global crisis. The enthusiastic cockroach will live on as one of the internet’s more bizarre yet beloved quarantine memes of 2020.
|Original dancing cockroach video posted on TikTok by @gregdiesel
|Updated version posted which helps launch the trend
|Meme peaks in popularity on TikTok with millions of views and versions
|Popularity begins declining as users move on to new trends
|Attempts to revive the meme lead to limited renewed interest
|Meme remains recognized but is no longer widely used