Kelly the philosophical gorilla and the story behind the biggest meme of the moment

A gorilla from a zoo in California has spawned a meme that has gone viral online and across languages.

The meme’s success appeared to begin on Reddit, where user “lexlevi” pointed out that Kelly – a 30-year-old silverback Western Lowland gorilla from Los Angeles Zoo – looked like he was giving a philosophy lecture to the crowd in front of his enclosure.

It’s uncanny, but according to the zoo’s staff photographer who took the picture it’s not very representative of Kelly’s usual behaviour.

“Normally he is quite reclusive and shies away from visitors,” Jamie Pham, 39, told the Press Association. “I certainly did not know I was taking such a funny photo. I was aiming to get an image of the gorilla and the visitors watching him as it’s very, very rare for him to sit towards the front of the exhibit.”

“It’s always completely shocking and unexpected when something goes viral,” said Pham. “A clever caption goes a long way in making that happen.”

He’s not wrong there. Here’s a collection of the best the internet has come up with – what was Kelly’s lecture all about?

1. A Gorillas In The Mist parody

2. In memory of Harambe

3. A Planet Of The Apes parody

4. A King Kong parody – in French

Translated the post reads: “And then I told him ‘Stop your bull***t King Kong… you ain’t gonna climb a skyscraper for a girl’ And he still did it, the idiot.”

5. Kelly’s take on the the environment

6. An Every Which Way But Loose parody

7. The Titanic debate

8. Some US history

9. A fourth-wall break

10. Discussion of a Radiohead album

11. A Phil Collins discussion

12. And finally… some real talk

Life, FeaturesWeb editor