Keanu Reeves talks Sad Keanu and why he's so damn memeable

Stephen Colbert asked the Matrix and John Wick star why meme-makers love him so much.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, generational studies. Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read

Keanu Reeves is a movie star. Witness The Matrix, John Wick, the Bill and Ted films, Point Break and more. But he's also a meme star. You might see memes of Sad Keanu, or of Sad Keanu in a Helmet, or of Walking in Slow Motion Keanu. But Reeves himself admits he finds his meme-ability mystifying, as he told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Monday.

"Why do you think you are so memeable?" asked Colbert. "There are so many Keanu memes out there."

Putting his chin in his hand, a thoughtful-looking Reeves gave a very Ted "Theodore" Logan answer.

"I have no clue, sir," he said, as the studio audience laughed.

Colbert tried to answer his own question, proposing that while Reeves has his own distinct character, people find it easy to overlay photos of him with their own meanings. That inspired the Main Meme Man to burst into a version of Bill Withers' famed hit, "Lean on Me," with the words changed to "Meme on Me."

Earlier in the interview, Colbert showed the Sad Keanu meme, which features Reeves sitting alone on a bench eating, pointing out that a similar panel appears in the 2020 comic book drawn by Reeves, BRZRKR.

"I'm just eating a sandwich, man!" Reeves said with a laugh. "I was thinking! I had some stuff going on! I was hungry!" 

He said that BRZRKR artist Ron Garney did the homage art without notifying Reeves, adding, "So I think it's kinda meta."

Reeves stars in The Matrix Resurrections, which comes to theaters and streaming this month.

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