The first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden on Tuesday was marked by verbal jabs, name-calling and lots of crosstalk.
That hostility became instant meme fodder on social media.
Historically, presidential debates have been rife for memeing. The debates leading up to the 2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Trump were not only famously contentious but also a trove of timeless memes. Whether it was Trump leaning into the microphone proclaiming, “Wrong!” or Clinton shaking her shoulders after zinging Trump, many moments are still frequently used as gifs and memes on social media platforms like Twitter.
However, while many lamented online that Tuesday night’s debate was largely unproductive and stress-inducing as both Trump and Biden spoke over each other, several moments managed to permeate the chaos to become full-fledged memes.
Here’s our roundup of the best social media memes and moments from the first debate.
The Real (Debate) Housewives
As Trump and Biden bickered back and forth at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Twitter users began to compare the debate to Bravo’s “The Real Housewives” series.
“The Real Housewives,” a reality show that follows wealthy women in various cities and holds a reunion at the end of each season, often devolves into shouting matches and name-calling — not unlike the performances of Trump and Biden on the debate stage.
Bravo is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.
“This is more like a real housewives reunion than a debate lol,” tweeted Sean Garrette, an “ambassador” for Fenty Skin, a skincare company.
Some suggested that Andy Cohen, who as the host of the Housewives reunion shows must reign in fights between the show’s stars, would have made a better debate moderator than the evening’s actual moderator, Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
“Where is Andy Cohen? He could handle this,” tweeted Sam Sanders, host of NPR’s “It’s Been A Minute.”
“Andy Cohen needed to host this,” tweeted Jemele Hill, host of the “Jemele Hill is Unbothered,” a podcast for Spotify.
‘The biggest mask I’ve ever seen’
In response to a question Wallace asked about Trump’s beliefs regarding the effectiveness of wearing masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Trump took a swipe at Biden.
“I don't wear masks like him,” Trump said. “Every time you see him, he's got a mask. “He could be speaking 200-feet away from — and he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen.”
On Twitter, Kassy Dillon, founder of Lone Conservative, a politics, campus conservatism and culture platform, tweeted a plea to social media users: “Someone photoshop Joe with ‘the biggest mask I've ever seen.’"
Twitter pounced on the idea of Biden wearing the “biggest mask,” and, as Dillon requested, photoshopped images of the former vice president wearing oversize masks in addition to tweeting jokes about large masks.
“‘He has the biggest mask on I’ve ever seen’ oh my god that was so funny,” tweeted Twitter user Zyanya Caruso.
Another Twitter user shared an image of Bane, a fictional supervillain from the Batman movie series, who wears a distinctive mask with the Trump quote.
‘Will you shut up, man?’
One of the moments that sent the internet into a frenzy was a back-and-forth between Trump and Biden as they bickered over a question about the Supreme Court.
As they spoke over each other, Biden quipped, “Will you shut up, man?”
By 9:45 p.m. ET, shortly after Biden’s dig at the president, the phrase had been tweeted approximately 150,000 times. By the time the debate ended, people were already selling the phrase on T-shirts.
“Honestly, ‘Will you shut up, man?’ is going down in presidential debate history along with Nixon's beard. Iconic,” tweeted Democratic Party strategist Tom Watson.
Others said they planned to adopt the phrase for daily use in their own lives.
“I’m going to use ‘will you shut up, man’ every time I’m on a staff meeting and someone tries to cut me off,” wrote Twitter user MademoiselleNur.
““Will you shut up man” is the bio of my life rn,” Twitter user ximenags96 wrote, adding a laughing emoji to the end of the sentence.
Old man yells at old man
Several memes used to exemplify the debates were already famous memes, such as “Spider-Man pointing at Spider-Man” or references to “The Simpsons.”
The Spider-Man meme, which shows two identical superheroes pointing at each other, was used repeatedly on Twitter late Tuesday into early Wednesday to exemplify the similarities between Biden and Trump as they argued.
In some cases, the meme was edited to include a third Spider-Man, meant to represent the out-of-control nature of the multiple, overlapping exchanges of Wallace, Trump and Biden throughout the night.
Another image shared on Twitter used to represent the debate was an image that appears to be from “The Simpsons,” which shows a newspaper clipping from the cartoon showing two angry old men beneath a headline that read, “Old Man Yells at Old Man.”
‘Bad things happen in Philly’
Toward the close of the debate, Trump made a claim that poll watchers had been denied from watching the first day of in-person elections in Philadelphia, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer,
“In Philadelphia they went in to watch. They’re called poll watchers. A very safe, very nice thing. They were thrown out. They weren’t allowed to watch. You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia, bad things.”
The claim was false, according to the Inquirer, but Twitter seized on the moment to show what it believed to be the real threat to Philadelphia.
“‘Bad things happen in Philadelphia,’” one person wrote atop an image of The Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty.
“Pumped for all the ‘bad things happen in Philadelphia’ tattoos we’re about to see,” wrote Twitter user ExtremeMomVibes, also sharing a picture of Gritty.
“Bad things happen in philadelphia like when I had a crush on someone from there and spent an entire day walking around wondering if they had also walked where I was walking,” tweeted singer Phoebe Bridgers.
Like the “Will you shut up, man,” meme, T-shirt of the phrase “Bad things happen in Philadelphia” sprung up almost immediately.
On TikTok, teens and young adults immediately began using images and audio from the debate to create memes and comedic videos.
In one video, TikToker Emily Senn sang her own lyrics about the debate to the tune of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
“What the hell’d we watch tonight? Please someone help Chris Wallace. Not a coherent thought in sight,” Senn sang. “There’s more order in a dog park.”
In another video, TikToker Mackenzie Rae Gornay layered an image of the candidates debating over audio of a meme called “Wicked Witch of the East, Bro,” in which two men can be heard arguing details of the film “The Wizard of Oz.”
Using a filter, Gornay edited the eyes and mouths of the candidates to sync them with the “Wicked Witch” audio to make it appear Biden and Trump were arguing about the film rather than the debate topics.
Some videos suggested Trump should’ve had a “mute button,” while others expressed concern that Trump did not explicitly condemn white supremacists when asked during the debate.
Others marveled at the speed at which lines from the debate were already being sold by the Biden campaign as merchandise.
“WHATEVER GENZ EMPLOYEE BIDENS TEAM HIRED DESERVES A RAISE,” TikTok user Shawn O’Conner captioned a video uploaded shortly after the debate, in which O’Conner laughed while showing one of the T-shirts with the phrase “Will you shut up, man,” on it.