Here’s a delightful structure of Twitter joke that is getting awfully clammy:

I haven’t done meaningful forensics on “hold my beer,” but my best guess is that the phrase was originally used as setup rather than punchline.

That’s how the Twitter account @HoldThisBeer uses it:

Similarly, this BuzzFeed article from 2014 uses “hold my beer” as context for foolhardy fails. That’s also how you see it used on r/holdmybeer.

In this format, “hold my beer” is the frame, not the art.

But it’s as a punchline that “hold my beer” really comes into its own.

Here’s the generic structure:

SPEAKER A: There’s no way to top this outrageous thing I said or did. SPEAKER B: Hold my beer.

Since it’s destined to die from overuse, let’s look into how it works.

Speaker A has to be well-known — at least to the target audience. If we don’t recognize the name, the rest of the joke won’t make sense. In some cases, a headline takes the place of Speaker A.

The thing Speaker A did or said needs to be plausible, with bonus points for recent. There can’t be anything strained about the setup.

Speaker B needs to be recognizable. As with Speaker A, the joke only works if you know who Speaker B is. Either the speaker is already famous, or is temporarily famous because of recent events. The speaker can also be the tweeter:

Speaker B either just did something foolish, or can be imagined doing something foolish. To me, this is one of the most interesting aspects of this structure: it works both speculatively or retroactively. But like all things Twitter, the time horizon is very short. It’s hard to imagine the joke working more than a day or two after the inciting event.

When you encounter failed “hold my beer” tweets — and trust me, I found a lot of them — it’s usually because the writer missed one of these four important aspects.

Life after beer

The carcass of a dead meme can provide home for other jokes that subvert the expected payoff:

And it’s worth paying attention to the variant forms that continue to chug along, such as “hold my drink” and “hold my earrings.”

In the end, I think “hold my beer” has been a great joke structure for a time that feels bonkers. Every day as we scroll through Twitter, we silently ask ourselves, “Wow, could it get any crazier?”

Hold my beer.