The paparazzi photograph of sullen-looking Reeves eating a sandwich was taken sometime in May 2010 by Splash News photographer Ron Asadorian. The earliest known "Sad Keanu" photoshop thread can be found on 4chan-like archive called Green-ovale.net, from the /tv/ (television & films) board, dating May 23th 2010. Another thread would pop up on 4chan imageboard's /a/ (anime) board dating back to June 1st, 2010:
On June 3rd, 2010, Reddit user rockon4life posted an image with the phrase "I really enjoy acting…Because when I act, I'm no longer me" in a thread entitled "Keanu. More sadness in comments". The thread quickly made it to Reddit's front page, gathering over 281,000 page views.
On June 4th, 2010, sympathy for Keanu spread virally across Reddit, resulting in the creation of other threads with more derivatives, such as ''Instead of Chuck Norris, let's make Keanu Reeves a meme'', "Keanu Reeves is Hungry" and "Oh Keanu." One Reddit user also noted "if you want to truly honor Keanu Reeves, don't do it by imitating Neo, do it by imitating Keanu Reeves. He donates money to fund cancer research." On the following day, Reddit's love for Sad Keanu continued with more tribute threads like "Keanu Illustrated" and "Keanu Reeves should play Harley Quinn in the new Batman movie", while some began to ask questions like "Reddit, why this sudden obsession with Keanu Reeves?"
On June 7th, 2010, Urlesque posted the article ''Sad Keanu: The Latest Image Macro.'' On June 8th, 2010, BuzzFeed user memecore submitted an article titled "10 Best Sad Keanu Images", where it quickly reached the Top 10 List of the day. TheDailyWhat also provided coverage and follow-ups on the Sad Keanu phenomenon. Throughout the rest of June, photoshopped images of Sad Keanu spread across various social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs on Tumblr.
Once it began to spread across Tumblr sites, the Sad Keanu meme was soon picked up by Tumblr Radar over and over again, driving up the number of derivatives even further. Sad Keanu Tumblr was launched on June 10th, single topic blog SadKeanu.com was launched four days later on June 14th. There's even a fan-made @SadKeanu Twitter account.
On June 18th, 2010, SadKeanu blogger Dan replaced all of the user-submitted images with a farewell post on the site:
Splash News has decided to keep their DMCA in place, as well as Tumblr, which means we may not publish any more of your awesome submissions and we must start to take down all of our previous 270+ posts. In addition, this blog will most likely be deleted in the next 48 hours by Tumblr because of the DMCA.
Although we do believe that it can fall under “fair use”, both myself and my partner don’t have any time or resources to fight it.
Thanks to everyone that helped out making this meme the most awesome one on the internet.
Since then, the site has been posting submissions that do not use the bench photo, but instead are silhouettes and other renderings of the image. News of the takedown also spread via Reddit and The Daily What.
Cheer Up Keanu Day
Following the intense waves of photoshopping, a Facebook event entitled "Cheer Up Keanu Day" was organized. Planned for June 15th, it encouraged people to send love letters, gifts, phone messages, cancer donations or mail of any kind in order to make a special happy day for the actor.
As part of the promotion, a fan-made single-topic blog named "Thank You Keanu" was launched to provide a space for fans to leave sympathetic comments.
June 15th, 2010 – By decree of The Internet, June 15th is now an internationally celebrated holiday dedicated to Keanu Reeves.
Keanu Reeves' Response
Do I wish that I didn't get my picture taken while I was eating a sandwich on the streets of New York? Yeah.
In the months following the viral breakout of Sad Keanu, a number of spin-off Photoshop memes based on other photographs of the actor surfaced online, beginning with Sad Keanu in a Helmet (shown below, left) in late July, followed by Happy Keanu (center) and Tai Chi Keanu (right) in October that same year. In December, Sad Laurence Fishburne featuring actor Laurence Fishburne, who portrays Morpheus in The Matrix film trilogy, made its debut.
Sad Keanu also became a cornerstone of celebrity parodies in internet meme culture, paving the way for a slew of other photoshop memes based on photographs of "sad-looking" actors and musicians in public settings, including Sad Fishburne, Sad Batman, Sad Kanye, Sad Jack White, Sad Joe Biden, Sad Weird Al, Sad Bill Murray and Sad Ben Affleck, among others.
Search traffic for "Sad Keanu" first began on June 4th, rising steadily until June 16th. Google Insights trends tend to lag for roughly 2-3 days so it remains to be seen how long people will have an appetite for actively seeking the meme out.
 Thank You Keanu – site defunct
 Digg (via Archive.org) – Archive.org – Cheer Up Keanu Day, A Day to Honor Our Bro
 Entertainment Weekly – In honor of Cheer Up Keanu Day, here are seven reasons we're grateful for Keanu Reeves