You Laugh You Lose, often abbreviated to "YLYL," refers to an online game started on 4chan around 2007 in which users post the funniest content they can, challenging each other not to laugh. If a user laughs, they must post a funny image or video of their own, although the rules are loose and threads are often used as an excuse to post funny content. The phrase "you laugh you lose" has since spread across the web, and has spawned numerous YouTube videos, serving as both reactions and compilations of funny content
The exact origin of the "you laugh you lose" game is unknown, but a Google Trends search for the term shows a rise in interest starting in June 2007. The game likely began earlier than this date, but started spreading around June.
The Encyclopedia Dramatica entry for "You Laugh, You Lose," (created in 2007 and last updated 2010) claims the game started on 4chan board /b/ and states an alternative set of rules in which users post as offensive memes as possible, and if someone laughs they're deemed "unfit for society" and lose (quoted below):
Many claim that You Laugh, You Lose threads used to be entirely different from what they are today. The idea being that you or somebody else posts an image that is seriously offensive. Anyone that laughs at the posted image, loses. Anyone who laughs is no longer considered a functioning member of society and therefore loses. I suppose anyone who laughs at these threads is still no longer a functioning member of society, so not much has changed really.
An early example of the game outside of 4chan can be seen on an Ultimate Metal forums post titled, "You laugh, you lose…" from June 24th, 2007, in which the post creator describes "the rules" via a ??? PROFIT!!! format (shown below). The post was extremely popular, resulting in over 5,000 replies over the course of eight years.
The game became associated with a number of image macros, typically using images of people on the phone and featuring a variation of the phrase, "What's that? I laugh I lose?" used to signal a "you laugh you lose" thread on various 4chan board (examples shown below, center and right). One of the earliest of these shows an Asian man on a cellphone under the text, "wuts dat? I raff I ruse?" which has been used in countless 4chan posts (shown below, left).
The game soon spawned a number of variations in which users post other types of content searching for a reaction. Some of the most popular variations include:
- "You Bawww, You Lose," for pictures that can provoke drama.
- You Rage, You Lose, where users post content that provokes rage.
- "You Fap, You Lose," in which users post sexually explicit and erotic content.
- "You Cry, You Lose," in which users post heart-breaking content.
- You Wat, You Lose, for images and videos that might confuse or cause reactions of "wtf?"
- "You Save, You Lose," in which users share beautiful, "save-worthy" content.
- "You Fall in Love, You Lose," in which users post content featuring attractive people.
- You Nostalgia, You Lose, in which users post content that provokes nostalgia.
- "You Facepalm, You Lose," in which users post images of oblivious situations or people, leading users to facepalm.
- "You Smirk, You Lose," a harder difficulty mode of 'You Laugh, You Lose'.
"You Laugh You Lose" On YouTube
On July 13th, 2009, YouTuber B3NandBLAKE posted a video of a Stormtrooper thrusting from the Star Wars series of films titled, "Try not to laugh or grin ~ Dancing Storm trooper" (shown below). The video went mega viral and gained over 859 million views in 12 years, and is one of the earliest YouTube videos to challenge viewers not to laugh. Try Not To Laugh Or Grin resulted in numerous reactions, a website, and has been reposted to the web countless times.
In the years following the popularity of "you laugh you lose" posts and "Try Not To Laugh Or Grin" YouTubers began titling compilations of funny videos with variations of the phrase "you laugh you lose" or "try not to laugh" resulting in many viral hits (examples shown below, left and right).
A number of YouTubers have also begun "you laugh you lose" series in which they react to funny videos, sometimes trying not to laugh but other times just reacting.