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How Kevin James became the internet's new King of Memes

No, you're not crazy: A photo of Kevin James has taken over the internet.

Hear ye, hear ye. It is time to crown this week's prince of the internet! The jester of jokes! The king of memes — or should we say ... the King of Queens.

A photo of "King of Queens" star Kevin James has seemingly taken over the internet this week, and all we can say is:

Kevin James in "The King of Queens" in late the 1990s.
Kevin James in "The King of Queens" in late the 1990s.Tony Esparza / Getty Images

The photo is simple. James, in character as Doug Heffernan from the CBS sitcom that ran from 1998 and 2007, sits wearing a plaid shirt with a Christmas-y color combination that might make Anna Wintour wince.

But it's not just the unruly button up or Getty Image water mark that makes this picture so meme-able.

It's James' smirk.

It's the hand in the pockets.

It's the energy emanating from the photo that is palpable and beyond explanation.

It's a feeling you get, more than anything else. The closest we can get to expressing it would be: "😏🥺. "

The internet has recognized the power of this photo, and has had no shortage of things to say.

The first known meme using the smirking image was posted on X on Sept. 21 by @ChampagneAnyone and reads, “me after 1 double rum and diet,” according to

The meme's creator, Andrew Champagne, spoke with TODAY in an email statement, saying it wasn't his first attempt at bringing the viral photo into the culture.

"I remember I had tweeted it once back in 2020. It did decent, 50 retweets, 250 likes or so, but nothing crazy. I think there was too much going on in the world at that moment to appreciate Kevin James. I don’t think the world was ready for his revival. So I waited," he said.

And his waiting paid off.

"Then the other night I was enjoying a cup of whiskey and watching old WWE matches and remembered I had that photo somewhere in my album. So I found it and tweeted it with a caption I felt resonated," Champagne, host of the West Jeans Podcast, said.

This photo, in particular, long held a fascination for Champagne. "I really can’t describe exactly what the pose and facial expression is. It’s what originally drew me to the photo. I couldn’t stop wondering, 'What did the photographer say to KJ? What was the initial mood and feeling that the photographer was going for?' I don’t know, but I’d love to inquire," he said.

The inscrutability is its appeal, Champagne thinks: "I feel as if it resonated so much because the picture is so complex. There are so many emotions in the picture and they can basically be interpreted in any way," he said.

From there, the meme-gates opened, with the smirk standing in to express all degrees of (perhaps unfounded) smugness and sheepishness.

"the guy that says get wings when you're ordering pizza for a group," does.

The photo has been called "peak shy guy."

The photo seemed to unlock an entire treasure trove of Kevin James “The King of Queens” promotional material. For example, take this one with his TV-wife Leah Remini.

“She was the baddest, he was the realest,” wrote @alshipley.

"They just had kevin james doing anything for those king of queens press shoots," noted @LucaGuadagnegro.

The memes have also gotten meta, with photos of Kevin James being used to talk about the memes about Kevin James.

And how inescapable they seem to be.

In addition to memes, photos also unlocked nostalgia for the TV show, which users remembered as "elite television."

Champagne, on his end, is happy James is getting his due.

"I think Kevin James deserves his flowers. For some reason there is a narrative in our society that Kevin James isn’t hilarious, and that bothers me. I grew up watching 'King of Queens.' It is truly one of the most underrated sitcoms to ever exist. The cast was immaculate — Kevin James, Leah Remini, Victor Williams, Jerry Stiller. Come on!" he said.

For co-star Remini, the photos were a welcome reminder of "amazing memories" from her nine seasons on the show.

“I wanted to let you all know I’m seeing all of 'The King of Queens' memes and tweets and I absolutely love them,” Remini wrote in a tweet on X. “Thank you for 25 years of amazing memories!”

James is in on the joke, too. On Instagram Sept. 27, a full week after the memes began, he posted a promotional photo for his new standup tour.

If you made it to this story, it will look familiar.

“So happy I found this headshot," he wrote.