Thursday, September 21, 2006

Stumbling on Laughter

Today on The Show Ze Frank talked about Daniel Gilbert's book Stumbling on Happiness. Particularly surprising is that, contrary to popular belief, we tend to be happy when we are forced to do things. When we have to choose between two or more options, we often regret not opening proverbial door number 2.

Is this the same with laughter? Let's compare comedy on the web (something we probably see every day) to comedy at the movies (something we see once a month at best).


(courtesy of RosePhotosEtc)

There are so many ways to get laughs on the Internet: lists of knock-knock jokes, sketch videos on YouTube, pornographic Sudoku mosaics, you name it. But how many of these memes do we remember? The most famous Internet stars - Dane Cook and Andy Milonakis - remained famous because of their repeated TV appearances on Jimmy Kimmel, eventually getting contracts with HBO and MTV respectively. But the vast majority of comedic Internet virals (Star Wars Kid, All Your Base) provide a sheepish chuckle at work, only to be forgotten an hour later. One game of sudoku and you'll forget about the latest Numa Numa video.

And don't we regret most of our choices? The only thing more dispiriting than listening to the latest disappointingly dull indie craze or choosing the mature porno thumbs over the ethnic nudie galleries is watching the latest fat boy act like an idiot. Not only do we regret most of our choices, but we rarely commit to the few things we do like. Don't believe me? How many times have you changed your bookmarks? Yes, even you don't want to commit to the fat kid.

But we do like the fat kid's lack of circumspection. Something about it is just...different. Difference is good with routine activities. The more often we do something, the more variety we like according to Gilbert. Every workday we browse the web. Thus, on Monday we laugh at the fat kid dancing. On Friday we laugh at another fat boy thinly slicing crepes with a sword.


We've all been dragged to a movie once in our lives, if not once a month. I challenge you to tell me of a genre of entertainment that has more awesomely bad works than cinema. Today's bad comedies are tomorrow's nostalgic quotefests. "What's a dickfer?" would get buried on Digg, but since it was in "Spies Like Us," we quote it at frat parties as well as boho coke parties in Tribeca. Besides that, we have dramas that are unintentionally hilarious. "Showgirls" or "The Room" will probably make you laugh harder than any fat guy flailing his arms on the Internet ever will. I'm flailing my arms now and you aren't laughing.

There are also fewer options in theaters than anywhere else. Unless you live in a major city, you're probably going to decide between "Jackass: Number Two" or "Artie Lange's Beer League" tomorrow night (assuming you're in the mood for comedy). Even if you don't laugh at "Beer League" tomorrow, your co-workers will quote it and you'll probably let out a soft chortle. Still above it? On VH-1 next month a bunch of ultrahip urban downtown comics counting down the funniest movies of September will quote it and you'll be saying "You know, in Massachussets, that order could legally marry a dude."

Not only does the multiplex have less funny than cyberspace, but the few comedies there are tend to be bland. Even Letterman has outrageous stand-up comics on his show. But, for many people, going to the movies is an occasion and as Daniel Gilbert says, "Valentine’s Day is hearts and flowers, New Year’s Eve is champagne and paper hats." Film buffs will scoff at "Beer Fest," but teens who haven't gone to the movies in ages will love the dick jokes.

CONCLUSION: The average person likes a few bland comedies at the movies and many absurdist memes on the web. While many of us are free to choose from a dizzying array of funny websites, virtually none of them are satisfying. Many of us have been dragged into comedies we thought we would hate only to be pleasantly surprised (i.e., "White Chicks").

This is troubling news though. This blog is on the Internet and has to compete with so many other NY comedian blogs vying for the reader's attention. Moreover, with all those choices my blog needs to stand out from the others. How do I force people to read my blog?

All the other blogs are written by people who eat spinach, so you could get E. Coli reading their blogs. I am anemic, so this is a safe, spinach-free blog with plenty of thinly sliced crepes.


tony z said...
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Mo Diggs said...
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