Everything's Weird And We're Always In Danger

I saw this online today. It's called "Martin Loofah King" — a loofah with an imprint of Martin Luther King, Jr. with the tag line, "I have a clean." There's nothing especially offensive about it, unless you think MLK is sort of a holy figure that shouldn't be touched. My thought on it was: this is the future. It's only a matter of time before MLK achieves such ubiquitous pop culture status that he becomes a tool for absurdist, non-sequitur humor, the wayAbraham Lincoln is used. We have enough temporal distance from Lincoln that he's no longer a person, just a figure in our culture, and so putting him in different contexts makes for easy laughs.

Some might label it as simply "randomness," but really, it's absurdism, and it really seems to be the flavor of popular humor right now. Grant Morrison had a blog for all of a few months where he briefly wrote about post-9/11 fiction, which was characterized by taking the audience to the edge and back (The Dark Knight and Lost and the tone of the Lord of the Rings film adaptations.) I wonder if maybe the increasing presence of absurdist humor is a progression from that. Maybe this is us coming back from the edge.

I know the solidifying of internet culture (and therefore internet humor) had a lot to do with it. Just look at memes: there are specific archetypes and images that are intrinsic to the humor of the internet, from cats, to pirates, to ninjas, to Abraham Lincoln, to Zombies, to Batman. You can kind of just take these elements and mix and match them and come up with various meme variations that make people tuned into internet culture hubs, like Tumblr and Reddit, laugh.

Dr. McNinja is a huge webcomic that came at just the right time to tap into the absurdist hunger of the internet generation. The Old Spice ads blew the fuck up because they embraced surreal nonsense and executed it perfectly. If we weren't in such absurdist fever, I don't think concepts as over-the-top or ridiculous as The Expendables or Snakes on a PLane would have been greenlit. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World didn't make a ton of money, but I think if it had been marketed as the lawless comedic mish-mash it was, it would have done better.

The Chuck Norris meme. Adventure Time. The Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man. Tim & Eric. Charlie Sheen's rant. Flight of the Concords and Lonely Island. Sitcoms like 30 Rock, It's Always Sunny and Community. This, coupled with general irreverence in American pop culture, I think is what Bret Easton Ellis was referring to when he talks Post-Empire.

There's also a lot of people doing it wrong. The Old Spice guy has been copied so aggressively if you look for it — there's a skinny guy hocking shaving products doing the same "isn't this guy ridiculously smooth and cool" bit, and I'm pretty sure there's an alcohol brand taking the same approach. I think the people who do it well are joking on a metatextual layer above "lol isn't this *so* random?" With things like Community, they infuse character-driven stories and an emotional heart. With Lonely Island, there's an imagined and implied skit behind the songs. With Tim & Eric, it fucks with you in such unexpected ways that it defies any attempt to understand and that's amazing.

I don't know what the next wave of popular humor is going to look like, I can't tell where it's going. But I know that now owuld be a smart time to put work into ridiculous, reality-free, high-concept camp. There's an audience out there that just wants that that are "stupid" and fun on purpose, and they're not going to go away.