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Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Have No Idea If This Is Funny


Reader and commenter and left-coast Interfriend Charles Schneider sent this one along. He said, "Not sure if this is funny or not..."

I wondered if he was being polite, and thought it was funny, but was worried it might offend me a little, since I make furniture. Or maybe he was like me: I have no idea if it's funny.

I'm not saying it isn't funny. I didn't laugh at it, but that doesn't mean it's not funny, necessarily. It might be a scream. You tell me.

Remember Night Shift? It was back when Michael Keaton was zany and Henry Winkler was trying to Un-Fonz himself, and Shelley Long still had a prayer of a career outside a disreputable bar in Boston. (me too, babe; me too)  It was quite charming, and there were plenty of jokes in it to carry it along. Somewhere in the middle of it, one of the characters is trying to explain just how much of a misguided deadbeat schlub someone else's boyfriend is. She says he's quit his job, and is making furniture by hand.  It was 1982's version of the same joke.

But not the same joke, I gather. I assume that it's the opposite of the same joke. In 1982, no one cared if you could make furniture. It was assumed that anyone could do it, but no one would. It appears in 2013 that the same joke relies on the assumption that everyone wants to, but no one can. It reminds of how the same thing spoken in two different times means two different things. In 1950, the prosecutor told the jury that the defendant went nuts and killed two people. In 2013, the defense lawyer tells the jury that the defendant went nuts and killed two people.

I've seen an episode of Portlandia. It was funny. I'm not immune to their schtick. But in order to get a broad, topical joke like that, you have to be in on the cultural stereotypes that are the moving parts of it. I guess I'm not. Do the young women of today really go wobbly if you're able to make a chair, unless it's a wobbly chair? I don't know. Who are the stereotypical male males in popular culture now? I find Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and a handful of other leading men to be interchangeable. They don't seem to be able to grow a beard yet, though they're close to collecting Social Security.  I know who Ron Swanson is, but I'm not going to watch that show to figure out if he's just the handy Archie Bunker I assume he is, or if he now represents an archetype of some sort of an overtly masculine person in a feminine world. If he does, I imagine it's just to mock him for it.

The actor that portrays Ron Swanson, Nick Offerman, seems affable enough. I've seen him here and there on these here Intertunnels. He understands deadpan. Deadpan comedy is best. It's Ward, via Twain, if you do it right. You can be subversive when you can deliver the payload with a straight face. A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants is fun, but it can't be subversive.

So our friends in Portland shot some seltzer down their pants while they made a chair, and I don't know if it's funny. But then again, I'm too busy actually making furniture to keep up. I've made furniture for a decade now. Well, I made furniture for two months, mixed in with looking for my bevel square for nine years and ten months, anyway.

21 comments:

Paul Griffin said...

I think this is funny. It was all just building up to showing us the chair, so the first two thirds were a bit flat, comedically speaking, but had a purpose. I knew what the joke would be, but that did not interfere with my enjoyment. As someone who lives in a city with a big "local first" movement, and who occasionally makes things out of wood, I can tell you that people around here go nuts for the idea of that sort of thing. Actually doing it themselves, not so much. I can easily imagine a poser trying to craft that sort of image for himself without actually bothering to do the work involved in learning how to make something of even basic quality (e.g. a tissue box), which is what this clip pokes fun at.

As a side note, I've only seen a few episodes of P&R, and I certainly expected the Ron Swanson character to be a caricature upon which to heap scorn, but I was surprised at how much affection the show had for him and how well balanced the part was while still maintaining an edge of the ridiculous.

As for the actor that plays him, I am hesitant to pass any sort of judgement on anyone with whom I have not broken bread, but there is this:
Offerman Wood Shop

Expat(ish) said...

I did not think it was funny, but I used to live in a town infested with people like that, so maybe I have some form of peanut sensitivity now.

I will tell you that as an ex-practicing software engineer I almost never found that TV or movies did a good job of making what I understood "funny." Lots of good print comics - Dilbert, etc.

-XC

Derek Alexander said...

SC - gonna go with funny but honestly the 'making furniture' bit was just the foil - could have been anything like "he writes his own blog" - er um strike that - what I mean is that it could have been something like "this yahoo writes and publishes his own flash fiction" - um strike that too.

On second thought it's not funny at all.

Rick said...

Ever hear the one about not explaining a joke?
You spelled Archietype wrong.

Casey Klahn said...

It's criminally funny. Funny like when a guy gets hit in traffic, doing something wrong, and you don't know him funny.

I would say more, but I'm going to be in Portland next week! See my funny report afterwards.

p kerit said...

Not funny at all. It seems to be Hollywoods idea of what they think is funny.
Hollywood continues to suggest that all men are bumbling idiots

Unknown said...

p kerit doesn't get it.

Mother Effingby said...

It is quite funny. The punchline is that there are no men in Portland. What's not to get?

dadofhomeschoolers said...

I managed exactly 33 seconds. So I don't know if it's funny either.

DoHS

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, it made me cry. I've made furniture (for myself; and it's beautiful). The old joke about how the woodworker has to use both hands to order 5 beers is way funnier.

Or, what was the movie...about the dad mom that had to use man toys AND a beard to rescue his manhood..was it Michael keeton's movie?

Brad Ervin

Sixty Grit said...

I make furniture. Studied furniture design in college. Someday I hope to make a chair that nice.

At least I don't have to paste my beard on - it occurs by the simple act of not shaving. Since 1967.

I know all of those people in that sketch. They live in every town full of hipster douches. And I have been to both Portlands - the one up near our host and the "other" one - nice place, if you like rain.

But I digress. I really meant to write that perhaps if I apply myself and can acquire some top notch tools as seen in that video, maybe someday I too will be able to produce work of that caliber. Maybe...

To paraphrase the movie Amadeus, when one sees such furniture one can only think "Portland!".

Sam L. said...

You, Mr. Sippi, are lucky in that regard. You live in a real world with real people, and the Portlandians...don't. Lotsa posers, too-hip-to-live, you name it. City government seems to be trying to be Chicago.

Happy am I not to live there.

MAX Redline said...

Not funny. But then, I live here. The first episode of Portlandia was spot-on - it really has become a place where young people go to retire. It's full of pretension and hipsterdom, these days. Didn't used to be like this.

The Dream of the '90's is alive in Portland, and tattoo ink never runs dry.

It's a land of multimillion-dollar bicycle bridges, required composting (a process which is carried out elsewhere, due to the smell), and city-issued kitchen-slop buckets.

Politically, it's much like Chicago.

Matt said...

Here in the other Portland, somebody passed me a thing about some locals starting a public tool library. "They need you, you actually know about tools!" (well, sort of...) I looked into it and it was a bunch of officious girls who wanted to have a lot of meetings and organize and decide and talk things over a lot and be very, like, minnndfulll, and make sure everybody's voice was heard. But people like that don't like my voice much. No doubt they need some men to shut up and do the actual work, but it won't be me.

However, there are men, mostly with dreadlocks and gentle voices, who are okay with tools and who enjoy that sort of thing very much. And that's fine by me.

But I doubt it gets beyond the setting-up-meetings-on-meetup-dot-com stage. Youngish single women need to be busybusybusybusy but actual work product is sort of not quite the thing. What the heck, it costs me nothing and they're enjoying themselves.

But yeah, that was one of the funnier Portlandia things, to my taste.

Female in Pennsylvania said...

It's hysterically funny to women who laugh at other women who are clueless about what a true man is. Plus the fact that the guy is making all the tool noises with his mouth, not actually using the tools.

probus said...

it's hysterical... the pussification of men is something that women claim/sense that they want from a man-- yet in reality they want to be taken by big, strong burly types-- hence the reaction of all the women (and their surprise) to find a man who is a "carpenter" whom they identify with extreme masculinity-- that's funny plus the fact that he makes buzzing sounds to make fake furniture-- hilarious!

probus said...

it's hysterical... the pussification of men is something that women claim/sense that they want from a man-- yet in reality they want to be taken by big, strong burly types-- hence the reaction of all the women (and their surprise) to find a man who is a "carpenter" whom they identify with extreme masculinity-- that's funny plus the fact that he makes buzzing sounds to make fake furniture-- hilarious!

Rick said...

Interesting that you should say "carpenter".

Not to get all religiousy, but the perfect man is Christ. Or "man perfected".

He was not "strong and burly" or macho. Masculinity (if that's the best word) is not vain and muscle bound. It is noble, just, true, strong (he cannot be broken), faithful, capable, humble, trustworthy, reason-able, loving.

John said...

"I've made furniture for a decade now. Well, I made furniture for two months, mixed in with looking for my bevel square for nine years and ten months, anyway."

Now that's funny!

Anonymous said...

I bought some awesome furniture last week. Matching 1912 mahogany dresser and bureau with mirrors. Monolithic pieces, the outsides are black as coal from dirt and wax, and the insides are beautiful bright red. They were made by unknown souls in Grand Rapids, MI over a hundred years ago. I thought you needed to know.

Casca

Rob De Witt said...

It may be funny if you don't have to live there.

This kinda precious loses its appeal real fast on close contact.