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.