The internet turns bad stuff into funny

We interrupt the usual art-ingness of this blog to comment on the wonder that is the internet.

You know I love the internet. I love its immediacy, its interconnectivity, its interdisciplinarity and its accessibility. Some people bemoan its problems, like the widespread sorry use of language or the ubiquity of porn. But I think one of the great things about the internet is that it allows smarter/more articulate/funnier people to address these problems in their own individual ways.

For example, problem 1: poor English. You know what I mean. Bad grammar, misspellings, text-speak, stupid abbreviations. I can whine about it, or I can avoid message boards and read Hyperbole and a Half till I laugh so hard I cry.

Hyperbole and a Half

Click to read the whole story. You won't be sorry.

Or I can peruse I Can Haz Cheeseburger, where bizarre English has become its own language and art form. Also, there are pictures of kitties! KITTEHS!

Lolcat

Click to visit icanhazcheeseburger.com

Problem 2: porn. There’s no getting away from it, really, and it isn’t necessarily bad… but the sheer number of bad amateur photos and videos out there makes my artist’s eyes shudder. Good thing there is Oglaf to turn adolescent sexual attitudes into pretty comics!

Oglaf Chasm

This one is relatively safe, but most of the comics are VERY not. Click at your own risk!

For every piece of stupidity the internet spawns, it generates ample side helpings of humor and extensive in-joking. I recently* came across some abuse of language that impressed me deeply with its incoherency. The phrase is “Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?” Apparently it surfaced one day on a message board, and has since accumulated momentum as a meme. I’ve linked its explanation on Know Your Meme, my favorite reference when I think I’ve missed the boat on something (Urban Dictionary is my other favorite). I can spend hours there, just marveling at the sheer weirdness of human invention (and marveling that I’m spending hours looking at it).

Now that I think of it, web comedy is a lot like flashmobs, those spontaneous gatherings the internet helped make possible. A large group of people comes together briefly, seemingly from nowhere, and unites over something that originated… where, when, or with whom? The emotions and camaraderie are genuine (if superficial), but they don’t necessarily have anything to do with the participants’ regular lives or communities. When the humor or the flashmob are well done, I love the transience and anonymity of it, and the fact that — because it’s the internet — I can participate passively as well as through many forms of action. Moreover — again because it’s the internet — these qualities of transience and anonymity are dynamic; a single message board posting or a moments-long event can be recorded, replayed, and remixed infinitely and by any number of people. You can whisper quietly into the cyber-ether, or you can be haunted forever by one stupid drunken Tweet. The landscape is always changing, and I love that.

I always wonder — maybe because I’m not old enough to remember — how did we find outlets for this particular type of strangeness before there was internet? Obviously flashmobs, lolcats, and other such things find a welcoming niche in our sense of humor and community. What filled that niche before the web?

*Yes, I know this has been around for a while. Yet another characteristic of the internet: no matter how many people have heard about something, there will still be lots more who haven’t. Everything is old and new at the same time.