Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bad, Bad Jokes, and Many of Them

I want to talk about bad comments for a minute, because in all likelihood, the Duds section of the Daily Roundups will be going away soon. Frankly, I'm spending way too much time in a given week thinking about shuttledik and sacoplenty.

The way I see it, there are many different kinds of bad comments. A sampling could include the following:

  • BFDNBNF comments, in which the commenter makes no attempt at humor;
  • Rent-a-jokes, in which the commenter drops either a picture, or a video, or a line of dialogue or text from someone else's creation, in the hopes that other readers will, I don't know, share in the laugh;
  • What I like to call Dark Matter jokes, in which the commenter parses the content of a post to oblivion in the desperate hopes of assembling something recognizable from a hopeless recontextualization;
  • Tacky Gross-Out jokes, in which the commenter clumsily references porn, death, etc. in the hopes of shocking the reader into a laugh;
  • Roadkill Memes, in which a long-dead or otherwise tapped-out meme is resurrected in a wholly unoriginal way
Obviously, that's not a comprehensive list. And I'm not trying to suggest that all bad comments have to be fundamentally or structurally inappropriate; many a perfectly fine concept has landed with an echoing thud for being hastily constructed, poorly worded, grammatically butchered, or otherwise poorly finessed before the submit button is pressed. In short, a comment is more likely to be not-good than good.

Gross-out jokes are a good example of this probability, because care in the creation of the joke is so key to its success; a well-made, cleverly delivered gross-out joke will bring the house down, whereas a poorly constructed or heavy-handed one might actually draw jeers. The amount of grossness is not necessarily even a factor in determining whether or not the joke will succeed. A joke comparing Roseanne Barr's menstrual cycle to the yearly hatching of crabs on Christmas Island will not necessarily be judged by whether or not people get the reference; the same concept will be delivered very differently by Eddie Murray Sparkles versus, say, shuttledik. (However, in this case, it's helpful to note that no one anywhere could make a good joke from that setup.)

The nature of Deadspin commenting is that there's a running clock on every post, and you, the improv comic, have to try to get your thought down in comment form before the crowd's attention is diverted to the next post. Many a new or untalented commenter will take the raw thought that springs to mind upon reading the post and pop it down in a new thread, and this is where the vast majority of really bad comments come from, and also why you'll hear the word "lazy" more than any other when duds are criticized. Obscure or luke-warm jokes are forgiven, but lazy, sloppy, carelessly constructed jokes drive me absolutely crazy.

The ratio of good jokes to not-so-good jokes is heavily tilted in favor of not-so-good jokes, but that's okay, it's to be expected. The ratio of good jokes to bad jokes ought to be about even, with perhaps a slight tilt in favor of the bad. Lately, however, it seems like a few select unstarred commenters (I'm looking at you, priestinacloset1) are flooding the site with truly bad comments, comments that do not belong. I call these kids trolls because that's essentially what they're doing; there's no way they can think these comments are appropriate for Deadspin, and yet they drop them in nearly every single thread, every day. Frankly, they're out-hustling me. I can't keep up.

A return of the comment_ninja and/or FAILBOT would help tremendously, but in the meantime, I'm going to have to stick to truly egregious, uniquely horrible comments for the Duds portion of the daily roundups. Any number of infuriatingly lazy comments will have to go unaccounted for. My hope is that the average daily roundup will not have to include any duds, and might even include more favorites, as I expend less energy accumulating a daily list of excrement.



  1. +1

    Do not stop what you are doing.

  2. Please don't get rid of the "Duds" section. That's what is going to keep people honest.