Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday Roundup

Some favorites and a few duds from Tuesday's commenting.

Favorites
, in no particular order:

David Hume's long, silly advertisement in the Shitty MLB Drawing post earned a round of applause. This joke works for obvious reasons: it takes a funny turn of phrase and hits it from multiple angles, building the laugh through repetition.

UweBollocks left this winning photo caption in the Lenny Dykstra post, dazzling the crowd with a terrific pull. That's a fantastic job.

Tulos_Mullet had a pair of winners on Tuesday. I enjoyed his silly contribution to the Ja'Juan Story post, a rare dialogue + wordplay joke. Later, this joke, in the Chris Berman post, was one of the day's very best. Nice work.

Also in the Ja'Juan Story post, I really loved this outstanding pull from IronMikeGallego. That's as tightly packaged as that joke can be. Confident delivery stands out and elevates a joke's basic parts. This particular comment struck me for the perfect elegance of its structure. Great job.

In the Everyone Hates Baseball post, Eddie Murray Sparkles left another letter-perfect one-liner, this one using the post's content and the player's number to make the kind of hidden-in-plain-sight, how-in-the-hell-did-he-do-that joke for which he's now famous. It sickens me.

Steve_U contributed this awesome one-liner to the Gnomehoarding post, drawing a round of applause. His comment was very nearly stepped on; I was glad to see the offending party edit their reply into another +1. Sooner or later, we'll get around to articulating some of the nuances of replying to a comment and riffing on a joke. In the meantime, the general rule is this: tread carefully. If you're not sure whether your comment will be a welcome addition to another's joke, leave it out. It's fascinating how quickly and completely a bad follow-up can poison a thread.

This is a sharp comment, from Stev D, in the Bad Beats post. The idea behind the joke isn't necessarily mind-blowing, but it utilizes a clever structure not often seen among Deadspin jokes: the punchline is revealed gradually and increasingly. Folks, there are so many different ways to create the tension/release dynamic in your humor, so many fascinating, creative ways to hide or obscure or set-up your punchline. Jokes needn't follow too closely any familiar narrative format - there are whole untapped volumes of tension/release structure that are almost never explored beyond their use within a specific medium. Your job, as the joke-maker, is to pack your punchline full of oomph. Start there, and go crazy.

And finally, this comment, from WhatWouldTebowDo?, in the Chris Berman post, slayed me. I roared with laughter. It's not enough to just call Sarah Palin a retard; it's the specific set-up and the very specific visual that makes this a show-stopper. Great, great job.

Total Fucking Duds

SimuLord
starts us off with this, which is just a cheap movie reference without any real punchline or relevance, in the Shitty MLB Drawing post. SimuLord is a fine commenter, but this is not one of his better efforts. A version of this topic of course came up with ClueHeywood's takedown of dondi203 and the latter's subsequent retirement from Deadspin commenting; in that case, it was a line-for-line rip of a lyric dropped lazily in a post without any real care. This is obviously not that; SimuLord definitely did not just rip a line from a movie. Still, when you reach outside your own creativity for a common reference point in art, your joke really needs to need to exist. The reader needs to absorb it and sense its witty, inherent congruity to the subject. In other words, if the link from your reference to the post at hand is flimsy, the joke will fall flat, and that's what happened here.

Unstarred commenter whiskerbrisket failed to make a joke with this contribution to the Ja'Juan Story post. Or maybe that's supposed to be a joke. That's an important little observation to make before you submit your joke, especially if it's formed as a question: is this recognizably a joke, or will it be read as a legitimate question? For the reader, the distinction is irrelevant - that it can be read as an actual question renders any humor in it invisible. I'm not saying whiskerbrisket submitted a question, nor am I saying there is not a funny joke at this comment's center; I'm saying this comment needed a little more care to accentuate whatever attempt at humor it makes, plain and simple. Or if it's a question, hey, stop that.

In the Bad Beats post, unstarred commenter DraftKing failed to make either a joke or an interesting observation. That comment simply has no business whatsoever being submitted to Deadspin. Make jokes, and fast, ding-bat.

This is a fine bit of wisdom, from unstarred commenter user_21938, in the Chris Berman post, but it's not a joke, and therefore does not belong among Deadspin comments. Package that thing in an email and fire it off to Drew if you're genuinely concerned about his emotional well-being.

Unstarred commenter Johnny Bench Called got absolutely nothing from a well-worn meme in the Chris Berman post. I was recently solicited to pronounce the O AN HE meme dead, and though I'm flattered by the request and tempted by the opportunity to wield such power, I'm pretty sure I can't do such a thing, and should be disinclined to do so anyway. Why should I be disinclined? Because no avenue to humor is or should be closed off so long as there are funny, creative people out there who can use it to our mutual enjoyment. From time to time, out of sheer irritation, we all feel the impulse to say, "NOT ONE FUCKING MORE JOHN AMAECHI JOKE!!!!" But look, if someone drops a singularly fantastic John-Amaechi-is-totally-fucking-gay joke tomorrow, I'd be the guy enthusiastically including it in the Favorites, and I'd prefer to not be a hypocrite in so doing. I may have declared memes dead in this very blog, but I was wrong. Make jokes. Be funny.

As for this particular comment, it just doesn't do anything with the O AN HE setup. Elsewhere on Tuesday, someone actually did make a O AN HE joke that is not being included in the duds. I have no doubt someone will make something legitimately funny from this meme again this year and we will all laugh. But it can't just be used as a dumping ground for whatever one-word description you think fits the subject, which is what Johnny Bench Called did here.

And finally, unstarred commenter Tyler Bray's Back Tattoo went back to the Michael Vick trough for a flat, worthless reference. Think bigger with this kind of stuff. Michael Vick has been used for an outrageous number of jokes on Deadspin, just another he hates dogs joke won't get much notice, and isn't exactly shooting for the stars.

Alrighty. Some days, doing a Roundup is brutal. Days like today. I'm tired, my head hurts, pollen is kicking my ass, and the last thing in the world I want to do is comb through 300 comments and spend 90 minutes trying to think up a dozen new ways to say "that was good" and a half-dozen ways to say "that was bad". I'm going to go eat sushi and drink Sapporo. You have yourselves a wonderful DUAN.

10 comments:

  1. I'll admit, that was a pretty weak attempt at humor. And I just complained about Amaechi jokes (albeit for different reasons than just plain being unfunny) last night in DUAN...

    I'll try harder to be creative, I was just a teensy bit desperate to get at least one promotion today. I should know better, reading this like I do...

    -JBC

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  2. Robot Jerry RiceMay 24, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    Then it's days like today that you should get a long thankful affirmation to balance it all out.

    I don't know how many unstarred commenters read this blog, but I do at least, and I think anyone who's serious about commenting should. Reading your recaps and your analysis has done two things for me. First, it's helped me to zero in on a lot of really funny stuff that I would miss otherwise during the day. Seeing more work that is way out of my league helps dispel the idea that I am in any way deserving of a star. Second, it's prevented me from posting anything unless I think the comment is genuinely funny. You've thus caused me to pull my finger off the trigger 95% of the time because attempts at cooking a comment idea just don't result in an edible meal.

    People who spend a long time unstarred stay that way for a reason: they cannot be consistently funny like the stars can. I know I sure as Hell can't. If more of those like me that belong to that unexceptional mass read your wonderful blog, we'd all see a lot less weak shit on the bottom line than we do now. So bravo to you.

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  3. @Robot Jerry Rice

    Hey man, I appreciate the kind words. I would like to address the greater point of your comment, though:

    In my addled brain, I envision this blog as an ever-evolving conversation on the mechanics of humor. When we talk about AzureTexan's Miley Cyrus brand crotchless hemp underwear joke as a lesson in obscuring the recontextualization format, it's in the hopes that other commenters will start to think differently about how to craft their own jokes. I hope to go back to Deadspin the next week or month and see 15% fewer -line of italics-, -line of summary- recontextualizations. Similarly, when I rail on norbizness for lazy photo-jokes or stolen lines from The Simpsons, I hope to see a corresponding decline in that kind of thoughtless commenting.

    This blog is not for the shuttlediks of the world; humorless, mouth-breathing, brain-dead philistines who wouldn't know sophisticated humor if it was shot from the same butt-hole. The analysis is aimed exactly at the Robot Jerry Rice's of Deadspin; very good commenters with a genuine interest in crafting quality jokes, the kind of person for whom a little direction and a more evolved discussion might prove useful.

    The difference between you and someone like shuttledik is that you're one of the few unstarred commenters who actually gets what's going on over on Deadspin. That puts you in a very small percentage of people, and 75% of the way towards being a featured commenter. The entire rest of the battle is in learning to effectively load up your punchline using structure and picking your spots.

    You can absolutely be a consistently funny commenter. Just continue to take it seriously, take pride in what you submit, and think creatively about the best ways to structure and deliver your particular brand of funny.

    Good luck.

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  4. Awesome stuff, as usual. +1

    (Parenthetically, it's increasingly obvious that I have no idea what funny is, since I (and apparently only I) thought my comment in the Tiki Barber post was by far my best effort in weeks. Maybe there's some sort of comment save failure where only I can see it. Yes, yes, that's the only reasonable explanation...)

    Seriously, great work on what's surely a Herculean effort even under ideal conditions. Enjoy your well-deserved night out. I'd buy you a beer if we weren't all fictional characters.

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  5. IronMike: I flat didn't get your Bergen joke at all in the Tiki post. Still don't. Bergen, New Jersey? and i had to google the concentration camp.

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  6. Yeah, that's it. Tiki basically disappeared after leaving Bergen, NJ. Anne Frank died after arriving at Bergen-Belsen. I thought that was a pretty incredible coincidence.

    I wish I hadn't posted the comment here, because it comes off as so damn needy (which of course I am), and I guess the joke wasn't as funny as I thought. After doing this for a year, I'm still almost always surprised by which of my comments get a big response and which ones come up totally flat. That's one more reason why this site is such an awesome resource.

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  7. @IronMike

    For what it's worth, it really was an incredible pull. I think there's probably a way to package it that opens it up a little without overcooking it, but that's obviously one of the tricky nuances of commenting. I admire that you erred on the side of elegance, though.

    Your comment here doesn't come across as desperate. This is the venue for that kind of discussion - the reasons why your comment didn't get the attention you anticipated are applicable across the board. That's what we want to be talking about.

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  8. this can be a GREAT venue for discussions on joke improvement.

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  9. Thanks, man. I really appreciate the kind words.

    For better or worse, inspired by the fine work of guys like cheese mac -- I'm still in awe of that unsigned Emmitt Smith joke last month -- I've made a conscious decision to aim for as subtle as possible. I just find that a joke is so much more satisfying when someone has to think about it for a second or two before they get it. Naturally, one downside of this is that some really good jokes will just get overlooked. And, of course, there are some jokes that work best when they're pounded over the head (most of my exchanges with UweBoll fall into this category). But, generally, I'm aiming for "less is more" and, if my fragile little ego gets bruised because something get missed as a result, that's a tradeoff I'm willing to accept.

    Now, the fact that I'm a lot less funny than cheese mac may come back to haunt me and this plan, but I can always fall back on boxing posts and hilarious gifs if that happens.

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  10. Semi-Related Thought: A really cool year-end feature might be a "best of comments that were overlooked." Bevraj did a thread like that in a DUAN around new year's, where every self-promoted their own favorite comments. Maybe you could set up some criteria, and let people email in great comments (their own, or others) that were overlooked for some reason or another along the way. It would be a nice way to honor some of the great work that people otherwise might not have been able to enjoy.

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