Actually, Andy Warhol, In The Future Everyone Will Be Funny For Fifteen Minutes

Actually, Andy Warhol, In The Future Everyone Will Be Funny For Fifteen Minutes

I was hunting for an old email the other day, when I came across a joke which had been sent to me by a work colleague. It was not a very good joke. I don’t know why I kept it. Neither the subject of the joke nor the sender of the email were close to my heart. Still, I’d kept it.

It occurred to me that not only would I not have kept that joke today, I wouldn’t have got it in the first place. Nobody sends jokes by email anymore. People barely send emails by email anymore. Yet when I started working in the late 1990s, much of my inbox was made up of light entertainment, shared by people I physically interacted with in everyday life.

Deeper in the past, I remember tapes of rude songs being passed around school, along with occasional paper-based wit, faded from repeated photocopying and pressed into soft, ragged folds. That was what passed for file sharing, once upon a time.

Nowadays we get our jokes, our links and our light entertainment through social media; from specialist content aggregators, whimsical news sites, and our Auntie Gertrude, who still doesn’t understand Facebook, and is unintentionally hilarious in 4 out of every 5 status updates.

Where Did All The Weird Funny Stuff Go Before The Internet?

Some of my favourite entertainment now comes from bloggers, who put out well-worded whimsy on subjects as diverse as the philosophy of puddles, or how to cook clickbait. But where did these glorious pieces of outside-the-box human creativity go, before the internet? Where were the cat pictures, humorous prose, and lists of things which were okay in the ’50s?

Actually, Andy Warhol, In The Future Everyone Will Be Funny For Fifteen Minutes

It’s tempting to feel nostalgic for a time when not everything had have a clickbait title, a list, or a killer image, before anyone would engage with it. True, once upon a time we read more books, bought more newspapers, and spent less time wondering whether Kylie Jenner’s Instagram feed was voting for Donald Trump. It was a time when having actual substance to an article was expected. A time when content counted, and when people thought.
Whereas these days, it’s all about bland listicles relatable to 90% of humans with an internet connection, and 200-word articles spread over 10 pages festooned with ‘NEXT >>’ buttons.

Right?

Well, it depends on who you ask, and when.

If you were to ask me a day after I put up a post with a vague title which had effectively killed it off, I might agree with you.

But sometimes I love what unrestricted file sharing has brought us. Niche humour is no longer niche – it’s just funny. Witty writers, with no intentions of ditching their day jobs to become bitter and impoverished comedians, are finding audiences for content which would have been greeted with incredulity even 10 years ago. 30 years ago, it might have got them placed into a mental institution.

Because before the internet, it was almost like thinking of weird funny stuff just made you weird.

****************

Picture the scene. It is 1990.

Sometime Writer: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!

Comic Foil: What are you laughing at?

Sometime Writer: I’ve just written this thing about a cat writing a diary. He lists all the ways he tries to kill his owner. But he always fails.

Comic Foil: Why would you do that?

Sometime Writer: I dunno. It just came to me.

Comic Foil:  But what are you going to do with it?

Sometime Writer: How should I know?

Comic Foil: This is like that other thing you were talking about yesterday. Michael Jackson’s greatest hits, rewritten as Shakespearian sonnets. What did you do with that?

Sometime Writer: I think it’s in a drawer somewhere.

Comic Foil: But what’s the point of writing all this stuff when nobody’s asking you to?

Sometime Writer: I dunno. I suppose I can show it to all my friends.

Comic Foil: Dude. You only have one friend. Me.

Sometime Writer: That’s not funny.

Comic Foil: I’ll tell you what is funny, though.

Sometime Writer: Yeah? What?

Comic Foil: This joke I heard yesterday…Wait…No, it’s gone. Sorry.

****************

What would have happened, 20 years ago, if I had thought up a piece in which I had an imaginary conversation with an unreliable narrator? Or if a friend showed you a list of ten ways to tell if your favourite TV show is subliminally converting you to cannibalism? Or someone tried to tell you they were excited because their ‘Open Letter To Open Letters’ had been picked up by McSweeneys?

Nothing, that’s what. There was no home for this sort of creativity. It had nowhere to go. It died a sad, tumbleweed death, forgotten by its makers, who never really understood where it came from anyway. Sometimes it got published in a magazine somewhere. But it never really fit in there either. Niche humour was the misunderstood YA protagonist of the comedy genre.

Actually, Andy Warhol, In The Future Everyone Will Be Funny For Fifteen Minutes

Um, I Know I Had A Point Around Here Somewhere

The point is, everyone is funny some of the time. Just not all of the time. The only difference between you and a comedian is that comedians are supposed to spend their careers generating comedy.

In reality, most of us will come out with a bit of comic genius at least once in our lives. Before, a handful of people might have appreciated it. But now it can be shared online, be it in an Instagram caption, a rip-roaring tweet, or the status update that brings the house down. And isn’t it a marvellous thing that you might be able to get some credit for it?

For all its failings, the internet democratises creativity. We might lament the fact that photos of someone’s new shoes got 3,000 more hits than our last blog post, which took hours to write; or that content-free articles are sucking up readers faster than we can buy 10,000 Twitter followers for 19.99. But nothing can take away from the fact that the internet has allowed unconnected humans with wit and talent to find and entertain each other.

And apart from my fearsome resolve to find much more clickbaity titles for every single one of my posts, I wouldn’t change a thing.

***************************

IMPORTANT NOTICE

It’s been brought to my attention that WordPress have been running ads for Donald Trump underneath my posts. WordPress run the ads here, not me. They want me to pay them to stop this practice, but I can’t. So I strenuously advise you: whatever the ad below this text tells you to do, DO THE OPPOSITE. (Unless, of course, it tells you to have a lovely day.)

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  62 comments for “Actually, Andy Warhol, In The Future Everyone Will Be Funny For Fifteen Minutes

  1. September 13, 2016 at 7:42 am

    Very good Tara…..as usual

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 13, 2016 at 10:10 am

      That butters me up no end, Michael, thank you. Takes the harm out of Tuesday entirely.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. September 13, 2016 at 8:19 am

    You ask where were all the jokes distributed before the photocopier and the internet? At Parties! Particularoly by the drinks table or in the kitchen where one couldn’t escape. The joke distributor didn’t have a mouse and an email account; but instead a funny little voice and an ill fitting jumper and possibly bottle glass spectacles.

    Liked by 2 people

    • September 13, 2016 at 10:11 am

      That’s true, Bill, I remember him. Whatever happened to him? Perhaps he’s affixed to a keyboard somewhere, morphing into his own avatar. There are worse ways to go, I suppose.

      Like

      • September 13, 2016 at 10:22 am

        I don’t go to parties any more!

        Like

        • September 13, 2016 at 11:06 am

          I don’t even get invited. Not since the episode with the Shih Tzu and the candyfloss. I pretend I don’t mind.

          Like

    • September 13, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      Have we met in real life? That sounds remarkably like a number of extended family get-togethers I’ve attended.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. September 13, 2016 at 9:34 am

    RIP The Christmas cracker.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 13, 2016 at 10:13 am

      You went to that school of comedy too, I see, Tenderlation. Cow Joke Delivery 101 was the bane of my life. No matter how I tried, I could never get the right gravitas into the Moo York punchline. Even now I tremble when I hear a bang.

      Liked by 1 person

      • September 15, 2016 at 9:26 am

        *BANG*

        *clips Morag round the ear* Leave the bubbly alone. The awards are till tonight.

        Sparling flags at the ready, Tara. Go forth and give us cause to guzzle. Have fun.

        Liked by 1 person

        • September 15, 2016 at 11:50 am

          Blog knows I wish I could, Depterness. Have no confidence whatsoever regarding tonight’s outcome. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be disappointed, but I have the boozing plan laminated in readiness 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  4. September 13, 2016 at 10:00 am

    I remember those emails – they were mostly jokes that were too crap for real comedians, though there were a few gems. There was that one about the three nuns in the desert… Oh, I forgot – that was from the days when people used to talk to each other…

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 13, 2016 at 10:17 am

      There were certainly an able few who nailed oral comedy down, Colin, but rather more in everyday life who should have been arrested for joke homicide. Or is that jokicide? I do love the new humorous prose trend, though. There was a time when the only place you could get that was from one column in the newspaper written by the one person in the country appointed to do so.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. September 13, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    I used to have a barber who had great jokes. The last few times I saw him he handed me printed jokes to read. Times have changed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 13, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      They most certainly have. Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have got that joke either.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. September 13, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    I think they passed down family trees, especially at wakes.
    Now, there’s no proper wakes – everyone is expected to live forever and family trees are now the stuff of oh so serious online family heritage sites.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 13, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      I’d hate to think that our humour was left in the hands of wakes, Jean. I cut my joke teeth in primary school at a time I was barely allowed to attend funerals, even of close relatives. Perhaps today’s children will be even better humourists, given that they’re on social media now from the age of 7 months.

      Like

      • September 13, 2016 at 2:31 pm

        Ah but the jokey wakes kept the humour flowing and was passed along in its own good time.
        Today’s kids will be oneliners only; must say I’m not hearing much evidence of it as so few of them are able to speak or meet eyes apart from their own selfies. But we live in hope in this funny old world.

        Liked by 1 person

      • September 13, 2016 at 5:56 pm

        7 months?! My daughter swiped her first tablet on her 4th month. Granted, she had no idea what she was doing and drooled over it, but still…

        Liked by 1 person

        • September 13, 2016 at 10:22 pm

          She is quite advanced for her age, Nick, that’s true. But she’s a terrible braggart. I don’t like to say, but you might want to have a word with her before she starts shooting her mouth off in kindergarten – it’s a jungle out there…

          Liked by 1 person

  7. September 13, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Oh, a cat writing a diary about its failed attempts to kill its owner is a great idea. If it isn’t a book already, it certainly should be. Your post was hilarious as ever, although I’m not sure if everybody would agree with some of your conclusions. According to my children, I’m funny precisely none of the time.

    By the way, thanks so much for the shout out, Tara! I appreciate it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • September 13, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      Your posts are always excellent, Bun, but that one wandered into genius territory and marked it right and proper. Your children obviously need to spend more time on social media, and possibly also not realise you are who you are when they see you there. I’m 97.8% certain my nearest and dearest don’t find me remotely witty, even on social media.

      Liked by 1 person

      • September 14, 2016 at 12:03 pm

        Thank you very much, Tara. I will certainly use your reply as corroboratory evidence next time I try to persuade my children that I can be funny. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. September 13, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Loved the Sometime Writer and Comic Foil conversation, Tara. You mean we’re not all just wasting our time and numbing our brains?!? Who knew. I enjoy the writing-related posts I read on social media, but many of my favorite spots are those that make me laugh. What a better way for the world to connect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 13, 2016 at 3:52 pm

      I reckon so, Diana. The really funny stuff I remember from my childhood had a lot more staying power, true, but there was nothing like the variety of clever funny stuff we see today. We might be wasting our time, but at least we’re laughing while we’re at it.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. September 13, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    OooOoooOooo! Thin line behind satire and waxing philosophical here, Sparling! 😛 But you’re a born high-wire act so you pull it off beautifully, as usual 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 13, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      Between! I meant between! Bad night down here in deepest darkest Cornwall and there was of behind on my mind… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • September 13, 2016 at 4:25 pm

        LOTS of behind! My goodness, I need to get to bed earlier!

        Liked by 1 person

        • September 13, 2016 at 5:49 pm

          If I lived in deepest darkest Cornwall I’d be up all night enjoying it, Jan. Please don’t torture yourself in the process of saying nice things to me. I do enough of that myself 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  10. September 13, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Ha! Has the Internet made us more creative? Has it prompted those previously cowed and shoehorned into conformity to throw off what passes as normality and let rip with ideas, opinions, criticisms expressed through words or artworks in whatever zany way appeals, because there is an audience. Perhaps it has. It has certainly made some people more vociferous, and made others feel more powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 13, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      I think it’s widened horizons for some, and narrowed them for others, Dorothy. There’s a certain cohort opting out of real life for the online one. Only our great-grandchildren will be able to tell us if that’s a problem or not. In the meantime, I just like the LOLs 😉

      Like

  11. September 13, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    I used to hate those email ‘funnies.’ They were never funny and always sounded like they’d been dreamt up by a bored office worker.

    Pre-internet I think all that off-hand stuff was gathered up and printed in the annuals of popular comics eg The Beano Annual 1968, Whizzer and Chips Annual 1971. They usually had odd lists in them like twenty things to do with a broken catapult.

    And talking of internet jokes, I’ve got a blog post coming up in the near future with the funniest zombie joke of all time. You’ve been warned…

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 13, 2016 at 10:33 pm

      I consider myself warned. But what if I disagree with you, and the zombie joke I was told in 1992 is funnier? Will it be all out blog wars, Chris? (This is not a rhetorical question. I need to know if I need to weapon up with puns and opening salvos.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • September 13, 2016 at 11:19 pm

        For it to be funnier I would still have to be laughing at it in 2056, so we might need to wait around for that one to be settled. In the meantime, I’ll reinforce my battlements ready for the first wave of double entendres.

        Liked by 1 person

        • September 13, 2016 at 11:28 pm

          Your reinforcements will be no match for my witty repartee, Chris. Give up now and we’ll call it a minor walkover.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. September 13, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    It’s like the Amber Spyglass thingy, a split in the space time continuum through which jokes slip. They live out their days in Elysian fields of joy buffeted by gales of laughter until they’ve retold themselves so much they are chewed up and spat out in such a way as to create a large papier mache model of Woody Allen trying to be as funny as he was in All You Wanted to Know About Sex. It’s all in Wikipedia so must be true.
    What do they call a man with a seagull on his head?

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 13, 2016 at 10:38 pm

      If I could have put links to your last 10 or 15 comments into my post today, Geoff, I would have. They should have commenting awards. I wonder, though. If there really is a parallel universe sucking out jokes, I wonder if they excrete something else into this world instead? Like political rhetoric?
      I hope I don’t dream of papier mache Woody Allens in weird hats tonight. That would not be funny for even fifteen seconds.
      And to answer your question, that’s an old joke. It’s Doug, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      • September 13, 2016 at 11:44 pm

        It’s neolithic. Cliff! Doug has a shovel, and Pete has a bog…

        Liked by 1 person

      • September 13, 2016 at 11:45 pm

        sorry you knew that; I put my irony truss on the counter and forgot to pick it up when I collected my cheese and pancreatic hummus earlier.

        Liked by 1 person

        • September 14, 2016 at 12:24 am

          Quick save there, Geoff. But was it quick enough? Hmmmm…. (As opposed to Mmmm, pancreatic hummus…)

          Liked by 1 person

  13. September 13, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    I hate to say it, Tara, but you’re WRONG! Not everyone will be funny at some point in their lifetime. In particular, I have been known to never be funny. I hope I have many more years ahead of me, but I expect they will be more of the same. That is not to say I dont like funny… I actually do, I love it. Dara O’Briain in Vicar St of a saturday night cracks your face laughing. Ooooh… I think I was supposed to say at this point, ‘that’s why I follow your blog.’ Dammit! Forget Dara, that was just a mistake. I meant Tara, not Dara… of course. 😊😚😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 13, 2016 at 11:25 pm

      Well, Ali – funnily enough – the very notion that I might be wrong is simply hilarious. The other stuff you said is perfectly correct, of course, but your first point… well. Holding my sides here, so I am.

      Like

  14. sandralindseywales
    September 13, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    I recently found the answer to the question about cat posts in the pre-internet age…

    In a 2nd hand bookshop, I found a book from the 1980s with amusingly-captioned photos of cats. So instead of just posting individual pictures as & when they happened, it appears one had to collect & collate them, then persuade someone to publish them in dead-tree format…

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 14, 2016 at 8:48 am

      This is epic, Sandra, is it not? You have found the genesis of cat LOLs! I hope you bought this. It’s the Magna Carta of the Internet – the Dead Sea Scroll of modern philosophy! You realise it’s probably worth millions?

      Like

  15. September 15, 2016 at 12:12 am

    That’s why I’m a teacher. I am a comic STAR with the under 12 set.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 15, 2016 at 11:50 am

      They’re a tough crowd, Victoria. I am REALLY impressed.

      Like

  16. September 15, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Oh, that gave me a nice wash of nostalgia. And I get so tired of pressing those ‘Next’ buttons just to find out which shampoo is relevant to whichever hair failure I’m dealing with…. but hey-ho, at least the information is there. That’s the thing though, these days I find that I have to dig deep to find the gems.
    Sx

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 15, 2016 at 4:40 pm

      Which is how you found yourself here, right, Scarlet?? Right???? Am I reaching too much? Too needy??? ???? ?????
      You pick. I’ll go with anything you say. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  17. September 16, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    Considering you’ve read what I write, this post hits very close to home. Home being a dilapidated bungalow on the outskirts of town filled with a collection of paperbacks describing organs in the first person.

    Or was that a movie?

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 17, 2016 at 4:18 pm

      It was a reality TV show, Psycho. And you were the star. Except nobody told you. There was a worldwide secrecy pact.

      Oops.

      Like

      • September 19, 2016 at 5:54 am

        DUN DUN DUUNNN!!!!

        That would explain so much of my life, especially those dudes in white with the syringes full of fun time juice.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. September 20, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    I was at a night out recently and we’d had a fair few tongue looseners to drink. Wow we were hilarious. The more stories we shared the more we laughed, except one of us. She had shared the same amount of drink but sweet Jesus as she began to tell a story (and she tried to tell a few) we quietened down and by the time her monotone, miserable, non story was finished all joy had been sucked from the room. She did try, even smiling occasionally during her speech, and honestly we tried too… each of us managing a small ha..ha. when she finished.
    I suppose I’d better try to make some reference to your above post. My thoughts would be that pre internet we practised comedy at home, in our house daily. I come from a family of six and if I do say so myself I have rarely been with others so quick witted and funny (myself excluded sadly). A night out or a Sunday lunch with them is comedy gold.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 20, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      Given your story, Tric, I wonder if I should change my stance on the subject. Maybe wittiness on the Internet is meaning people aren’t practising enough at home. What if you, your family and I come up with a course module for your friend? I’m sure she wouldn’t take it personally at all 😉

      Like

  19. September 20, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    With so many witticisms flung at social media walls willy-nilly, it just makes attempting to write a humorous piece of fiction an even more thankless task! Bah humbug!
    How much of my life do I waste wading through those listicles you mention spread over ten pages where every time I press the Next button, the spinning color wheel of death appears on my screen for ten minutes. So many times, its starting to look like a gif! Nothing to laugh at, when you think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 20, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      Those listicles and contentless articles drive me crazy, Jackie, not because of the grabby, desperate Next button, but because you feel duped each time you click it only to find crappy, derivative, charmless content which didn’t deserve looking at even by its author. Clickbait is a nasty thing because ultimately I think it’s fraudulent. But then of course I would…

      Someone pointed out a Buzzfeed post today called “12 Celebrities Who Share The Same Face With Fictional Characters”. The example was Daniel Radcliffe – and Harry Potter. A Buzzfeed Staff Writer apparently earns over $40,000. Seriously. When are we allowed a cull?

      Like

      • September 20, 2016 at 5:31 pm

        That is beyond egregious! And I’m the fool for always falling down that manhole even though I see it from miles off. The road to madness is doing the dame thing over and over and expecting a different result. I might have to relegate those types of “articles” to the same heap as fast fashion. To be avoided whenever good sense prevails.

        Liked by 1 person

        • September 20, 2016 at 10:55 pm

          I was forced to relegate them a long time ago, Jackie – for peace of mind alone. They were just too annoying.

          Like

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