The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Pop Itself: Meta comedy: a new wave of humor today

David Taintor

I was sitting in the halls of Hibbard witnessing a scene between two large men. Of one, there was anguish in the face and a devitalized posture with his eyes set downward. His rugged voice was marked with lament, so I began to overhear – the bananas he had bought were deflating and going squishy.

The banana-owner was suppressing a waver, seemingly on the verge of tears: “my bananas . my bananas .”

I realized there was something tragic happening, even for the non-connoisseur of bananas. The process that spoiling fruit undergoes is natural and irreversible.

It was far too late for a banana hanger, or one of those oxygen-leeching plastic bags. There was nothing anybody, even technology, could do. Without the knowledge of how to make banana bread, he would be forced to throw those disgusting old things to the dumpster. This would compromise his potassium intake and ability to give that delicious boost to his corn flakes for a few days. It seemed like a bizzaro soap opera.

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OK, decomposing bananas are only kind of funny, but the dude provided good enough parameters for the imagination. There is a growing hunger for meta comedy, but it does take a little imagination, so think hard for just a few minutes.

Meta comedy is comedy that references or comments upon comedy itself. Todd Barry, who has appeared in cult favorites Flight of the Conchords, as well as Home Movies and Dr. Katz, is a clear example.

His stand-ups include fairly plain jokes, but the real humor is in the explanation that he offers for the mechanics of the joke and why it’s supposedly funny or not. Oftentimes, he digresses further, explaining his own reaction to the crowd response, and then referencing the meta-ness itself. Whoa! Meta-meta!

In all other cases, meta comedy isn’t so straight-forward, and its success depends on its interpretation.

It’s not exactly the most familiar mechanic of humor. To me, Zach Galifianakis (Gal-if-ee-uh-nah-kiss), along with like-minded comedians, e.g., his cohort Brian Posehn (Pah-sh-spy-ss), are meta comedians. Galifianakis is the Dylan Thomas of comedy, but don’t think of that as a value judgment. Just think about how these guys might have created themselves. What do they look like in your head?

While some people actually find Galifianakis’ jokes or his rudeness to be funny, I like him particularly because he’s not funny.

For me, the humor lies directly in the character he plays: the pathetic, drunken hack that doesn’t care about his fans or his career and has a fantastic beard most of the time.

The significance is the commentary made upon failed comics and people like Dane Cook, who just aren’t funny period.

For if I want to hear boisterous observational stories from and about an egomaniacal, straight, white male in the United States, I can get them simply by following the beer trail on a Friday night. The only difference is that I’m the only one laughing at the guy, not with him.

On second thought, Dane Cook is funny in one way. In order to understand this, you need to use your imagination – the man himself and the network of people who love him are a situational comedy by themselves. Hold on, that’s “Employee of the Month.”

Music Review
The blog-o-meter (from January):

– Freeze-Frame High-Five (Great) –
Animal Collective Merriweather
Post Pavilion
A sought-after combo rare today: everlasting + access. Making your way through all the blogotry, find 2009’s first real offering is a gleeful dance to existentialism. (Contrary to Rolling Stone: this has absolutely nothing to do with the Grateful Dead.)

– January 2nd (OK) –
Bon Iver Blood Bank
The EP is a forgiving format. It allows an artist to stretch sans large financial risk + time investment. Only the title track will feel familiar to Bon Iver fans. “Woods” = auto-tune-Iver.

– Secretively Caffeine-Free Cola (Let down) –
Antony and the Johnsons, The Crying Light
Antony Hegarty is controversial for the sole reason he’s a transgender singer who sounds like a black woman. which is a shame, because in reality he’s an astonishing, powerful presence among the many performances he’s done.
It’s also a shame The Crying Light lacks the instrumental musicality that 2005’s fuller I Am a Bird Now included. However, don’t go thinking there’s any less “Candy Darling on Her Deathbed” to this.

Waldbillig is a senior English major, with a creative writing emphasis, and guest columnist for The Spectator. Pop Itself appears in the Showcase section every Monday.

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