When despair is funny

April 1, 2011

Much of the most delightfully silly online humor follows a particular formula:

  • A single good idea that alters or plays on a pop-cultural artifact
  • Execution that relies on computer technology, but not too much--some simple Photoshop work, a couple lines of code
  • Loads of nostalgia

One popular approach involves applying the same basic edit to a series of strips from a classic comic. A few years ago, Garfield proved to be especially fertile source material. In strips missing Garfield and Odie's speech bubbles, strips missing the pets themselves as well and strips generated randomly from three unrelated panels, a few insights emerged: Cats and dogs don't really talk. Jon Arbuckle is a sad and rather unstable man. And Garfield as originally published was never very funny.

This week saw a new entry in the field go viral: 3eanuts, which removes the final panel from classic Peanuts strips. According to creator Daniel Leonard (a recent Wheaton College grad), the originals "often conceal the existential despair of their world with a closing joke at the characters' expense. With the last panel omitted, despair pervades all." At last!

In other existential-despair-online-humor news, Salvatore Pane highlights a project by his student Mike Rosenthal: an Atari-style video game version of Waiting for Godot. The joke's obvious without seeing it in action, but I laughed even harder when I watched the video. I particularly like that Rosenthal includes two different difficulty levels: