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: