Anyone who’s ever watched a Seth Rogen movie knows that great comedy can be long on laughs, short on plot. Try to recite the story of Pineapple Express from beginning to end in coherent English and you’ll see what I mean. But paper-thin plotting wasn’t invented in 2008. Ancient Greek comedies made about as much narrative sense as a James Brown interview. Add in 2500 years worth of cultural change, and you get scripts that read like a Japanese knock-off of a Will Ferrell film written by someone on ‘shrooms. Ranked from weirdly confusing to utterly incomprehensible, here are ten ancient plots that made more jokes than sense.
The basket of apples appeared on my door step. At first I wasn’t sure where they came from until I saw the note card that read VJ’s Organic Co-Op, Washington, DC. The note inside the envelope read:
Try these apples. I guarantee you’ve never tasted anything like them.
Valerie? I wasn’t sure who this Valerie was, but I figured organic apples couldn’t be all that bad. I made sure to wash one of them thoroughly, and I took a bite.
Whoever Valerie was, she was right. It didn’t taste like any apple I’d ever eaten, and soon after the first bite, I fell asleep, right there on the kitchen floor!
When I woke, I had all these ideas in my head on how to improve my favorite place on the planet — Walt Disney World. So I wrote them down, and here they are:
7. An Updated CircleVision 360 Film For China At Epcot
Epcot’s China pavilion does a wonderful job celebrating the rich history of its home country, but there’s very little mention of the successes of the last sixty or so years. Wonderful triumphs like the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and defeating those pesky students in Tiananmen Square don’t get the mention they deserve at Epcot.
To remedy that problem, I propose that Disney replace the current Reflections of China film with an informative and interesting documentary I’ll call Forward: China from Mao to Now. The film will look back at the great history of the People’s Republic of China from the earliest days of the revolution to China’s bright future.
Of course, such a short film would not have time to delve too deeply into certain aspects of the nation, so concepts like human rights and economic freedom would probably have to go by the wayside. But I think a CircleVision 360 movie dispelling the myths about the People’s Republic would be worth seeing, don’t you?
Some jokes are always funny. Then again, after 2500 years, some jokes are just really, really gross and weird. The ancient Greeks and Romans may have laid the foundations of the Western world, but — and this is weirdly comforting — they loved fart gags. The comedies they put onstage were about as mature and sophisticated as a Judd Apatow movie, and just as filthy. So if you were sure sex was invented in 1963, hold onto your petticoats: this is a tour through the deepest gutters of the ancient world, ranked from naughty giggles to outright smut. Read on for a sampling of, quite literally, some of the oldest jokes in the book.
The Greek comedian Aristophanes loved big, dumb, gross-out gags, but he also loved political satire with more of a bite. In Wasps, he put them together. In the play, a father and son are arguing for and against Cleon, Athens’ political hotshot. The dad, Philocleon, basically has the hots for Cleon — Philocleon is Greek for “love Cleon.” The son, who thinks Cleon’s a dirtbag, is called Bdelycleon — which means either “disgusting Cleon,” or, more appealingly, “fart Cleon.” Essentially it’s as if Rush Limbaugh changed his name to “Obama-is-a-fart.” Which, come to think of it, would be hilarious.
— Marc Leibowitz (@Marc_Leibowitz) November 10, 2014
If you had to affix a precise date to the beginning of Mike Tyson’s professional decline, you could do worse than December 9, 1988. On that day, Tyson fired Kevin Rooney, the masterful boxing trainer who had guided him to the world heavyweight championship, and moved firmly into the camp of Don King, a man whose name is interchangeable with corruption and degradation. Once an invincible fighter with precise punches and defensive skills, Tyson got sloppy, trading his scientific pugilism for flat-footed brawling. Seduced by a world of women and money, he abandoned all discipline. His laziness caught up with him in February 1990, when a journeyman named Buster Douglas outclassed him in a championship fight and knocked him out.
This was still merely the beginning of the end. In 1992, Tyson was convicted of raping a young beauty queen named Desiree Washington, and spent the next several years in an Indiana prison. Emerging in 1995, he knocked out a few tomato cans before fighting the bigger names, biting ears and going on ridiculous rants about eating people’s children and stomping on their testicles. He nurtured an obsession with pigeons and exotic tigers, living as an eccentric in his own Xanadu. More arrests ensued, more assaults, more crude outbursts.
What’s the point of rehashing this ugly tabloid history? The point is that the name “Mike Tyson” comes with a lot of unwanted baggage, which I simply couldn’t set down while watching the premier of Tyson’s new “show,” a 15-minute animated sketch called Mike Tyson Mysteries. It airs on Adult Swim, which is a grown-up portion of the Cartoon Network featuring peculiar and often graphic shows that blend violence and dark humor. The show has Tyson voicing an animated version of himself. A retired boxer, he is inexplicably portrayed as a freelance mystery solver. His team, a cross between Animal House and the Scooby Doo gang, consists of Norm Macdonald as an alcoholic talking pigeon, the ghost of the Marquess of Queensberry, and Tyson’s brainy adopted daughter.
“You could tell straight away it wasn’t a real tiger,” says Andrew Holland, describing a video sent to him of a man in a tiger suit having sex with a woman. “Right from the word go, the tiger was talking.”
Unfortunately for Andrew, a 51-year-old bus driver from Wrexham, North Wales, police and prosecutors didn’t pick up on this subtle clue. Instead, they claimed the video was of a woman having sex with a real tiger (again, it was not a real tiger; it was a human man dressed as a tiger) and charged Andrew with possession of extreme pornography.
As he was the first person to fall foul of this offense under the recently amended Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, prosecutors were determined to make an example of him. That, coupled with the fact that “MAN FOUND WITH TIGER PORN” is a very clickable headline, effectively meant Andrew’s life was ruined from the second he was taken into custody.
He pleaded innocence, telling police, “It was a joke; my mate sent it to me. It’s not a real tiger—real tigers don’t say, ‘That was grrrreat.’”
Andrew has faced two sets of charges, “lost his job, suffered a heart attack, and, after being branded a pedophile, been physically assaulted several times.”
These are Heinlein’s Crazy Years; we just live in them.
Those with long memories will recall that Wes Craven’s Scream, which came out way back in 1996, was praised for its hip “self-awareness,” coming as it did in a particularly “meta” era of ’90s postmodernism, full of overrated cult fare like Pulp Fiction and Clerks. The film’s edginess consisted in banging on the fourth wall without quite breaking it. In one scene, for instance, a horror-movie fanatic and video-store clerk (remember: 1996) played by Jamie Kennedy tells his fellow teenagers about the “rules” of surviving a slasher film.
One of these “rules,” which is now common knowledge, is that in order to survive one mustn’t practice the carnal arts. Those who do it always get it. What the less eloquent might call “c*ckblocking” is an established horror-movie tradition. In the first Halloween film, Michael Myers ruins one couple’s tryst by stabbing the guy and then assaulting his teenage girlfriend—which might sound like a standard Friday evening at Roman Polanski’s house, but for an audience of 1970s suburban teens it was genuinely frightening. Come to think of it, every horror movie has a boyfriend character, football letter jacket and all, who gets his head caved in while fetching a few beers from the fridge. Each series has its own tropes. The Friday the 13th movies rely on the obligatory sex-in-the-woods scene: two camp counselors set up a tent, and before long Jason shows up with his machete for an especially kinky threesome.
Sometimes I like to ironically retweet Communist, anarchist, and other varieties of far left slogans. Often times the sentiments are anachronistic or conflict with the more prominent, popular progressive sentiments of the day. Occasionally some truth manages to get out. This one really provoked a smile in its honesty:
The capitalist system controls your life thus it is idiotic to blame yourself for your misery.
— Ann Landers (@Ann__Landers) October 25, 2014
No matter what’s going on in your life or what decisions you’ve made that have gotten you there, there’s always someone else to blame! How is any ideology with this at its core not appealing?
The rest is, as you might expect, a farce of unintended consequences.
In my preteen years I tried never to miss an episode of the game show Make Me Laugh. Simple premise: Three comedians had 60 seconds each to make a contestant laugh, who was awarded a dollar a second for not laughing. I think there might have been a $100 bonus for going the whole three minutes. Comedians got national exposure, contestants got prizes, the producers didn’t have to spend a whole lot of money.
The Teatreneu Club thought it might be an amusing experiment — a sort of world first — to give willing customers an iPad equipped with facial recognition technology that captures every laugh. The iPads are attached to the seat in front and keep score of the laugh total.
The charge per laugh is 0.30 euros. The Teatreneu Web site says that there is a maximum charge of 8 euros for its latest performance, though the BBC reports that the maximum was, in the past, 24 euros.
The idea was a reaction to increased government taxes on theatrical performances, which severely hit revenue. Pay-per-laugh was a big success, with other venues copying the idea.
EU taxes are for once a laughing matter.
“What Makes Jon Stewart More Insufferable Than Bill Maher,” from October 3:
Recently four members of that least-recognized Indian tribe “Redskins Nation” agreed to participate in a Daily Show segment discussing the controversy surrounding their team name. Their conversation with comedian Jason Jones was stretching into its third hour when eight Native American activists were suddenly brought out. The newcomers became vitriolic and one fan left the set crying, saying later that she’d felt threatened.
The Washingtonians told the Washington Post that they would have gladly agreed to debate a group of the Indians, but the show had said no such confrontation would occur. The producers lied, sprang an ambush, and laughed at the acrimony that followed.
If this doesn’t feel like déjà vu, then it should. The Daily Show lies all the time. Once a clever romp through the evening news, the show has become a tedious exercise in ideological anthem playing. Its purpose is the same as that of Neil deGrasse Tyson: to present neatly edited vignettes that assure elites of their mammoth intellectual superiority over the Fox News crowd. Satirists are supposed to poke fun at the cultural consensus; the Daily Showruthlessly enforces it, seeking out and destroying anyone who ventures outside its bounds. Its host Jon Stewart is a pathetic devotee of hegemonic center-left opinion who uses dishonest techniques to portray himself as the last honest man. Its in-studio audience is the world’s most annoying echo chamber.
Related this weekend, Mediaite reports on a heated exchange on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday. Maher and Sam Harris Vs. Ben Affleck and Nicholas Kristof on Islam:
Ben Affleck, Bill Maher,Nicholas Kristol,Michael Steele, and author Sam Harris got into what could only be described as a tumultuous continuation of Maher’s comments on Islam from last week, with Maher and Affleck tearing into each other over the influence of fundamentalists in the Muslim community.
“We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where criticism of the religion gets conflated with bigotry towards muslims as people,” Harris began. “It’s intellectually ridiculous.”
“Hold on — are you the person who officially understands the codified doctrine of Islam?” Affleck, on the show to promote his movie Gone Girl, interrupted, and argued that criticizing Islam, as Maher and Harris were doing it, was “gross and racist. It’s like saying, ‘Oh, you shifty Jew!’”
Explicit language warning for video clip on next page:
According to the Gainesville Times, police arrested Ashley Huff, 23, when they found a “suspicious residue” they believed to be meth on a spoon inside the car she was riding in.
Huff was subsequently charged with possession of methamphetamine.
Huff repeatedly told police that there was “no way in hell” that the substance was drug residue, according to Hall County assistant public defender Chris van Rossem.
Huff was unable to afford her bail and spent more than a month in jail while her attorney attempted to arrange a plea bargain.
She was released only after the crime lab finally came back with the results of its substance analysis.
It was spaghetti sauce.
Sure, you know how to write an assertive cover letter and you have a wardrobe of freshly pressed black and navy blue suits. But, just because you’re doing everything the manual tells you doesn’t mean you aren’t going to make a mistake in your job search. From my other life working in human resources, I give you the ten best mistakes applicants have made in pursuit of a job.
10. Want to include the fact that you taught an adult education course on photography on your resume? Don’t dub yourself “Adult Photography Instructor.”
Language matters. In the age of social media and Google, applicants should understand that lying on their resume isn’t an option. Just be sure you aren’t getting so creative with your wording that you make yourself sound more qualified for porn than a professional environment.
I pushed off the idea of writing this article when I first heard that Joan Rivers, one of my comic icons, was rushed to the hospital after a botched outpatient procedure last week. I didn’t want to think about having to say goodbye to Joan, to bid farewell to yet another icon of an age gone by, a powerhouse who managed to be a cultural force until her last breath. The only solace we can muster is in knowing that, for these ten reasons at least, Joan’s memory will be a blessing.
10. Joan never grew old or gave up.
At 81, she was as attuned to pop culture, politics, and current events as a 20 year old. A self-made fashionista, the comedian never retired, sat in a chair, or gave in to technology. Joan will forever be a role model to women who refuse to trade style for a shapeless moo-moo and an office chair for a rocking chair. In her later years she paired up with Melissa, illustrating that mothers and daughters really can work together and get along. She was a modern Bubbe, surrounded by her children and grandchildren as she took the world by storm.
You know you’re not supposed to do that, right?
But there’s video at the link if you feel you must.
QUERY: Is Denver Woman the new Florida Man?
15. Everything you know about the social stratosphere is wrong…
College is nothing like high school. You understand this in theory, but have never experienced the kind of social freedom you will in college. There are no cliques. There is no lunch table. Welcome to the world of being an adult. For the first couple of weeks you’ll attend pre-arranged mixers, usually orientation events or annoying team-building activities your RA spent all summer training to lead. These awkward moments are helpful for one reason: Discovering who has a car. As a freshman, be aware that the parties you crash at frat houses aren’t for making friends, they’re for getting drunk and hooking up. You’ve been warned.
Here’s how it works: If a friend posts an Onion link to his or her Facebook feed, click on it for a laugh. Once you’re done at The Onion and come back to your desktop or laptop browser, Facebook will have generated three related articles in a box directly below whatever you’d clicked on. In the case of an Onion link, that box will usually contain at least one article from the same site, only that article’s headline will begin with the word “satire” in brackets. As of press time, we were able to duplicate this result on three different computers from different accounts, one of which is shown above.
We can only assume this was implemented as a reaction to users believing that Onion links are nonfiction reports (you can lose hours flipping through Literally Unbelievable, a site that catalogs such boneheaded moments), but we’re not sure what compelled Facebook to go so far as to assert editorial control. Maybe the company still feels bad about how users reacted to its intentional News Feed manipulation from 2012.
We’ve probably all been suckered on occasion by a good satire. One of the best is Duffel Blog, which took me in for days the first time I came across one of their stories. But that’s the part of what makes great satire great.
There are three levels of satire. The first is simple sarcasm, which is saying something outrageous that you don’t believe, in such an obvious manner, that everybody knows you’re kidding. The next higher level of satire is to say something outrageous you don’t mean, in a serious enough manner, that people think you might actually believe it. But the highest level of satire, and the most difficult one to produce, is to say something outrageous, in such a clever way, that people nod their heads in agreement with the outrageous thing.
Discovering you’ve been taken in by great satire produces a momentary but unique emotion — equal parts embarrassment and delight, which even the Germans probably don’t have a word for. Facebook would take away that moment.
image illustration via shutterstock / Brent Hofacker
By now you’ve probably seen 1,000 ice bucket challenge videos auto-play on your Facebook newsfeed by now. Everyone is doing it — kids, pets, celebrities, politicians, you name it. Yesterday I heard my neighbor do it on our front porch, but as I heard him explain, they didn’t have a bucket, so he used a “very cold” can of Coke instead. I’ve seen a few outtake lists, where instead of people having a bucket of water poured over them, the person pouring instead had the entire bucket full of water dropped onto their heads — it was painful to watch, I can’t imagine how painful it was to experience. The challenge has some haters, namely people annoyed at how many of those taking the challenge aren’t donating, and are instead wasting water. This meme popped up in my newsfeed this morning:
To which I say: Lighten up. The ice bucket challenge has gone viral like no other charitable cause I’ve ever seen, and has netted millions of dollars for ALS charities, over $15 million at last count (compared with less than $50,000 during the same period last year). I have no dog in this argument: I haven’t done the ice bucket challenge personally (please don’t nominate me, I’m poor and really dislike cold water), but I really applaud those participating and donating.
The world mourns the passing of one of the truest talents of all time – Robin Williams. The Juilliard-trained comedian and actor won an Oscar, two Emmys, five Grammys, and — dearest to me — became a Disney Legend in 2009. Williams made his struggles with depression and addiction public, yet he was unable to overcome them. But here at PJ Lifestyle, we’re going to celebrate his life. Here are Robin Williams’ ten best performances. I hope you’ll take as much comfort in these wonderful moments as I have.
10. The Crazy Ones (2013-2014)
One of the most underrated television series of the past season paired Williams with Sarah Michelle Gellar as father-and-daughter partners in an advertising agency. The Crazy Ones featured a terrific ensemble, sharp writing, and plenty of space for Williams to let loose. Williams had his best moments on the show when he had the chance to blend his trademark humor with sweet sentiment (as in the clip above). He couldn’t have a much better alter ego than the character of Simon Roberts — he and the writers even made recovery from addiction a huge part of the character. The Crazy Ones showed such promise, and it’s such a shame that CBS didn’t see fit to give it a second chance.
As a Gen-X/millennial crossover, I was fortunate enough to first meet Robin Williams as Mork from Ork on the sitcom Mork and Mindy. A comedic powerhouse, Mork’s colorful wardrobe and loud laugh were the first things I imitated as a child. As I grew up, I would look back and realize the many character lessons I learned at home were reinforced by a supremely acted alien outsider with a predilection for sitting on his head. In virtually every role he played, Robin Williams taught his audience a life lesson. As a young kid there was no one more fun to hang around with and learn from on TV than Mork from Ork.
10. Old people rule.
Mork marvels at the way the elderly are ignored and maligned on earth. On Ork, old folks are revered as the wise, experienced ones to learn from. “The Elder” is called on to remind Mork of his Orkishness. His was an early lesson in the importance of respect and reverence for the elders in your life and how very important all people are, no matter and, perhaps, especially because of their age.
It was so wonderful having the opportunity to reconnect last month. I enjoyed getting to know you better and coming to understand more of the parallels in our political and spiritual journeys. I look forward to many more deep discussions in the future.
I look forward to exploring these subjects in pieces more soon and think we should continue brainstorming together; let’s definitely plan on collaborating more in the future on ways to explore these concepts in articles, perhaps with some of your delightful artistic illustrations?
I want to congratulate you for your invention of the Bamusers, as showcased in your new collection of sketches that straddle the line between art and humor.
We’ve already talked about a few directions you might want to consider exploring using the Bamusers style of quick, simple illustrations accompanied by short titles. Today, I wanted to encourage you to consider another that could have some potential, both as a way to make perceptive cultural commentary and connect with new audiences: generational theory. Here are two books I’ll throw back your direction: