So you’ve been handed a microphone and you want to say things on this fascinating electric soapbox called the internet. The good news is that you can make all kinds of new friends and learn all kinds of great things. The bad news is that if you think you’re funny – and you’re not – you’re going to burn bridges left and right. But how do you know if you’re being funny? Isn’t that subjective?
No. In your case it absolutely is not. Read on and let’s examine how exactly you are ruining the internet for everyone else.
Funny Faux-Pas #1: Social Dynamics are Non-Transferrable
A group of people sharing an in-joke in the online world can be seriously, like the funniest thing ever. If this weren’t true, this website would have crashed and burned immediately. Never mind that crashing and burning is our stock-in-trade around these parts; that is a digression. Here is the condition for spreading your running gag about Amen-Ra and his giant floating disc (You rascal!): Your social dynamics do not exist without your group. If you are going to drop an obscure reference, your posse needs to have your back in some fashion. Failing that, you’re just the weirdo who posts awkward comments on a facebook status. You’re the one that people politely ignore because no one really knows how they should respond to your strangeness. Don’t be that guy/girl. Know that your peoples are going to back you up, or alternately, that hilarious joke about the Simpsons episode that turned out to be a drunken misunderstanding anyway? Save it, chief.
A second facet of this idea is the idea of communication on an accessible level. Let’s say that you are an active member of a specific online community, and that you interact with others in this community on a regular basis. To be direct, we are putting forth the idea that you are a forum goon. And if you’re a forum goon, that’s fine; own it. Forum goons are responsible for some of the most fantastically laugh-worthy things ever to grace humankind. But let’s remember that the rest of the world isn’t part of your in-group. Whatever websites your forum hates, whatever movies they quote incessantly, whatever bizarre social rules they’ve adopted: leave that garbage at the door when you interact with the rest of the world. There is no faster way to completely invalidate your position in any dispute than to drop a bunch of forum-speak on a regular human being. You show your true colors; while many people are nerds to one horrible extent or another, no one likes the nerd who doesn’t realize that they’re not in their nerd group, and wrecks a perfectly good time because of their social misanthropy. Again: Don’t be that guy/girl.
Funny Faux-Pas #2: Know When to Hold ‘em, When to Fold ‘em, and When to Walk Away.
The running gag is a proud, time honored tradition in the realm of comedy. Which is why when you ruin it, you hurt all of us here. Doing something repeatedly in the real world can be humorous or worthy of a chuckle. This is because ideas like timing and irony can be conveyed. Those things, as a rule, fall flat when you try to express them via the keyboard. So when you repeat something 15 times in 15 different places then let’s be clear on the outcome: you’re not funny; you’re a troll. Who respects a troll? Nobody, but you might find a home with the forum goons, mentioned above. Internet trolling is one of the lowest forms of human existence. Ask yourself why you feel compelled to do something like this, and when you find the answer, don’t bother to tell anyone else, just never again believe that repetition alone makes something funny. …because it doesn’t. And it for damn sure doesn’t make you funny, either. Though if you’re aiming to make your company less desirable, then, uh, onward Christian soldiers. Or whatever.
Funny Faux-Pas #3: Nobody Likes Captain Obvious.
That thing you do where you say really obvious things, where you think you are witty? At least you don’t have to worry about having too many friends. If your concept of comedy has atrophied to the point where you think that obvious answers to rhetorical questions, and literal responses to open-ended statements are the sort of thing that anyone wants to consume, get your head checked. Like twice. The obvious can be good (or great!) for a laugh, of course – but if you don’t combine an observation of the mundane with a correct time and place – in the real world – then a key element is missing, and you are failing to provide worthwhile human communication. In the land of communication, we call this mysterious X-Factor “context”. Jerry Seinfeld, while a popular entertainer, is not everyone’s favorite comedian; many people do not find him funny in any way. However, it is inarguable that he built a highly successful comedy career out of the obvious and mundane. Are you Jerry Seinfeld? You are not.* Your statements of the obvious almost certainly fall flat, unless you have some belief that you possess untapped comedy genius the likes of which has essentially never been experienced by modern man.
Hint: You don’t.
I Find Your Lack of Mirth Disturbing
Should you stop trying to be funny? No, of course not. Should you put some time & elbow grease into figuring out that the world is larger than just yourself and what is amusing to you may not (*is* not if are part of the demographic this article targets) hold any appeal to other people? Yes. A thousand times yes. Think of all the joy you could bring to the world and how much better the lives of your friends and family would be if you would just figure out that, yeah, you’re not a bad person – not at all. You just don’t have any idea whatsoever of what is involved in the human act of laughter where the internet is concerned. Don’t feel bad; computers don’t do the whole humor thing either. Maybe you could learn to play chess; computers are really good at playing chess! And, lest we forget, humor is kind of subjective anyway. Except in the case where you’re not funny. No, that is pretty universally detestable.
The great irony (or rather, in this case, great ironies) of writing this article for Fatal Downflaw did not escape the author at any point. So before you get all hilariously ironic in the comments, you are encouraged to follow the advice above which is presented to you and your peers: STFU.
*Jerry, if you are reading this, that episode with the marble rye is totally hilarious.