The Week in Review: June 16 - 20, 2014

Welcome back to your Week in Review. I was well pleased with the turnout this week, and 21 different whackos appearing in the favorites goes to show your superlative efforts. Here are the numbers.

Last Week's Swinging Dicks

Okay, this is a bit nutso. We have a 17-way tie for 3rd place with 1 favorite each. In no particular order (actually it's chronological order from how I collated everybody's names over the week): ReverseApeChemist, StuartScottsEye, FreemanMcNeil, snoop-a-loop, cobra, brah!, girlwonder, Fred Merkle, Arthur Digby Sellers, BedandBreakfastMan, Scott Norwood's Agent, Captain Gladys Stoatpamphlet, RMJ=H, Joey Tallywacker, Serious Whimsy, Same Sad Echo, Madoffs Mets, and Fidrych or die tryin will each receive a league-issued, used NBA sweat band.

(At the risk of making this post an ambulatory, boring read—which it undoubtedly will be—I'll forego including everyone's favorites. Click that "Daily Roundups" tag at top and enjoy them yourself.)

We have a very satisfying 3-way finish for 2nd place. marmol heater, pkellen2313, and Milo Minderbinder garnered 2 favorites this week, and for their efforts, they'll take home a pair of game-used And 1 basketball sneakers.

Yes, marmol heater, this beautiful wordplay in Wednesday's Aaron Hernandez post is marvelous. Take a bow, my friend.

Let's attend Donald Sterling's eventual funeral together, Milo Minderbinder. That'd be great fun.

I very much liked pkellen2313's Kendrick Perkins slap from Tuesday. You really have a knack for NBA insults, don't you buddy?

DougExeter neglected his newly arrived son and went yard for 5 favorites and 1st place honors this week. Congratulations, Doug, and enjoy your Miami Heat team shorts with this odd brown stain on them.

Please. You wanna argue that this here-then-there-then-here-again sentence ain't DougExeter's best this week? Don't do it. Don't even try. In a post with high click-traffic, this goddamn comment must be the "Featured Discussion."It's perfect. I love it. I'm gonna frame it. You should frame it too.

But wait there's more …

The Monday Comment of the Day, from DougExeter.

The Tuesday Comment of the Day, from StuartScottsEye.

The Wednesday Comment of the Day, from (again, ugh) DougExeter.

The Thursday Comment of the Day, from Same Sad Echo.

The Friday Comment of the Day, from Fidrych or die tryin.

The Lessons of the Week

Your Curator has been going over the archaeological remains of Mad Bastards All, and I happened upon the "Profile in Commenting" twigs of that cozy campfire from so long ago (actually, Ray and others pointed the way on Twitter last week). If you haven't already, do read this magisterial piece from our Godfather on AzureTexan. Shitehawk is here dealing not just with the peculiar oeuvre of a brilliant commenter, but comedy and joke-craft writ large. Let's talk about that some more, shall we?

Strip away the AT profile, and the essay stands up as a tour-de-force in humor theory and a textbook of "this is how to write jokes" pedagogy. Think of it as a scholarly hermeneutic of our Commentist Manifesto and its various and sundry addenda (EDIT: it appears Leitch wrote a "living document" post after-the-fact, which is an interesting read). Perhaps most interesting is Shitehawk's circuitous line of approach, which first digs through the aesthetic appeal of terror and horror, of all things. Remarkably, terror is built upon suspense; horror, on the other hand, upon reveal. Terror, he argues, necessarily precedes horror. Terror describes the feeling as we wait for the door to be opened; horror, once the monster devours us. Terror is revolting; horror, cathartic.

Shitehawk doesn't go this far, but the supposition is sitting there all the same: humor writing thrives on both suspense and reveal. Maybe let's rename these reading experiences "tension" and "surprise," yes? Tension necessarily requires pull between two objects: pull between, say, a visible or readily available point of reference, and on the contrary, the nut of a joke. Reveal, then, rests on a sort of "Eureka!" moment, wherein the reader must suddenly put the blocks into place to appreciate the comment. Let me explain by way of example.

Fidrych or die tryin's faux Lana Del Ray review is a convenient instance of tension-based humor. Tension sits at the heart of parody (or satire), in that an original or ur-text offers a springboard into a creative lampooning of the original. Presented with a body of albeit pointless (and self-important) reviews of LDR's album, Fodt pushes the self-importance and look-how-hip-I-am tenor to its absurdist extreme. He in every way outdoes the bourgeois musicologists of Stereogum, NYT, Pitchfork, and Grantland, and in so doing exposes the latent non-important absurdity of those outlets.

One of Shitehawk's best descriptive metaphors for joke-craft is that of a balloon: fill it up, fill it up, fill it up—and then BAM!, it pops you in the face at the moment of laughter. This is indeed the case for jokes built on the reveal or surprise premise, but certainly not for the suspense or tension hooks. Tension—by its very etymology—requires a continuation of tensile strength. The rubber-band must keep stretching. For this reason, Fidrych keeps inflating the goddamn thing and the gag grows funnier and funnier. To be sure, he includes the "gazebo effect" kicker, but by that time I'm already writhing on my office floor from what's come before. The balloon pop is merely the end of the tickle-session. It's not the destination here, it's the journey.

Speaking of journeys, how about we end with Same Sad Echo's absurdist thought-experiment in the Buffalo Bills post from Thursday? In a way, Echo's pull is even more indicative of the tension operation of humor. Although, looking back at it, I can't exactly find the original pole on which to hang my hat. Maybe the "bills" word calls up duck anatomy vaguely? Or maybe Echo just had this stupid fucking dialogue in the can and decided to drop it into what he figured would be a post with high traffic (which itself is a brilliant and hilarious stroke of trollish genius). Either way, because of the nonsensical dialogue, because of the sitcom-nature of the whole scene, because the reader can't be altogether sure of what just what in the hell is happening here and yet we keep reading in the hope that we might make sense of it, this comment is an excellent highwire act of suspension and denial of disbelief. In fact, like an IronMikeGallego comment, you don't want this one to end. Please let the balloon go on forever, you think.

I'm certainly not trying to elevate one sort of joke-craft over the other. Take any of the one-liners this week for perfect and hilarious cases-in-point of the reveal mode of humor. They're all wonderful. I just felt a need to further explicate one mode of joke writing that is perhaps more time consuming, and maybe push others into experimenting with the longform type of comedy. It's fun! It flexes creative muscles! It elevates what might be considered by many a disgustingly vile pocket of internet commenting to a higher echelon of intelligence and perspective. You're all smart people; don't be afraid to demonstrate those smarts.