I’ve spent a lot of time online since 1993, so I can’t count the number of times that I’ve seen the acronym “LOL” (or variations thereof) appear before mine skeptical eyes — though the number of times that I’ve actually “laughed out loud” at something I’ve found on the web is fairly small. Because I’m grumpy and hard to please.
On precious rare and wonderful occasions, however, I unexpectedly stumble across a brilliantly funny site that turns me into a cackling ball of snot and floor-rolling apoplexy, with Bad News Hughes and Hyperbole and a Half (both, alas, long since inactive) standing high on the list of my atomic self-control decimating humor bombs. (The Onion is amusing, but it’s more of a smug smirk kind of place).
I need to share another site that makes my short list of funnier than funny online resources: Thoughts on the Dead. The premise is simple: Mr. TotD posits that the Grateful Dead are the silliest rock band that has ever existed, and he proves his point by posting pictures and telling lies about them, creating brilliant (fake) character studies about the dozen or so musicians and various strap-hangers who have passed through the Dead’s ranks over the years.
The results are (to me) pee-the-pants funny, though I am not quite sure why. I mean, I start giggling as soon as a photo of Keith and Donna scrolls up the screen now, before I even see any words explaining it, and stories about Billy punching everybody in the privates, or Bobby “handsoming,” or Mickey desperately wanting to be a part of things (in between murderous knife play jags), or forgotten roadie Precarious Lee’s amazing stage set-ups are always good for a belly-jiggling wheeze at this point. And that’s all before we even get to Garcia, Lesh and Pigpen, who were all essentially cartoon characters already, or the tragic collection of short-lived keyboardists. Comedy gold! Seriously!
Mr. TotD is incredibly prolific, so there’s reams and reams of amusements to be had on his site, and they’re being (brilliantly) updated in real time as the “Core Four” living Dead men play their five 50th anniversary shows this year. After spending more hours than I should admit romping and stomping through the Thoughts on the Dead back catalog, I tripped over this quote that probably explains why this creative product feels so real and impressive to me:
In the recent post about Europe ’72, I reported on Bobby’s disappointment and confusion over the fact that there were no Arthur Treacher’s in Denmark; it is the definition of a minor jape. However, it slayed me. No exaggeration: it’s, like, the favorite thing I’ve written in weeks and I keep coming back to it in my head and decrying the fact that there really isn’t much more juice to get out of that berry. Seriously: I had a conversation with myself enumerating why that joke was funny (1: A fast food place based on haddock? C’mon, now.) in the shower and I ran out hot water before I ran our of reasons.
At bottom line: I think Mr. TotD finds this stuff hilarious when he reads it himself, and that’s all that really matters. I can so much relate to that, having spent (again) way more time than I should admit pseudonymously or anonymously creating completely fictional online worlds, often involving real people and stuff, for my own amusements. If others read and enjoy it, too, well, hey, that’s just gravy.
If you know where to look (the archives here, but beyond that, no hints, sorry), there’s a lot of my funny-to-me stuff on the web still, and I routinely return to it and laugh and laugh and laugh, much as Mr. TotD now undoubtedly giggles with pleased self-satisfaction every time he passes an Arthur Treacher’s. (Do they still exist?)
So let’s hear it for someone who so clearly and happily amuses himself this much, since that’s the real secret to amusing others, I think. Or maybe this is just a case of self-indulgent birds of a feather recognizing each other as they flock alone. I’m not sure. Does it matter?