sleeping alone and starting out early

an occasional blog on culture, education, new media, and the social revolution. soon to be moved from

Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

I’m a little bit ridiculous.

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on March 26, 2010

I am, if you didn’t already know, a little bit ridiculous about certain things. For example: When I was in my early 20s, a friend referred to me as a “kneejerk reactionary” and I immediately brought the friendship to a dead stop. That it didn’t even occur to me what a caricature of myself I was being only enhances the ridiculousness.

And in the video below you can see me being ridiculous about Twitter. This clip comes from a brainstorm session populated by members of SociaLens, a new organization I’m part of whose focus is on the role of social media, communication, and community in business enterprises. The SociaLens team is a terribly smart crew, and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to have the chance to work with these guys. The rest of the team, incidentally, is made up of Christian Briggs, Kevin Makice, Jay Steele, and Matt Snyder.

I’m including the clip here because a.) I really enjoy how ridiculously serious I am about why my colleague Matt is using Twitter wrong; b.) I’m really happy about the amount of agony Kevin put himself through in deciding whether to post the video on YouTube; c.) I think the conversation that emerged below Kevin’s post in response to his decision to put the video online is valuable and interesting. For example, Kevin writes:

As someone who is quite open online with myself and even my family, I found it interesting how much trepidation I felt over sharing this video. I edited down the clip I had to a smaller segment, mainly to shield the name of a participant organization mentioned later. The rest I chose to share without prior approval and only my own instincts to follow. It is possible that one of my colleagues might take issue with any aspect of this decision, from specific content to an absence of formality in posting it to YouTube. In some organizations, there is a policy-first approach to transparency, setting codes of conduct and other criteria for employees to follow. In other organizations, the understanding employees have about shared goals and risks will help inform individual decisions. Most importantly, failure is embraced as a chance to learn. I trust my peers, and I believe they trust me. Even if one of them requests for me to take down the clip, that trust will guard against relational catastrophe as we reflect together.

Kevin also writes about the importance of transparency and reflection within organizations, large and small. You could maybe take a look if you wanted.

Posted in awesome, business, convergence culture, humor, social media, Twitter | Leave a Comment »

I take it back about Daniel Tosh.

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on March 6, 2010

I have, on this very blog, previously lauded the comedic genius of Daniel Tosh. Specifically, I have tried to encourage my readers to watch his Comedy Central show, Tosh.0.

I don’t know if I’ve changed or the show has, but I recently decided to boycott Tosh.0 because of its disturbing tendency toward humiliating vulnerable people and groups. Tosh’s genre of comedy focuses on exploiting cultural stereotypes for humor and societal critique, and if this is your chosen genre you have to be aware of the fine line between humor and bullying.

Tosh has become a bully. He picks on traditionally marginalized populations, including ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities, and the LGBT community. Which isn’t in itself offensive–except that he does it in such a way that these people’s words and actions are twisted and used against them as weapons of ridicule and humiliation. Then, to deepen the humiliation, these moments are compiled and broadcast in a show whose very design is intended to silence the people who are the targets of ridicule: in the format of a tightly edited program featuring only the views of Daniel Tosh and his crew. Even when Tosh invites guests on his show, producers make editing decisions clearly designed to humiliate the guests in every way possible.

If this were a stand-up show, audience members could respond, could heckle or boo or applaud: They could have a voice. Even a TV program can find creative ways to toe the humor-bullying line and avoid silencing the targets of its ridicule. Part of what I thought was so fantastic about Tosh.0 in its first season, for example, was that Tosh was as likely to ridicule himself as he was to ridicule others. This is one strategy for diffusing the power differential inherent in giving one person a broadcast platform through which to humiliate other people. On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart ridicules politicians but also bring them on as guests, treating them with respect and deference.

Comedy is hard. Every comedic act is an act of creativity; it’s the creativity, the cleverness, that action or phrase that subverts our expectations, that surprises us and makes us laugh. We also laugh, sometimes, at crude, vulgar, and sometimes even cruel actions. This is why so many comedians mistake vulgarity and cruelty for cleverness, even though they’re so often worlds apart.

Posted in creativity, human rights, humor, Jon Stewart | Leave a Comment »

@danieltosh really knows how to work a crowd

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on August 20, 2009

Regular readers of this blog know what a fan I am of comedian Daniel Tosh and his new show, Tosh.0. My love is simple and pure: The show culls the most humiliating moments from millions of online videos, and Tosh exercises the most exacting wit in elaborating on the humiliation.

Here’s something else Tosh does well: cultivating his twitter presence. He livetweets during his show each week, responding to viewer questions and proddings, and during and in between he uses twitter not like many celebrities do but exactly like normal people do.

Recently, he posted a twitpic of his summer haircut:

I’m fairly certain he’s making fun of twitpic users here, with the wood-paneled cabinets, the slightly tilted head, the direct, semi-flirty eye contact. But, see, he’s not just making fun of twitpic; he’s also using it with sincerity, for exactly the purpose god vested it with.

Here’s what his livetweets look like:

And here’s a sample of toshtweets during his off hours:

You guys, this is a comic who’s in full command of his medium. It’s a bonus for me that his medium happens to be the internet, of which I am a fairly big fan.

If you’re interested, the show’s on Thursday night at 10 PM Eastern Time on Comedy Central.

Posted in awesome, creativity, humor, television, Twitter | Leave a Comment »

luddites hate jetskis

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on July 18, 2009

Today my sister and I almost missed the opening scene of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince because she misread her watch. I don’t wear a watch, see, and she wears an old-fashioned analog wristwatch so it was her job to keep track of time.

As our timekeepers get increasingly digital, it appears, we have a tendency toward being less capable of quickly interpreting analog time markers. So at 1:00, she thought her watch said noon. She caught her error five minutes before the show was scheduled to start and thanks to our ability to bustle when required and theaters’ tendency to start movies much later than scheduled, we got there with enough spare time for me to get my popcorn and for my sister to settle her smuggled-in candy on her lap before the previews started rolling.

The argument that relying on technologies makes us dumber is not a new one; Plato kinda started it by opposing writing because he believed that it would

introduce forgetfulness into the soul of those who learn it: they will not practice using their memory because they will put their trust in writing, which is external and depends on signs that belong to others, instead of trying to remember from the inside, completely on their own. You have not discovered a potion for remembering, but for reminding; you provide your students with the appearance of wisdom, not with its reality. Your invention will enable them to hear many things without being properly taught, and they will imagine that they have came to know much while for the most part they will know nothing. And they will be difficult to get along with, since they will merely appear to be wise instead of really being so.

It was downhill from there, of course; and it may be that we hit bottom, at least in terms of networked technologies, with Nicholas Carr’s June/July 2008 Atlantic piece, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

In considering the changes to his own orientation toward text (he’s less able to read lengthy articles or books; he gets fidgety when he tries to focus on one text for an extended period of time), he writes:

The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

In fact, in drafting this post I zipped along the surface of multiple different texts, from Plato’s Phaedrus to Carr’s piece on Google to Jamais Cascio’s response piece in this month’s Atlantic, “Get Smarter.” (It argues that technologies and pharmacology can help boost our intelligence.) I may not know what swims beneath the surface of any of these pieces, but I am familiar enough with all of them to use my spare cognitive energy and time to craft a blogpost that links the three. And I did it by typing (without watching the keys) at a rate of approximately 100 words per minute. I employed some basic html code, some of which I know by heart and some of which I keep on an electronic clipboard. I was able to publish it immediately, to the delight or dismay or general apathy of my intended reading public. I could (and, if you’re reading this, probably did) direct traffic to this post via Twitter, Facebook, or any number of other blogs.

God knows I could have spent the time reading Plato’s Phaedrus in its entirety, and I’m not disputing that I would have been enriched by the experience. But you can’t argue that what I did with my time instead (synthesizing, devising an argument, increasing familiarity with html basics, crafting the argument with an intended public in mind, then circulating it among that intended audience) was not an enriching experience.

Back to the jet ski metaphor: Comedian and philosopher Daniel Tosh argues that it’s impossible not to be unhappy on a jetski. “You ever seen a sad person on a waverunner? Have you? Seriously, have you?…Try to frown on a waverunner.”

Watch the clip till the end. He talks about how people smile as they hit the pier–and they hit the pier because you’re supposed to hit the gas to turn–“it goes against natural instinct,” he says. Well, maybe at first, but once you get the hang of it, I imagine you learn how to use the gas in ways that keep you from hitting the pier. It’s just that most of us hit the pier once and once is enough: we stick to dry land, which is safer but far less fun.

Okay, I’ll confess: This entire post is really just a plug for Daniel Tosh’s amazing new show, Tosh.0. It airs Thursdays at 10:00 P.M. ET (9:00 Pacific) on Comedy Central, and it may be the funniest half-hour show I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Even so, it might get canceled because of low viewership. Please just give it a try. I guarantee you’ll laugh out loud at least once or your money back.

Tosh.0 Thurs, 10pm / 9c
Motorcycle Granny
Daniel Tosh Miss Teen South Carolina Demi Moore Picture

Posted in collective intelligence, creativity, culture, distributed cognition, humor, joy, movies, television, Twitter | Leave a Comment »

Tosh.0 is my favorite new show

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on June 28, 2009

Why? Because it has included a puke scene in every one of its first four episodes, that’s why.

In case you haven’t been following along on Comedy Central, Tosh.0 is a new show hosted by comedian Daniel Tosh. The main conceit is that Tosh introduces, and comments on, a series of viral videos.

It’s funnier than you think, even if you think the premise is a downright hoot. But you do have to kind of like watching people throwing up, people making idiots of themselves, and goats that sound like humans.

If you do, you also need to think it’s funny when comedians revel in the most humiliating aspects of the human attraction toward spectacle and performance.

If you do, you’ll agree with the Reuters review of Tosh.0 by Dan Carlson, who exclaims that

it succeeds on the strength of host Daniel Tosh, a talented stand-up comedian who isn’t above poking fun at the show’s premise even while gleefully introducing a fresh batch of clips. He’s self-deprecating and quick-witted enough to keep the action breezing right along.

Carlson writes, and I agree, that the best part of the show is the weekly “Web Redemption” segment, in which someone whose humiliation has gone viral gets a chance to come on the show for an opportunity to regain her or his dignity. Guests on this segment have so far included Afro Ninja, Miss South Carolina, the famous tumbling-table star of the video “Scarlett Takes a Tumble,” , and my personal favorite so far, Tyrone Davies, most recently known for his massive puke-puddle on a morning news show. Davies gets his shot at web redemption here:

Tosh.0 Thurs, 10pm / 9c
Web Redemption – Puke Guy
Daniel Tosh Miss Teen South Carolina Demi Moore Picture

Simple redemption’s not enough for Daniel Tosh, oh no. He has to take it one step farther and take on the “60 minute milk challenge”–drinking a full gallon of milk in under an hour, which everybody knows is physically impossible.

Puke News Kid Does Milk Gallon Challenge – watch more funny videos

Why do I love this show? Mainly because of Tosh himself, who takes such obvious delight in excoriating the self-humiliation drive. If you like his new show, you’ll love his recent stand-up movie, “Daniel Tosh: Completely Serious.” Here’s a teaser:

Posted in awesome, humor, joy, television | Leave a Comment »

President Obama scales back plans for America after visit to Denny’s

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on June 14, 2009

new plans outlined in his “new ‘Realistic Hope for America’ plan”

This report comes from the Onion News Network (ONN).

Obama Drastically Scales Back Goals For America After Visiting Denny’s

Posted in bigotry, humor, President Obama | 1 Comment »

Jon Stewart is on board with the sleeping alone stance on newspapers

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on June 12, 2009

as evidenced by this report from The Daily Show‘s Jason Jones:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
End Times
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Newt Gingrich Unedited Interview

You know, when I was a fledgling reporter my greatest dream was to some day work for the New York Times. I guess I still harbor that hope, deep down. I wonder if they’d be willing to pick up and publish my blog. I’d probably be willing to enter into negotiations about this, as long as they didn’t try to inform me that they planned to cut the length of my posts by 23%.

Posted in blogging, humor, jobs, Jon Stewart, journalism | Leave a Comment »

Actually, "Snakes on a Plane" wasn’t that bad… jk jk jk

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on June 8, 2009

Coming late to the game, I finally watched that Samuel L. Jackson vehicle, Snakes on a Plane, this weekend on cable. It was–turns out the critics were right on this–the worst kind of bad movie: schlocky without wanting to admit it, seemingly unaware of how to spin absurd lines like “we have to put a barrier between us and the snakes.”

Back in 2006, paying ticketholders could at least endure by holding out the hope–indeed, the certainty–that they would get one crystalline moment of Jacksonesque indulgence when they would hear that immortal one-liner uttered by Jackson himself. My version of the line, as viewed through the dubbers of basic cable, was this:

Actually, I think I got the better end of the deal. Pre-release publicity efforts spread the original, unedited version of Jackson’s line across the entire interwebz, and the only uncertainty left for moviegoers was when Jackson would say the line. I got the extra layer of anticipation in wondering–since I knew the language wouldn’t pass cable censors–how they would dub the line, since they certainly couldn’t just edit it out entirely.

The dubbed line was one of two bright spots in what was otherwise a thorough waste of time. We–basic cable subscribers–get the joy of knowing what Jackson really says, even if we hadn’t had access to the pre-release hype. We also get the added layer of pleasure in knowing that the dubbers, knowing we know what Jackson actually says, decided to get a little playful. I expected Jackson to say “motherfreaking” or “motherfragging” or something of that ilk; “monkeyfighting” and “Monday to Friday” were such a surprise that I felt something that may have come close to the kind of joy the filmmakers were hoping for in writing the line–and, indeed, the entire movie–in the first place.

The second bright spot comes just after Samuel L. Jackson has had enough of the monkeyfighting snakes. (I don’t remember the name of the ‘character’ he ostensibly ‘plays’ in this film, and really there’s no point in pretending it’s worth my time to find out.) It turns out the plane is lacking a pilot and the surviving passengers need to find the most qualified person to try to lane the plane.

It also turns out the most qualified person is a young man named Troy, a bodyguard for the rapper 3Gs. As 3Gs points out, Troy has logged thousands of hours of flight time–though admittedly, it was all on a flight simulator program for PlayStation2. It doesn’t matter, though, because by the time this fact is revealed Troy’s already at the controls–and his command of the language of air control is nothing short of pure beauty. See, because it would be one thing if he had only enough competence to manipulate the controls, but his embodiment of the language, the body movements, the mindset of a pilot demonstrates near-mastery. It’s just…so well played.

Here’s the unedited version of the final minutes of the film. If you want to skip ahead to Troy’s landing, it’s at 5:25.

While you’re watching, do NOT question why Samuel L. Jackson thinks it’s a good idea to shoot the windows out of an unsteady airplane. Do NOT question why the flight attendants choose not to strap themselves in before the windows get shot out. And actually, don’t worry too much about why there might be monkeyfighting snakes on a Monday to Friday plane. It really doesn’t matter.

Posted in awesome, creativity, humor, joy, movies, plane crash, Samuel L. Jackson, snakes | 1 Comment »

PSA: in support of post-punk laptop rap

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on May 16, 2009

Here’s a new release from MC Lars, who calls himself a “post-punk laptop rap artist.”

Posted in awesome, creativity, Henry Jenkins, humor, joy, Moby-Dick, music, nerdcore | 1 Comment »

branding sleeping alone and starting out early

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on May 11, 2009

My colleague and fellow evil genius Nick Seaver has been helping me work through the issues related to branding. He provided me with this image to serve as a logo for sleeping alone and starting out early. I’m undecided on whether this aligns with the image I’m attempting to convey of a serious thinker with a sense of humor. I’d love to know what you think.

Posted in awesome, blogging, creativity, humor, joy | 3 Comments »