An old friend of mine sent me a text out of the blue today. We grew up together and have stayed close for almost 30 years. Over time I realized that he has a very particular brand of humor which can be visualized as an inverse bell curve. He takes a little joke, which is pretty much always genuinely funny at first, and then absolutely runs it into the ground. Your initial chuckle turns to absolute disdain and he essentially pushes you to the brink of cutting off all communication so you don’t have to hear the joke again. And just when you think he couldn’t possibly get any more annoying, he says it one more time and it becomes the funniest thing you’ve ever heard. It becomes part of your everyday lexicon, he has wormed his way into your brain. You hate it, then you love it. It’s like the Stockholm syndrome of humor.
This is not as alienating of a personality trait as you might think, he is massively popular and well liked by all sorts of people. This way of joking seems annoying on paper, but it’s how he shows friendly affection. Some people have friends who just make fun of each other, some play pranks on each other, he does this. But the thing about this kind of joke is, you have to commit. Once the joke has been run into the ground, you have to keep digging until you come out on the other side. And he has never faltered. Once he found a book of 1001 dad jokes- we destroyed it. Here’s an excerpt that was burned into my brain:
‘Why do fish have fins?’ ‘If they didn’t, they’d look like bananas’.Some terrible joke that psychological torture has twisted to seem funny in my mind
Back when facebook first started, he began liking his own posts. It got a tiny smile out of me the first time I saw it, and then it wasn’t funny. Most people think it is lame to like your own content on social media, and to an outsider I’m sure that’s just how this looks. But he has, for well over a decade, continued liking every single post or comment he has ever made. The commitment is staggering, and it continues to be one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. He signed up to be a Reverend online and signed his name with his new title all the way through college.
One of his early passions was conspiracy theories, and making people believe that he believed them. We’re talking about harmless ones, though, no pizzagate, aliens or 9/11 trutherism. He claimed that North Dakota didn’t exist and that the moon landings never happened. You KNEW he didn’t believe them because he couldn’t get them out without a smile, but he would never cave.
Today, 20 years after all of this started, I got this text:
He has never, not once, backed down from one of these long play jokes. It’s a very small and silly point, but it’s a strong anecdote for me that we’re living in ridiculous times. People think the election is rigged, they think vaccines have tracking chips in them, or that wearing a mask is submitting to satan- when these are real beliefs what remains to joke about? Satire is almost completely dead, to the point that any halfway responsible person can’t wholeheartedly pretend they believe in conspiracy theories for fun because they feel they’re contributing to the problem.
I felt bad, this crazy world had beaten him down and taken away one of his little joys. So I handed him a replacement conspiracy: Big Chapstick. Chapstick is specifically made to give temporary relief to dried out lips but make them even more dried out in the long run, perpetuating the need for more chapstick. It is a vicious cycle engineered by the madmen at some pharmaceutical company.
Big Chapstick, the cabal which controls what I assume is 70% of the lip balm market, enjoys levels of brand awareness ubiquity known only by brands such as Coca-Cola, Kleenex and Nintendo (when video games are being referred to by my mom). Chapstick’s parent company, GlaxoSmithKline, has a consumer product portfolio riddled with products that keep you hooked. Let’s see if we find a pattern.
Abreva- temporary relief, but cold sores always come back.
Nicorette- temporary relief, but the craving for nicotine always comes back
Sensodyne – toothpaste for sensitive teeth (but does it KEEP them sensitive?!?!?!).
Chapstick – Lips never stop drying out
Big Chapstick is always out to get you. Don’t let the world, or engineered addictive consumer products, get you down buddy.
Also i know some people think it’s weird/gross, but Vaseline works like 10x better for chapped lips.