There's a movement afoot in modern humor that has begun to use "self-awareness" in lieu of actual cleverness. My sixteen-year-old son is constantly talking about this to the point where I have finally understood, much to my horror, the concept of "the generation gap".
The next step is obviously my certain death.
I mean I get it, right? Humor evolves as each generation embraces their own definition of savvy. When my father would get a twinkle in his eye and giggle "Take my wife ... please," I had to suppress the urge to jam a pencil, point-first, into my ear. I'm also pretty sure that nowadays when I launch into my Kevin Meaney "Big Pants People" routine, my son begins to eye the knives.
Still, I wonder if there is a breakdown in the concept of "humor" when being an asshole to people is the banana peel upon which a generation slips. Then again, funny is as funny does and if it gets you giggling who am I to judge?
Well, I guess I'm just like everyone else, a hairy bag of water who knows exactly what is funny and what isn't. Let me tell you something. I think a lot of the things my son finds funny just ain't.
When I first opened up the pages of Neil Fitzpatrick's Everythingness, I was worried that I was going to be sitting on my metaphorical porch pitching my thundering baritone voice, admonishing youth to depart from my lawn while frowning more profoundly than Grumpy Cat (and how the hell is Grumpy Cat funny? Someone explain that to me).
But I was wrong. Everythingness uses its self-awareness to be clever, and in its cleverness it becomes perspicacious and profound. This is a collection of short, black and white gag comics that reference each other as they reference something cosmic. It's kind of hard to explain what is going on here – it's like explaining the mechanics of a dick joke in order for your grandmother to "get it" (wait... that sounded wrong). If you aren't clever to begin with, something cleverly presented will forever be a mystery, enshrouded in a miasma of intention.
Everythingness examines our conceptions of a Creator in a way that is brutally humorous and intelligently profane. Trust me, if you can't see the irony in the death of Fred Phelps, Everythingness may not be for you. In its exploration of the role of the Creator, though, Everythingness cannot help but examine the role of Fitzpatrick as a creator. Who's actually in charge of a work of art -- the artist, the muse, the audience, or something beyond our limited understandings?
Like I said earlier, there more going on here than simple gags featuring a big finger pointing at itself yelling, "Look at me, look at me, look at me, I'm FUNNY!" What Fitzpatrick has captured is a question of pacing and a trust in the patience and intelligence of his audience. And that's a really nice thing to come across.
Oh, and it's pretty fucking funny.
Get your copy of Everythingness from Hic and Hoc here.