The Web’s Ten Funniest Sites
BY JOHN BUSKIN Different things are funny to different people. To the Greeks, comedy meant a happy ending. But as the 2,000-Year-Old Man, Mel Brooks said, “Comedy is when you fall in a sewer and die — what do I care?” The Web is a variety show of cosmic proportions, and on it there’s something to make everybody laugh. The problem is finding the sites that hit you in just the right spot. To that end — and in no particular order — we offer the following list of diverse categories and our choices for winners.
Outrage, Fury & Venom
Angry.Org: ANGER CENTRAL hates everything. When the slathering office dingoes get you down, it’s a destination to buck you up. Its menus list people, organizations, companies, and things. When you click, you get to a diatribe against said menu item. Users submit short entries skewering their targets of choice from Fat People Who Drink Diet Coke to Abusive Older Siblings to Yeast Infection Commercials. The “good” entries get posted. Hence, the site tears up contemporary America like a school of piranha going through a whale.
Walter, of Walter Miller’s Home Page, is a guy who lives in a trailer in Texas with his nasty, gross, abusive grandfather who collects things. He offers a plain-text diary that features atrocities of both deed (Grandpa’s hygiene) and word (Walter’s spelling). One review called him “a sort of Douglas Coupland for mutants,” and his renown is bursting beyond cult status. But according to an interview with “Walter” in The Netly News, he ain’t the real deal. They took him to lunch and claim that by dessert, his drawl had slipped back into his native Noo Yawkese.
Maybe it’s something about people named Walter. Walter Cronkite Spit in My Food is one of those sites a friend tells you about and within 30 seconds of getting there yourself, you’re calling another friend. Opening with a little animated GIF of Walter doing the deed in the title, it goes on to spin a yarn we can safely claim is unparalleled in the history of human communication. Suffice it to say it involves Epcot Center, a honeymoon, lots of booze, and the emeritus news guru himself. Forget taking him seriously ever again. [Eds. Note: This link has gone, and we hear that when Uncle Walter saw it he seriously considered a lawsuit. Remember, kids: Comedy is not pretty.]
Blasting the Passing Parade
Suck out-slicks Dennis Miller. It tells us, “Cathode-addled Netsurfers flock to shallow waters — Suck is the dirty syringe, hidden below the sand.” It lobs mortar shells at corporate bunkers the way the Red Army overran Berlin. Suck sprang full grown from the head of HotWired, whose own wag columnist, Ned Brainard, sometimes gives Suck a run in the nasty/funny department. So while Suck may be deep inside, don’t be put off. If you get it, you’ll laugh — or wince.
The Interactive Comedy Club
At Hecklers Online (America Online, Keyword: hecklers), everyone gets a chance at the mike. And even though it’s technically not a Web site, it’s rich, varied, and so inviting to its horde of AOL regulars that it’s hard to overlook. Hecklers presents visitors with new gag setups every day. Users fill in the blanks. It also offers an endless number of scrolling responses to past setups, such as three-line novels, celebrity personal ads, secret identities, slogans for Madonna’s baby’s bottle, and on and on. If you’re persistent, you will find something that tickles you. More important, though, is that the voice and character of Hecklers are very inviting. Before you know it, you’re joining in.
“When my yoga teacher told the class, ‘Your buttocks are engaged,’ I thought, ‘It’s about time — they’ve been together for years.'” So ran a recent lead in one of Alfred Gingold’s pithy “Don’t Ask” entries. What we have here is the tastefully selective and, uh, picky voice of a sophisticated lunatic. Other subjects discoursed upon include a vituperative attack on golf fashions, an attempt to find out the difference between Tropicana Grovestand and Tropicana Homestyle, and the author’s “French’s Mustard Memory” contest entry about bringing a hot dog to his hospitalized, senile mother (it didn’t win).
Material From Another Medium
The Late Show (America Online, keyword: late show): Top 10 Lists translate perfectly (e.g., one of Bob Barker’s Favorite Pick-Up Lines: “The next item up for bid is in my pants!”), as does the rest of the show’s voice (under a picture of Dave and Paul in cheesy Mexican bandito outfits is the subtitle, “You have the toys of a little girl.”). Nothing you haven’t heard from the scrawny, gap-toothed monkey boy before, but a solid comedy product in cyberspace as well. Two other TV items that are Web-funny are the Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey sites — there are several — and the Beavis and Butt-head sites (there are thousands). Deep Thoughts offers pearls such as, “Instead of burning a guy at the stake, what about burning him at the STILTS? It probably lasts longer, plus it moves around”; or, “Sometimes I think I’d be better off dead. No, wait. Not me, you.” Similarly, a B & B site with an actual script can make you giddy even if you’re not a fanatic. It’s funnier being Butt-head than listening to him, heh, heh.
The Onion is an unyielding newspaper send-up. Stories, which include “Clinton Deploys Vowels to Bosnia” (complete with a military map for “Operation Vowel Storm,” with bold arrows showing where A, E, I, O, and U are to be inserted), are simultaneously timely, smart-alecky, and truly silly. Other recent headlines include: “General Motors Introduces New Instant-Win Air Bags,” “Bantu Tribesman Uses IBM Modem to Crush Nut,” and “Clinton Forgets to Hit ‘Save’ on Federal Budget.” Good parody is often about getting details right, and no matter how ridiculous, The Onion’s stories always read like news.
Sick, Sick, Sick
There is strangeness in cyberspace. Dark sites proliferate, most more aberrant than humorously barbed. But if your taste runs to sick jokes and you miss Gahan Wilson or the Aesop Brothers, look in on Cruel Site of the Day and link to, say, The Human La-Z-Boy (let your imagination soar). Tres Bizarre is slightly less perverse, with choices such as The Amazing Nose Cam. Sophomoric? Absolutely. But we defy you not to LOL at the guy with the stuff in his schnoz.
Some claim that the drop-dead funniest sites on the Web were never intended to be so. Useless Pages puts this theory to the test, pitting you mano-a-mano with a virtual Mondo Cane of the mediocre. Peruse menus of personal pet sites, Web listings of what people have in their drawers (why else was the Internet invented?), and personal Web pages that reach out to those with the same first name. A recently highlighted site was Bad Wildlife Photography. Shades of Leonard Pinth-Garnell.
Among other humor projects, John Buskin created Snooze: The Best of Our Magazine, an 80s parody of The New Yorker, and, more recently, Electronic Tonic and The Intergalactic Complaint Department for Prodigy.