“Run and tell that, homeboy”

Some people think I’m a snommety cob. I mean a comedy snob. These people are so dumb—for real. Fact is, I like to spend time figuring out why something is funny (or unfunny)1. For a lot of people, it’s enough to simply know that something is funny and leave it at that. But I’m the a-hole who likes to ruin everything. So I shine the blasphemous light of theory upon the sacred cow of opinion.

Today we’re talking about jumping on bandwagons. Here’s a typical case: an unintentionally funny Youtube video goes viral. Like this Antoine Dodson Eye-Witness Rapist video.

It’s funny. You don’t need to add anything to it to make it funny. It just is.2

For some reason3, whenever one of these pops up (cf. Double Rainbow guy), people immediately feel compelled to make and post their own “remix” video. For example:

What is the point of something like this? I assume it’s intended for humor, because that was the reason for the original video’s popularity. Using that assumption as a starting point, what does this “remix” add to the legacy of the original video? The answer is nothing.

It’s another case of trying to be funny by association: the idea that referencing something funny makes you funny. It is entirely dependent on the viewer having seen and appreciated the original video. It’s even more dependent on this because it has rendered all the humorous elements of the original unrecognizable. The creator has chopped up the audio so much that the rhythm and meaning of the original is completely missing. Then, to further screw things up, the video has been separated from the audio (or otherwise obscured) so the viewer is unable to appreciate the physical attributes of Antoine’s soliloquy.

There is nothing to give this “remix” credibility on its own. The underlying beat sounds like a loop that comes standard with Garageband. Likewise, the visual effects appear to be off-the-shelf, randomly selected, and applied indiscriminately. The whole repetitive video has nothing going for it.

Does this mean everyone should avoid any attempt to re-edit or supplement a funny video? Yeah, probably. But not necessarily. Case in point: the following video by The Gregory Brothers, AKA the guys and girl behind Auto-Tune the News, an internet series based entirely on repurposed video.

This is lightyears beyond the self-described “remix” in terms of humor, and it may even top the original when it comes to replay value.

This video succeeds, it seems to me, by following three rules.

1. Respect the source material.

Even with the “auto-tune” vocal effects, the best parts of the original video aren’t buried or obscured by carelessness. Rather, they’re highlighted. The phrasing, the physical mannerisms—it’s all maintained here and augmented by the production surrounding it. And for viewers who may not have seen the original, enough context remains to keep them from being completely lost.

2. Add something to it.

The auto-tune effect, used well here, is a funny way to make speech sound kind of like singing (as any number of Top 40 artists can tell you). But they didn’t stop there. This is so much more than audio effects over a generic beat. They wrote an effing song, complete with verses and chorus. What’s more, it’s a damn good song, catchier than most crap on the radio these days.

3. Be awesome.

The creators are talented musicians (who have, thankfully, chosen to use their immense powers for comedy, not evil) as is clear by the music. You can see the care that went into everything: the selection of the best clips to use, the background vocals and handclaps, the tight editing and overall production. This is how you make a funny tribute video.

Auto-Tune The News is one the best video series on the internets today. And it’s great because it consistently applies everything I’ve just mentioned. If you’re not a subscriber, you should be ashamed.

Remember, kids: taking something funny and altering it does not make it funny. Taking something funny and making it funnier does make it funny.

  1. Please note, this is completely different from figuring out if something is funny. []
  2. This post is not about why this particular video is funny. []
  3. Probably influenced more by the viral popularity of the original than any sense of paying homage to it []