When I think of viral videos in the past two years, three videos come to mind; Gangnam Style, The Harlem Shake, and What Does the Fox Say? These videos went viral for one reason; they were weird. What else was there to them? Other than the sentence “Hey sexy lady” Gangnam Style is completely in Korean. The Harlem Shake, well what on Earth was that? What Does the Fox Say? Imagine if that video was a serious educational video. Nobody would watch it. Personally, it disturbs me that being creative doesn’t count, it’s just got to be weird.
Think back to the days of sitcoms. From the early days of Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy to the glory days of Full House and The Fresh Prince ofBel-Air, the shows had one thing in common that made them funny: good writing. They had well timed jokes and odd moments that fit the script. Today, we complain about the cartoons of the current generation vs. our cartoons. We complain that theirs don’t have writing, that they are just odd and senseless. And yet, we have fallen in love with the senseless videos of YouTube.
What substance is there to a man pretending to ride a horse? Most of us don’t even know what Gangnam Style is actually about. It’s almost entirely in Korean. We just pay attention to the goofy dance moves of Psy. We’ve produced parodies that we can understand and probably dwarf the creativity that went into the original video (I believed I have watched a 30-second mass-up of Gangnam Style and Bill Nye the Science Guy more than the original video). Personally, I despise The Harlem Shake as a waste of my time. If I wanted to watch bad dancing I could look at myself in a mirror. And What Does the Fox Say? contains some of the most obnoxious sounds I have ever heard. The producers that made it have a hilarious series of elevator pranks that I find much cleverer than What Does the Fox Say?
As a culture, we need to re-educate ourselves on what true comedy is. We need to remind ourselves that a good video needs good work. Yes it’s funny to occasionally laugh at someone wiping out on a skateboard or crashing into a pole. But there needs to be a much better tilt towards what is truly funny. I admit I like Family Guy, but Family Guy will never come close to the magic of The Simpsons. That’s because The Simpsons is a throwback to a time when you needed to work to produce a good show.