I’ve been thinking about this part of my personality a lot lately. There are lots of things I like and/or do that are objectively silly, and probably shouldn’t be taken seriously, but I do them sincerely anyway to add to the joke.
I don’t quite think it’s the same as “doing things ironically.” There’s a very specific feel to all of these things; it’s not just being dumb for the sake of being edgy. It’s more like… an elevation of sorts. Taking a silly idea and respecting it in its own right, laughing with it instead of at it. If that even makes sense.
Anyway, here’s some examples.
I got a minor in Philosophy as a joke.
When I was studying Computer Science at Stevens Institute of Technology, the curriculum involved taking a lot of electives. I kind of liked the philosophy courses, so I just… kept taking those. Until eventually I realized I had taken so many philosophy courses that I only needed to take one extra philosophy course beyond what was required for my main degree, and I would have enough for a minor.
Now, I didn’t actually think a minor in Philosophy would be worth anything, or that it would even grant me any kind of authority in the subject. But, the idea of taking just one extra class and then for the rest of my life being able to jokingly say “WELL, as someone with a Minor In Philosophy,” whenever I was in a remotely philosophical conversation that no one was taking seriously? That was the funniest shit ever to me.
So I did it.
And it’s been minorly paying off ever since.
A few months ago, I was working on a clone of Pong for practice getting started with game development. While I was wrapping up the basic functionality of the game, a thought struck me: “Biblically Accurate Pong Paddle.”
And I thought that was the stupidest, funniest idea. Immediately, I knew I wasn’t even close to being done with making my Pong clone. Not until adding an absolutely over the top final boss fight against a giant eyeball surrounded by multiple layers of rotating pong paddles, with cliché epic choral background music.
Many years ago, a handful of my writer friends and I made a Skype group to collaborate on a bunch of cool stories and novels together. (We were all in high school/college at the time, and didn’t realize that our plans to simultaneously write multiple collab epic fantasy trilogies was completely unrealistic. But it was still a really fun and awesome time.)
One night, I had a dream that I was just chilling in the group chat, during a normal conversation, and nothing was dream-like or out of the ordinary whatsoever… except that in the dream, the official name for our group was Bloodwriters of Sol.
Holy shit, dear reader. That name is just so incredibly ridiculous that I couldn’t help but absolutely love it. So later that day I told the group about the dream and laughed with them about the dumb-as-hell name—and one of them changed the actual Skype group name to that. We continued to call ourselves the Bloodwriters of Sol for a few years, and I was not-so-secretly delighted the entire time.
When I was 11 years old, I tried writing a fantasy novel. Chronicles of Yabachi: Orbs From the Core – the epic story of the heroic warriors Ktalaki and Nanor, who go around defeating “evil.” (In the world of Yabachi, “evil” mostly means people who announce that they’re evil and then run off to an ancient hidden castle to brood and wait for a hero to fight them.)
It was… not a good story. But the combination of the literal child-level writing quality, along with the absurd plot movements, over time made the novel and its world endearing to me much in the same way as Axe Cop is.
A little over halfway through the book, my 11-year-old self thought it’d be super cool to have a two-part chapter: “The War of Yabachi, Part 1” and “The War of Yabachi, Part 2”—in which the two continents of the world of Yabachi go to war, and Ktalaki and Nanor (having just gone through a devastating broken-trust best-friendship-breakup) become the opposing generals of the war.
An entire world war… in just two chapters. How did I think that could possibly work? Maybe it was a better idea in the original vision of the story, where the chapter outline was actually an “Anime Episode Guide.” Even then, probably not.
But it ended up not mattering, because child Jesse fell off the writing wagon an arc and a half before the asinine war plot, and Book 1 of the Chronicles of Yabachi series was left unfinished for the rest of time.
… Or it would have been, had I not decided to finish writing it 17 years later, as a joke. Sticking religiously to the original chapter outline, hamming up the action scenes and the dialogue alike, and intentionally emulating my inexperienced childhood writing style… with one fundamental exception. To add on to the joke, I decided I would in fact write the two-part war arc with the original two chapters… but with all the sincerity and actual skill of writing quality that I could muster.
Hidden deep within a blight of a novel, where the average chapter was a page or two long, the two-chapter war arc was a straight up full length novella, where every character actually wrestles with the tragic backstory that the overall novel implies they should have. Ktalaki, the orphan who broke out of childhood slavery and rescued his people from a dragon tyrant, is now fighting for the dinosaur island to retain its territorial sovereignty. Nanor, the “good” child of an “evil” parent, is desperate to prove his value to the surrogate father he found in a politician who only cares about conquest. There are epic battles, tragic deaths, deep philosophical asides about the true nature of good and evil—
And then, right after the war ends, we go right back to the emulated child writing quality of the rest of the novel, and Ktalaki and Nanor become best friends again with ease. Chronicles of Yabachi: Orbs from the Core is perhaps my crowning achievement of stupid jokes.