Thomas Wictor

Not a fan of in-jokes

Not a fan of in-jokes

I’m a movie fanatic. Instead of watching them, I experience them. So when I see a cutesy in-joke intended to show a tiny group of self-described hipsters how cool they are, it breaks the spell and pisses me off.

The most famous Hollywood in-joke is the “Wilhelm scream.” Somebody made a compilation of films in which it appears.

By the end of that three minutes—if you lasted that long—you were pretty annoyed, weren’t you? Now imagine being George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino and putting it in every single film you make. When we hear it, are we supposed to high-five each other and go, “All right! I love that!”

There’s a certain smugness that comes with in-jokes that I find extremely off-putting. It’s the main reason I was never a Frank Zappa fan, even though I love Scott Thunes’s bass playing. Zappa’s songs are full of band in-jokes, most of them having to do with sexual encounters, venereal disease, hemorrhoids—poopy-caca humor that I find unbearably tedious.

Back when Zappa’s sons Dweezil and Ahmet were ubiquitous, I saw them on an episode of Mad TV, I think. Dweezil was playing a German tourist in hot pants. He and his brother were cracking themselves up, but it was genuinely dreadful. Shivers of sympathetic mortification ran up and down my spine.

I then read an interview with Ahmet in which he spoke of Sharon Stone’s breakup with Dweezil. Ahmet said the following.

They just didn’t get along and so much so that she said some insulting things about my family, and she should pay the price. Which means, some guy with an overly-ripened anus push it as hard as he can up to her filthy vagina and, like a furious river of diarrhea, inject her with as much of his own fecal freshness, and fill her bulimic stomach up with his disgusting toxic bile that he holds within his amazing ass, and have her then go out in public, filled to the gills with all this fecal freshness, and have a bus run her over. Then her stomach will explode and the fecal matter will spell out her name, because it’s magical fecal matter. Maybe a passerby will see her and will take her left breast, pickle it, and then in like fifty years they’ll clone her and maybe make her a little nicer.

People went wild over this. When I told someone I didn’t think it was particularly funny, he said what people generally say when they’re called out on their unfunniness.

“You just don’t get it.”

Well…what’s there to get? Is there a secret message there that only those with colossal brains and immense urbanity can understand, and I’m just a parochial clod because I didn’t laugh hysterically? Baloney. We’re not all produced in a factory. Each of us is allowed an individual personality and mode of thinking. Having a different sense of humor doesn’t make someone stupid.

Take the French. (Please!) This guy is considered a comic genius in France.

I’m positive that it’s all staged. How often do women bend over like that? They’re also far too placid. And haven’t we seen this ninety billion times already? Do things get funnier the more often you see them? Just the opposite happens with me.

Mom told me a story once. In 1948, when she was twenty, she and a bunch of college pals drove from the Bay Area to Laguna Beach. Here’s a photo of Mom from that trip.


On the way down and the way back, every time a bug hit the windshield of the car, one of her friends said the following.

“That bug won’t have the guts to do that again.”

Mom said it was funny the first three times. Then it got annoying. Then it made her want to open the car door and push him out onto the freeway. I’m the same way. I hate endless repetition, which is why I hate in-jokes like the Wilhelm scream.

I don’t expect everyone to share my sense of humor, which is why I’d never say, “You just don’t get it.” This is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

You don’t have to agree with me. I have a weakness for absurdist humor that deals with insane, unreasonable, implacable, and utterly unreachable authority figures masquerading as normal human beings. In that sketch a type of person—not an actual group—is satirized. It isn’t cruel or snide humor.

The terminally one-note Stephen Colbert is in trouble because of this tweet.


This is the sort of smirky, in-crowd crap that I hate. Where’s the wit? Compare it to the Python sketch. And of course people are saying that those who don’t find it funny don’t get it. Well, speaking for myself, I actually do get it, because it’s about as subtle as this.

Colbert’s tweet is a blundering, lowbrow, pitifully simpleminded in-joke. “We’re the smart ones,” it says. “Look at those idiots over there. We’re better than them.”

Yeah, that’s really sophisticated humor, all right. On a par with pulling up the corners of your eyes with your fingers and sticking out your front teeth.

“What’s with all you offended Asians? Come on! Laugh! Are you stupid? No? Then laugh!

Real humor should be able to stand on its own instead of relying on peer pressure. In-jokes are tribal, and tribalism is at the root of most societal dysfunction.

Not a fan of dysfunction either.

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