I Accidentally Fooled Conservative Twitter with a Fake Lena Dunham Quote
The internet is always stupider than you think. When you’re telling a joke to an audience of anonymous online strangers, as long as the setup is believable no amount of absurdism in the punchline will give the game away.
Here’s an example: The week before Breaking Bad ended, I tweeted, “My uncle is a teamster and got a copy of the ending.” And I attached a fake script page that clearly demonstrated I had never seen the show. I referred to the main character as “Bryan Cranston from Malcolm in the Middle,” gave him lines like “Here goes nothing! Suicide!” and wrote in the AMC copyright information with a Sharpie. But people still got furious and demanded I immediately take it down. One guy said my uncle wouldn’t find work again. Another told me, “Teamsters are pieces of shit.”
So every once in a while I try to test the limits of that joke format. And on Friday, I struck the mother lode: I took a quote from economist/sociologist Thorstein Veblen’s seminal 1899 workThe Theory of the Leisure Class and attributed it to Lena Dunham’s new book of essays, Not That Kind of Girl. I know almost nothing about Veblen; I just thought it was a funny way to say I don’t like rich people.
Obviously, Lena Dunham, who has chapters like “Take My Virginity (No, Really, Take It),” is not writing anything in the same universe as the Veblen quote, which critiques the cultural fallout of the Gilded Age while using words like “impinge” and “forfeiture” and “exigencies.” The joke made ten or so of my political science major friends smirk, which is all I thought it would do.
My Hometown’s Mayor Sicced the Cops on My Friends, and Now He’s Getting Sued by the ACLU
One of the mantras of journalism is that you should never become part of the story, but what happens when those in power target you specifically because you’re a journalist? That’s what happened to me when the cops, at the behest of Peoria, Illinois, mayor Jim Ardis, raided my friends’ home over a parody Twitter account written in the voice of a druggy, pussy-licking version of the city’s chief executive.
Heaven Is for Real Is Phony
Hollywood never met a true story it couldn’t fuck up. In Braveheart, the Battle of Stirling Bridge is fought without the bridge, a fuckup akin to a D-Day movie without a beach. They can fuck up downward, casting the five-foot-seven Martin Sheen as the famously tall Robert E. Lee in Gettysburg. They can fuck up life and death: In Band of Brothers a show so faithfully detail-oriented that it might well have been called, Honest, We Read a Book: The Miniseries, they killed one character 19 years before reality did.
But those are wars. Big things. You know, 50 million dead, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous, the atomic bomb. Getting smaller stories right is easier, or so you’d think. Like Heaven Is for Real, the tale of a four-year-old Nebraska boy—deliciously named Colton Burpo—who went to heaven then came back to tell his pastor father all about it. The bare bones of that story sounds like a Capra script already, but somehow, Hollywood fucked it up. Heaven Is for Real is phony. It isn’t even a fun bad movie.
You’ve probably heard about Heaven Is for Real, which, like everything, was a bookbefore it was a movie. Published in 2010, it sold like only a relentlessly heartstrings-jerking tale of a young boy who saw heaven during emergency surgery could. It was co-written by Colton Burpo’s father Todd and Lynn Vincent, who also co-wrote Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue and Never Surrender, with Lieutenant General William Boykin, who left the US Army after saying that America was at war with Satan and that he didn’t fear a Somali warlord because he was armed with a God, while the Somali had only an “idol,” and who once proudly stated that he wanted to crawl into heaven on all fours covered in blood. Those are the kind of righteously tone-deaf people Lynn Vincent writes books with, people whose level of doubt vacillates between, “Am I right, or am I really right?”
Deep Thoughts on Jack Handey’s Days Writing for ‘SNL’ and His New Novel, ‘The Stench of Honolulu’
Jack Handey—who is indeed a real person, despite common misconception—is best known for his series of hilarious faux aphorisms, Deep Thoughts. Handey is also the writer of many ofSNL’s best sketches from the 80s and 90s, such as “Toonces, the Cat Who Could Drive a Car,” “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer,” and “Happy Fun Ball.” For the past decade, he has been a regular contributor to the New Yorker’s Shouts & Murmurs section. This summer he released his first novel, The Stench of Honolulu, which begins: “When my friend Don suggested we go on a trip to the South Seas together, and offered to pay for the whole thing, I thought, Fine, but what’s in it for me?”
Lincoln Michel talked to him for VICE about writing, funny grammar, and proper cowboy dance moves.
VICE: I’m curious about the writing process for your novel, The Stench of Honolulu. Did you write most of the jokes separately, like for Deep Thoughts, and then add them to a narrative? Or did you write the jokes as you wrote the story?
Jack Handey: Some jokes were preexisting, but most were written as the story developed.
In the early 2000s, SNL ran excerpts from a fake novel of yours called My Big Thick Novel. If I’m not mistaken, one or two of those bits ended up in The Stench of Honolulu. For example, the one with a woman named Lanani (in the novel it’s Leilani) who gets annoyed about being a “personal blowdart counter.” Did the idea for writing an actual novel originate in the My Big Thick Novel spots?
Yes, I stole that joke from My Big Thick Novel. I think the novel did have a lot of its origins in My Big Thick Novel. I like a jungle setting, because just about anything can happen there, real or supernatural. It adds to the possibility of jokes you can use.
The Leader of the KKK DM’d Me on Twitter
I’m sure hundreds of people come into this exact problem roughly once every day, but logging into Twitter last week to find a direct message from the leader of the Ku Klux Klan was a new one for me. A kind of awkward but mostly hilarious new one, in that the message was from Bradley Jenkins—the Grand Imperial Wizard of the United Klans of America (UKA)—who told me that Thomas Robb, the guy I spoke to that time a woman set herself on fire and blamed it on the KKK, was the leader of a “fake Klan” and said I should speak to him, the leader of the “true Klan.”
The UKA is a faction of the Klan that has historically been associated with extreme acts of violence, like a number of murders throughout the 60s and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, which killed four young girls. All the online literature I could find about the UKA (apart from on its own website) referred to the organization in the past tense, with many stating that it had effectively disbanded after the death of its leader, Robert Shelton, in 2003. I called Bradley to see just how he could be the leader of a defunct organization and why his gang is more real than Thomas Robb’s gang.
Bradley Jenkins’ friendly Twitter profile picture.
VICE: Hi Bradley. What did you mean when you said I’d spoken to a “fake Klan”?
Bradley Jenkins: We call these other Klans “pop-up Klans.” Our government made it very easy for people to call themselves Klans by splitting all the Klans up. The United Klans of America are the true Klan—we have a history, we have a charter. We’re not a hate organization, we’re just a fraternal white organization.
And you consider Thomas Robb’s Knights of the KKK to be a pop-up Klan?
Oh, I won’t even tell you what I think of that man. He used to be a good Klansman, but look at the difference between his website and ours: he’s begging for money on every page. Sure, it takes money to operate, but begging for $40 to $50 a month from people who are losing their jobs just isn’t right.
So you don’t charge a membership fee. Is that the only difference between you and the Knights of the KKK?
That’s not the only difference. Robb calls us—guys who wear hoods and robes—re-enactors. We’re not re-enactors. We are the true deal. We don’t burn a cross, we light a cross. It’s a call to arms; it’s illuminating the light of Jesus Christ. We’re the originals, we’ve got the history.
Some United Klans of America paraphernalia.
Thomas Robb told me he believes we’re witnessing the genocide of the white race. Do you believe him?
You can’t say that this is going to be a 100 percent genocide of the Aryan race. The real view of the UKA is that we’re tired of surviving and we’d rather just live. We want to lead our lives without being looked down on as racist scum. We’re proud to be white, we’re proud of the American people. We don’t consider ourselves racist at all. We are American infidels.
When you say infidel, you mean that a Muslim would consider you an infidel?
The best way to define infidel is to let every nation know that they have to worry about the Ku Klux Klan if they’re thinking of harming our country. We’re not the Klan of the past. We consider these pop-up Klans to be nigger-hating rednecks and we’re not that at all. We’re educated men who are sick and tired of our country getting crapped on.
Do you have to be a Christian to be in the UKA?
Our members’ personal beliefs are up to them. There are three major Aryan beliefs: Christianity, Odinism, and the Creators, who are kind of like atheists.