In Defense of @thesulk
The above joke sucks. I am not disputing that, but I would like to suggest that maybe it doesn’t suck as bad as you think. First, let me say that I have actually had a conversation with Alec Sulkin on two occasions. We talked about comedy, football, and chasing girls. The topic of his secret hatred of the Japanese never once came up. (The same cannot be said for @robdelaney, however!)
This morning, Al Roker reported that the tsunami hit Pearl Harbor and caused only minimal damage. Alec Sulkin, joke-writer, notes that this bit of good news occurred in a place of historically bad news. Alec thinks to himself, “Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a dimwitted character who didn’t know about the historically bad news, but wanted to give everybody some good news?” Alec writes the above tweet and off it goes. “Oh dear Lord,” he thinks. “That tweet could be taken the wrong way!” Too late, young joke-writer, the tweet has been screenshot and dissected WITHIN 1 MINUTE of you hitting “Tweet.”
Or maybe he’s just an asshole.
The above is by the comedian Jim Hamilton. At first I thought this was a stretch. But it’s definitely the first—if not the only— plausible interpretation I’ve seen of the Sulk’s infamously confounding (and now deleted) tweet. If you assume (as I do) that the Sulk was attempting irony and not just saying point blank “Hooray for the earthquake!” then the Hamilton Hypothesis ascribes to the tweet a logical comedic structure that was previously indiscernible. And by “a logical comedic structure” I do not mean “humorousness.” It still lacks that.
According to Hamilton, the comedically uninformed speaker’s evocation of the Pearl Harbor of WWII is inadvertent; his primary reference is to the Pearl Harbor of earlier that day that dodged a residual tsunami. One could, I dare say, imagine Peter Griffin committing such a faux pas, comically unaware of the negative connotations of what he sees as a wholly positive reference. Something distasteful resonates and we move to the next joke. One might even think of (bear with me on this) Basil Fawlty, since the Hamilton Hypothesis makes the tweet not a depraved gloat of retributive savagery but a “don’t mention the war” joke about cultural sensitivities. Does this make the joke less inappropriate and unfunny? No. Even with discernible intent, it still can’t support the weight of tragedy. The Sulk has come round to that opinion.
Look, I don’t like comparing this tweet to Fawlty Towers any more than you do. My interest here is not in excusing Mr. Sulkin (the internet’s greatest monster), the joke, or anything else. (The lady on Tumblr who kept telling me fuck myself will say I am making excuses because she strongly believes that the Sulk intended no irony whatsoever and was applauding the earthquake as payback for Pearl Harbor. And the joke’s profound lack of clarity makes that opinion not unreasonable.) Of course, the Hamilton Hypothesis does force us to ask how in the hell Mr. Sulkin could think that anybody (aside from the apparent genius Hamilton) would read “Pearl Harbor death toll” as an ironic reference to that day’s Hawaiian tsunami casualties which numbered zero. Until a better theory comes along, I’m going with this one. Mr. Hamilton might be crazy. But the tweet probably made him that way.
I swear I’m almost done with this.
I’m the lady on Tumblr who was telling you to fuck yourself. I was really mad (3 yrs in Japan makes you kind of like the place a bit) and not entirely undrunk, and I apologize for taking it out on you, Mr. Urbaniak. I woke up today and saw that Mr. Sulkin had himself apologized, I retweeted his apology and thanked him, and I deleted most of what I said on Twitter and updated my Tumblr posts to reflect his contrition. I laughed at one of @thesulk’s tweets I saw today that made light of his gaffe, and it made me all the more convinced that this original tweet just needed more time in the joke cooker, but ultimately, I decided against refollowing him. I think racing to “come up with a funny” for an event where people have been all dying and shit is kind of hugely douchey, regardless of what the punch lines end up being. There’s a reason “too soon” is a thing people say… sometimes shit actually is too soon.
I was also mad that it seemed like the whole Favstar crew just closed ranks around their buddy, instead of doing the right thing and maybe, I dunno, stepping up and risking saying “Dude, uncool.” Twitter and Favstar have created their own subcultures and fameballs, and to some degree, they have been self-policing (ie Michael Ian Black’s excellent work against Bing recently). I kept hoping somebody would speak out somehow on behalf of us Internet Average Janes and Joes, and your assertions about Sulkin (that he was “a comedy writer who only tweets jokes” and that he “never replies to anyone”) just stoked my ire by making him sound like an incredibly smug prick and kind of a misanthrope who didn’t give a shit that human beings might be reacting to his words, which didn’t do anything for my interpretation of what already seemed like a mean-spirited tweet.
That being said, I was totally being a hypocrite because I shouldn’t have attacked mean with mean the way I did, but actually I never unfollowed you (I’m sure you wished I would have), and I did tweet a “we cool” message at you. My avatars are the same here and on Twitter, but my username is not, so I guess you might have missed it.
Anyway, I’m sorry. Please don’t fuck yourself, unless it fits your schedule and gives you sincere erotic pleasure. Onwards.