The Internet is a Playground

The first time I read David Thorne’s incredibly funny and now world-famous “Missing Missy” piece, I had two thoughts. The first was “How am I going to get all this snot off of my computer screen?” and the second was “My dad would have loved this.” Dad was a creative director at advertising agencies in the U.S. and it was from him I learned my unique patience for bad direction, imprecise comments, and poor thinking. He would have loved David Thorne’s story of an art director doing a favor (or not, as the case may be) for a co-worker so much he would have flown to Australia to personally shake Thorne’s hand.

(What? You’ve never seen “Missing Missy”? Good grief. Go here, right now: http://www.27bslash6.com/missy.html. Now, clean the snot off your computer screen and continue).

Now “Missy” is available in a dead-tree edition, because David Thorne has included it in The Internet is a Playground: Irreverent Correspondences of an Evil Online Genius – which is sort of like David Thorne’s first album. For those of you under the age of forty, let me take you back to the days before the internet, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and listened to something called radio. Back then, musical groups would release “singles”. They might release four or five of them – and if one of them became a hit, then the label would put all the singles together on an album (along with some stuff they’d quickly record as filler) and rush it out to the stores. And idiots like us would buy the album and get the song we liked, and some songs we hadn’t heard before, and a bunch of stuff that, well, sounded like it had been thrown together to fill out the album.

The Internet is a Playground is kind of like that.

There are the obvious brilliant hits. “Missing Missy” for example. Stuff that makes you laugh out loud and drool on yourself in ways certain to embarrass yourself on public forms of transportation. The stuff that maybe a friend sent you last year and that you promptly sent out to everyone you know via facebook or email – it was that funny.

And then there’s some new stuff you hadn’t seen before – and some of it is quite funny too. Not as funny of course as the hit, but still, you know, funny.

And then there’s some stuff that just, well, it’s just there.

And yeah, I know. Comedy is hard. (Or, as my friend Dan Kennedy has said to me “It’s not just hard; it’s really fucking hard.”)

And I realize that it’s especially hard for someone who works in the form that Mr. Thorne does – a series of short sketches or routines that, while perfect for the internet, by their very nature work less well in book-form. That’s probably because they don’t really build to anything, so Thorne is always starting from scratch, which makes maintaining a reader’s interest over three-hundred pages dicey.

Because after a while, you can sort of tell where the joke is going to be. David is surrounded by morons. These morons want something from him. He doesn’t want to give it to them. Go. Or David has cocked something up and owes some morons something – which he doesn’t want to give them (or can’t give them, as the case may be).

Invariably these encounters devolve into long email battles in which David ultimately wins by being 1) creatively annoying and 2) just plain relentless. It’s essentially the same formula that works so well in “Missing Missy”. But after about a hundred and fifty pages of “insert new moron here” and “insert new predicament there”, it gets kind of, well, tedious. Indeed by the end of the book, Thorne comes off less as a brilliant humourist, and more as a pain in the ass who needlessly engages in fights with people who are either too stupid to live (that would be anyone who comments negatively on his blog), or who are just trying to do their jobs (like the poor slobs at Blockbuster who want their overdue DVDs back).

Which is a shame – because David is really quite funny when he wants to be. Unfortunately, in The Internet is a Playground, that’s not all the time…

The Internet is a Playground by David Thorne was published by Tarcher/Penguin on 5/1/11  – order it from Amazon here or from Barnes & Noble here – or pick it up at your local bookseller ( find one here). 

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