On April 7, I attended the Brown University Comedy Conference. The headliner was comedian Brandon Wardell, known for his work on Comedy Central’s snapchat show called “Hot Takes,” as well as his work writing for Vice and The Washington Post.
The show opened with a sketch group called Terms of Service, self-described as “the most chaotic sketch show on NYC public access TV.” I’ll leave that there. Most of the sketches were not funny and made me very uncomfortable, with some over-acting that made me feel like I was re-watching my elementary school production of Rumpelstiltskin. There was a particularly overdone routine in which they performed a modern version of Romeo and Juliet, referring to Romeo as a “fuckboy.” There was also a mention of Romeo and Juliet “moon watch and chilling.” The audience was laughing, which just made me angrier.
After ToS, comedian Adam Friedland came on. He is a Brooklyn-based comic who has performed in festivals curated by Tig Notaro (!!!) as well as several other festivals and theaters around the East Coast. Friedland’s jokes ranged from making fun of Brown students to making fun of the clubbing habits of New Yorkers at George Washington (where he went to school), which sounded about like the same crowd you may find here. His comedy was clever, not “right there” like ToS, and pretty clean. I also thought Friedland was kind of hot, though I couldn’t be sure because I wasn’t wearing my glasses. But I think this picture confirms it. There’s also a cute dog in the picture, so.
All I knew about Brandon Wardell were his “subjects” on Wikipedia – “adolescence, narcissism, hip-hop, current events” – and that he was the person who coined the phrase “dicks out for Harambe,” one of the least funny, overused jokes I’ve ever heard. “You don’t know what it’s like to have your joke co-opted by bros and Nazis,” Brandon joked, also acknowledging the joke wasn’t even funny to begin with.
He traced the phrase’s life trajectory, which began as something he said at a party in L.A. and comedian Danny Trejo overheard. Basically, Trejo asked if he could use the phrase and Wardell said yes (he thought it was useless and wouldn’t go far). The two then tweeted a video saying it, a rapper retweeted it, and the next day,”dicks out” had thousands of retweets on Twitter. It went on to be retweeted by neo-Nazi superstar, Milo Yiannoupolis, and shouted probably every four seconds nationwide by frat bros permanently drunk from too many concussions. Poor Brandon Wardell is now remembered as having coined and promoted this heinous phrase. And poor me has had to endure hearing it, occasionally even used by those closest to me, including my boyfriend.
I have lived the past 9ish months knowing in my heart of hearts that this phrase was not even kind of funny, while those around me insisted upon repeating and responding to this siren call. While I never doubted my own belief, I did wonder what I was doing with my life. I wondered whether I had found myself surrounded by people who were just confused, or perhaps individuals who were not funny at all. Did my boyfriend have no sense of humor, or was he just caught up in the crowd?
I believe it is the latter, as I hope it is with the rest of the country. At least we can rest assured knowing that even the creator of “dicks out for Harambe” knows it sucks.