Wednesday, May 09, 2007

On Jokey/Ironic T-Shirts

The AVClub's "Hater" column has a post on the lameness of ironic t-shirts commemorating Paris Hilton's upcoming jail term. Just to flood my blog more, I've decided to post my own thoughts here on the jokey/ironic t-shirt, previously published in the comments to the Hater's post.
The thing I don't get about the jokey t-shirt, whether ironic or not, is that it's just one joke. What would you think if somebody you hung around with made the same joke all day, then a few weeks later made the same joke all day, then did the same a few weeks after that, etc.? You'd think that person was a moron. Yet that's what the jokey T-shirt is. At best, it's funny the first time. But then it's the same joke all day.
True Story: Two months before I graduated from college, in 1996, I was camping in Hawaii and all of my t-shirts got stolen. Since then I have replenished my t-shirt collection completely with shirts displaying logos and/or designs representing things I genuinely, unironically enjoy. National Parks, In-n-Out Burgers, the Dodgers, etc. Break free of the urge to be clever with your t-shirt! I have; you can too.
In the interest of full disclosure, as a youth I employed a substantial number of humorous shirts (think "Bill the Cat for President"), I think the only one that could really be considered somewhat "ironic" in the way that a hipster's "New Jersey is for Lovers" shirt is was one featuring this WPA poster:That one got stolen out of the laundry room at school, and I was really bummed, especially since I had helped make the shirt myself. It's quite a striking design, though I must confess that part of its appeal was the shock value from a shirt with a government-sponsored design warning about syphilis (and concentrating on the whole "loss of work" effect rather than the more direct health problems).

What's your take on the jokey t-shirt? Is it incurably lame? Upon further consideration, I'm thinking that it may be OK if used sparingly. Maybe there's just too much of it. And good graphic design helps. I mean, heck, I'm the guy whose band is named Stale Urine. Maybe there is a place for jokiness in this universe. But not a place for a girl this self-satisfied for her decision to wear an "I Love Lamp" shirt:UPDATE: See this post for an update.

5 Comments:

At Wednesday, May 9, 2007 at 4:11:00 PM PDT, Blogger Paul C. said...

Yeah, joke t-shirts are pretty inane. Having to read the same stupid joke on someone's t-shirt all day lacks the sublime hilarity of, say, asking a co-worker if they have any Updog and then waiting for them to ask what that is.

Plus not only are joke t-shirts like listening to the same joke all day, they're usually like listening to someone else's joke all day. Yeah, ANCHORMAN was funny, but the hilarity diminishes exponentially when it's not Will Ferrell or Steve Carell actually saying the line. Like in high school when I'd hear someone mangling a popular song, I'd ask them who sang that song and when they responded I'd say, "well, let them."

And whenever I see that hyena-like girl modeling for joke t-shirts I feel compelled to find another girl to punch her in the face. Seriously, no shirt deserve a grin that self-satisfied. Besides, the joke shirt only works if you don't draw attention to how funny it is. You don't laugh when you're telling a joke, or else it gets ruined. Same with shirts.

That said, the syphilis shirt is pretty bitchin'.

 
At Wednesday, May 9, 2007 at 5:00:00 PM PDT, Anonymous doafy said...

"Like in high school when I'd hear someone mangling a popular song, I'd ask them who sang that song and when they responded I'd say, 'well, let them.'"

Paul C., I don't know you, but I hate you.

My feelings on the t-shirts are mixed.

Anyway, I think that jokey t-shirts diminish in their effectiveness as the wearer gets older. I find jokey onesies hilarious (yes, even the "got milk" ones. I saw one yesterday that said "warning: eats sand") I also think that jokey t-shirts on kids are great because usually it reflects the development of humor in the kid, which is always fun to watch. However, as the wearer gets older, the humor diminishes. High school kids in jokey t-shirts are trite, college kids in them can be pathetic.

However, I think that there's a difference between the reference t-shirt, like "I love lamp" or "vote for pedro" and the jokey t-shirt that's actually a funny joke on the first read.

Also, about "What would you think if somebody you hung around with made the same joke all day, then a few weeks later made the same joke all day, then did the same a few weeks after that, etc.?" Doesn't a jokey t-shirt just get lost in the noise after a while? I think it's the reader's problem if he is compelled to actually read said t-shirt each time the person wears it. When I was in junior high, I wore a string of t-shirts with writing on them, and me and my friends would forget about them. I think it's a little ridiculous to fixate like that.

(Paul C., I do give you props for the phrase "hyena-like girl")

 
At Thursday, May 10, 2007 at 8:15:00 AM PDT, Blogger Paul C. said...

Hey now... I did say that I would use the "let them" line back in high school. I didn't really use it that often, just when someone was really botching a song. And I haven't used it in the intervening years, so I like to think I've outgrown it. It's pretty lame though, I agree, and I sometimes hate my high school self a little. Still, seems a little excessive a reaction to have.

 
At Thursday, May 10, 2007 at 10:13:00 AM PDT, Anonymous doafy said...

Paul C, no real harm meant.

I do tend to have excessive reactions.

 
At Thursday, May 10, 2007 at 8:51:00 PM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

You may have a point about the joke shirts fading into the background.

 

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