When Lennon and McCartney sang “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” perhaps they were using their clairvoyant superpowers to sing about how life would be in 2018. This is probably not true, but you never know with those zany Beatles!
Anyway dear reader, on multiple accounts, 2018 was a tough year. I spent the latter part of the year really thinking about what makes me happy and how I should continue to surround myself, and let my media consumption be led by that.
That’s why I wanted to compile a list of work that made me happy within the past year. That being said, because I’m a deeply cynical person, I normally stray to the dystopian side of the work with which I choose to surround myself in (hence the Blade Runner tattoo). However, in spite of my deeply cynical state, I am still an optimist at heart… I just need to remember to hang on to that, as opposed to getting swallowed by my cynicism.
Without further adieu, in no particular order, here are the things that made me happy this past year.
The Sloppy Boys - Lifelong Vacation
Formerly known as part of the sketch comedy troupe the Birthday Boys, Tim Kalpakis, Jefferson Dutton, and Mike Dutton put out a lazy, throwback album that I ended up enjoying a lot. Their sound can best be described as if Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band didn’t take themselves so seriously. Or, if Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa had a little more restraint, and less acerbic wit in their writing process.
Their humor mostly comes through with the content they are singing about, however, sometimes the timbre of their own voices (in addition to how earnestly they sing absurd lyrics) is where the humor really comes into play. This is specifically evident in “We Came Here to Rock,” and “Let’s Party.”
The only “Sloppy” aspect of their music that is immediately apparent is intentionally in their own recording methods. It’s almost as if their decay goes on just a millisecond too long. Other than that, everything is crafted extremely carefully and like any good comedy, with impeccable delivery.
This album is so much fun it forces you to hear nonsensical gibberish and instead of making you ask, “Why does this song exist?” you end up asking, “Why the hell not?” This rings especially true when you listen to “Hee Hee Hee,” and an ode to Lady Gaga’s ridiculous outfits.
YouTube’s Man Eating Food Channel
In the late summer of 2018, some divine presence smiled down upon us all, and unleashed a video series of one silent man eating anything we requested. There are two main things I enjoy about this series, first, the silence: a rare respite in a world of ever-increasing autoplay video ads and distractions seeping through every second of downtime you may have. Both AV Club and Munchies have documented this man’s trials and tribulations.
Second, this man’s unwavering focus, as he eats a wide range of bastardized food combinations (and some inedible items as well) is as close to a micro-meditation as you can get. There are some moments where you can extrapolate his process and how he will proceed in each bizarre request. Specifically, like “Zucchini on Ice Cream,” where for a brief moment, you can see his direct train of thought and gain some insight into what type of man we are truly dealing with. This is a man who is willing to consider his past, adapt with the situation, and move forward, undaunted, into the future. He looks at the spoon, looks at the lengthwise-sliced zucchini, then down at the ice cream. The man then proceeds to forego the usage of the spoon and takes advantage of the circumstance given to him, by taking the zucchini and using it to scoop up the ice cream.
Simply put, this is progress.
After the chewing commences you get just the slightest hint of a reaction from the man in the form of a reassuring nod. After the most atrocious combinations you can think of, that nod will still be there. This nod is the light at the end of my tunnel while watching these videos. Presumably, they are also the light at the end of his tunnel as well. It doesn’t matter how heinous a combination the request is, you will always get that nod. Like that nod posits, everything will indeed be fine through the end of any trial you may encounter.
On an extremely rare occasion, at the end of the chew, you may even sneak a peek at a brief smile. This video series (as you can probably allude to by the length of my diatribe), is a gentle reminder that you should enjoy the simple things as much as you can. It’s fine to enjoy the simple tart-but-sweet bite of say, a raspberry, and really enjoy just that.
The Favourite - Yorgos Lanthimos
Sure, this is a pretty dark movie; but the fun spirit of this movie cannot be denied. At its best, Lanthimos has delivered a bombastic, anachronistic romp in an otherwise extremely dry era. His cinematic style reminded me of Shohei Imamura, a man who was not afraid to take big chances with a very heavy hand with his camera sense. However, the tone of the movie read more like a less timid Sofia Coppola film. Ultimately, this was adventurous, but not overbearingly so.
In a movie full of cruelty and conniving schemes between its main characters, they do share some extremely cathartic moments of genuine joy. There is a consistent, underlying tension that remains throughout the movie, but it quickly dissipates with the actors’ wry, dead-on-arrival delivery. It is jarring, but in a way that commands your attention, as opposed to you missing some of the jokes because of an overbearing cinematic flair.
The performances themselves are show stealing, even without Lanthimos and his masterfully crafted work. For me, the mental and physical gymnastics accomplished by Olivia Colman’s work as Queen Anne is deliriously fun. She effortlessly changes from petulant and childish, to a harrowing performance of someone with a debilitating injury, to finally, a poised, highfalutin Queen trying to keep her perceived dignity in tact in front of her subjects. She is this movie.
Additionally, Nicholas Hoult’s foppish evil-brilliance is so pitch-perfect, that it is making Ryan Murphy deeply regret his casting decisions of Finn Witrock in American Horror Story: Freakshow. He is somehow as Machiavellian and cruel as he is petty and ridiculous, in the truest sense.
Mostly 4 Millenials
What could easily be described as the absurdist, syphilitic-ridden brain child of Eric Andre and Derrick Beckles, this show was beyond parody, beyond logic, and most of the time, beyond pleasurable viewing.
I am a big fan of absurdist humor, and although this could be described as the darkest, most cynical view of the modern world on this list, I thoroughly enjoyed it for the sake of its individuality. Ultimately, I am a big supporter of art doing anything it can to get your attention. This essentially, is an ayahuasca trip version of a deeply cutting satire.
So, when I see DJ Fred Durst sweating profusely, looking like in addition to mixing, all he is doing is planning an escape route, I am overjoyed. The often too-weird-to-not-avert-your-eyes interview style from The Eric Andre Show continues, but the out of the studio segments become more apt and timely than its predecessor. My favorites also include a #unboxing video of a coffin (which I would not recommend for the squeamish), Ann Coulter’s interview (about as interesting as you’d expect), the Vape-A-Wish foundation, and random shots of people freaking out so much in the audience that their heads explode.
Long story short, buckle the hell up and have fun with this show.
These are just a couple of things that I immensely enjoyed in the past year. The takeaway from this post should be to just keep surrounding yourself with things that make you happy in the new year to come (even if they are deeply, deeply weird and unsettling).
Jordan graduated in 2009 from Susquehanna University with a degree in Creative Writing and Film Studies where he met his wife. In spite of God's will, he published his first book PESTS with Lloyd Kaufman; the CEO of the independent stalwart Troma Entertainment. You can see him being snarky and cynical on Twitter and Instagram @settlingstatic , and you can find him being deeply, deeply nerdy on Reddit @SkywardJordan.