Tried and failed: a story of two worlds

I can understand despair at the irrationality of humanity as a whole. I can get behind the mockery of hypocrites, scoundrels, and reality television fans. I can even laugh at offensive and disagreeable comedy—if it’s well-considered. What troubles me however, is poorly executed social commentary that amounts to little more than a formula along these lines:

[Shallow observation]. That’s stupid, huh?!

A few months ago, an anonymous Twitter account was created that described itself thusly: “In a town where we think we are a progressive city, but in reality we are idiots.”[1] It was called @failfresno. The comment timeline included the typical tools of the anti-Fresno zeitgeist.

There’s nothing to do in Fresno. Someone got shot last night…only in Fresno! Anyone trying to do something interesting in Fresno is an idiot.

Pretty standard stuff. It was clearly presented as if the writer felt he was providing funny, incisive commentary. In fact, it was pretty banal crap.[2]

But I don’t want to put words in his mouth. I skimmed through and found what I think is the guy’s best joke (link added).[3]

Dear KMPH, Great Day could of be a decent show if this was still 1978.

Not quite up to “open mic night” standards, but if someone said that in a group of people, I might chuckle. The idea of Kopi doing his schtick in the 70s is kind of funny.

But that’s the cream of the crop, and it’s not too creamy. Most of the comments are along these lines:

RT @FresnoBeehive: Roe shooting a “fresno” eye for local nightlife // replaced black w/ Fresno

Tee-hee. He “replaced black w/ Fresno.” So now it says it was a “Fresno eye” not a “black eye.” Get it?

Or this:

Fresno…Evidence that there are no Earthquakes in Hell

Ooohh, because there was an earthquake somewhere other than Fresno. And Fresno is hell? Yes, I see now.

As you can see, pretty bargain basement stuff. @mikeoz and I and some others had some fun laughing at the guy on Twitter. @failfresno did his darnedest to offer a retort. One thing most everyone agreed on: the dude wasn’t funny.

Then today. For some reason there was an explosion of Twitter activity surrounding @failfresno and a few people actually came to his defense. Some even said that he was funny. People who actually knew the anonymous @failfresno claimed they enjoyed his comments. Unsurprisingly, these people also share @failfresno’s anti-Fresno attitude.

Either these people have very underdeveloped senses of humor, so that the mere act of complaining is considered comedy, or there was something else going on. I would submit that those who believe @failfresno is funny—or say it’s not supposed to be funny but simply provocative—are overlooking the shortcomings because they agree with the sentiment. It is along the lines of those who judge the humor of a political joke solely on the basis of whether its political slant reflects their own.[4]

The Twitter conversation that followed turned into a somewhat productive discussion on what was good or bad about Fresno compared to other cities, and how people viewed it (a discussion in which @failfresno did not participate).

But something else came to light about @failfresno. It’s something that has changed my whole view of the situation. It turns out the operator of the @failfresno account lives outside the area (presumably a former Fresnan). With this new revelation, the entire episode takes on a decidedly pathetic mood.

Here is someone who was bitter towards Fresno for some reason.[5] Then this person finally gets their long-held dream of moving somewhere else. Somewhere, we presume, that fulfills their soul in ways Fresno never ever could. So what does this person do? Does he embrace his new, contented life, finally free from the bitterness that once ruled him? It seems he doesn’t. Whatever else he does, he also spends time monitoring the news of his old hometown (perhaps troubled that it doesn’t seem to miss him?) and then make comments about it, like, “So Foursquare is in Fresno? too bad everyone will check in Walmart or from their home cause all they do is just watch tv”. ZING!

You can imagine how this realization affected me. My scorn has turned to pity. Whatever compels this poor guy to maintain such an existence, I can only assume it has roots deeper than perhaps even he realizes.

As of now, I will no longer mock this poor little guy. Whatever the neuroses that manifests itself in this behavior, I hope for everyone concerned that he gets it sorted out.

Until then, all the goodness in me salutes all the goodness in you.

  1. Never mind that I don’t think anyone, supporter or opponent, would categorize Fresno as a “progressive city” without qualification. []
  2. In fact, when all is said and done, if I were him I’d argue that the whole deal was planned meta-commentary on how Fresno sucks so much that even its self-hating population can’t hate themselves properly. []
  3. All quotations are verbatim and sic. []
  4. I suppose this perspective is valid, although I would never be so beholden to an ideology. Comedy is my only mistress. []
  5. I’ll ignore for now the implications of singling out and blaming a city for one’s own discontent with life. []

Comments (14)

  1. hilary wrote::

    I like when you analyze funny stuff. or unfunny stuff, as the case may be.

    Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 9:40 pm #
  2. floyd wrote::

    oh hey this is a good blog po– fuck you.

    Friday, April 30, 2010 at 4:50 am #
  3. Conlan wrote::

    See, now that's comedy! (Note: inside joke.)

    Friday, April 30, 2010 at 4:56 am #
  4. Rebek wrote::

    Three gold stars!

    Friday, April 30, 2010 at 5:13 am #
  5. staci louise wrote::

    Fresno’s got quite a bit “fails” and humor, let’s face it, Fresno isn’t like anywhere else in California, maybe the world. But regularly dissing people actually trying to expose Fresno’s GOOD side is really lame and pathetic. I thought it could be funny at first, but of course, it was just another fail.

    Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 10:58 pm #
  6. Conlan wrote::

    Thanks for the comment, Staci. You're right that there are problems in Fresno, and as I said, I'm all for a good joke regardless of the target. But as you came to recognize, complaining just for its own sake and passing that off as somehow funny commentary is pretty lame. Especially when it attacks people doing real good.

    Friday, April 30, 2010 at 6:05 am #
  7. Katie wrote::

    Thanks for the post Conlan. I saw that conversation go down today and thought it was best not to engage the idiot. Idiots love attention. Kudos to the people who defended themselves. What a sad, sad person. Glad you wrote about it. I kind of felt bad for the guy. You know that feeling when you're embarrassed for someone. He needs a hug.

    Friday, April 30, 2010 at 6:13 am #
  8. Childers wrote::

    Conlan continues to be one of my local heroes. Outstanding argument sir. Keep fighting the good fight, our community is better for your efforts.

    Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 11:35 pm #
  9. Conlan wrote::

    Exactly. Although my tongue was in my cheek while writing, I was serious about not picking on him anymore. I feel the same way you do. I get the feeling he's an unhappy person looking for attention and could probably use a few hugs.

    Friday, April 30, 2010 at 6:44 am #
  10. Tim wrote::

    Is it wrong that I judge this twitter handle (which I've yet to name accurately on the interwebs) for its use of "ur" and "2" in place of the English alternatives?

    Because I do.

    I was annoyed by the lack of humor, creativity or originality, but it was the generalized, inaccurate smear-fest of a few of Fresno's finest that really got my ire up.

    That's right, you guys, my ire reached unprecedented levels for a Thursday. And, for that, I will not forgive or forget anytime soon.

    Friday, April 30, 2010 at 6:51 am #
  11. Tim wrote::

    I might forget, actually. In all honesty, I might forget.

    Friday, April 30, 2010 at 6:52 am #
  12. bfalke wrote::

    Well said sir.

    Friday, April 30, 2010 at 12:11 am #
  13. @andrewsfeil wrote::

    coming from Bakersfield, CA… all the same things have been said. not original. thanks for the post and thoughts.

    Friday, April 30, 2010 at 5:07 pm #
  14. joy wrote::

    once, while watching too much bad TV (cause I'm a Fresnan) I heard this statement:
    "I'll kick your Ass FRESNO-STYLE"
    I liked that.
    I use that line.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

Trackbacks/Pingbacks (2)

  1. Of Mozzarella and Municipalities | This is Conlan on Friday, July 2, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    [...] is the second part in my Failure Fresno Trilogy. Last time I discussed a bit about why complaining isn’t ipso facto funny. Next time, I get [...]

  2. Hiding behind my own face | This is Conlan on Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 7:45 am

    [...] turns out I actually knew the guy. Not the one who doesn’t live here, but the other one. The one who does live here. He’s a friend of friends. We’ve never [...]