Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Best of McSweeney's

On and off the last few years I've been a steady reader of the McSweeney's daily website, the offshoot of the literary magazine started by Dave Eggers and friends. Although I don't keep up with it to the extent I used to (too many misses these days, it seems, though maybe I'm just getting left behind?), I have accumulated so many favorites over the years that I decided to put together a top ten list.

So, what follows is my completely biased and sentimental look at The Best of McSweeney's Internet Tendency:

Thirteen Writing Prompts
A much loved piece, eventually inspired a contest in which people tried their hands at some of the, uh, challenging prompts within this article.

9. An Aging Kelis Reflects...
My favorite "Short, Imagined Monologue." This one is a little dated now, I admit, but who didn't love (or love to hate?) the "Milkshake Song."

8. Marvin Gaye Explains What he Heard Through the Grapevine
Part of a series that John Moe does where he "deconstructs" the lyrics to famous songs. This one is both silly and, somehow, kind of terrifying.

7. Winnie the Pooh is My Coworker
I think the title really says it all with this one.

6. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Meeting People More Famous than You
Michael Ian Black gives extremely helpful advice on how to approach famous people. One important tip: give money.

People Whose Names are Anagrams of My Own-Shane Patrick Ryan- Hold a Town Meeting
An inspired piece, which I find all the more impressive because of my personal difficulty with anagrams. This must have taken weeks to write.

4. Dan Kennedy Solves Your Problem With Paper #7
The best of Kennedy's "Paper Advice" columns-Nobody does the voice of the "depressed, solipsistic, aging male" archetype better these days.

3. History's Great Persons Reconsidered
It is a real shame that Tim Carvell doesn't do these anymore. Back in the early days of McSweeneys, you could always count on this column and John Hodgman's "Ask a Former Professional Literary Agent" for a laugh. This column finally asks the question historians have been too scared to: "What If Elvis Presley had lobster-like claws for hands?"

2. Current Releases
I really don't know how to describe this article or explain why I find it so deeply funny. Does anyone even remember the Vaughn/Travolta movie "Domestic Disturbance" anymore? Regardless, I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes the first time I read this.

1. Truly Groundbreaking Advertising Ideas
This piece, also written by Dan Kennedy, does absolutely everything you could hope for in a short comedy piece: It starts off funny, remains funny, and never lets up.

So, that's my list. Although there has got to be at least 15-20 more that could be included, these are the ones that I'll still go back to reread years later.

Are there any that I'm forgetting? Does anyone else have a favorite McSweeney's piece that merits inclusion?


MDD said...

As a regular McSweeneys reader as well, I'd like to nominate a couple others as well:

Unused Audio Commentary By Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky for The Fellowship of the Ring:
"Chomsky: We should examine carefully what's being established here in the prologue. For one, the point is clearly made that the "master ring," the so-called "one ring to rule them all," is actually a rather elaborate justification for preemptive war on Mordor."

"Chomsky: Well, what we see here, in Hobbiton, farmers tilling crops. The thing to remember is that the crop they are tilling is, in fact, pipe-weed, an addictive drug transported and sold throughout Middle Earth for great profit."

"Zinn: The Orcs have no resources. They're desperate."

And I love Dan Liebert the Verbal Cartoonist. Some selections:

"When women ask you to share your feelings, I found out that they really just want to hear about love.
They don't give a damn if you're feeling "patriotic and hungry."

"Roaches haven't changed at all in 60 million years—except for this one: I just put tiny velour underpants on him. "

"Some so-called superstitions have a solid basis in fact. For instance, if you're leafing through a magazine at a newsstand and a subscription card falls out and touches the floor before you can catch it, you will die before nightfall, because I will follow you home and kill you, I swear I will. "

Anyway, good post Josh. I had forgotten about some of these. The Domestic Disturbance one is so ridiculously classic that I can do no more than bow before the superior being who created it.

Josh said...

Excellent choices, Mike!

Also, I failed to slip in a mention of the "Stephen Elliott Poker Report," definitely one of the best recurring threads on the McSweeneys page.

Anonymous said...

How could this gem of a submission be left out?

Date: Fri, 3 Feb 2006
Subject: A better Joe Cocker impression than that other guy's?

I love McSweeney's. I think it's a cliched "breath of fresh air." But I must say, I was really taken aback by the declaration that Timothy McSweeney's Joe Cocker impression is better than that other guy's. Have you ever really seen "that other guy's" impression? I mean, have you seen it being performed from the head of the dining room while eating tuna noodle casserole? Have you ever conversed with the pastor's family on Thanksgiving while being serenaded by a mean Joe Cocker impersonator? Because I have. "That other guy," being mocked by McSweeney's, is my father. Since I was a little girl, he has dazzled the crowds with his Joe Cocker impression. He has taken it public at numerous karaoke bars and work parties. He has consistently embarrassed my mom with his act. And now Timothy McSweeney dares to say his own impression is better?

Where are the fact-checkers at McSweeney's? I call a duel!

But seriously, what are the chances of me having a father who does a great Joe Cocker impression and that particular statement being made on the McSweeney's website. You guys must have been at karaoke night at the Windhaven Bar in Cranberry, Pennsylvania, on July 12, 2002.

Yeah, I agree, that was my dad's best performance yet.

Lindsey McGuirk

Josh said...

That is a little embarrassing, Lindsey. I checked every letter written to McSweeney's (twice!) before writing this, and somehow missed it. Obviously, there is a new number 1 for this list!

Ami said...

Dance lesson! Dance lesson!

todd said...

I can fly.

Josh said...

Man, I forgot about both of those. "I Can Fly" was, I think, the first McSweeney's entry I read. And "Dance Lesson" would have unquestionably been on the Top 10 if I'd remembered it.

I forgot about the Butterball Help Line, too. That probably should have been at least an honorable mention.