In two panels, side by side, a dog in a fedora sits in a flaming room with his table, chair and cup of coffee intact. The perception changes, moving closer to his face, as he shows a blatant dissociation from the wreckage surrounding him by saying “This is fine”.
Millennial humor is a benchmark that often shows a nihilistic side to what is considered “funny”. Our jokes are also marked with Dadaistic influences; where things don’t make sense, but there’s a certain beauty and composition to what we find funny. In the example I’ve given, the joke is referred to as a “meme” and can be applied to numerous instances in a person’s life where they are surrounded by difficulties, but refuse to acknowledge them. As a millennial myself, I find it easy to partake in this culture of sharing memes, saying “Oh mood?” when someone points out that a coffee cup has shattered on the floor and laughing when I see a seagull with laser eyes yelling some form of a dramatisation on the normalcy of life e.g: “THERE’S BEEN A SPILLAGE ON AISLE 7.”
Yes, millennial humor is weird. But, there’s a method to all this madness.
The effects of environment and culture
A simple theory arose from The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Bruenig that states the reason why this type of humor is prevalent among the younger generation, is that we are all living in a different world; a different climate of political and cultural change. Studies show that millennials place less importance on the traditional sources of meaning such as family or religion, leading to a jarring difference between them and their older counterparts. Bruenig notes that the standard of humor focuses on the surreal and weird, leading to a cesspit where young people exhibit a culture of ‘meaningless’ humor that focuses on the expressions of failure, dread and worry.
The culture created for millennials that we inherited from our parents is partly to be blamed for the phenomena of our projecting of existential anxieties onto internet pictures. Rising housing prices, unstable economies, no guarantee of finding jobs after completing expensive degrees have placed a sense of fear in the hearts of the younger generation. We are navigating a game of life where the rules have changed drastically. The three-step formula to gaining a perfect life (study, work, marry) has taken a sharp turn with many millennials finding themselves out of touch with the previous principles that have guided them while they were growing up. The current climate calls for relatability in the form of these memes where the words “me” and “same” are uttered more than “we have a problem and we should fix it.”
After all, laughing at a problem is easier than sitting down and navigating a proper game plan to fix it.
Avenues of comedic expression
Personally, I find that our humor is markedly different from the rest of the standard humor that is culturally ‘appropriate’. Even the slapstick style of Monty Python holds a different torch from the nuances of hilarity that millennials find funny. Another great example is the presence (or lack, thereof) of the video platform, Vine. Focusing on six seconds worth of content, a lot of memes have been generated by these videos. After the closing down of the application, humor has been driven to the avenues of Reddit (debatable) or Tumblr (also, debatable). Many lament that the closure of Vine has closed down their canvases of creativity, and a certain style of humor has faded into the archives of Youtube or the recesses of Tumblr. The humor in Vine focuses on the subversion of expectations, or sometimes, just plain dangerous stunts meant to conjure a laugh or two from the masses. A great platform, gone too soon, in my opinion.
But at the end of the day, one might argue that how we perceive humor matters very little. If it helps us cope with the void in our lives as we grow up in this muddled mess, then it’s fine with me. We all need a laugh in our life, so who cares how we get it?
Understandable, have a good day, Sir. Yeet.
Written by Tennielle Callista Chua
Featured image from The New York Times