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Is It Really That Difficult To Satirise EDM?

Every day another terribly edited "funny" EDM video is uploaded to Youtube, begging the question: who is actually laughing?
March 17, 2016, 4:57pm
Images via Youtube.

A definitive list of things that are definitely funny: Del Boy falling through the bar, fat men breaking rope swings, mums revving motorbikes, Del Boy falling through the bar, goths on holiday, parrots swearing, Del Boy falling through the bar, dads saying "Garlic bread?" and episodes of Come Dine With Me when things get really tense.

A definitive list of things that have never been and will never, ever, ever be funny: snowball fights, improvisational comedy in any form, and "funny" EDM related videos on YouTube that strive for virality but flail around the 300 view count before vanishing into the ether, swamped by the unceasing glut of #content that pours into the internet like so much raw digital sewage.

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You know the kind of video I'm talking about. They pop up once a week or so. Some absolutely hilarious joker decides to knock up a Downfall parody where Jamie Jones complains about his new Hawaiian shirt not arriving in time for another Croatian festival slot. Another absolutely hilarious joker uploads a 20 hour video where Sven Vath screams for 20 solid hours, just one note, one long bleat of anguish. Yet another absolutely hilarious joker flops out a video in which he, a stiff Englishman, does an impression of your average OTT yank EDM DJs which is pretty LOL. And it goes on, and on…

Take this pair, both flung online in the last week.

Oh, our aching sides! Now, the fact that both videos are painfully, ridiculously, horribly, tragically unfunny doesn't need spelling out. If you stomached more than fifteen seconds of either, you'd have seen that for yourself and thus you don't need me breaking down exactly why Seth Troxler's face being transposed onto someone from The Walking Dead, or Ricky Gervais' laugh being transmuted into a fizzy provincial club track are about as funny as shingles, because you've seen them. And if you haven't, one is Seth Troxler's face being transposed onto someone from The Walking Dead and the other features Ricky Gervais' laugh being transmuted into a fizzy provincial club track. Both are about as funny as shingles.

Videos like these, and the thousands upon thousands of other failed attempts at capturing some kind of zeitgeist, failed attempts at monetising the present, are inherently shit largely because trying to be funny is the easiest way to stop being funny. As soon as any effort is put into something that wants to be watched by millions of head-nodding yes men the world over, its power and potency is diminished, shrivelling like a dick on a cold day.

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What's interesting about them, though, is that they're weirdly perfect embodiments of the strange relationship that electronic music and club culture have with humour. Clubbing, as we've said before here on THUMP, is inherently ridiculous. From the continual lionisation of the DJs as godheads, to the strangeness of willingly spending weekend after weekend in blacked out rooms that smell like bad drugs and wasted years—we're all willing participants in a theatre of the absurd. On one hand we've got the Music Is My Religion And It Must Be Taken Incredibly Seriously crew, on the other, its the WHEYYYYY LOOKING FORWARD TO A LARGE ONE TONIGHT HA HA SHOULD BE A BELTER TAPS AFF brigade. Both, let's be honest, are as bad as each other.

Because of that internal divide—the lads who read the Wire and the ones who read DJ Mag, Stockhausen versus Skream—we've ended up in a situation where the only way to get past the po-faced techno crowd is to laud blokes who wouldn't raise a titter down the pub as total fucking banter merchants of the highest order. And that's why we end up with videos like this:

Again, if you've managed to make it even 10 seconds in, you don't need me to tell you it's terrible. If you didn't click, don't: it's terrible. There's that old adage that writing about music is like dancing about architecture which sort of makes sense, but in this case, its better to think about it thus: making terrible videos about EDM is like wasting valuable seconds of life on something that's always, always, always bad.

And it's always, always, always bad because a) it always tries to hard b) the people who produce it aren't anywhere near as funny as they think they are and c) club culture might be inherently absurd, but it isn't inherently funny. There's absolutely nothing funny whatsoever about it. It isn't funny because not everything in this life has to be funny.

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Most of the videos that fall under this umbrella fail because they refuse to engage with the subject, in this case EDM, with any kind of nuance. Instead we get endless jokes about drops and fistpumping and silly names and facepaint and glow sticks. Big fat unfunny jokes that slap you round the face with their big fat obviousness. Now, a kinder critic than I might try and claim that this is actually the best kind of satire possible: it plays with the generic conventions, appearing to take them at face value while actually subverting them from the inside. Except it doesn't. Because you get the feeling from watching them that obviousness isn't being used as a incisive comic device. It's being used because these are stupid videos made by stupid people for stupid people.

Now, I'm no Alexander Pope but I know bad satire when I see it. I also know absurdity can be handled in a variety of ways. The videos above are proof of that, and ultimately proof that knowing something is a bit silly isn't the same as understanding exactly why it's silly. Which is why where UK garage has People Just Do Nothing and classic rock has Spinal Tap, EDM has Burger and Nuggets. Completely unintentionally, We Are Your Friends might be the closest to a decent EDM satire we have.

The rampaging twat inside me initially thinks that these videos exist because the alternative is a world in which we all sombrely sit around debating the merits of Xenakis and drink black coffee out of tweed cups, and only play songs in clubs that prioritise a social message over, you know, being danceable. Then reality kicks back in and I remember that those things are absolutely fine. It's fine to listen to difficult European serialist composers and watch difficult arthouse films about farming in Yemen and read difficult books about postcapitalism and the potentiality of fully automated luxury communism and it's fine to prefer your club music headsy and heads down.

The thought that over-analysis of something as fundamentally pleasure focused as dance music harms what it sets out to preserve, is the primary reason why I think these terrible videos get made so regularly. For some people, clubbing really is nothing more than a mindless detachment from reality. And these people, the people who share the memes and the updates and quote the tweets and crymoji all night long, are real. They exist. They're why these things get made and shared and laughed at. Why? Because everyone wants to feel like they're in on the joke. So the people who make videos like How To Be an EDM DJ or Become a Famous DJ or Funny Techno Chicken Dance make them because they presumably want to engender a feeling of closeness, of familiarity, of comradeship.

Only, as John Bishop evidences every time he walks on to a stage, there is a difference between observational comedy and just "observations." This trend for bludgeoning audiences with obviousness, via strange and badly put together videos, only serves to suggest that fans of EDM are the least funny music fans of any music genre. That, or Vine have got a stake in Tomorrowland.

Josh is on Twitter