The best time I ever did a You was when an ambulance or some sort of noise-making vehicle went by outside. (The key we must use when talking about You: there is "you" (you), the concept of yourself; and there is "you" (You), the funniest joke in the world).
The noise this ambulance made was like a siren, but not. The noise sort of moved through the air like a scream might. The vehicle, which I couldn't see, was moving, but the noise wasn't the usual siren pattern, wah–wah wah–wah. Instead, it was a more solid sound, like a toddler yelling a single note while running through a kitchen: woooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuwwwwwwwwwm. It was a funny noise, a ridiculous noise. Clownish, almost. And then I turned to my flatmate, beside me on the sofa, and said:
And that is the funniest joke in the world.
You remember You because you have been in a playground before in your life. You remember pointing to a bird that died and fell out of a tree along the cross country course, and turning to your friend and saying, "You". A coffee-breathed Geography teacher loses his cool and calls you all "imbeciles", and when the hysteria dies down, just for a second, you turn to your classmate and say, "You". A chair squeaks along the hallway tiling in a way that makes a fart noise. The head of PE gets slammed in the face by a dodgeball. The headteacher calls a school-wide assembly to mark the accidental death of a Year 10. You, You, You. An unusual-looking sausage served as a school dinner. A drama student corpses on stage while delivering a monologue to close the end-of-year talent competition they themselves organised. A nerd wets himself during a Physics exam. You. You. You. Fat lad trips down some stairs: You. Kid gets punched into a wall so hard he sets off the fire alarm: You. A science workbook falls open to a reveal an anatomical drawing of a dissected penis: You.
Anything can be You, but the point is that it is abstract, and bizarre. You point to something then point back to someone, and declare it to be them. You. It is not a good joke. It is not a sophisticated joke. But it is a funny joke.
Recently, I've been bringing You back, and I am glad for it. You is a joke in format, but not always execution: a proper You is like a zing you can't come back from, a You that knocks your breath away. People say You is an overly simple joke, but I disagree: it contains layers and multitudes, all of which are at play every time you You. For instance:
— MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING: You cannot just You a stranger. (I have to admit that, during my current period of heavy You-ing, I have almost You-d a stranger twice, because I am currently so primed to You. I sat next to a bloke on the bus yesterday, and when the bus driver accidentally left his microphone on after making an announcement and made ten to 20 seconds of idle rambling noises before abruptly saying "fuck", I almost turned to him and whispered: "You"). You is an understanding between two people, like The Game is: you both acknowledge, after a few successful Yous, that you can both be You-d again in the near future. You are now constantly living in a colosseum of You. Any time, a fatal blow can be delivered by either party. Anyone, at any time, can be the victim of a You.
— SPEED: This, too, is part of the dance: when you are locked in an endless You battle with another person, and something happens that can feasibly be a You – the noise of a sink unblocking, a headline about a piece of garbage washed up on a distant shore, this tweet, which is you – you are now locked in a race to be the first to You. Occasionally, there is an ethereal moment where you both turn to each other and say You in unison, at which point you both must acknowledge that yes, that is You, by quietly admitting: "Me."
— ACCEPTANCE: A good You speaks to some small part of you that admits that you are embarrassing, or flawed, or misshapen in some way, that when you have been properly You’d you must admit defeat instantly, and it feels like being hit firmly in the chest. News headlines are a good You (I have a side-theory that You is a devolution of the Facebook joke where you tag your mates onto a funny headline with the suggestion that the news story is actually about them, such as the VICE classic, "Blackburn Man Does Five Lines of Cocaine, Has a Forty Minute Wank In a Beer Garden, Is Arrested", which is, actually, about you) (a lot of modern meme humour is based on identifying deeply with an abstract concept – a photo of a boy playing a trombone at a girl in the street, for instance, or a Spongebob screenshot – and the skeleton of You is roughly the same as that). YouTube thumbnails are also, very often, You. A photo from a local news story where someone is pointing to a pothole and pulling a face somewhere between fear and despair? That’s you, that is. You are everywhere, reflected back in everything, and that’s an important thing to recognise. In many ways, You is a concept that keeps all of our egos in check. You cannot get too ahead of yourself when you know a You lurks around the corner.
And so, crucially, anything can be a You. For instance: you see the 800+ words that preceded this sentence, overly explaining a joke out to the point that the joke is no longer funny anymore? That’s you.
Just try it, is what I’m saying. Calling someone You is exceptionally juvenile and immature, and in that simplicity there is something very freeing. Get abstract with it, get weird. Every photo of Johnny Depp that looks like he's actively dying of blood shortage? You. The impossible feeling of dread that creeps through your chest and out to your limbs in the moment you realise you’ve been ghosted? You. The drains in our flat recently backed up so much that a load of fetid water sat in our sinks for two days before a plumber could fix it, and when I came home the place was solid with a rotten smell in the air, and before I could say anything about it my flatmate held up a single finger to it and immediately went: You.
There's nothing you can do about it. It’s funny. It’s exceptionally straightforward and simple. It’s childish, and stupid. It is – and I hate to say this, I really do – but it is. It's You.