The Comehack

Sunday, 09 March, Year 6 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

Please flip through your pop culture booklets (here's a word to our sponsor) to page 147. I quote in relevant part :

[Yankee Stadium, Conference Room]

(A group of staff, including George, are gathered round the table. There's a bunch of food on the table. Most people have a small plate with a few salad leaves on it in front of them. George is picking shrimp off a platter, dipping them in some sort of sauce, and stuffing his face with them, about as fast as he can manage.)

BILL: Well, if the big man wants a new scoreboard, I don't wanna be the one to tell him no.

REILLY: No-one in the park is gonna be able to see it from there.

GEORGE: (through a mouthful of shrimp) Well, why don't we just put a monitor in his skybox?

REILLY: Hey George, the ocean called. They're running outta shrimp.

(Everyone at the table starts laughing uproariously at Reilly's joke. George looks upset, and barely forces half a sick smile past his mouthful of seafood.)

[George's Car]

(George drives along. He's fuming at Reilly's dig.)

GEORGE: (angry, to himself) The ocean called. Running outta shrimp. Outta shrimp! (a thought occurs) Oh! Yes! That's what I shoulda said! (frustrated shout) Dammit!

[New York Health & Racquet Club]

(George and Jerry come along a corridor. They're carrying bags and paraphernalia indicating they've been playing tennis.)

JERRY: 'The ocean called, They're running outta shrimp'?

GEORGE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But then, I said to him, 'Oh yeah? Well, the jerk store called, and they're running outta you.'

(Jerry and George halt at a bench by the entrance to the pro shop. Jerry rummages in his bag, producing an old-fashioned wooden framed tennis racquet.)

JERRY: (smiling) Really? That's great. You said that to him?

GEORGE: (confessing) Well, actually, I thought it up on the way over here.

JERRY: Oh. That's not quite the same.

GEORGE: No. No it's not. You don't know this guy. It woulda been so sweet.

JERRY: I'm gonna grab a can of balls.

GEORGE: Right.

(George heads on down the corridor. Jerry walks into the pro shop, carrying his gear. There are a few customers browsing. Milos (East European, tracksuit wearing, slicked back hair with pony tail) comes over to Jerry.)

[Jerry's stinking apartment, with people ready to pore over the, excruciating minutia, of every, single, daily event]

(The door opens and George wanders in, looking pleased with himself.)

GEORGE: Sometimes in life, the gods smile upon you, my friends.

JERRY: D'you get someone to take that Canadian quarter?

GEORGE: I got another meeting with Reilly. A whole new audience, and I bet I can get him to try that line again.

ELAINE: Who's Reilly?

JERRY: George was scarfing shrimp at this meeting, and this guy says 'Hey, George, the ocean called. They're running outta shrimp.'

(Elaine laughs, loud and long, causing Jerry and Kramer to smile and laugh.)

GEORGE: Listen to the comeback. (pleased) 'Oh yeah? Well the jerk store called. They're running outta you.'

(George smiles and looks expectant. The other three just stare at him, with varying levels of confusion in their expressions.)

GEORGE: (worked up) Wha...You gotta be kidding me?!

ELAINE: How 'bout this one? How 'bout, 'Your cranium called. It's got some space to rent.'?

(Elaine laughs, and Jerry smiles.)

GEORGE: (confused) What does that mean?

JERRY: (taps George's chest) Hey, here you go. 'Hey, Reilly. The zoo called. You're due back by six.'

GEORGE: (frustrated) No. No, no, no. You're not helping me.

KRAMER: Look, just tell him you had sex with his wife. That'll kill him.

GEORGE: (shouting) I'm not looking for another line. I got the line.

KRAMER: Look, George, just think about it. You know, you're married, how would you feel if somebody says to you that they just had se...

GEORGE: (really animated) Alright, alright. You see? This is why I hate writing with a large group. Everybody has their own little opinions, and it all gets homogenised, and you lose the whole edge of it. I'm going with jerk store! Jerk store is the line! Jerk store! Yess!

(George walks out the door. The other three watch him go. Kramer walks over and looks out the door after George, then returns and spots Jerry's old racquet on a stool.)

[Yankee Stadium, Conference Room]

(The table is ringed with employees again, and there is more food. George is stuffing his face with shrimp, just as before. There are a couple of empty seats. One more guy (Fred) enters, and moves to sit at the table.)

FRED: Alright, let's get to it.

GEORGE: Wha..wait a minute, wha..what about Reilly?

FRED: Reilly doesn't work here any more.

GEORGE: (surprise) What? I..I didn't hear about that.

FRED: Oh, we only wake you up for the important meetings.

(Everyone at the table collapses into laughter at George's expense. Again, George do nothing but look upset at the turn of events.)


GEORGE: Reilly is no longer with the club. (getting up) You believe that?

(George wanders over into the kitchen.)

JERRY: Ah, you're better off. Now you can just let it go.

(George looks in the fridge.)

GEORGE: Yeah, I'm gonna let it go.

JERRY: You never really had the right comeback, anyway.

(George jerks out of the fridge, slamming the door.)

GEORGE: (animated) Are you insane? Jerk store, woulda smoked that guy! Smoked him, I say.

(George walks back into the living room and picks up a newspaper. The door opens and Kramer enters.)


(Jerry and Elaine sit in a booth. George enters and strolls over to the booth.)

GEORGE: (sitting) So, guess where Mr 'Ocean phoned' turned up? He's working for Firestone, in Akron, Ohio.


GEORGE: Yep. I'm leaving first thing tomorrow morning.

JERRY: (nonplused) You're flying to Akron, just to zing a guy?

GEORGE: Don't you understand? It's not about him. To have a line as perfect as 'jerk store' and to never use it. I, I couldn't live with myself.

ELAINE: See, there are no jerk stores.'s just a little confusing, is all.

GEORGE: (adamant) It's smart. It's a smart line, and a smart crowd will appreciate it. (shouting) And, I'm not gonna dumb it down for some bonehead mass audience!

(George realises that everyone in the coffee shop is staring over at him, and has heard his shouts.)

GEORGE: (waving apologetically) Not you.

[Firestone Boardroom, Akron]

(A boardroom very much like that of the Yankees, but with a Firestone sign on the wall. Several people sit around the table, including Reilly, and George, who is filling his face from a large dish of shrimp.)

REILLY: So, George. You're proposing a snow tyre day at Yankee Stadium?

GEORGE: (through a mouthful) Long as they don't throw 'em on the field. (laughs) Huhu. (indicating dish) Help yourself to some shrimp, I brought enough for everybody.

MCADAM: (doubtful) I have to say this, this proposal doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

GEORGE: Well, you never know. (picks up more shrimp) Let's see how many I can fit in my mouth.

(George begins picking up shrimp one by one and stuffing them into his mouth.)

REILLY: (leaning forward) You know, George...

(George looks up, expectantly.)

REILLY: The ocean called. They're running outta shrimp.

(Everyone around the table laughs. Except for George, who looks triumphant. He swallows, and uses a napkin to clean his fingers.)

GEORGE: (standing) Oh yeah, Reilly? (smugly) Well, the jerk store called. They're running outta you

REILLY: (unperturbed) What's the difference? You're their all-time best seller!

(Reilly and everyone else laughs even more than they did before. George looks angry and frustrated, even on the verge of tears for a second, then something occurs to him.)

GEORGE: Yeah? Well, I had sex with your wife.

(George looks round, smiling arrogantly, expecting laughter. But there is a deep, uncomfortable, silence. Reilly, looks stony-faced. McAdam stands and leans over to speak in George's ear.)

MCADAM: His wife is in a coma.

(George looks sick.)

[George's Car]

(Once again, George drives along, frustrated and angry.)

GEORGE: 'My wife's in a coma.' Yeah? Well, the life support machine called and...

(He tails off, as he can't think of anywhere to go. Then a look of enlightenment comes to George's face, as he thinks of something.)

GEORGE: (shouts) Wait! Yes! That's what I should've said! (frustration) D'ohh!

(George looks gutted for a second, then a determined expression comes to his face. He swings the car round with a squeal of tires, and heads back towards the airport.)

GEORGE: (cocky laughter) Huh haha! (shouts) You're meat, Reilly! You just screwed yourself! (laughter) Ha ha!

We already did a round of practical exercises on this episode last month, but that doesn't necessarily mean we're done poring.

The major consideration here, something George neglects to consider at all, and for very deeply entrenched psychological reasons, is that laughter has nothing to do with the joke.

Laughter is an ancient human group behaviour, definitely older than speech (yet perhaps providing the structure upon which speech later developed) principally used in group recognition. The pre-hominid apes, gathered around whatever it was they gathered around back then, would recognise their own and distinguish them from outsiders by this particular vocalisation. That's why it's "instinctual" and "you can't control it" etcetera : because it's very old, and very intimately linked to your chances of survival. God help you if you laughed at the wrong time, today by the conference tableside as 100`000 years ago by the whatever it was. And heaven help you if you just didn't think stuff was funny, roughly the equivalent of not thinking there's anything in the equal protection clause justifying special treatment based on race : the monkeys will marginalise, yo! And you'll care!

Consequently, laughter is not about what's funny and what's not funny, and there isn't such a thing as funny. Laughter is a reaction to the unexpected (which is pretty much the entirety of subject matter the early primates would have needed, or wanted, or cared to communicate about) which reflects and reinforces the hierarchical structure of the group. That's why "check out the legs on that one" produces laughter in the proper group : if the emitter is surrounded by his group, ready to support him, and they're surprised by the chick with nice legs, the guffaws are guaranteed. That's why the funniest sex joke isn't going to be funny among puritans, and that's what the problem is with jokes at funerals : they happen to work just fine among the Irish, now don't they! And you thought that was a universal, quasi-moral imperative, now didn't you! Awww...

George meanwhile tries to hack his social status. That's what his nonsense is all about, he wronglyi imagines that the laughter is in the story, not in the people hearing it, he imagines funny secretes out of something within his reach, not firmly within my grasp. (You know, just like art.)

And so he proceeds to try and tweak his responses, and think up comebacks and recompile the code again and again and again in the vain, hopeless beyond reason hope that one day, somehow, it may finally work.

George is not alone in this endeavour. Every kid who, rather than behave sanely runs off to instead implement "his" "own" "exchange/Bitcoin business" so he can be the "CEO" is guilty of the exact same pseudo think. Every would-be "gunwitch"ii / Pick Up Artist is doing exactly the same thing. Geeks of all persuasions, the entirety of the "start-up culture" is predicated upon the never ending quest to hack humor, to write comehacks, to generally speaking be a hack. All of it, of course, fueled by that great US delusion, the notion that if you're unhappy the problem is both external and resolvable.iii

Nevertheless, do you know what a hack is ? I'd almost suggest you looking it up, but then it dawned on me : once enough of you US nuts look it up, you'll just change the fucking dictionary entry.iv Buncha hacks...

  1. But for very good reason : just like Dr. ForeskinHead can't for the life of him accept his intellectual inferiority and build upon the solid foundation of that submission, prefering to get all retracted instead, just so George can't come to terms with his social marginality. It's not fair! Why should he remain nobody worth nothing for as long as he's not willing to change who he is, all the way deep down, in order to suit what I say he should be ? NOT FAIR!!1 And who elected me anyway ? []
  2. I totally called that one, by the way.

    Ted Bundy. Asasinu’ ala, sociopatu. Despre ala vorbim. Tipu’ ala e modelu’ cetateanului.

    Daca va doriti sa futeti atunci va doriti, dupa mintea acestui sfatuitor, sa fiti ca un fel de Ted Bundy.

    El este. Si pentru el - fara posibila umbra de indoiala - functioneaza.

    roughly translates as "this guy is the sociopath serial killer". Six months later, the person in question shot his "girlfriend". In the face. You know what forensics write on the reports for murders with facial disfiguration, right ? []

  3. Predictably this worked a lot better back when a bunch of rejects were trying to live their lives out in the wilds. Works a lot worse these days, when a bunch of completely insane narcissistic maniacs are trying to leave the rest of the world with the impression that what they got over there is a country, and a civilised country at that. []
  4. That's right, it's not "the gubinmint" always changing words to escape the evaluation of its useless, pointless incompetence. It's you. []
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