What's so funny about the Net?

Watch out. Tony Hendra's done National Lampoon, "Spitting Image" and "Spinal Tap"; now he's going online.



Damien Cave
September 5, 2000 10:24PM (UTC)

Tony Hendra has joked his way through most media. As a former editor of National Lampoon and Spy, he poked fun in print; as creator of the TV show "Spitting Image," he used puppets to skewer everyone from the Queen Mother to Ronald Reagan; and while playing Ian Faith, the manager of faux rock-band "Spinal Tap," he let film and music do his satirical bidding.

So it should come as no surprise to discover that he's now busting chops online. Gigawit launched in late August, but Hendra's already describing his latest venture as "a two-headed monster," by which he means that the company is seeking to become both a publisher of hardbound books and a humor Web site that lets well-known comedians like his friend Al Franken share the virtual stage with unknowns. Already, Hendra has published his own book, "E: The Gigawit Dictionary of the E-nglish Language," and First Manhattan Consulting Group has seeded the company with $500,000, so Hendra appears to be well on his way.

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Your book makes fun of all things techie. The C++ computer language is defined as "Jennifer Gates' grade average;" e-mail becomes "any sentiments, commands, concepts, reflections and opinions of sufficient incoherence and banality that they would never have been expressed before the digital means to do so became available." What else do you find funny about the Internet?

The Net in and of itself isn't funny, but the people involved with the Net are funny. It isn't just the nerd words that they use, it's also the utopianism that seems to be there. The idea that any piece of technology can completely change the world -- that's what really tickles me. Wired magazine, for example, is always doing stories that are so outrageously apocryphal -- real 'Death is on its way out!' sorts of things. It's just so breathless, a wonderful wide-open target. Things like microbots, these little tiny insect-like things that could go to the moon or be in your underwear or be used as spies. Oh, the endless possibilities! Really, it's wonderful stuff, wonderful stuff for humor.

And I also think that some of the things that the [MIT] Media Lab is doing are funny. The idea that we actually want rooms or appliances that know where we are and who we are is just staggering to me. It's this attitude that if it can be done, it should be done. But who wants a fridge that tells you you're fat? I prefer much dumber appliances. I like dumb rooms, rooms that don't know I'm in them.

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Damien Cave

Damien Cave is an associate editor at Rolling Stone and a contributing writer at Salon.

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