I said I wouldn’t do it.
In 2011, when a government shutdown loomed, I made with the wacky Twitter yuk-yuks.
I figured that was it. It was, after all, just one joke — a weirdly specific one, granted, with its “(Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome +Lovecraft + Whatever Meager Scraps of 11th Grade Civics Class I Could Scrape from my Hippocampus) = KOMEDY JOKE” structure — but still, it was just the one joke, over and over.
That’s more or less what I told people who asked if I’d dust it off last December, when a federal budget shortfall or whatever threatened. There just wasn’t any juice left in it.
But then last week, another government shutdown threatened. And I found myself in a dayjob SEO meeting, a thing that leaches light and hope and joy from the world. In desperation, I got on my old dead horse and beat it so hard it turned to glue.
But I did want to challenge myself. I also wanted to cop to the fact that I was shamelessly milking the original. So I decided to make the #duringthegovernmentshutdown hashtag even stupidly longer, and test drove a few options in my head:
(No, I did NOT consider #duringthegovernmentshutdown2electricboogaloo, thank you VERY much, Mr. Hacky McHackery of Hacktown, Hacksylvania.)
Settled on #duringthegovernment2piginthecity. Because it was the shortest. And because Babe 2 is hell of a lot of fun.
I’d effectively chopped my available space for japery down to 90 or so characters. It was not easy. The tone of the dumb thing depends in part on archaic words and syntax, which are not ideally suited to Twitter. Over and over again, I had to completely rephrase the joke, or lose it entirely. In more than a few cases, I made compromises that still rankle.
Losing definite articles, for example: “The Were-Hares take Warren Buffet’s corpse …”, is, I avow, an objectively and implicitly funnier phrasing than “Were-hares take Warren Buffet’s corpse….” Can’t tell you why. Just is.
I started it up again on Thursday the 26th, thinking the shutdown would be averted and I could stop when a compromise was reached in a day or two, as in 2011.
But the bastards blew it up. So I kept going.
I resolved to stop once the actual shutdown occurred at 12:01 a.m. on October 1st. Because once basic, vital services stop reaching the people that need them, the whole notion of shutdown gets a lot less funny.
I should have started later. Really thought they’d compromise, and I wouldn’t have to keep it going for FIVE DAMN DAYS.
Easily the most RT’d/Fav’d one was the zombie/Bikeshare one, followed by the cupcake one. I came VERY close to deleted each one before Tweeting it, figuring they were both tired references (zombies? cupcakes? still?).
SO, THIS IS ALL JUST RIPPING OFF WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE, RIGHT?
Lookit: I love Welcome to Night Vale. I have proselytized for Welcome to Night Vale. The writing on that show is crystalline, perfect. But, you know, they didn’t patent the Lovecraft joke. Nor did I, back in 2011. So back off, sonny. Next question.
ANY YOU’RE PARTICULARLY PROUD OF?
"Proud" is the wrong word to use when the subject is dumb Twitter jokes. But the Tarot one, I sort of like. Air & Space. Merpeople. Patrick Leahy. The cabs vs. Uber one is funny to me, and me only, and allowed me to make a Mister T reference, because as seen above, I got my finger on the pulse of the today’s hip, happening youth.
ANY YOU’D TAKE BACK?
I didn’t love going back to the White House organic garden twice. I really did try not to cover the exact same ground as before. For example, I consciously avoided use of the word “fleshpit,” though I love it a lot and it’s ideally suited to this endeavor, because I’d used it back in 2011.
Here they are, after the jump, in their dumb entirety: five days’ worth of my sweaty attempts at mirth, in the order I Tweeted them. If you followed my feed during all this, thank you. You are good people. If you unfollowed, know that I get it. And that you can come back now, because normal service (fish puns and dad jokes and shameless promotion of my book, SUPERMAN: THE UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY, which I wrote, which is a book you should totally buy) has returned.
John Boehner smears the offal of a she-goat across the Great Seal. The air sours. It begins anew.
The President addresses a worried nation but in his eyestalks we see only his stark & vivid terror.
A rude tower of bones & skin shudders into existence on 14th St. & begins selling gourmet burgers.
ALERT: The Blue Point oysters at Hank’s are, in fact, fetal shoggoths. Still a good deal, though.
As foretold, a DC DMV employee rouses herself from her 15-year slumber in the break room.
On Theodore Roosevelt Island, a statue of the 26th president hectors tourists about their weight.
The hot dry wind in the boughs of the Tidal Basin’s cherry trees hisses “Kiiiiilll meeeeee.”
Shadow-demons roost in the scaffolds of the Washington Monument. A gibbous moon rises. Bloodsong.
Ted Cruz stands sweating before a great desk. The chair revolves. “Well done,” whispers Asmodeus.
Bo’s missing. “This isn’t blood!” FLOTUS insists. “I was chopping beets! From my organic garden!”
Sotomayor field strips her AR-15 nightly. She won’t go down over a jammed firing pin. Like Scalia.
"The Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oversight is dead," he whispered. "I am Lord Fang now."
Lo, a Great Reckoning shall descend & all will finally reckon that red pandas are just dumb foxes.
The undead are great in number, & they do not sleep. But the Bikeshare barricade holds. For now.
A cold sound, a voiceless dread, an invocation to despair. Ladies & Gentlemen, the Capitol Steps!
The shade of Mark Russell roams the Mall. To hear his song (“The Shutdown Shuffle!”) is to perish.
Harry Reid sneers, rubs his mohwawk. “The price … is unchanged,” he says. “Ass, gas or grass.”
They say Valerie Jarrett can cure the radiation sickness — if you feed her your eternal soul.
Many sought refuge leagues away in the vile, cursèd place Men name Reston Town Center; we speak not of it.
Corpse-lights caper in the carrels of the Library of Congress; a portrait of Jefferson weeps.
Hilary Clinton slathers ordure on the punji sticks. “Now we watch,” she thinks. “And we wait.”
The lusty war chants of undersecretaries split the night, ever closer. We are lost. Avenge us.
The flesh-peddlers who have seized the Office of Management & Budget are a fell & fearsome lot.
The ritual is complete. The braziers’ flames burn onyx-black. G. Gordon Liddy arises. “I THIRST.”
We huddle as the dawn’s first tendrils reach the Capitol dome no hold up those are tentacles run
The morning air is crisp, like the bones of a Senate Page in the teeth of a fire-drake. RIP Tad.
”In the cloak room at the DC courthouse, great Shaneequa lies dreaming.”
To stand in the footprints at the passport office is to become a meal for their trapdoor spider.
In an empty, ruined CrossFIt, Josh Rogin does burpees while whisper-chanting “Eat FIST, funnyman.”
A scream of outrage dies on Grover Norquist’s lips as the walkers redistribute his organs.
Flies grow fat & torpid on the ichor that seeps from our wounds; Jim Vance eats his own goattee.
Any who visit the Children’s Museum’s Please Touch exhibit emerge shaken, marked by a dread sigil.
Scrawled across a cardboard box in an alley off H Street: THIS WAY 2 CHEF GEOFF’S PEMMICAN BAR
"This town," mutters Liebovitch the Terrible, waving a 3rd camp follower into his bearskin tent.
Nate Silver raises his Rod of Lordly Might & casts the lich Zogby into a Margin of Error.
Suspended in a pool of mucilage far below the Old Post Office, the Old Postmaster waits and plots.
The Air & Space Museum vanishes, leaving only air, & space, & chittering. Always, the chittering.
A cold wind. In the dark, a thin voice: “Who dares summon poor, damnèd Atwater from his torment?”
Women flock to an ultra-chic Georgetown salon to get the bulge-eyed, slit-necked “Innsmouth Look.”
The Beast-That-Was-Joe-Biden slips without a ripple below the inky surface of the Reflecting Pool.
No one now lives who remembers her as she was. Now she is only Malia Soul-Reaper, Warrior-Queen.
A cloud shaped like Rand Paul. A scent, high in the nose, of the sea. The sky rains cephalopods.
The Deathless Ones paw at the chain-link fence around Georgetown Cupcake. They hunger. They wait.
The grimy urchins of St. Albans’ Lower School pelt the unwary with clots of feculent dirt.
Nader soars into the gloaming astride his cockatrice; the wind carries peals of girlish laughter.
"Change here for the Red, Blue, & Worrisomely-Infected-Lymph Line trains on the lower level."
Thunder at sunset. A green & sickly light flutters in the tower of Smithsonian Castle. A lone rat.
Where NoMa once stood, now lies only a vast & noxious sinkhole. So, not much different, really.
The Smithsonian looter dons Fonzie’s leather jacket & is suffused with a dark, eldritch power over jukeboxes.
In the charred ruins of the Kennedy Center, Shear Madness! plays nightly with a matinee Wednesdays.
The kaiju crushes the SEC under a scaly claw; its cry is a song from beyond space, a song of loss.
Entering the nightclub, Patrick Leahy extends the spines of his neck-frill in courtship display.
High inside the National Cathedral something gnaws & snarls & drops gobbets of flesh on the nave floor.
The entrails say nothing. David Brooks slips a pigeon gizzard into his mouth & sucks thoughtfully.
The Morlocks hunt in packs but never venture into Georgetown by night. So they’re gay, probably.
The Tower. The Hanged Man. The Heirophant. Nude Steny Hoyer Riding What Is That, An Ibex? An Ibex.
The Easter Egg Roll carries on without eggs. We use bezoars instead. Same weight. Just stickier.
Once, the House of Representatives. Now, the Charnel House of Disarticulated Skeletal Remains.
The World Bank announces that all international development loans will now be made in human teeth.
In the center of a Meridian Hill drum circle, a man-sized lump of squamous flesh wheezes & froths.
"It jussst feelsssss good not to have to hide anymore," hisses Chief Justice Roberts, a Lizard Man.
DC Cab’s champion is a re-animated Mr. T. Über’s is a Town Car Transformer. The pitiable fools.
I regret my tactical decision to make Key Bridge Boathouse our last stand against the Merpeople.
Death’s stallion champs impatiently at a bit crafted from the tanned, leathery skin of Karl Rove.
Yog-Sothoth makes the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows, offering only farts & ululations.
No news from Gonzaga since the Lamiae, howling for child-flesh, overran the campus. Hope fades.
The steps of the Capitol South escalator have grown a coarse black fur and flinch at your touch.
The blood-rains are unsightly, yes, but the real problem will come later, when the Potomac clots.
The Awakening statue frees itself from the loamy soil to crush & maim. Gawk not at its huge dong.
Turn off the lights in a DEA Office men’s room. Say “Hank Schrader” 3 times into the mirror. Die.
Capital Weather calls for blood rain followed by black bile snow, yellow bile virga, & phlegm freezing drizzle.
Were-hares take Warren Buffet’s corpse into their burrows, where his name & his fate become one.
Elder Ones nest in the bowels of the Old Executive Office Building, which we now call the EOOEOB.
The Lincoln Memorial’s statue strides up to the NAS Einstein statue. They totally start doin’ it.
It was a squeaker, but Bob Mould has officially defeated Ian MacKaye for Witchfinder General.
Before the Cenobites took over every ANC, participatory government was less about the flensing.
The quote on MLK’s statue is wrong. I mean “Ahnahl nathrak/Uuthvas bethohd/Dochiel dyenveh” WTF?
"I know that blade!" gasps Darrell Issa. "It was carved from a Shai-Hulud’s tooth! I am undone!"
Now that Toecutter, Bubba Zanetti & Johnny the Boy drive Priuses their havoc’s quite eco-friendly.
In filthy rags, Jay Carney rides atop a vast squirming tide of vermin, screaming “I am Ratmaster!”
Sobbing, Matthew Lesko strips to the waist & slices yet another dollar sign into his downy thigh.
Pierre L’enfant, in skunk form, is cursed to chase a cat through the very Avenues he designed.
Inside the Rayburn Building lies the Nelson-Reilly Vault, where is kept the fabled Cravat of Doom.
Newt Gingrich’s secret mutant twin, Skink Gingrich, suns himself on the Mall, chewing a beetle.
Death panels. Also death paneling, famine baseboards, war wainscoting & a floral conquest border.
Pleasures strange, dark & orgiastic await in Mitch “Dr. Flesh” McConnell’s Nudey Den of Sauciness.
The Aquarium below the Commerce Building gets somehow even lousier.
It’s basically the LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD video, with slaughter. And EVEN MORE shoulder-dancing.
Foggy Bottom has fallen to the IMF Board of Governors, mounted on their terrible mecha-saurs.
The troll guarding P Street Bridge can only be bribed with the suckling goat from Komi.
Manticores descend on the S Street Dog Park. We repel the 1st wave with our rolled-up yoga mats.
The dog park is a killing field, and the manticores have fled with 4 Jakes, 2 Maxes and a Buster.
The FOX NEWS bureau crumbles to dust, exposing the Dread Temple of Skorm below. As suspected.
The warlord Er’c Kan-Tor tears into the haunch of a wood elf. It tastes of starlight & innocence.
Nothing now separates Carl Levin’s body from the demon’s urgent, pounding music; he IS The Dance.
Krampuses stream into the German Embassy carrying wriggling burlap gunny sacks stuffed with tots.
The doorframes of Embassy Row are smeared with faun’s blood in a desperate bid for diplomatic immunity.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is now just 6 women in dirndl dresses hurling eels at one other.
The Night Hags caper on the moon-dappled White House lawn, trampling FLOTUS’ prize Swiss chard.
John Adams’ spirit paces Ford’s Theater catwalks nervously prepping “Piddle, Twiddle,” his solo.
A 2-headed panda is born, auguring dire … Wait, my bad. It’s two pandas, snuggling. Aw. Pandas.
Turns out John McCain’s conspiratorial wink is, in fact, the flutter of his nictitating membrane.
The kobolds have formed a SuperPAC to campaign for a ballot initiative in re: child-gnawing.
Bestride his quetzalcoatl, David Plotz surveys the carnage. “This is great for DC!” he shouts.
Arlington Cemetery gives up its dead. We hear. I mean it’s way out in Arlington, so who the hell knows.
That otherworldly odor in Kramerbooks? In the cellar, they make cheese from the milk of Triffids.
"Play with us, Danny," say Malia & Sasha. "For ever. And ever. And ever." Dan Snyder screams.
The shutdown starts; #duringthegovernmentshutdown2piginthecity ends. Thanks for your tolerance. Now huddle & cling, everyone. Huddle & cling.
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