Will the hilarious lame rap video ever die?
No offense to the L.A. guys who did the amusing "Whole Foods Parking Lot", or to the legendary Weird Al Yankovic, who has a new album out.
But it's becoming clear that there's a formula to stuff like this. Would-be viral video stars are catching on to the comedy of incongruity, and figuring out how to mix high brow and low brow, lower class and upper class, neurotic ultra-specificity and inane machismo. Execution matters, of course, but these videos are beginning to feel like different executions of the same recipe.
If you've got a good lyricist, the formula just works. In my college musical comedy group, a guy wrote a rap called "Gangsta Registrar," in which the college registrar raps about the minutiae and the bureaucracy of signing up for classes. It became legendary. The next year we had a rap about Beowulf. Also hilarious.
The genre has a history: Weird Al was a pioneer, and we had an old lady rapping in The Wedding Singer. Later, those Lonely Island guys on SNL came in with "Lazy Sunday," about cupcakes and Chronicles of Narnia, through "I Just Had Sex" this year. Flight of the Conchords sometimes uses a similar shtick. There are dozens more.
But "Whole Foods Parking Lot" causes one to wonder if and when the genre will run its course. Every aspiring Andy Samberg who's a decent lyricist can just break out the list of Stuff White People Like, close their eyes, point to something and go nuts. Just start off slow and introduce us to the concept. Then later in the song you can raise your game by making sure to rhyme with an ultraspecific, hard-to-rhyme word that's at the end of the second half of a couplet.
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Think of all the lame raps we can look forward to. "At the Genius Bar." "I'm Putting My Ikea Dresser Together." "My DVR is 99 Percent Full." "Ted Conference Parking Lot."
What else is considered lame? Books? How about a Jonathan Franzen rap? You'd set the publishing world on fire. Theater is probably off-limits for now after Neil Patrick Harris's rap at the end of the Tonys. What was especially great, and a testament to theater's declining level of stuffiness, is that it read less as incongruous and more as celebratory.
How about hyper-local L.A. rap, which is bound to get people in town extra-excited? You still have to hit the right note. What saves "Whole Foods Parking Lot" is the "parking lot" — if it were just Whole Foods it would have been a snooze. For instance, how about the Getty? A little too easy. The Getty Villa — much funnier. The Norton Simon? Just right. Hilarious. Art world notoriety.