Between A Rock

One of the greatest satirists of the last hundred years is Randy Newman. One of Randy Newman’s greatest songs is “Short People”. Many people interpret this song as an allegory for racial or other kinds of prejudice. Which seems fair enough.

But many other people have interpreted it as Newman’s sincere and genuine call for the extermination of individuals of short stature. Which is less than fair enough.

Newman himself says the song is about “a lunatic”. It’s a lunatic who thinks short people don’t deserve to live. But how is the listener supposed to know it’s about a lunatic? Well, because he thinks short people don’t deserve to live.

That’s the problem with jokes. People like their jokes to be signposted in some way:

It’s important to be clear

Without a signpost to let them know that what they’re looking at is definitely a joke, people get confused and angry. But often the signpost is in the joke itself — a person making a joke will believe they have made that joke so obvious, so absurd, that nobody could mistake it for something serious. Randy never thought anyone could believe that he actually wanted short people killed, because…well, because how could anyone want short people killed? And yet people did believe that, because he didn’t sing the song while holding up a sign saying “joke”, or providing an explanatory note, and there are some people who will believe anything is serious unless there’s a flashing neon billboard letting them know it’s not.

Basically, the lesson that anyone who spends their life writing jokes learns early on is this: there is no joke so obvious that someone won’t fail to get it.

Which brings me to The Rock.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is my all-time favourite wrestler, mainly because I don’t like wrestling and he is that rare wrestler who has proven himself to be completely awesome outside the ring. Besides being, like all wrestlers, a terrifyingly impressive physical specimen, he emerged from the wrestling world to show that he has a great sense of humour, he can act, and as demonstrated in Moana, he can SING. He is a great guy and I love him.

So it is slightly unfortunate that as of this writing, there are about ten million furious Rock fans who are convinced that I hate him. And who, therefore, hate me.

(I might be underestimating with that ten million. He has twelve million Twitter followers, but I’m being generous and assuming some of them know that Randy Newman isn’t a height bigot. Then again, this thing busted the banks of the Twitter river and has somehow flooded the whole damn china shop.)

So here is where it started:

Now, I hate to explain humour, because as I understand it, it kills frogs or something. But the intention here is thus: wrestling is known to be scripted — that is, not “real” in the sense of a “real contest”. Everyone knows this, and a professional wrestler obviously knows it better than anyone. Moreover, any professional wrestler has heard it a million times. So the gag here is, I am assuming the comedic persona of a rather dim internet denizen, cluelessly taking a superior attitude to a Hollywood megastar, explaining something to him that he already knows, and moreover acting like I’m the first person to do it.

I’m not saying it’s a great joke. Just that it…is one. You know?

Anyway — how were people supposed to know that my tweet telling The Rock that it was time he learnt the truth about wrestling was a joke?

Because it was a tweet telling The Rock that it was time he learnt the truth about wrestling.

Imagine if I sent a tweet to Mark Hamill asking him if he knew that Luke Skywalker was Darth Vader’s son. That’d be a joke. Everyone would recognise that. And by “everyone”, I mean, “everyone except a massive number of incredibly angry people”.

Because that’s how many people knew my tweet to The Rock was a joke.

Those WWE fans, man. They are quick to anger, they are devoid of humour, and most importantly, they are rich in free time.

But interestingly, The Rock himself? He knew it was a joke. Here’s how he replied:

Now, for a moment I was worried — not so much that Dwayne hadn’t got the joke, because he clearly had, but that he thought the joke was an attack on him. I mean I’m honoured to be told to go fuck myself by The Rock, but as I said I am a big fan of his, and I didn’t actually want him to think otherwise. I hoped he didn’t think I was being nasty. So I tried to keep the mood light, hoping he was playing along like I thought he would:

And followed that up:

See how cunning I was? Gauging the great man’s mood, while ensuring an atmosphere of jolly japes prevailed.

And hallelujah, he replied again!

And then, frankly, things just got bromantic:

Yeah that’s right. The Rock fist-bumped me on Twitter. What have YOU done with your life?

So basically, all was well. I made a joke to a famous person, he took it in the spirit in which it was intended, and I shared a special moment with a celebrity, which is what social media is all about.

Oh, yeah, except:

And hundreds more — no, literally hundreds more tweets, following a few basic themes:

  • The tweeter informing me that they can smell what the Rock is cooking
  • The tweeter informing me that I have been owned
  • The tweeter informing me that I have been subject to the People’s Elbow
  • The tweeter informing me that I needed to delete my account because I was destroyed forever
  • Gifs of Obama dropping a mic
  • Gifs of people saying the word “burn” in various contexts
  • Gifs of The Rock doing wrestling things
  • People challenging me to fight The Rock and predicting that this would not end well for me
  • People expressing a desire to fight me themselves
  • People asking who the fuck I am, while not displaying any strong desire to actually find out
  • People explaining very earnestly that wrestling is real but it is scripted and all the wrestlers get severely injured and are incredible athletes and they bet I don’t call movies fake and I need to generally put my manners back in
  • People, naturally, telling me to go fuck myself

Also one guy told me I left my dick on a bus, but I still haven’t figured this one out.

At the time of writing, the tweet where I said wrestling is not real has 279 retweets and 1200 Likes. And counting.

The tweet where The Rock told me to go fuck myself has almost 7000 retweets and thirty-three thousand Likes. Which I guess means he wins…which I knew he would because he’s the goddamn Rock, you know?

The notifications show no sign of slowing down. There are a LOT of wrestling fans out there, with a LOT of excess energy to work off. Bless ‘em.

The funny thing is a lot of people are calling me an attention whore, which is true, but they’re basing this on a belief I tweeted to The Rock for publicity purposes. Which I might have…if I’d ever even expected him to read my tweet, let alone respond to it. It’s all just been delightful serendipity.

And like I said, it’s spread. It’s on Junkee. It’s on reddit. Apparently it got put up on the WWE pay-per-view event today. I have no idea why it’s so interesting to people, but let’s just give thanks that it is.

So what have I learnt from this episode? That the internet is a wonderful place. That people always have the capacity to surprise you. That Dwayne Johnson is as cool as I thought he was. And most of all, that the world is absolutely, irrevocably, wonderfully, insane.

I have loved every minute of it. I hope they’re still threatening to suplex me ten years from now.

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