Today, I am going to stray from the fast-track wine column to which you have become accustomed in order to speak briefly about a subject close to all our hearts, our hoodies, our hypothalamuses and our humeri—the Four-H Club for people who are afraid of farm animals.
That subject is ‘ha ha’. So, let’s make it the Six-H Club and move on.
The cognitive experience of humor is broad and subjective; one man’s recreational drollery is another man’s homeostatic tension steam-cock, even though jokes about homeosexual steam-cocks have recently fallen out of favor. It is believed that mirth serves to overcome sociocultural inhibitions, reveal suppressed desires while mocking those stupider, unluckier, uglier and duller than us, which is why Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil is a far funnier book than Portnoy’s Complaint.
Anyway, humor snobs are among the most unclean of those angels cast down from earth in the The War of the Sons of Light, which incidentally is a chapter in a book filled with more dry humor than either Leviathan or Portnoy’s Complaint… The Dead Sea Scrolls.
Now, correct me if I am wrong: Humor snobs are far worse than wine snobs, who at least are right some of the time. Merriment and giggly glee are not to be ranked, are they? Nor pigeonholed, categorized or poured into a Erlenmeyer flask better used for synthesizing crystal meth.
So, other than to say that Blazing Saddles is the most goddamn overrated movie in the history of everything and that Carlos Mencia is about as funny as an infected canker sore, I maintain that if you find Black Box’s latest ‘Lose The Bottle’ ad campaign rib-tickling, side-splitting, patella-slapping and/or guffawable, I will fight to the death your right to chortle without curtailment!
Beside, you probably like their wine, too.
Let Me Préparant le Terrain, As The Gallic Gurus Say…
On the surface, I have no issues with box wines. In fact, I met my first wife in an alley behind the bar where she worked as she polished off the last of the box wine it was her job to throw away instead of drink: She had me at guggle.
And on that same damp surface, Black Box wines are not too bad. First among equals, which include Bota Box, Wineberry, R. Muller and CalNaturale (in a Tetrapak instead of a box), Black Box offers an array of vibrant, juicy, youthful wines with a respectable varietal provenance: Argentina malbec, Paso Robles shiraz, Chilean cabernet sauvignon, etc.
I am not sure if any of these wines rises to the level of ‘super-premium’ as the company insists, nor that they have a Dead Sea Scrolls shelf life as the company likewise insists. But some of the other ideas that Black Box advances—that boxes tend to be more eco-friendly than glass or plastic (although the bag is plastic) and that there is less chance of oxygen transfer—wine’s enemy—are accurate. Boxed wine has always been a good idea for cheap storage of open, inexpensive wine, but is has only been over the last decade or so that anybody bothered to up the quality ante of what is inside.
Now that it has happened, and bag-in-the-box wines have received good reviews from high profile wine writers like Wine Spectator’s James Laube and NYT’s Eric Asimov, the ad ante has likewise been upped. A series of recent Black Box YouTube skits, a.k.a ‘hilarious comedy videos’ written and performed by alumni of the L.A. improv troupe ‘The Groundlings’, is part of a ‘Lose The Bottle’ campaign launched by supernovaed Constellation Brands over the summer.
Now, just as it easy for Black Box to oversell their okay juice by using words like ‘super-premium’ to describe it, leading to a certain deflation of sensory expectation with the first snort, is it not also possible for them to oversell Lisa Schurga and Lauren Burns by referring to them as ‘top comedic actors’, leading to a deflation of bragging rights after you’ve waited six hours in a Category 4 hurricane to get their autographs?
Yes, it is.
But, I cannot in good faith pass a similar ‘judgment’ upon the ‘Lose The Bottle’ skits themselves, because, as previously pointed out, the implementation of amusement as a biological function corresponds directly to the processing of ongoing events as a shaper of personality, suggesting that an individual who still laughs hysterically at flatulence references during their fiftieth viewing of Blazing Saddles might with equal fealty-to-self find Intoxicology Report pretentious, self-serving, childish and obscene.
According to Eugene T. Gendlin, Ph.D in (‘Content Paradigm’, 1954, pp. 26-29) these sorts of people were ‘born without a sense of humor’.
Beyond Postmodernism: From Concepts Through Perception of Imagery
What I can do, however—as both an educator and a blithering buffoon—is offer readers a synopsis of each skit, and then explain in terms common to both laymen and psychoanalysts why an individual might perceive the shenanigans of Groundling thespians as jocular, whimsical—and even boffo.
I will, of course, support my elucidations by referring to one of the currently accepted ‘Theories of Humor’.
1) ‘Lose the Bottle, Not Your Friends’
The Skit: A gang of upscale hipsters sit around the kitchen table drinking Black Box wine and shootin’ the shinola, while in the background, one of the lady-types announces that she will open a bottle of wine, even though the others indicate that they are already drinking Black Box wine, which her husband holds up to the camera and grins, ‘Good stuff, huh?’ Undeterred, the women proceeds with the bottle and finds it inexplicably difficult—nay, impossible—to open. She begins to swear and swear and swear, and fifteen censoring ‘bleeps’ cover up ‘fuck’, motherfucker’, ‘cocksucker’ and other obvious selections from the FCC’s ‘dirty words’ list.
Why This Tickles Our Ribs So: Besides tapping into our deep-seated fear of failing basic, simple tasks of dexterity in front of our peers, the skit employs the The Ontic-Epistemic Theory of Humor (OETC) proposed by P. Marteinson in 2006. It asserts that when the ‘Social Being’ suddenly appears no longer real in any factual or normative sense, paradigmatic cases arise wherein factual reality is seen to conflict with and disprove social reality, which Marteinson calls ‘Deculturation’.
2) ‘The Mountains Are Calling… And So is the Black Box Wine’
The Skit: A group of upscale hipsters set out on a journey to the mountains, but find themselves unable to make it out of the yard. They trip over the garden hose, kick a turtle, walk into a tree and otherwise show the eye-rolling, head-shaking, ‘seriously?’-thinking but still cachinnating viewer that they are quite unprepared for the genuine wilderness. As such, when they wind up camping in the front yard and drinking ‘packable’ versions of Black Box, we do a collective sigh of resignation that they will not be eaten by giant bears or contract Lyme Disease.
Why This Strikes Us as Ludicrously Amusing: Besides the obvious pleasure we get in seeing puffed-up peckerheads injure themselves, this multi-layered skit employs the Computational-Neural Theory of Humor as suggested by Suslov in 1992. It supposes that in the general scheme of the information processing, a specific malfunction conditioned by the necessity of a quick deletion from consciousness of a false version can be identified with a humorous effect on psychological grounds exactly corresponding to incongruity-resolution theory.
3) Romantic Gestures? Do it with Black Box Wines!
The Skit: A trench-coat wearing former lover attempts to woo back his gal by holding up a boom box playing ‘their song’ outside her window in the middle of the night, thoroughly pissing her off. Turns out that it ain’t even the right song!! But when the sad sack holds up a container of Black Box instead, the woman unlocks the front door.
Why Stalkers In Particular Find This Skit Zany-Good to the ‘Nth’: We’ve all been there, done that—attempted to reignite an ex-lover’s extinguished flame of passion by demonstrating to her what a psychotic and potentially dangerous douchebag we actually are. But the solution turns out to be exactly what we suspected all along, even subconsciously: Forget the sweet stuff—get the beeotch plastered as quickly and cheaply as possible. The pocketful of roofies in the actor’s trench coat pocket it is, of course, implicit.
4) اتمنى لك يوما طيبا Black Box لك !
The Skit: In the middle of the night, an upscale hipster suffers catastrophic BMW failure in a really squirrely section of East Dearborn, and is understandably terrified when a gang of Muslim youth approach him. His gesticulates absurdly and attempts some off-the-wall pidgin-Arabic phrases, but it turns out that they mean no harm and, since they are whizbang mechanics to boot, they are quickly able to get the car going. To thank them, he cracks open a container of Black Box chardonnay, forgetting Surat Al-Ma’idah (5:90) from the noble Qur’an which prohibits the consumption of alcohol. They take it as a gesture of disrespect and beat him to death with tire irons.
Why This One Is Funnier Than Billy Shit: You really don’t want to piss off a race that is willing to fly planes into buildings, do you?—but that’s not why the skit is both ‘cute’ and ‘clever’. In fact, it draws its comicality from the Misattribution Theory of Tendentious Humor first published in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (1980). This theory postulates that when an audience is unable to identify exactly why they find a joke to be funny, it is because social mores require us to downplay the universal human sense of schadenfreude, or, finding gratification in the misfortune of others.
Natch, I am just as schadenfreudey as you are, which is why I lamented rather than rejoiced at the inevitable cancellation of Mind of Mencia on the Comedy Network, because nothing brought me a greater sense of personal fulfillment than watching the hare-brained Honduran hack make a total ass of himself by screwing up every joke, even the ones he stole.
Now, go drink some box wines and say goodnight, Gracie.