Okay actually this is making me incredibly sad so let’s…
It’s okay if you thought John Campbell’s post was funny. I didn’t, obviously, but whatever. People think different things are funny. As Dean Trippe said, if it had been in a multipanel format everyone would’ve gotten it. Of course it wasn’t in a multipanel format and lots of otherwise skeptical and humorous people therefore thought it might be legitimate, but whatever.
But if you are a close personal friend of John Campbell and you’re making a post about how everyone should have known that he was kidding… I wish you wouldn’t?
Yes! Your friend is getting hate for something he didn’t do. That is unfortunate. But c’mon man, you know he was kidding because you know him. John Campbell is a private dude who gives only half- or fully-performative interviews. We here on the internet do not know the guy. He could come out tomorrow as actually Dane Cook in a terrifying double-headed performance piece and we would not have any information to the contrary available to us, except that Dane Cook did not live in Chicago for an extended period of time.
Campbell posted it to his Kickstarter and crosslinked it from his Tumblr. A lot of people read Pictures for Small Children without knowing the intimate details of every piece of satire he’s ever performed. Until I started Googling his wider work after I read his “confession”, I did not know about his interview personas, about the ghost truck joke, about his weirder street art. I knew about his art show and PFSC and his tumblr and that was it. That is not even close to half the picture and it leaves out all of the context that would help establish that he was kidding.
You can argue all you want that people are humorless on Tumblr, and in some cases I would agree with you, but what people are on Tumblr is contextless, and in this case, the context was not readily available and will never be available to us in full. We don’t know your friend. We don’t know he’s the good kind of guy who would not pull that shit. We do know that lots of apparently intelligent and nice people with much longer public histories say things like that all the time.
Dean Trippe says, “I manage my depression with my creative outlets. John seems to do the same.” It’s none of my business how anyone manages their depression. I am not for a moment suggesting that people stop being satirical about depression. After all, the entire rest of the history of PFSC contains example after example of just that kind of black humor that’s been much more widely received. The fact that this joke is the only one that went over badly should indicate that this joke was different, not that suddenly, all these people—many of whom have been reading PFSC for years—no longer understand the entire concept of sarcasm or the cut that heals or black humor. Something went wrong. I think it’s not very Occam’s Razor to assume that the thing that went wrong is “everyone who responded badly to that joke is a humorless asshole.” It’s probably the absence of context, which as a friend of John Campbell, you automatically have.