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It used to be that if you wanted to be humorously entertained, you could perhaps go to a comedy club, read anything by Dave Barry, or watch your parents try to figure out how to program their DVR.
In this golden age of Internet trolling, however, the hotness is the joke Amazon review. Unless you’ve been hanging out under a rock (although I would also like to say that I am in no way prejudiced against people who do hang out under rocks), you should know there is a new genre of humor writing that is not only entertaining to read, but that anyone with Internet access can take up as a hobby.
I know; you’re thinking, “Deb, is it really possible that I, a non-professional, can actually have my twisted thoughts published online for all to see?” And the answer is “abso-frigging-lutely.” All you have to do is find a product on Amazon.com and leave a satirical review of it.
Why would people spend time doing this? Kyle von Bose, the writer of the Uranium Ore review below, told me, “I was prompted to start because [in 2009] I wasn’t working. … It was mostly to amuse myself and also partly to just prank the newly emerging e-shopping world.
“I think it’s just a new form of telling jokes. People don’t tell jokes face to face anymore; they read funny stuff online. Amazon reviews are a silly way to just poke some unexpected fun into a strange or off product. It’s a free audience.”
And you never know when it could lead to something bigger. Von Bose told me that while Amazon had previously removed some of the humorous reviews he’d left, it eventually had a change of heart and started curating them: “Amazon contacted me and said they might use the review in a book they are making about their funniest reviews and that if they did they’d give me a free book. Oh yeah, now they think it’s cool!”
You can play along. Let’s take a look at some of my favorite products and their sometimes-inappropriate reviews. Some of them have been edited for brevity so my editor’s head doesn’t explode.
One of the things that inspires humorous reviews is a product that evokes the question “Who in the hell would possibly need this contraption?” That’s how the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer made its way to the forefront of legendary Amazon reviews. And just in time, too. I tried all 570 of the previous incarnations of the Hutzler, and they don’t work at all.
“I tried the banana slicer and found it unacceptable. As shown in the picture, the slices [are] curved from left to right. All of my bananas are bent the other way.”
“There is no way to tell if this is a standard or metric banana slicer. Additional markings on it would help greatly.”
Got the idea? Good; let’s move on.
2. Uranium Ore
Would I kid you? Amazon sells honest-to-goodness uranium ore, which comes in handy for testing your home Geiger counter (what, am I the only one who has one?) and, the company says with a completely straight face, performing nuclear experiments.
“The quality of this Uranium is on par with the stuff I was buying from the Libyans over at the mall parking lot, but at half the price! I just hope the seller does not run out, because I have many projects on my list including a night vision sasquatch radar, an electromagnetic chupakabra cage, a high velocity, aerial, weighted Mothman net and super heated, instant grill cheese sandwich maker.”
This is the kind of thing that Monty Python was so great at satirizing, particularly in their “How Not to Be Seen” sketch.
Captain Trimmer’s 1993 book, however, is perfectly serious. Bless his heart.
“There is one major oversight in this generally well-written book, and that is that it addresses animate readers exclusively. As a large rock in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Giglio Island, I have recently been confronted with instances in which avoiding huge ships was of fundamental interest to my personal well-being.”
“Read this book before going on vacation and I couldn’t find my cruise liner in the port. Vacation ruined.”
How considerate is it of BIC to come up with a pen just for women? They’re narrower than the big, macho, regular pens made for brawny man hands, plus they come in all of the lighter, pastel shades that can only be seen by the rods and cones of a woman’s eyes. Thank god.
“Someone has answered my gentle prayers and FINALLY designed a pen that I can use all month long! It’s comfortable, leak-proof, non-slip and it makes me feel so feminine and pretty! … Those smart men in marketing have come up with a pen that my lady parts can really identify with.”
“I used one of these pens post-hysterectomy, and my uterus grew back. Thanks a lot, Bic. Thanks a whole hell of a lot.”
“I can’t find a switch to turn it on, and it didn’t come with batteries. This is not the ‘for her’ product I was expecting. At all.”
Here is what happens when a serious product crosses a particularly creative mind:
“When I first come to America, my English did cause me problems. In Soviet Russia I was strong teacher, my English I know is the best in all of Petropavlovsk. My brother, Mikhail, he say to me, ‘Nikolai you go to America, they make you rich like czar, take many woman as lover, kill many bear.’ My brother, he is very wise, is greatest toymaker in all of Russia. So next day I wake up, sell my house, say goodbye to wife and children, and go to America to become millionaire. Then in America, I go to job interview and they say to me ‘Nikolai, you are not for the job here, you are not the skills we need, your English is poor like child.’ I take that man and smash his table. …That day my anger is best of me. It is then I know I must learn better English, so I buy book. … Now I am perfect English grammer! I write letter to Mikhail, he write back, ‘Nikolai, your English is like a god, you will be millionaire soon! Please send letter when you are president or maybe even czar! So I say thanks to Mr. Woods for his book! When I am czar your family will be spared! Hahahaha! (is joke).”
One of the nice things about the Internet is that people can warn others away from things that might put their lives, or at least their gastrointestinal systems, in danger.
The bags of sugar-free Haribo gummy bears became famous not because they are a strange or mundane product, but because … well, read the reviews for yourself. I’ll just leave this link right here, with the warning that you won’t want to read this if you are eating.
See? You can totally do this. Go forth and satirize. Or if you’re just in the mood for some entertainment, sit back and read a few reviews for yourself.