Anybody can be funny on purpose. It’s so easy, in fact, that your mom is probably being funny RIGHT NOW (your mom is Betty White). The real challenge is this: can you be funny without trying to be funny? Are your inner reserves of humor at such high surplus levels that it just flows out of you effortlessly all the time, like an unstoppable geyser of merriment? If you’re saying “yes” right now, you should stop talking to your computer but you should also quietly congratulate yourself for being a powerhouse of unintentional comedy. Like the other folks whose moments show up on this list, you bring joy to the world through sheer obliviousness, and we love you for it.
There are some rules as to what constitutes unintentional comedy. Above all, the person responsible for emitting said comedy cannot be in on the joke. Heidi Montag’s “audition” for the third Transformers movie — a homemade tape I refuse to link to — would be hilarious if she genuinely thought it’d win her the role. Instead it seems like a PR stunt calculated to get nerds like myself to make fun of it. Therefore, it lacks the gravitas required to get us to the schadenfraude-laugh and is ultimately useless. We want to feel like we’re better than Heidi Montag, not like we’re doing her bidding. The Insane Clown Posse’s bananacakes video for the song “Miracles” falls into a similar bracket. This astoundingly stupid video would be considered a hysterical fail if it didn’t seem designed by ICP as ironic self-parody (ISP: the Ironic Self-Parody Posse.) It was designed that way, though, and so every time someone in Bushwick asks about the functionality of magnets, the band benefits.
The 10 moments below were not at all manufactured — they were beautiful accidents and we’re lucky to have them in our world. These are the real miracles, people:
10. The Restore Steven Baldwin movement had the right idea — all they wanted to do was help their fellow man. Unfortunately, their fellow man was Stephen Baldwin. The erstwhile star of Threesome and Biodome famously embraced Extreme Christianity after his movie career fizzled out, and somehow he managed to sink into bankruptcy this past year. Baldwin’s followers blamed the state of his career on Hollywood’s distaste for Christianity (read: love of Jews?), and made him into a martyr. The Restore Stephen Baldwin movement was the result, and it is wonderful. “People not only mock Stephen,” a narrator on the RSB video claims, “They mock God.” But mostly they just mock Stephen.
9. When New York Knicks forward A’mare Stoudemire does something, he does it big — whether it’s shooting a ball into a basket or Judaism. This past summer, the recent New York émigré found out that his mother might not have been the shiksa he once thought she was. In and of itself, this isn’t very funny. No, it was Stoudemire’s over-embracing of his newfound heritage that was hilarious. Suddenly he was getting a Star-of-David tattoo, flying to Israel on a spiritual quest, and not shutting up about it.
8. The best thing to come out of the planned Cordoba Center in New York was the impossibly earnest song, “We’ve Got to Stop the Mosque at Ground Zero.” Some may complain that the title is a bit on-the-nose, but those people clearly hate America.
7. As lovingly documented by Videogum.com, the Jeremy London kidnapping saga was probably the single greatest character arc you didn’t see on television all year. Initial reports described a very bizarre scenario in which the sometime actor was kidnapped at a gas station and made to take drugs. More details soon emerged, though, gradually revealing that Jeremy London is probably a racist, drug-crazed maniac. The road to this revelation is paved with comedy gold.
6. David Patterson sized up the competition and challenged Joe “Big Fucking Deal” Biden in the contest for “profanity gaffe of the year” by a politician. It’s safe to say that Patterson won. Race to the top, indeed.
5. Adultery scandals and sexual harassment are par for the course in the sports world, and there’s nothing funny about them. However, there is definitely something funny about Brett Favre’s penis and the fact that he sent allegedly unwanted pictures of it to Jenn Sterger. Mainly it’s funny to think that — if the story is true — Sterger was ignoring Favre’s advances and he thought these pictures might change her mind. I’m not sure how sexting works, but I’m pretty sure this is EXACTLY how sexting works.
4. Let’s be clear on this: the fact that Mel Gibson was caught on tape throwing an all-time best temper tantrum, complete with threats of arson somehow tied into fellatio — that fact is objectively funny. The day I learned of these tapes existence was one of the greatest days of my week. Actually listening to the tapes, though, is just disturbing. There’s nothing “ha ha”-funny about them.
3. Christine O’Donnell was a straight-up gift to comedians and late night talk show writers everywhere. Her ideas about masturbation and her mangling of the constitution were mere appetizers, before we even heard her cautioning about the government’s secret human-hybrid experiments. Of course it was her ridiculous “I’m You” campaign ad that was the instant classic. The very first line is “I’m not a witch”, and it only gets better from there.
2. I haven’t consulted Oxford’s English yet, but I’m pretty sure that “self-potato” has not been added to the dictionary yet. Which is a travesty. On the Wheel of Fortune board earlier this year, this popular new phrase was given as the answer when the following letter were visible: S_LF P_ _T_ _ _T. You would have to search far and wide to find an answer more wrong than that, but why, dear God, would you ever want to.
1. Swooping in at the end of the year to claim the top spot, much like Kanye West, some kind soul at CNN accidentally aired the diarrhea scene from Dumb & Dumber in early December. The fact that this person intended to have the clip lead into a serious story about a medical condition is already great, but the way it aired is even better. A speechless Ali Velshi says nothing as the footage segues from student riots in Paris to Jeff Daniels pulling down his pants. “Did we just air that on live TV,” Velshi asked after recovering his voice. Yes, you did. And thanks so much!
Joe Berkowitz edits books and writes stuff. He also has a Tumblr.