Thanks to the Internet we now have various mediums and genres of humor. The first wave of mainstream Internet humor began with YouTube, which in essence brought the type comedy of from “America’s Funniest Home Videos” to your fingertips. Finding something to laugh at online became a matter of searching for your own comedy treasures on YouTube for as long as your procrastinating heart desired.
Yet Internet humor has recently grown beyond YouTube and onto quicker, more immediate platforms. Instead of devoting time to watching videos of varying lengths, we can now be laughed to tears in six seconds or less. With the invention of Vine and the creation of memes and gifs, Internet humor has now become a wholly new language of its own and one that is constantly evolving.
Vines offer the ability to pack as many visuals and sounds as possible into videos of six seconds or less. A few years ago it might have seemed impossible to create something funny in such a limited length, but Vine users have found ways to make both hilarious and artful videos with the tool. While some utilize it to make inventive stop motion shorts, others manipulate pre-existing footage, enact spoofs of pop culture, imitate cultural norms, or capture candid moments. There are so many types of Vines now that they can grouped in sub-genre categories: Smack Cam Vines, White People vs. Black People Vines, Girls Vs. Guys Vines, Drive-Thru Prank Vines, Dubbed Music Vines, and many, many more.
Yet regardless of how many types of Vines exist, the phenomenon itself is what’s astounding. Instead of spending varying lengths of time watching funny YouTube videos — we’re all guilty of those binges — we can now get the same kind of comedy and entertainment in an instant. From watching a kid attempting to dance sexy only for his dog to hump him, to a terrible (yet incredibly hilarious) dub over a Beyonce performance, to a dog “dancing” to 50 Cent, these little gems make us laugh so hard with so little.
But here’s the Vine catch: you can’t just watch one. The first one’s hilarious, then the next isn’t quite as good so you keep clicking forward until over two hours have passed of non-stop Vine viewing (true story). With so much humor jam-packed into only six seconds you’ll find yourself craving more, curious about what other clever ways people have devised to make you laugh.
However, unlike a YouTube video that you can sit with for a while or watch singularly, Vine allows no time for a break. Since Vines are on auto-replay, as soon as one ends you can either watch it again (if it’s funny enough), skip to the next, or pause it (which is almost difficult since the videos are so quick). You may find yourself laughing at one Vine and clicking to next only to continue laughing more, leaving you a mere moment to catch your breath. In just a few minutes you can consume nearly 30 (give or take if you rewatch some) separate Vines; that’s 30 separate six second movies, or 180 seconds of unrelated footage, or 30 different ways of making you laugh or wowing you. That is a lot of activity for a mind to handle, so much that you probably couldn’t stop to name more than five you fully remembered.
The Internet has done a lot of miraculous things, but in the realm of immediate humor gratification it has succeeded to condense comedy to the tiniest, quickest fragment possible. If six seconds of comedy made by a stranger can make us laugh, will we continue to have the patience for a two hour stand-up special or a 90 minute comedy film.
Vine is fun, accessible, and rather genius; instant comedy for the man or woman on the go. However, it’s also vastly changing the way we consume comedy and entertainment, what we require to laugh, and our patience for humor. Technology may be changing comedy, but as long as it keeps us laughing it can’t be that bad, can it?
A version of this article was originally featured on RevUpTransmedia.com on October 7, 2013.