"I'm so glad @DadBoner is live-Tweeting the Super Bowl," I mindlessly told my boyfriend this past Sunday over a spread of food and beer too large for the two of us. Maybe it was all of the sodium, sugar and alcohol coursing through me that night, but I was finding an all-too-real sense of pleasure in reading Karl Welzhein's account of the big game.
"Gonna make up a batch of Top Shelf Margs (special recipe) to really 'kick off' the celebraish. Ha! Makin em double special, you guys," Welzhein wrote before the game started. And when the national anthem geared up, Welzhein got typically emotional: "America, you guys. Take your goddamn hats off for this beautiful lady."
By all accounts, Welzhein (a.k.a. @DadBoner) is an over-the-top and lovably fake Twitter personality created by some mysterious Internet denizen. He has imbued his creation, Welzhein, with an aggressively masculine and often patriotic demeanor and Midwestern guilelessness that's offset by drunken, sophomoric antics and a mid-life crisis, the latest twist in which has seen Welzhein getting "divorced" from his "wife," Ann.
Although I don't entertain any notions that @DadBoner is real, Craig Hlavaty does. He was sad to see news of the "divorce" and was worried when Peanut, Welzhein's friend, "went missing." Hlavaty is one of the legions of @DadBoner fans (around 50,000 at last count) who like to think that maybe Karl Welzhein is or was a real person at one point, a person who's perhaps awkwardly and drunkenly constructing a fishing shanty somewhere outside of Grand Blanc, Michigan while blissfully ignorant of the online following his day-to-day life has garnered.
One of those fans brought at least a little of Welzhein to life over the weekend when he made Captain Karl's Pizza Ship Dip, the "recipe" for which was posted on @DadBoner's account.
"This dish is sure to please at any Super Bowl Celebraish," wrote @DadBoner. "Kicked up with bold supreme 'za flavors, you don't have to be a dirty guido sailor to score a touchdown in the endzone of the 7 seas. CK'sPD'll get ya flagged for an excessive celebraish!"
The recipe followed:
Captain Karl's Supreme Pizza Dip: 1 package of cream cheese. Plenty of chopped 'roni. 2 cups of mozz'. Black & green olives. Some chopped sweet onion, 1 fine diced clove of garlic (kicks it up off the chain), a jar of whatever PIZZA sauce (not 'ghetti), and some browned & crumbled spicy italian sausage. I likes to add a few dashes of Frank's. So money. Layer it all in a Pyrex top with parm & hot shakey pepps. Bake at 375 til it's done. Don't be stupid about it. You'll be able to tell. I serve that bad boy with Frito's Scoops. They can handle the bold situaish. And if ya wanna hit it with some ranch before servin', I ain't gonna stop ya.
Sure enough, the pizza dip created by fan @sprucemooose looked exactly as described. A bottle of Ranch dressing waited patiently in the background of the photo, ready to "hit" the dip for maximum "bold" flavor.
Hlavaty was ecstatic. "Someone made one of @DadBoner's recipes!" he told me gleefully yesterday upon seeing it pop up in his Twitter stream.
And there it was: an Internet fabrication's own twisted fabrication, come to life like Frankenstein's monster if someone had read Mary Shelley's book and decided to create a cobbled-together, reanimated corpse of their own. It was both horrifying and majestic, a cultural commentary topped with diced black olives and Ranch dressing.
Not to be the second person this week to quote Jonathan Franzen on the blog, I'll simply paraphrase what Franzen once called social media: a private hall of mirrors. And just as those mirrors do little else but reflect what we put in front of them, much of pop culture these days has been reduced to endlessly riffing on ourselves and each other and our oh-so-clever antics.
It's a reductive sort of "humor" that doesn't stand on its own (see, for example, Saturday Night Live lampooning its own guest singer, which is only funny if you watched Lana Del Rey's performance from the previous week's show), commentary that inherently suffers from information degradation: A Pyrex dish of something called "Captain Karl's Supreme Pizza Dip" is not funny on its own. It's barely funny within its given context, created from a fake recipe posted by a fake Twitter account. It's sort of funny when you have read the account for a while and have developed a feel for the character of Karl Welzhein.
But take the reductionist tendencies in the opposite direction, combine all of the parts into one social media-driven whole and you have something brilliantly absurd: Look at what we do, I think to myself. What we do with all the free time we have on our hands as modern, evolved humans -- free time that our ancestors died to provide for us, thinking that the luxury of idleness was the pinnacle of human experience. What we do with the Internet, this vast and awesome creation that links people in ways no previous generations ever conceived of.
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We make Captain Karl's Supreme Pizza Dip. This is what we do.
And here I am writing about it. The most absurd thing of all.