Six seconds is all it takes to reach the pinnacle of comedic genius.
There seems to have been a resurgence in the past year or so regarding this decade’s most cherished and underappreciated art forms.
That’s right, I’m talking about vines.
It’s not that Vine wasn’t popular before Twitter announced the discontinuation of the app in October 2016; it was, to a certain finite point. But thanks to the addition and creation of vine compilations on platforms like YouTube, it’s now easier than ever to waste three or four hours on a weeknight purely devoted to six-second videos.
What a way to go, though.
I am sorry in advance.
Like I said, this isn’t really a new development. I think it’s mostly been on my mind because I’ve realized over the past few months that this isn’t one of my weirdo obsessions like watching foreign TV shows or framing memes within the context of art history.
This short-form and vine renaissance is actually pretty normalized.
Now, there is no shortage of content when it comes to the dissection of short-form entertainment. Most people are familiar with Ernest Hemingway’s famous six-word story:
For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.
Never mind that there are dozens of ways to interpret it, because every version still tells a story. And that’s the point! Telling stories! In unique ways!
When I was taking classes for my journalism degree, it was common for the first sentence of an article(aka the lede) to be less than twenty words, often less than ten. It saved time, saved space, and helped develop my concept of “tight writing,” for whatever that’s worth. The goal is simple: give your audience what they need to know so they can read as little as possible.
Of course, this isn’t limited just to writing. Saturday Night Live has cornered the television circuit of quick comedy for decades with their pop culture vignettes. Other shows like millennial favorite Portlandia built on this platform(there’s a reason it stars SNL alums) have shared in its success.
YouTube elevated the idea of short-form comedy even further with the birth of the viral video. Short, snappy, and infinitely shareable: the telltale hallmarks of an instant hit.
Which, of course, leads us back to Vine.
One of the worst(and possibly least #relatable) feelings of the modern world begins with showing a close friend an entertaining video. You spend the first thirty seconds waiting for the content to REALLY start. Then you spend the next thirty staring at your friend’s face, waiting for them to laugh. By the time that the video is halfway over, you’ve lost all hope of their respect for your sense of humor.
Or at least, that’s what your anxiety is telling you.
One of my favorite things about vines is how it whisks most of their insecurities away. It’s only six seconds! A tenth of a minute! Virtually no time is wasted(unless you get on a roll, in which case, revisit scenario outlined about 500 words above).
Take, for example, one of my all-time favorite vines from Drew Gooden:
Please tell me you laughed.
Like most jokes, there are several layers as to why I, at least, find this funny. First, the fact that it’s infinitely relatable and repeatable. As a Michigan resident, I am quite familiar with road construction season, and I see these signs everywhere. Second, the ignorant indignation of the character speaking never fails to make me smile. Even the weird camera angle(which was probably more accidental than anything), suggests that this driver is missing the point.
And here’s the place in the conversation where usually somebody(probably from an older generation) who points out that entertainment today is all about instant gratification. There’s no wait, no build-up, no payoff. People want to laugh, and people want it now. Where’s the expectation in something like that?
To which I shrug and say: meh. There’s nothing particular noble in longer artforms like the 27 hours of Gone with the Wind; just because you’re patient doesn’t mean you’re longsuffering. I will say there is a certain elegance to that style of storytelling, but that as in the era of the Iliad and the Odyssey, those elements are tried and true. Short-form storytelling is where the innovation is occurring, at least for right now.
So as for Vine 2.0, who knows what to expect? There’s no guarantee it will live up to the legacy of its predecessor, whether in name or in deed. What is certain?