On Comedy

The case for the big comedy comeback.

Key Takeaways

  1. In 2017, Gucci started creating memes for their #TFWGucci campaign, hence declaring memes an established form of communication, no longer confined to the obscurity of Reddit and 4Chan. 
  2. 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes speaks of laughter as a "sudden glory," and, is it not what fashion is supposed to do?
  3. Virality, of course, has a lot to do with it: the Miu Miu skirt (sorry, I said it!), the whole Blumarine aesthetics, comedian Carly Aquilino going viral over TikTok with her parody videos of Gen-Z's Y2K fashion, Kim Kardashian dating Pete Davidson.

What’s wrong with fashion and comedy? I am not talking comedians dressing up and shooting fit pics, David Letterman’s gorpcore turn, or Robin Williams’ infamous Gore-Tex flex. The language of comedy—satirical, political, sometimes uncomfortable—is something that we should be seeing implemented more in fashion communication and design.

In 2017, Gucci started creating memes for their #TFWGucci campaign, hence declaring memes an established form of communication, no longer confined to the obscurity of Reddit and 4Chan. The Gucci memes appropriated tropes of the times—the “starter pack,” the “me vs. the guy,” the “me: / also me:”—with a language that felt bleak and mainstream, although effective in marketing terms. Tapping into memes, and their emerging popularity, Gucci managed to create good engagement, if compared to their usual rate. According to social media management platform Dash Hudson, “10 out of the 30 posts of the campaign performed higher than 0.5%,” with “the top 2 memes from the campaign actually became their top 2 most engaged posts of all time.”

While this might not be a case for your brand to start making memes—hello, we’re in 2022!—it’s definitely a reference for the big comedy comeback: a trend you did not ask for! 

The phenomena connected with laughter and that which provokes it have been carefully investigated by psychologists. They agree the predominant characteristics are incongruity or contrast in the object and shock or emotional seizure on the part of the subject. 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes speaks of laughter as a "sudden glory," and, is it not what fashion is supposed to do?

A huge leap, you might think. Virality, of course, has a lot to do with it: the Miu Miu skirt (sorry, I said it!), the whole Blumarine aesthetics, comedian Carly Aquilino going viral over TikTok with her parody videos of Gen-Z's Y2K fashion, Kim Kardashian dating Pete Davidson. Those are all phenomena that help us track the trend, but not define it fully.

Buffalo, (Copy)right issue, 2019

Comedy not only offers consolation and comfort by making the tragic seem comic; for the outsiders, it also serves as a catalyst, addressing and thematizing isolation, trauma, or discomfort through jokes, slapstick, or the grotesque. However, at a time when audiences increasingly demand political commitment and authenticity from art and fashion, comedic speech, which is inherently disingenuous, has fallen into disrepute: ironically distanced rhetoric is accused of turning a blind eye to social inequality.

Will we see a new Prada campaign without big words evoking the “cloud” or “utopia,” but with jokes? Is it the moment to outrank Zoolander’s first position in the Guardian’s “The 10 best fashion films” listicle? Will Buffalo magazine’s attitude and insider-joky, tongue-in-cheek, lots-of-hyphens humor spread throughout the fashion media landscape? Are we ready for the comedy comeback?