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Archive for Friday, August 28, 2009

Net Worth: Comedic furor accompanies Führer on the Internet

August 28, 2009

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Never known for his sense of humor, Adolf Hitler is suddenly all the rage in comedic circles.

Last weekend’s No. 1 movie at the box office, “Inglourious Basterds,” sets aside numerous scenes featuring the Führer in its depiction of a revisionist World War II. Hitler (portrayed by Martin Wuttke) gets put through various degrees of mockery, including being the victim of a death scene that can only be described as hilarious.

It’s not a question of whether the very idea of using the reviled leader as a punch line is appropriate — that proved fair game in pop culture more than 40 years ago when Mel Brooks first unleashed “The Producers.” What is interesting is how often Hitler keeps turning up in various user-made comedic bits online, most frequently on YouTube.

A crop of videos called Hitler Reacts is the most prevalent. The simple premise involves taking Hitler footage and making his rantings seem directed at a contemporary event through the use of subtitles.

“Hitler finds out Sarah Palin resigns.”

“Hitler gets banned from Wikipedia.”

“Hitler reacts to Usain Bolt breaking 100m world record.”

The subtitles on this last one are particularly awesome, with Hitler telling his staff, “Anybody here who likes that (expletive) film ‘Cool Runnings’ leave now,” which prompts a significant exodus.

Few of these Hitler Reacts are taken from actual footage of the man. Most are extracted from a key scene in the 2004 film “Downfall,” an Oscar-nominated effort that details the Nazi dictator’s final days in his Berlin bunker. In it, an increasingly agitated Hitler (Bruno Ganz) meets with his generals as the Soviets are closing in on the city. The best “reactions” are those of the others in the room, who must try and mask the mounting realization that their leader is insane.

Perhaps the most biting of these videos is one titled “Hitler finds out he’s a joke on YouTube.”

This entry name-drops most of the other Hitler Reacts, compelling the Führer to blame his staff for the postings.

“I bet it goes like this: A bunch of you get drunk together on a Friday night. ‘Hey man, let’s make fun of Hitler. He doesn’t have a computer. He’ll never know, man,’” his subtitles interpret.

Although it’s not difficult to see how videos that pair a fascist dictator with jokes about Wikipedia might get started, it is somewhat baffling to note how widespread and popular this humorous concept has become. The “joke on YouTube” one alone has already earned nearly 200,000 views.

One can only speculate whether Idi Amin or Nicolae Ceausescu or Pol Pot will ever be considered this “funny.”

— Entertainment editor Jon Niccum explores facets of pop culture that have established a unique niche on the Internet in Net Worth. He can be reached at 832-7178.

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