Rose’s Team Pick:
Here on Autostraddle, we like to think we have a pretty good set of commenters. But if you’ve ever taken the time to read the comments on a typical YouTube video (might I ask, why?), you know how crazy the rest of the Internet can be. And while a lot of the time it just makes you want to weep for humanity, sometimes it can be pretty funny. What drives people to get into angry, slur-infested debates about religion in the comments of an innocuous cat video or pecan pie recipe? How is it that normally nice, polite people lose their shit when behind a screen – and that those who do keep their wits about them spend hours trying to get the others to see sense? There’s a reason it’s so tempting to feed the trolls – because Internet flamewars can actually be kind of hilarious sometimes.
That’s the idea behind Sockpuppet Theatre, the latest project from April Winchell, founder of Regretsy, the blog documenting bizarre Etsy products that became an Internet sensation. When she’s not bringing you snarky commentary on necklaces made out of cat fur and Ronald McDonald menstrual pads, April is also a professional voice actor, giving life to such characters as Miss Finster on Recess and Cruella de Vil on the television series version of 101 Dalmations. Her new YouTube series actually allows Winchell to use her (considerable) professional talents – and those of her friends in the industry – to give voice to the many varieties of bizarre commenters you’ll find on the Internet. Each character is represented by a sockpuppet, as a play on the term for commenter alter egos.
It’s hard to believe with some of the videos, but a the scripts are adapted from actual comments on various websites – ranging from YouTube to LiveJournal to the World of Warcraft forums – with just minimal embellishment. But part of the reason that it seems so larger-than-life is that the characters are played by people who’ve made a living creating larger-than-life characters. Including Winchell herself, the cast features many big names in ’90s and early ’00s cartoons, such as Rob Paulsen (Yakko Warner, Dr. Scratchandsniff and Pinky on Animaniacs), Billy West (Doug Funnie, half the characters on Futurama) and Pamela Adlon (Bobby Hill on King of the Hill, Spinelli from Recess).
Every puppet has been given their own personality, from Adlon’s frothing berserker in “Stop Killing Your Pets” to Paulsen’s mouth-breathing misogynist gamer dude in “Trolling 101” to Winchell’s self-righteous Mormon housewife in “Irresponsible Sluts.” Some of them even make repeat appearances (a testament to the repetitive archetypes you find among Internet trolls). All of them are hilarious, and if you’ve spent at least some time in your typical Internet comment section – and you know you have – you should find something to relate to and, more importantly, laugh at here.
And if even that doesn’t satisfy you, Winchell posts the threads that she couldn’t quite make into a video in the “Loose Threads” section. You can also submit the crazy comments you find and see if the team decides to make a video out of it!