Things are funny because they’re unexpected. This is the rough gist of the incongruity theory, a centuries-old broadly-shared concept that humor subverts assumptions; as philosopher James Beattie wrote, in 1779: “laughter arises from the view of two or more inconsistent, unsuitable, or incongruous parts or circumstances.”
I’m thinking about the Cinnamon Toast Crunch guy, who tweeted a photo of cereal mixed with what appears to be shrimp tails in his cereal on Monday.
“Ummmm @CTCSquares - why are there shrimp tails in my cereal?,” he wrote, adding, “(This is not a bit)”.
This is not a bit, we are assured.
The Cinnamon Toast Crunch guy claims he has taken the cereal “to a lab” for DNA testing. (Cinnamon Toast Crunch first tweeted an apology and then tweeted that the tails were likely hardened clumps of toasted sugar.) Hours after the initial tweet, he tweeted a photo supposedly proving that his wife found dental floss in another bag in the family pack. We have yet to hear the punchline, but my initial guess is, something something, he ends up with a giant bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Or you buy Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Or he adds more followers. He appeared on TMZ yesterday.
Seems like a lot of work to get on TMZ Live, you think, or wow, Cinnamon Toast Crunch took a wild risk with this sponcon.
Point: Brands are willing to lob revolting muck onto our feeds in order to wedge their names into our minds multiple times a day. In response to the growing consensus that Vita Coco tastes like urine, the brand tweeted an image of a quarter-liter of Vita Coco filled with piss and confirmed the substance’s authenticity to Gizmodo. More recently, on International Women’s Day, Burger King UK launched a campaign to draw attention to its scholarship giveaway for two woman chefs. They tweeted, as a standalone: “Women belong in the kitchen.” Everyone was mad; Burger King also appeared in numerous articles. The phrase “Cinnamon Toast Crunch” appears 11 times in this blog post.
Counterpoint: People find horrifying trash in cereal all the time. As the New York Times has pointed out, General Mills once sued a blueberry provider for shrimp-tainted fruit intended for use in scones.
Point: Attention hounds are willing to assiduously plot and slowly release evidence over the course of days in order to make a mishap look spontaneous. J’accuse Orbeez guy, young French comedian Cyril Schreiner, who posted a 13-part melodrama involving polymer gel beads, a supposed ensuing municipal sewage system overflow, a brush with local authorities, and a notice from the town hall. The mayor refuted the evidence to French media.
Some will go to the lengths of altering the source text on their tweets to an LG Smart Refrigerator, which the company happens to notice and tweet about later. If you show me your girlfriend throwing Pirate’s Booty at you on TikTok, I will believe that she prefers Cheetos.
Counterpoint: The Cinnamon Toast Crunch guy is Jensen Karp, who’s been referred to as “comedian” alongside “Twitter user” and “man,” all of which gives the less-than-credible impression of “area Twitter comedian.” But credits also include
respected memoirist, moderately established suburban comedy rapper, short-lived WWE scriptwriter, gallery co-owner, and Rolling Stone contributor. His lengthy Wikipedia page, which now includes a brief section on shrimp Toast Crunch, has been around for over a decade. When Karp says his wife found dental floss in the other bag, he’s referring to actor Danielle Fishel, aka Topanga from Boy Meets World.
Does this impact the likelihood that shrimp happened to land in Jensen Karp’s box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch? Not at all, but it suggests that this person probably doesn’t need to go to these lengths for career advancement. [Update: Before you make up your mind, scroll down.]
Point: “I don’t care that this is fake”-ism.
Counterpoint: I am so dead inside that I have no wonder left for monoliths. The sun has set on nudes of Donald Trump, on Apple cars, and farts. If Karp wants to prove the (not unlikely!) possibility that the shrimp is in the cereal, he must leave his partner behind to defend the family’s honor on Twitter and go to a crustacean researcher at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles in order to prove that this event happened. In so doing, Karp causes us to wonder if the bit/promotion is working flawlessly, or if this man has been squeezed between the dueling forces of an indignant corporation and a rapt audience to the point that he’s lost control over his own life. Must Karp prove the cereal king wrong in order to protect those among us who have shellfish allergies? Or is he performing a dance for the followers who demand one more plot point in the shrimp saga?
Quarantine Brain Syndrome seems to be a likely culprit here. We await the lab results.
Update 3/24/21, 1:25pm ET: Crustacean researcher Adam Wall, who works at the collections manager of crustacea for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, confirmed to Gizmodo that he plans to examine the possible shrimp tails today. Wall has not yet viewed the objects and clarified that any conclusion he draws will not be the official stance of the NHMLA.
“From Mr. Karp’s photos it is very hard to tell, so I need to see them in person and get them under a microscope,” Wall told Gizmodo. If he does confirm that they are shrimp tails, he will “be working with a team of researchers to extract DNA for sequencing,” followed by DNA barcoding in order to determine the shrimps’ species.
Update 3/26/21, 2:45pm ET: Milkshake duck. The story has concluded.