Why the Internet is Like Joey Bishop

Many years ago, Don Novello, Alan Zweibel and I wrote a sketch for Saturday Night Live that foresaw, unintentionally, what the Internet would become. It went something like this:

A couple (Bill Murray and Gilda Radner) has another couple (Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss) over to their house for the first time, but it's a disaster -- they have absolutely nothing in common. After several long, awkward pauses, and just at the point when it seems the evening is a total bust, Richard notices an ash tray on the coffee table. "Hey, is this from the Sahara in Las Vegas?" he asks. "Yeah," says Bill, "we go there every year... to see Joey." "Joey? You mean... Joey Bishop? We love Joey too!" At that point the two couples become animated, excited, and can't stop talking about their favorite, Joey Bishop, recounting every detail of Bishop's existence, from his (few) movies ("He was the best thing about 'Texas Across the River'!") to his former sidekick Regis ("the traitor") Philbin. Eventually the discussion gets around to the shows at the Sahara. "We always go to the early show," Paula observes. "Joey's always better at the early show."

Suddenly, a pall descends upon the room.

"What do you mean, he's better?" asks an incredulous Bill. "We go to the late show. He's looser at the late show." "Yeah, we always go to the late show," adds Gilda. "He's much looser." After a few bitter exchanges, Richard and Paula have had about enough and storm out, none too soon for Bill and Gilda. In the end, the weight of history, where petty disputes lead to world wars, mitigated against the friendship ever taking hold.

And that's the Internet: a universe made up of millions of narrowly focused personal visions. Even the husband and wife who prefer Joey's late show would probably need separate web pages ("www.joeybishop.lateshow sahara.com/ looser.html" and "www.joeybishop.lateshow-sahara.com/muchlooser.html") to accommodate their ever-so-slightly different perspectives on the sad-faced Philadelphia-born original member-of-the-Rat-Pack comic. (Me, I think he's much, much looser on the late show.)

As a test of this theory (that we're all doomed to a chaotic, fractionalized existence with no human contact whatsoever), I started hitting the "Random Link" at Yahoo. Heavily. Over and over I clicked. I decided to keep clicking until I found myself (my web site), but that was about as likely as hitting the Lotto, so I settled for the onset of boredom, exhaustion, or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. After one week, here are the results. See if you can spot a trend, a purpose -- anything.

I certify that the following sites were arrived at randomly. (Note: Since this was written, several sites have disappeared, or changed. But haven't we all.)

The November 3rd Club is only for people born on November 3rd, like Roseanne Arnold (sic), according to them. Anyone not born on Nov. 3 interested in a class-action suit? There are, according to my rough calculations (6 billion divided by 365), approximately 16 million people on the planet who were born on November 3rd.

Genie's Teenie Weenies, a site that sells spiders, snakes, and other small creatures over the internet, bills itself as "One of the premier sites for herps and arachnids!!!" But -- they don't list birthdates for the herps and arachnids.

The New Sun is "...a general interest newspaper that reflects the positive aspects and events of life. It does not report dark experiences unless ultimately beneficial, or funny." Oh, I see, like, "HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS HIT SWISS JACKPOT!"

You could spend a week at the Molecular Database Browser and not know one more thing than when you began.

Tell me there isn't something predictable about the look of the North Dakota Republican Party web site.

At the Michi-Web Random Link to a "Random" Page they'll link you to sites that randomly link you to sites. But they don't, as far as I could tell, randomly link you to sites that randomly link you to sites that have random links. That will have to be left to others.

"This page has one singular purpose...to index EVERY SINGLE Fushigi Yuugi resource on the Web!" And I'll be damned if the Fushigi Yuugi Lexicon site doesn't deliver as promised. This really is the full-service smorgasbord of info and links relating to Fushigi Yuugi. There's even a "random" link, connecting you, randomly, to another site devoted to Fushigi Yuugi. And you thought you were the only one.

A visit to Hugh's HAARP Info Page will have you screaming "The fools! They've done it! They've finally done it!" as if you were in some fifties sci-fi doomsday epic, if it's true (that the Navy has built a mammoth death ray laser in Alaska able to destroy incoming spaceships).

Discount Christian Software and Books is an ecumenical synergy of Christian and Jewish traditions.

At Tabloid O' the Day a randomly-generated tabloid appears before your eyes with every reload. Based on the Mad Libs principle, it's fascinating for about a minute.

At Browser Statistics for the Random Yahoo Link the academic world looks at randomness and, predictably, comes up with Adlai Stevenson ate my tomato can. This is the kind of research that gives everything a bad name.

In conclusion...

What is a world made up of millions of desert islands, each with but a single inhabitant, a self-centered maniac who holds a megaphone and shouts "I like green tapioca pudding!" all day long?

What is the sound of one hand clicking?

I rest my case. And my hand.

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