The Downfall of Spotted, and Why McGill Needs Satire

Image taken from Boston Public Library.  Changes were made by Zain Virani. https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/10559667606/
Image taken from Boston Public Library. Changes were made by Zain Virani. https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/10559667606/
By Zain Virani

Spotted: McGill University
I remember how McGill students talked about Spotted: McGill University back in 2014. Getting something posted was a feat, but when a few hundred people liked it, you became a god. It was something you could brag about. It was a way for a simple freshman to feel validated, be it for wit, opinion, or shit-posting ability. There used to be satirical posts about happenings at McGill, confessions of love, and political rants, covering both student politics and real politics. Every once in a while there was even a (failed) attempt at civil discussion. Now, the page has become a sponsored train-wreck of reposts, pictures of text on a white background, 9gag, and Tumblr drivel.

So what exactly happened? Was Spotted passed down to an inferior admin? Was it sold? Well, last semester Spotted conspicuously advertised an event: The “McGill back to school party” [sic]. After doing a little digging, I found a direct link to Eventbrite’s Montreal homepage from the Spotted page (click the “Shop Now” button on Spotted). Whether the Spotted admins got paid for an ad spot, sold the page entirely, or are using it to advertise their own event is unknown; what is certain is that the quality of posts has decreased.

Of course, it would be unfair to place all of the blame for the generic ‘college meme’ posts crowding the Spotted page on the admin. Students submitting mediocre content and accepting sub-par comedy are the driving forces behind the decline of a once great hub of McGill content.

At this point, you may be asking yourself: is this guy just going to complain for the next 1000 words? And while the answer is partially yes, I am also here to provide you with alternatives:

The Iconic, The McTavish Radish
2015-2016. What an academic year. The streets were salted, the samosas were hot, and The McTavish Radish was continuously pumping out fantastic content. From Facebook posts to videos, these folks were at the forefront of McGill satire at its recent peak.  And then, amidst the anticipation for the next part of their video series, they graduated. In a quiet, private ceremony, among family and friends, the geniuses departed for whatever comes after convocation. The McTavish Radish is what we should strive to be; “It’s our Rushmore, Max.”

@spicy_martlet_memes
Spicy Martlet Memes (found on Instagram) is the next Spotted. With more than 1700 followers and counting, they are nowhere near as big, but damned if their content isn’t great. I do not know if the account produces any of the content, but they take submissions from followers, and clearly their filtering is not terrible. I do not have much else to say, except that they are doing God’s work and you should follow them.

TVM: Student Television at McGill
Let’s talk about TVM, and why I believe they deserve to be a contender for the status of McGill’s #1 Clown. They are trying, which honestly goes a long way in my book. Take a look at the videos on their Comedy page here.  They are not all great, sure, but they have got some hits (‘Jeff’s Shower Thoughts’ and, more recently, ‘The University’ are my personal favourites). Unfortunately, whenever I mention TVM to people they have no idea what the hell I am talking about. Like CKUT (yes, we do have a radio station), TVM deserves both our recognition and appreciation. They are doing what they love: contributing both hilarious and thoughtful content to McGill, all without whining and complaining like myself.

The Harvard of Canada
McGill: The Harvard of Canada. Are we deserving of the title? If we are, we should have a McGill equivalent of The Harvard Lampoon, Harvard University’s famous satirical magazine. Founded in 1876, the Lampoon is the second-longest continually published humour magazine in the world. It also inspired the widely renowned National Lampoon, which reached its height of popularity and critical acclaim during the late 70s.

The list of writers for the Harvard Lampoon and the National Lampoon include such comedy greats as John Belushi, Conan O’Brien, Kristin Gore, Al Jean, B.J. Novak, Greg Daniels, Mike Reiss, and David X. Cohen. Many of the people in this list, as well as many other Lampoon writers, went on to produce, write for, and create hits including The Simpsons, The Office, Futurama, The Critic, SNL, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Not to mention the fact that Conan O’Brien is one of the most revered talk show hosts of all time, hosting 3 talk shows over the past 24 years. The point is, Harvard produces comics faster than SSMU representatives produce scandals.

We have TVM, McGill Improv, and a handful of amazing student stand-up performers all at our disposal. All we need now is a decently well-known, and well-regarded, campus-wide satirical magazine to throw our resources at and elevate to a level of greatness.

McGill could easily become a producer of strong Canadian comedic talent. Hell, Norm MacDonald started his comedy career in Montreal, and his work speaks for itself. We have TVM, McGill Improv, and a handful of amazing student stand-up performers all at our disposal. All we need now is a decently well-known, and well-regarded, campus-wide satirical magazine to throw our resources at and elevate to a level of greatness.

Enter: The Plumber’s Faucet
The Plumber’s Faucet, originally The Plumber’s Pot, is a satirical magazine run under the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) of McGill University.  The publication has been providing comic relief to McGill students since 1959. Their digital archive can be accessed here, which includes some issues from as far back as 1995. In addition to McGill related satire, they print short stories, comics, poems, and satire on global and local issues.

I reached out to one of the current editors, Daniel Galef, about the publication. The Faucet aims its humor at McGill students as a whole, and “anyone who can crack a good joke about the McTavish construction hole or draw a comic strip poking fun at austerity” can be published, says the editor.

I was concerned about the fact that the paper is run by EUS executives, and that the paper’s audience would perhaps be limited, but I was provided with reassurances. According to Daniel, “We are a campus-wide satirical paper […] it was born from the Faculty of Engineering, and that association still colors its tone and sense of humor. But we have become slightly more general-interest in the past few years to fill the void left by the Red Herring, which folded in 2014. We’ve shifted from an engineering-centric humor magazine competing with a general interest magazine into the only (and best) humor magazine at McGill, publishing both engineering-related and general-interest material alike.”

I also asked Daniel about his hand in McGill Improv, and what members of the club could contribute to McGill’s comedy scene. “Part of trying to get new voices into the Faucet has been reaching out to all the disconnected comedy communities around McGill and Montreal—we’ve published people who work with McGill Improv, TVMcGill, campus literary journals, the stand-up comedy community, and other related groups with a lot of creativity that for some reason don’t work together as often as they ought to.”

I want to see the comedy scenes of McGill come together and bloom into the singular powerhouse of hilarity they could be.

And Daniel is right, they really don’t, which is what prompted me to write this piece in the first place. I want to see the comedy scenes of McGill come together and bloom into the singular powerhouse of hilarity they could be. In my opinion, The Plumber’s Faucet has the potential to make McGill University a prominent name in Canadian comedy.  The Faucet has great artists and writers in its roster, a decent following, printing ability, online archives, and passionate editors. The ingredients are all there, we just need the dedication and readership of students to stir the pot (maybe add some more alumni support, and baby, you got a stew going)!

Please, for the love of all that is funny, pick up a copy of The Plumber’s Faucet soon. Show your appreciation for those who try to bring humour to this dark and cold city. The Faucet can be read online at the link above, but can also be picked up in print at all engineering buildings, Leacock, McLennan Library, Schulich, SSMU, and occasionally other buildings around campus. And if you think you’re funny, contribute by emailing your submission to faucet@mcgilleus.ca! For all you know, this could be the start of a promising career filled with road shows, hotel rooms, and critics telling you you’re copying Louis C.K.

Satire: The Next Generation
McGill has funny students. I know this because comedy is the product of intellect and timing, and McGill students are definitely… punctual. That being said, we need to step up our game on the comedy front. Now I know what you may be thinking: who cares about comedy, we have more pressing matters to deal with! Well I’m here to tell you that we can do it all.

The best way to improve as a person, or in this case as a university, is to shine a comedic light on your situation. Poke fun at whatever holds you down, and only then will you find a way to accept it, improve it, or remove it TM

The best way to improve as a person, or in this case as a university, is to shine a comedic light on your situation. Poke fun at whatever holds you down, and only then will you find a way to accept it, improve it, or remove it TM. If we took a critical look at ourselves through a comedic lens, I think we would see we take ourselves too seriously.

We could use comedy to improve our school, make us laugh, and launch the comedy careers of hidden gems at McGill. I’ve let my rhetoric come dangerously close to something that could be used as a slogan, so I think I’m going to stop here. Basically, what I’m saying is instead of looking around and seeing tragedy, maybe we can look around and laugh, and maybe that will make things a little better for all of us.

A previous version of the article erroneously stated that the Plumber’s Faucet began providing comic relief since 1984, when in fact, it began as ‘The Plumber’s Pot’ in 1959. The article has since been corrected, and The B&B apologizes for any confusion.

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