It’s a great undertaking to raise a humor website from infancy to full-fledged adulthood, but with the right editors, impeccable taste, and a dire political landscape, your site will enjoy years of relevance and comic validation. Join us as we revisit the first twenty-one years of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, from our bright-eyed and bewildered early stages to our world-weary and bewildered recent days.
Keep Scrolling Till You Feel Something is a coming-of-age celebration of the pioneering website, featuring brand-new pieces and classics by some of today’s best humor writers, like Ellie Kemper, Wendy Molyneux, Jesse Eisenberg, Tim Carvell, Karen Chee, Colin Nissan, Megan Amram, John Moe, and many more.
Today we’re happy to share Sam Riley’s and Chris Monks’s editors’ note from the book.
We should have closed up shop back in ’09 after we helped cure bird flu. We know, we know. How else could an internet comedy site with a couple thousand unique pageviews a day (slightly less on weekends and federal holidays) top itself? We saved millions of human lives, and restored the quiet dignity of birds. All thanks, of course, to a ridiculous yet historically profound list we published (“Hot New Styles in Face Masks”) by Walter Carson. Shout out to that now-famous team of teenaged cryptology interns from the CDC (we see you Mary, Todd, and Tater!) who cracked its code and discovered the formula for the bird flu vaccine embedded within its text. They may have been unpaid, but their work will never go unseen.
So, that should have been it. We should have gone out while we were at the height of our humor and public health games, before we completely bungled the TV and film rights to “Hot New Styles in Face Masks” and lost out on any money from what eventually (after numerous rewrites and litigation) became Netflix’s hit reboot Fuller House.
But, no, we didn’t end the Tendency and instead continued posting daily humor almost every day. Why? Well, we had already paid for the URL, but more importantly because fine, good-humored writers kept sending us their writing. We received dozens upon dozens of submissions a day, and sure, half of them were riding on the coattails of the groundbreaking face-mask list, but the other half were funny and silly and odd and not about face masks, and we felt compelled to share them with the world.
After twenty-one years we were still going strong, but a nagging feeling stopped us in our tracks, forcing us to reflect, regroup, and assess what we had done. You may be wondering: Twenty-one years? What a random swath of time! Well, perhaps twenty years is a meaningful moment of maturation in the lifetime of a website, or perhaps we were embroiledin a legal battle with Walter Carson after bungling that Fuller House deal. Perhaps we are not allowed to discuss this further. Thus we began scrolling back in time, way back before birds and influenzas ever dreamed of commingling, all the way to 1998, the year the site was born.
When we finally arrived back to the beginning, our minds were blown. We remembered why we got into this humor-peddling game in the first place. This wasn’t another disease-ending discovery but a revelation, the perspective-shifting kind that comes from nearly thirty minutes of self-reflection. We were fucking hilarious. We’d been funny the whole time! Twenty-one years later and somehow the jokes were still fresh, even the early days when esoteric almost-literary satire was a thing. A seventeen-year-old dance lesson could make us chuckle as much as a five-year-old list of feminist humblebrags, or a recent collection of word problems for the race-conscious. The Tendency is so much more than the website that ended bird flu. We were the website that invented laughter. If you don’t believe us, look it up, but not before asking yourself if the truth will really make you happy.
This book is not complete by any means, but it does contain some of our favorite pieces from the twenty-one-year history of the website in something that approximates chronological order. We’ve included as many introductions as possible, as well as origin stories; very few people were around when the site was born, and thus there emerged competing narratives, all of which seem at least a little bit true. We’ve also included, here and there, reflections from some of our steady and unwavering con- tributors because, in the end, the site is the sum of our writers’ efforts. So, reader, join us as we scroll down memory lane, rejoicing in a website that has matured before our eyes. Maybe time is made up. Maybe living in the past is just as good as living in the present. Maybe the Fuller House producers would at the very least put our URL in the credits.
To pick up a copy of KEEP SCROLLING for yourself, head on over to our store.