May 2, 2013

On Auto Tune the News

By Dr. Funny, PhD

Q: What is funny about Auto Tune the News?

A: Dr. Funny is looking especially at Auto Tune #5, his favorite. This is a mashup, which serves to form a political critique as well as one of popular culture and especially media culture. The Gregory Brothers use auto-tune, a program that allows singers to sing on pitch. But it also allows one to turn spoken words into song, which is what the Gregory Brothers do with an interview critical of Barack Obama’s speech; a Joe Biden invocation of God; Steve Buyer’s absurd contention that smoking lettuce is as dangerous as tobacco; Katie Couric’s name dropping of popular culture figures; and a Fox Business News fail. The segments both crudely and sophisticatedly mock culture, crudely in their songifying the various figures, and sophisticatedly in the type of media criticism they employ.

Why is this funny? Part of it has to do with absurdity. First of all, we know that news anchors and politicians do not sing their reports and speeches, and yet here they are singing. We know that people do not play drums to help them sing and yet here they are doing that. We know that there is no senator called Junkie Einstein from South Dakota who smokes lettuce—and yet this particular Auto Tune the News features Junkie Einstein smoking lettuce.

One of the frustrations with politics and the news media is that people feel powerless in their presence—politicians seem insulated from the people and one can hardly interact with the news media. The Gregory Brothers seem like interlopers, mocking the ridiculous things that Katie Couric and Steve Buyer say by putting them to song, and serving as our surrogates by entering these videos themselves.

Another part is simply watching people who are supposedly “serious people” sing, and in the case Joe Biden, Steve Buyer, and Katie Couric, turning topics probably more fit for song than words into songs.

Dr. Funny has been singing about lettuce since he heard this song.


Need to know why something you've come across on the internet is funny? Send questions to Dr. Funny at c/o Dr. Funny.

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