Ben Folds did a little ode to Merton, The Chat Roulette Guy the other night in Charlotte. I think Merton is the most immediate, apt and artistic response to Chat Roulette, really, which has a bit of Web 1.0 vibe to it- a little dangerous, a little anonymous, random little rabbit holes that you can fall down, yet hopefully don’t end up seeing tons of dude’s junk. The idea of Chat Roulette is both exhilarating and terrifying- like a high-tech combination of visual pen-pals who might turn out to be creepy flashers in the park at a moment’s notice. Not my thing, but hey, whatever pops your kernel.
I do, however, find it fascinating, funny, and touching that Ben Folds is commenting on a guy who basically was doing Ben’s schtick- sort of like an uber-meta comment on a comment. Pop culture is eating itself in a magnificent way- a multicolored, high-bandwith snake eating its own tail daily. It seems to me Ben is both endorsing Merton and elevating him- “Good on ya, man. You hit me with that.”
It reminds me of David Cross doing a cover of the Bank of America Guys doing U2’s “One” as a “convention entertainment” and a grossly inappropriate appropriation of a song (in my view) that’s pretty damn beautiful. Obviously, the Bank Guys were oblivious that what they were doing was disgusting, beyond trite, and just remarkably and staggeringly bad. Cross knew this, and didn’t actually have to parody it; he just did it straight. There was no way to spoof that which is unspoofable- you just let ‘er rip as is, man.