I find this GIF and burst with laughter. Maybe this analysis should suffice: a gloss on the immediacy of any good comic strip; of the irrepressible emergency of that pleasant physiological sensation we express with laughter. Because the truth is, although it’s quite embarrassing to admit it, that looking at a guy with a rude expression on his face, shining his own balls is hilarious.
However, I soon realise that I would have never found it so funny shouldn’t it had been so transparent. The funniest thing is, above all, the product of a rhetoric figure: what we see is an analogy, a gesture that reminds us of another. Without that game and that indirect way of telling there would be no joke. What makes us laugh is the mediation of a metaphor, even if it’s such a brutal and primitive one.
But the author of the GIF has used yet a more sophisticated discursive mechanism. In the composition of his pastiche he’s put the character in Christ’s place in the painting The Last Supper. And the notion is funny because we know that the one scrubbing with frenzy is “Jesus”. The synecdoche between the character of the Coens’ most hysterical comedy and the central figure of Christian civilisation intensifies the transgressive connotation of the whole thing. The idea that the man announcing his New Commandment was a gruesome crook such as the guy played by John Turturro in Big Lebowski, finding inspiration in his crotch, has a naughty edge that is difficult to resist.
It’s true that, like any other joke, once deconstructed this one loses its edge a bit. But there’s also a reason for surprise and joy: thinking that our brain has been able to process a plot full of symbols and intertextuality within seconds. And with its amazing capacity of synthesis, a GIF –yes, that humble piece of disposable cultural material– is what best celebrates and uses today our ability to decipher highly coded messages in a blink. That is, to decode them and burst out laughing.