I once again sailed on JoCoCruiseCrazy and I once again had a great time performing as well as doing other human things that I would normally do on land but instead doing them on a boat.
If, like my mother, your first reaction is “What’s a JoCo and why are people cruising on it?” here are the basics: Jonathan Coulton is a talented, kind, funny human who sings songs. For the last four years, he’s gathered other talented, kind, funny humans to sing songs and tell jokes on a cruise ship. You should go next year.
This year, the cruise was on a ship that I believe was designed by aliens. More on that later.
Here’s some cool stuff about the Jonathan Coulton part of the cruise:
The attendees call themselves Sea Monkeys. After four years, the Sea Monkeys have formed a community that exists on the sea, the land, the internet, and sometimes even the air if you go parasailing during the cruise.
For example, a nice Sea Monkey named Laura dressed her stuffed monkey up as Batman and then gave it a taco just for me. Things like this constitute fairly normal interactions on the cruise.
The Sea Monkeys are also a great audience. I had over a million metric tons of fun performing in the ship’s Goth Club in the middle of a Monday afternoon. The club had a strange, sexy Beefeater theme so this statue was my co-star.
Paul F. Tompkins kindly performed the controversial piece Cats Versus Dinosaurs with me and Molly Lewis was my co-host for my nerd-friendly sport Competitive Hugging. The Sea Monkey volunteers came, they saw, they hugged the shit out of each other.
I also played a role in the boat edition of Thrilling Adventure Hour. Peter Sagal and I portrayed angry people from the Midwest. It was easy to get into character.
And I served as communications officer for “Drunk Celebrity Artemis” in which Grant Imahara flew our spaceship backwards through asteroids. This was not an actual command given by our Captain, Angela Webber of The Doubleclicks, but it was very entertaining.
All that said, the actual cruise part of the cruise seemed even stranger to me than normal.
Cruises are meant to evoke elegance and luxury, but with the glut of cruise problems in the last year there’s also the mental image of being lost at sea, defecating in a bag, while rats infested with the norovirus stare at you in judgment until you wash up on the island from Lord of the Flies.
Perhaps because of these thoughts I was more aware of the cruise ship as a floating contradiction. I spent a few extra minutes on my balcony staring at the endless sea and the vast sky–realties of the physical world that remind you of your tiny insignificant nature and the absurdity of our civilization. All of that just a few feet away from an angry lady from Iowa screaming BINGO and spilling a little bit of her strawberry-mocha margarita out of the commemorative plastic cup that is ringed with chunks of salt and small edible conflict diamonds.
Adding to the contradiction pile, our ship was called the Independence of the Seas and I for one felt INCREDIBLY INDEPENDENT as other humans cleaned my room and made me martinis.
There were many things about the Independence of the Seas that were almost right, but not really, leading me to the inevitable conclusion that this particular cruise ship was designed by aliens with only a loose grasp of human culture.
Each level of the elegant three story main dining room was named after a Shakespeare play. In particular, a Shakespearean tragedy. This led to a delightful moment of hearing a man with a heavy southern drawl loudly and repeatedly asking a steward, “Where is Macbeth? Where’s Macbeth? I can’t find Macbeth!”
Dining rooms named after Shakespearean tragedies is the set-up to a choose-your-own-punchline-adventure joke. Turn to page 57 for “at least they didn’t choose The Tempest.” Turn to page 163 for “I hope the dining room isn’t named after Titus Andronicus.” Turn to page 269 for “WHY DON’T THEY JUST CALL THE SHIP THE TITANIC?”
The ship was also lousy with challenging art. I don’t mean challenging as in thought provoking, I mean most of the artwork was so aggressively weird I felt like it was actually challenging me to a fistfight.
There was the picture of a deer looking at its own mounted head.
There was an elegant print you could buy of a famous human named Jack Nicholson farting.
There was a photograph that I believe was called “Buff-Man in the Shadows” or “Child of Light with Huge Pecs” or “Terrifying Live-Action Family Circus.”
There was an illustration of spaceships from Star Wars sinking naval ships.
Here you can truly see the aliens trying. They know a lot of humans like Star Wars so, hey, why not some pictures from Star Wars? How about some ships? How about two of the most obscure ships only seen in Return of the Jedi? Yes, that sounds good. We’ll have a picture of TIE-interceptors and A-Wings. What should they be doing? How about destroying something? Sounds good, but let’s make it relatable. What if they were sinking other ships?
YES! The spaceships should be sinking naval ships–VERY MUCH LIKE THE ONE THE HUMANS ARE FLOATING ON RIGHT NOW! I think the humans would enjoy that! Alien high-five! Or high-seven depending on their anatomy!
The ship also had a promenade or mall in the center as if commerce itself could keep us afloat. One of the storefronts was a pizza place called Sorrento’s which I choose to believe is Italian for “Sorry, humans.”
Many of us went there to get late night pizza. The pizza was available all day, but this pizza is like a great jazz club, a vampire, or texting your ex. It belongs to the night.
The pizza is not good. It’s also not bad. It’s almost pizza but not quite. It’s like eating the Uncanny Valley.
I could go on and on about the strange cruise.
I could tell you the aliens also chose a ridiculous name for our toilet paper.
Heavenly Choice. So much wrong packed into just two words. The act is almost as completely opposite of heavenly as you can get and, hopefully, there’s not a lot of choice involved. It’s not shopping for a new car, it’s basic cleanliness. Come on, aliens.
I could also tell you how the aliens took a part of Haiti and renamed it Labadee and then used it to exactly recreate an island from the Nintendo Gamecube era video game Super Mario Sunshine.
Seriously, try saying LABADEE in Mario’s voice and it all comes together.
The point is my whole time on the ship I was overwhelmed by this idea, this sensation of aliens struggling to make sense of normal human culture.
By the last day I realized I was enjoying the cruise even more because of that. Normal human culture is weird. Normal human culture on a cruise ship is weirder STILL.
But everything makes more sense when you’re inside it.
It’s only when you pull back and look at it from a distance that you can see the absurdity and often the joy of how not normal what you’re doing is.
On the last day of the cruise, I thought I was in a room with a bunch of awesome people listening to my friend Molly Lewis sing some songs.
Then I let myself drift back and see it from the outside. I was standing in a fake goth club on a cruise ship listening to Molly sing a song about a detachable, flying vagina with a man dressed as Super Mario.
And it was great.
So thanks to Jonathan, the Sea Monkeys, the skies, the seas, the aliens, the night pizza, and all the weirdness in our vast universe for another fun week on a boat.
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