I never heard of Jon Lajoie, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t know who he was. In an ‘oh, it’s that guy!’ moment, I quickly discovered he’s the one responsible for a ubiquitous canon of comedy shorts, with a significant presence on some of the net’s most regularly–trolled video sites.
Despite his millions of views, the career of the Canada-based funnyman is in its infancy. And even though Lajoie plays a part in a French-language TV show (he says he plays ‘the English guy’), he’s best known in the U.S. for his irreverent – if not downright absurd and outrageous – homemade shorts that he’s been producing and uploading over the past ten months. Some of it’s straight sketch, but it’s his music that earns the most attention.
Getting off to a slow start (only relatively speaking, considering he’s been doing this for less than a year), Lajoie blew up when High as F#%k was featured on FunnyOrDie. In what could pass as a music video for any contemporary singer-songwriter, the 20-something Lajoie – who looks like a scruffy, 21st century Peter Tork – earnestly belts out melodic observational comedy.
The song is a beautiful little illustration of irony. Serious accompaniment, ridiculous lyrics. Solemn performances, absurd circumstances. It’s a tried and true convention, but with plenty of room for innovation, and it’s where Lajoie leaves his mark in these early vids.
In his two-part homage to hip hop, Everyday Normal Guy, Lajoie assumes the persona of a rapping tough-guy braggart, adorned in an over-sized sweatshirt and baseball cap, who wags his middle fingers across his I’ll-pop-a-cap-in-your-ass sneer. But here’s the thing: instead of playing the threatening, virile, thuggish hip-hop archetype, Lajoie’s Everyday Normal Guy admits that he likes Ace of Base and that Michael Keaton is his favorite Batman. He does not roll through Compton in an Escalade, but rather traverses Montreal on the city bus reading the paper. What’s more? He has a shout-out to Celine Dion.
The disparity between genre and content, and between what is expected and what ends up unfolding, seems to define a good chunk of Lajoie’s work. Whether it’s a heartfelt ballad about having sex with Britney Spears or a blazing techno joint about doing household chores, Lajoie pushes the boundaries of taste and reason with a hip sensibility, an absurdist bent, and a comedic deftness you usually see from the most seasoned writers.
The contradictions so cleverly created in Lajoie’s videos seem somewhat connected to his personality. The wizard behind the Pedophile Beard and the composer of a ‘2 Girls 1 Cup’ love song is shockingly subdued, if not a tad blasé.
“The thing is that I make rap songs, and songs about getting high, and songs about ‘2 girls 1 cup,’ and songs about having sex with Britney Spears, so people assume that I’m this big crazy party guy,” Lajoie said over the phone. “But,” he warned, “I’m not as exciting as people think.”
In addition to playing himself down, Lajoie is enigmatic about his creative process. His inspirations are no secret (he acknowledges Kids in the Hall, Monty Python, Flight of the Conchords, and NY-based comedian, Eugene Mirman, as influences), but Lajoie’s explanation of how he came to create web content is frustratingly simple. “I write stuff I think is funny and then I shoot it,” he explained. “Sometimes I’ll have a friend come with me and point a camera in my general direction.”
Lajoie is equally offhanded about the content in his upcoming live show at Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival. “It’ll be live music, some videos, and a bunch of retarded stuff that I just came up with.” And, yet, I have a feeling that if the existing videos of this pop-culture-sponge-turned-pop-culture-icon are any indication of what’s to come, whatever “retarded stuff” Lajoie’s got up his sleeve will be nothing short of special.