Local Heroes

The internet may or may not have led to the creation of new kinds of humour (depending on how novel you take lolcats to be), but it has certainly allowed existing forms to flourish in new and unexpected ways. An online hit from last year was Sminky Shorts, a series of brief cartoons trading on the basic formula of animals talking like humans:

The Sminky phenomenon raises a couple of interesting issues. One is the degree to which these cartoons work because of their distinctively Corkonian inflections and idioms. Some of them are good sketches in and of themselves

whereas others, such as ‘Crocodiles’ (the first video above) get by almost entirely on charm – although I found this one just as amusing as ‘Tommy’. I’m curious to hear whether readers not fortunate enough to hail from Cork like these films, and if so why.

The other interesting trend Sminky Shorts illustrates is the rise of local humour with global reach. There is an audience on the internet for distinctively regional comedy, either original material (as with Sminky Shorts and a previous Irish hit, the Rubberbandits), or redubbing existing footage, for instance Scooby-Doo with north-eastern accents and copious swearing:

This would have been all but impossible twenty years ago, when local humour tended to be confined to a local audience (for instance on regional radio stations). Humour which reached a national or international audience required a major platform (usually television or cinema), which couldn’t, by and large, risk carrying anything too parochial. Thanks to the internet, people in Colchester, Canberra and Quito have access to cartoons by and about Cork people. And not just people, but agents and production companies as well.

Sminky Shorts has global reach, but can it achieve global popularity? Jason Sullivan has signed to London agency, but it remains to be seen what new markets he can find with them. For all the on-line success, I suspect the cartoons are primarily a hit among Irish people, and more specifically people from Cork. There is no reason in principle why crudely-drawn shorts can’t develop into something with much greater impact, but whether Sminky Shorts can do this while retaining the local flavour which has until now been its selling point is a different question.

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