‘Dilbert’ Canceled But Cubicle Comedians Thrive, On TikTok Story-level
Nothing about work is funny. Except when everything about work is fun.
Cubicle dwellers love to laugh at their pain, even when that cubicle is actually a desk chair at a dining table at home.
For decades, the comedy about the drudgery and absurdity of corporate life has resonated with wide audiences. “Office space” is still a cult classic decades after its release. According NielsenIn 2020, viewers watched 57 billion minutes of “The Office,” which premiered in the United States in 2005.
And “Dilbert,” which followed the titular engineer through various white-collar issues, was syndicated in hundreds of newspapers across the country until this week, when the comic strip was widely scrapped after its creator Scott Adams’ racist tirade. in a live stream on YouTube. For some, it was no surprise that Dilbert was disappearing; a bigger surprise was that “Dilbert” was still a thing more than 40 years after its creation (especially given Mr. Adams’ history of offensive comments).
But the material, life under the glow of fluorescent lights, the joys of middle management, provides timeless inspiration and a feeling of camaraderie.
“When workplace comedies poke fun at these shared experiences and identities, they reinforce a sense of camaraderie,” said Jennifer Aaker, a Stanford business professor and co-author of “Humor, Seriously.” Her colleague and co-author Naomi Bagdonas added that humor in the workplace, including on social media, can help people deal with the “exceptionally unpleasant times” we live in. “When many are experiencing stress and burnout, humor can be particularly effective. In boosting morale and productivity,” she said.
A new generation of comedians is creating content that responds to and conveys the changing norms of work. On TikTok and Instagram, memes and videos lampooning everything from the Zoom hashtag to email signatures to Gen Z firings are going viral.
DeAndre Brown, 23, who refers to himself as “The Corporate Baddie” in instagram other Tik Tok, said his videos about bosses asking employees to turn on their zoom cameras always get a lot of views. “A lot of us are experiencing the same things,” she said, adding: “It’s very relatable.”
Brown said he thought his comedy resonated in part because “there’s a big conversation going on about Gen Z in the workforce.” He added: “My generation is entering a time where people are starting to question their jobs.”
in a recent one Tik Tok, Mr. Brown slams his laptop shut and uncorks a bottle of wine with his teeth just as the clock strikes 5. “When the time hits 5, consider me dead!” says the caption. Many comments are from people who agree and support this boundary setting energy.
But it’s the Internet, so people often have something negative to say. “Many older generations feel that Gen Z is entitled, we will never get anywhere in life, our mindset is not feasible for a productive corporate environment,” he said. But he added that he also gets feedback that the future looks brighter because of the Gen Z approach.
Laura Whaley, 28, who has accumulated 2.3 million instagram followers and 3.1 million Tik Tok followers, portrays a number of co-worker characters wearing different wigs and hats, including “the person who repulses the calendars of his coworkers” and “the person who works during his spare time.” (In both, a Dolly Parton-esque character named Donna Sue offers support, recalling the classic working women’s comedy “9 to 5.”)
Ms Whaley posts about the trials of remote work, including the tedious experience of telling a coworker to be quiet (again). She said that “with the pandemic accelerating the evolution of work, a lot of new things have emerged that many of us identify with.”
christian maldonado, 28, had just left a job at a car dealership in North Carolina when the pandemic began. After being active in Tik Tok during a period of unemployment, he started a corporate job at a software company. In 2021, he began including workplace jokes in his posts, noting that videos about bosses and paid time off worked well. He also lampooned retail jobs, showing a change in store manager. scolding obsequious in front of a client. (Mr. Maldonado played all three roles.)
“I get ideas from my audience,” he said. “They talk about their experiences that they have had in previous workplaces.”
Rod Thill, 32, who posts about business life for some 1.6 million followers on Tik Tok (and almost a million followers on instagram), said millennials, in particular, have grown up seeing the corporate drudgery portrayed on TV and in movies. But while shows like “The Office” develop characters over the seasons, social media creators may only have seconds to create a personality or crack a joke. “It’s still the same relationship, but the execution is different,” she said.
Mr Thill added that content about mental health at work resonates with his audience, and followers tend to share posts about work friends. “When you talk about your best friend at work, they send it to their best friend at work,” he said.
Although cubicle comedy tends to focus on the indignities of life as a corporate minion, some corporations have begun to partner with the creators who lampoon them.
Natalie Marshall, 25, who posts as @CorporateNataliehe tapped his 492,000 TikTok followers and 473,000 Instagram followers into consulting work with tech companies and doing sponsored posts for brands like Dell.
“While I make fun of working from home, @CorporateNatalie is incredibly brand friendly,” Marshall said. He added that many brands like to use humor to appear relatable with their audiences, saying his own audience included millennial professionals with strong spending power.
ross bitterness, 33, began posting as his “Corporate Bro” persona after being inspired by his time working in sales at Oracle. “I wanted to be the modern video version of Dilbert,” she said. But given the events of the past week, he said, he now cringes before the comic.
Mr. Pomeranz now speaks for corporations, especially at sales events. Why would a company in a sector he lampoons invite him to speak? “Self-awareness wins these days,” he said. “People are so sick of the deaf and out of touch CEO”
Even some people who work in human resources, who are expected to resist jokes, have fun.
Jamie Jackson, who works in human resources for a startup in Nashville, started his meme page @HumorousResources in September 2020. “Millennials especially gravitate towards memes. Now they are like our comics,” she said.
“Every time I post hybrid memes, I look like this at home vs. this at the office, they always get millions of views,” said Ms Jackson, 41, adding: “People will say ‘accurate’, ‘relatable’ ‘, all those comments.”
The @HumorousResources logo is a sketch of a hand extending the middle finger, not to anyone in particular, just the concept of corporate life. On a recent call from Microsoft Teams, a gold statue of the embossed logo was seen at Ms. Jackson’s home.
Ms. Jackson was holding a pair of Crocs – they were also emblazoned with a charm version of the logo.
“We’re at our jobs most of the time,” he said, so he likes to have fun with the humorous parts of the job. “Let’s be honest, we’re all living on a rock floating in space.”