Yesterday marked the final day of the World’s Greatest Comedy Site: ZUG. For eighteen years, ZUG was a source for pranks, ranging from riffs on butt-Xeroxing to bible & koran-shooting, to Punking Ashton Kutcher. Contrary to the old dot.com mantra, though, content was not king,–no matter how hilarious that content may be. What ruled on ZUG was community–a massive, global, incestuous, fabulous, foetid, glorious, and funny-as-f**k family, sired by one man’s dream to prank the world.
The Gift of GAB
Though there may be online communities that have lasted longer, it is unlikely that there are more than a handful that experienced such drama without completely imploding. For ZUG, the community was the theater of the absurd called GAB: The ZUG message boards. Many couples met through GAB. I performed the wedding ceremonies for two of them (editor’s note: As of April 2016, both couples are still together). There were love affairs and feuds; careers were built on GAB posts; there were spinoff communities; and there were real-life gatherings around the world. I am both proud and ashamed to admit that many of those people remain close friends of mine.
The site went through a few incarnations, including a glorious few years when it played second fiddle to a groundbreaking daily comedy Web show called Computer Stew, but the community was one of two constants that kept the ZUG name alive. The other constant was ZUG founder John Hargrave.
I’d met John while were were students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He was the roommate of a good friend of mine, and I didn’t particularly like John at the time. I thought he was just some snotty rich kid who got off on picking on my friend. Two years later, we happened to become housemates, and through our shared liberal-ness and love of all things stupid, we bonded. I was the frontman for Berklee’s first hardcore band, and John was an aspiring comedy writer/filmmaker; he involved me in some of his school projects: brilliant multimedia productions involving live & recorded music, skits, pre-recorded mini-movies, and live shenanigans.
Through our collaborations (really, I was more participant than collaborator, but John is always overly generous with praise for those who participate), John and I became close friends. He and his then-girlfriend were in my wedding party, and two years later, my wife and I were in theirs. It was at the reception that John first unveiled ZUG. It was at the midpoint in the short life of the dot.com boom–a thrilling time for young geeks itching to get a piece of this new thing that they were calling the Internets.
Coming up next: Sacrifice