'Mountain Man Dance Moves': Lists for Laughs McSweeney's, the publishing enterprise behind several humor journals, has a new book out — a collection of its often absurd "lists" that readers send in to McSweeney's Web site. Editor John Warner talks with Madeleine Brand about the new collection.
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'Mountain Man Dance Moves': Lists for Laughs

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'Mountain Man Dance Moves': Lists for Laughs

'Mountain Man Dance Moves': Lists for Laughs

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If you've ever found yourself surfing the Web site McSweeney's Internet Tendency, you've probably read some of their lists. Irreverent and absurd, these lists itemize things like favorite Klingon Fairy Tales or Jewish Holidays for Hipsters. The best of them are now collected in a book. It's called Mountain Man Dance Moves. Here's a sample.

Mr. JOHN WARNER (Editor, Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists): Tourism Slogans That Failed to Seal The Deal by Michelle Orange. Kyrgyzstan: Kazakhstan's Mexico. Germany: Let It Go. Venezuela: We Dare You. Cambodia: Nike's Best Kept Secret. It's Worse in Western Samoa. Canada: Turn Left at Greenland. Syria: Come for the Ruins, Stay Because We Confiscated Your Passport.

BRAND: Other lists include Why I Don't Feel Like Family At the Olive Garden, and Signs Your Unicorn is Cheating On You. I spoke with the book's editor, John Warner, and I asked him if there was any method to the book's madness.

Mr. WARNER: Not really. We do have an oversupply of unicorn lists, just because we find unicorns sort of inherently funny, but the only organizing principle is these seem to be the things that are on people's minds.

BRAND: Names That Could Possibly Pass for Cries of Passion if Accidentally Yelled During Sex with Anyone Not So Named, by Emily Lloyd: Aaliyah, Maura, Ewan, Osgood, Deepak, Uma, Ja Rule, Moe.

How did you come up with this idea in the first place?

Mr. WARNER: Well, the lists were kind of a natural outgrowth on the site just initially, when our sort of founder and patron, Dave Eggers, started the site - boy, I guess back in '98 or '99. He was just publishing kind of Web ephemera - different things, stories or humorous things, and one of those things started to take the form of lists. And when I took over the editing, I guess just over three years ago now, one of my desires was to make that a regular thing.

Countries That People Think My Dutch Girlfriend Named Nor Comes From, Even After Being Told That She is Dutch, by John Miller: Norway. Countries That I Imagine The Same People Must Think I Come From: Johnway, Johnland, Johnalia, Johnistan, Johnizia, Equatorial John, Papua New John.

BRAND: Why is the title of your book Mountain Man Dance Moves?

Mr. WARNER: Well, that's one of the lists in the book, and it's a list that describes the dance moves that happen in front of a concert-goer at a Beastie Boys concert, where the person is standing behind someone she describes as a mountain man. It's sort of a longer list, but it's very, very funny and sort of very sharply observed about how people behave at concerts.

BRAND: Like those embarrassing dances?

Mr. WARNER: Yeah. The Beastie Boys are rapping straight to me, you know, in the cast of ten thousands, and we have a one-on-one connection, me and the Beastie Boys-type dance. So they're pretty funny.

BRAND: Tell me more about the unicorn and your obsession with it?

Mr. WARNER: Some people find them mythical. We think they're real, as long as we hold them close in our hearts, and the more we can put them in the book, the better. It also gave us an excuse - this being radio, they can't see it - but there's a very attractive kind of 70's-style Steve Miller Band album cover drawing of a unicorn on the cover, and any excuse to kind of put that out in the world on the new releases pile sounded good to us.

BRAND: It is stunning, actually. This unicorn is just fairly glowing in the moonlight.

Mr. WARNER: It's a majestic-looking unicorn, there's no doubt about that.

BRAND: Okay, so read Stupid Jokes That Unicorns Don't Find Funny.

Mr. WARNER: Stupid Jokes That Unicorns Do Not Find Funny. This is by Dan Kennedy. Does your horn grow if you tell a lie? If you're so magical, why don't you stop world hunger? Is that a horn on your head, or are you just glad to see me? Can I hang my coat there? Thanks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Okay, I find them funny. Maybe I'm not a unicorn.

Mr. WARNER: I mean, if you were a unicorn, you would definitely not find them funny. It's kind of tall people, how's the weather up there. If you're a unicorn, you're constantly hearing horn jokes, I imagine.

BRAND: I know. It must get really, really old.

Mr. WARNER: That's right.

BRAND: John Warner is the editor of the new book Mountain Man Dance Moves: McSweeney's Book of Lists. Thanks, John.

Mr. WARNER: Thank you.

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