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How an Idea is Formed

Dan Brooks ruminates on the wonderful folks who create ideas for us.

How an Idea is Formed



By Dan Brooks
What we did was we sat around and we thought of stuff. We were idea men. It was me, Leonardo daVinci, and this guy Joe. Except maybe Joe wasn’t so much of an idea man. There was a key difference between him and Leonardo daVinci. Like you’d say, “Hey, Joe!” and he’d say “What?” whereas you could say “Hey, Leonardo daVinci,” and he’d say “Helicopter made out of a propeller that you screw into your head!” Thinking all the time, you know?

Anyway, we would come up with an idea for something, and then if it turned out to be popular it would happen. For example, one of my very early ideas, the one that got me employee of the month: Birds Fly Around, Up in the Sky. It’s good, isn’t it? Birds don’t just appear out of nowhere, you know—much less up in the sky, flying around like they’re, I dunno, birds or something. Somebody had to have that idea. That was me.

Birds Fly Around, Up in the Sky was idea #4687702. Leonardo daVinci came up with the idea of numbering our ideas so we could keep track of them. Idea #1 was the number one, which he used in his cataloguing system to mark the first idea he came up with since implementing the number designation method, that idea being the aforementioned number one. I know, it’s confusing as hell. Idea #2 was the number two. Idea #3 was the number three, and so on up until Idea #674, when Joe pointed out that Leo was getting nowhere. Idea #675 was the numbers 675 through a million skillion bazillion, which was how many ideas me and Joe and Leonardo daVinci figured we could come up with before we called it quits.


You know what always amazed me? Certain terrible ideas — ones we never thought would fly — wound up being really popular. For example, Idea #8365984638239: Joe DiMaggio Gets Bone Spurs and Can’t Play Baseball Anymore. Leo came up with that one, and when he told us about it I was sure it’d bomb. I mean, DiMaggio. One of the best-loved players in the sport, a man known for his unwavering devotion to playing every game, felled by bone spurs. But it took off and lo and behold, it happened.

My idea was, In the Middle of Game Six of the Yankees/Red Sox World Series, Joe DiMaggio’s Face Blows Up. He’s just standing there at home plate and BLAMMO!—a perfectly smooth, featureless stretch of skin where his face used to be, smoking. But he wants to finish the inning, right? So he climbs up into the Yankee Doodles Junior Fans section of the stadium and starts ripping the faces off kids and slapping them onto the space on his head where the skin used to be, and they stick there on account of all the blood and strands of brain integument and whatnot.

But the thing is, DiMaggio is a grown man, and one with an unusually large head at that, so all of the faces are too small for him. And in desperation he keeps ripping off face after face and slapping them onto himself, until eventually his head is like this cone made out of his bare skull and a gradually tapering stack of about forty faces. Then he goes back to home plate, hits a grand slam, and dies from a severe case of his face just blew up about ten minutes ago. I thought people would love that, but in the end Leo’s idea won out. What can you do?


You know what the best idea we ever came up with was? Idea #9804: The moon. That was the rough draft. The finished product was The Moon, Up in the Sky. It was later updated in Idea #6578832: The Moon, Out in Space. The best part about it was it generated all sorts of spinoff ideas: Old British People Write Boring Poems About the Moon, Certain Guys Turn Into Werewolves When They Look at the Moon, Total Hardasses Wrap Themselves in Tinfoil and Jump Up and Down on the Moon. It was great. Granted, some of the spinoff ideas weren’t very popular; Mussolini Catches the Moon With an Atomic Fishing Rod never really took off, and neither did my personal favorite, A Second Moon Appears Out of Nowhere and Sodomizes the First One. I could not figure out why people wouldn’t want to see that.

Anyway, I think we all sort of knew that the moon was our last really good idea, because once we had exhausted the spinoffs we started to get tired of the whole idea business. After Idea #10395737266: Man Decides to Put a Cool Space Colony on the Moon, Later, and Therefore Stops Romanticizing It Entirely, the bulk of our time was spent trying to come up with ways we could take some time off. DaVinci scored big with Idea #143763765858: Leonardo DaVinci Gets Born in Renaissance Italy, and suddenly we were down to two. Then Joe turned out to be just the janitor. I’m not sure how his ruse was uncovered, but I suspect it had something to do with Idea #1463836294847464: Joe Turns Out to Be Just the Janitor, which I wrote while he was using the bathroom. I was pissed because he ate my bagel.

It was there, alone in the office except for Joe who was busy trying to scrub bagel stains out of the carpet, that I came up with my last idea. I called it Idea #0, partially because it was so important and partially because f**k Leo, and it went as follows. Idea #0: Everybody has to come up with their own ideas from now on. Then I locked up and I went home.

Dan Brooks writes about politics, consumer culture and lying at Combat!