4 Terrible Celeb Jokes That Everyone Took Seriously
Celebrities are terrible, and they say some pretty dumb stuff. But did you realize that sometimes, when celebrities speak, they’re ... not being totally serious? Crazy, we know.
And so we all get worked up over stuff that celebs never actually meant or did. Well, today, we’d like to give you permission to stop hating celebs for the following transgressions (and to go on hating them for various other transgressions, we guess). To start with ...
No, Gwyneth Paltrow Never Sold A Candle That Smelled Like Her Vagina
You definitely heard this story. Gwyneth Paltrow’s goopy company Goop packaged the scent of her own vagina and turned it into a candle. This fit with common knowledge about the store’s other vagina-themed merchandise as well as the founder’s ego.
Except, no. It was and is just a normal fruit-and-flowers scented candle, only with a giant sticker on it that reads “THIS SMELLS LIKE MY VAGINA.”
Meaning your vagina, not hers—“you” being the person who displays this candle in their home. If you go around wearing a T-shirt that reads “I’m with stupid,” the I refers to you, not the president of Hanes. Same deal with this candle, which never mentions Gwyneth Paltrow.
But also, the sticker doesn't say the candle smells like your vagina either. The sticker is saying your vagina smells like the candle.
If a candle smells like (for example) vanilla, it won’t have a huge sign on it reading “THIS SMELLS LIKE VANILLA.” The label, if one exists, will just say “vanilla” and will be small, meant mainly for when you’re shopping—since, once lit, the candle’s scent goes without saying. When you light the LIKE MY VAGINA candle, we all smell what it smells like. It smells of citrus and flowers and wood. The label “THIS SMELLS LIKE MY VAGINA” is you telling everyone that your vagina too smells of citrus and flowers and wood.
Though, you’re not really saying you have a potpourri vagina. You’re joking. You’re bragging or flirting in an exaggerated manner. Some of the more skeptical stories mocking the candle pointed out that vaginas don’t really smell like that, as though customers were deluding themselves, but customers understood the meaning just fine. The store also sells a candle labeled “THIS SMELLS LIKE MY PRENUP.” These are not serious messages.
We just laid out several paragraphs of analysis, not because that’s how complicated this joke is but because that’s how many levels of meaning someone had to miss to think the candle's Gwyneth-scented. We promise, this was not a deep joke. It’s the equivalent of, tomorrow, Joe Rogan coming out with a set of dumbbells with these words written on each: “THIS WEIGHS THE SAME AS MY BALLS.”
Oh, you could still mock the product. You might say when the weightlifter jokingly brags of massive balls, he’s overcompensating for steroid-shrunken nads the size of craisins. But you can’t criticize Joe Rogan for actually modeling weights after his own testicles. That is not a thing that happened.
We tried debunking this candle story years ago. Here’s the thing though about these tales painting celebs as kooks. Celebs revel in them. Your lies only make celebs stronger.
When the candle was relatively new, Gwyneth spoke frankly about it. “I was kidding,” she said, about the vagina label. She said that when the team first showed her the forest-scented candle, she’d quipped “this smells like my vagina,” and then they ran with that because it was funny.
Then the candle really became a meme. And so later, when interviewed about the candle, Goop folk changed their story and said, sure. They had actually sniffed Gwyneth’s vagina in the office and designed the candle around that scent. That’s ridiculous, but who cares? If that’s the story we want to believe, that’s the story they’re going to give us. Better we talk about that and send sales their way than talk about the candle suddenly exploding.
And speaking of whining verbosely and clinically about female genitalia ...
Ben Shapiro And "WAP"
That candle was not the worst part of the year 2020. That time in recent history was instead of course also marred by something much worse: Ben Shapiro’s crusade against the song “WAP.” Footage of him reading the lyrics and moralizing over them was very stupid and deserves every kind of mockery. We shan’t embed it here.
Even if you avoided the footage itself, here’s how you may have heard it summarized: This was the time Ben Shapiro revealed he doesn’t know women get wet when turned on. He thought the song was about Cardi and Megan experiencing discharge due to some disease. His doctor wife seconded his suspicions, betraying that she herself has never known arousal, due to Ben’s inadequacies.
But this medical tangent from Ben was a joke. After registering his real disapproval (this is the part we should mock) that singing about sex could be empowering, he made a joke, outlining what it would mean if the singers’ wetness literally required a bucket and mop.
His segment contained other jokes too. When he said Megan Thee Stallion's the singer’s legal name, that was a joke. When he acted unsure whether “wet-ass” is an adjective or a separate admission of diarrhea, that was a joke, a poop joke. Overanalyzing lyrics and making deranged conclusions is its own genre of humor. We’ve tried it ourselves. It’s a hit-and-miss style of humor, and it can be downright incoherent when you jump between genuine observations and deadpan nonsense, but it's still an attempt at humor.
Important note: Humor or not, you were still welcome to taunt Ben in the moment. Someone makes a joke, you make a comeback; that’s how comedy works.
Imagine that at an open mic night, MC Chris introduces comedian Bob, who opens with, “Thanks, Chris—and by the way y'all, is there anyone in the world less able to get laid than Chris?” You the heckler would be totally justified in yelling out, “You.” But months later, if you say, “Hey, remember the time Bob claimed that Chris, who’s dating, is the most un-doable person in the whole world? That shows Bob doesn’t understand statistics” ... well, you’d be the one misunderstanding stuff, not Bob.
All this has a serious consequence. When you misunderstand Ben’s joke and mock him for it, that makes him happy.
Ben Shapiro sells himself as someone intelligent, but he constantly says fallacious or contradictory stuff critics refute. The only time he can really feel smart is when he gets to say, “Look. These people aren't even capable of comprehending my point.” It gives him great pleasure, the very pleasure he otherwise only gets from eating boogers, so why are you letting him feel that.
Those Viral Ellen Clips Don't Reveal Her True Self, They're Manufactured Comedy
When we discover/decide a celeb is terrible, we're always tempted to claim we never liked them, and indeed no one ever liked them. Though that makes dropping them easier (“psssh, those grape jokes were sour anyway”), it’s not very honest. It’s also not a great strategy in your endless quest to categorize celebrities going forward. Maybe the next performer revealed to own an orphan torture basement will be someone you went on the record as truly loving, and what are you going to do then, eh?
Take Ellen. Knowing our audience, chances are you never liked or watched Ellen’s show, so once her employees came out against her, you had no attachments to discard. But her viewers did like her. Lately, people (who, like us, never actually followed the show) have been sharing Ellen clips like they’re grim glimpses of a villain abusing victims. Some clips offer insight, but a lot of them are just scenes of everyone having a good time.
The following video did the rounds, newly labeled as Zac Efron and Taylor Swift calling Ellen out:
The two guests break into a song about how every time they come on, it “gets really weird.” Oh wow, said the internet years later. They were ambushing her with this surprise exposé about her toxicity!
No one ambushed anyone. Everyone in the show’s production knew this song was coming, from Ellen to the crew handling mic levels to the audience wrangler getting folks to clap off-beat. Taylor and Zac do not call her out for unfairly firing employees, or racism, or for condoning sexual misconduct, or any of the other allegations that eventually brought her show down. They “call her out” for cat videos, pranks, and gossiping with guests. If Ellen looks uncomfortable, it’s the discomfort of someone who has to sit still while everyone else sings Happy Birthday.
About those pranks—the video refers to a time Ellen set up a hidden camera, surprised Taylor backstage, and then they both fell down laughing. “This foreshadowed all the misconduct!” say people now, who don’t know what misconduct means. Yes, the guest has to pretend to resent the prank; that’s why the prank’s funny. But no, the guest does not resent the prank. If Taylor Swift really disliked how the prank turned out (let's assume it was a real prank and not scripted), she would have laughed then but later told her assistant Judith to contact the show and order the segment pulled. If the show aired the segment anyway, Judith would have had everyone on the show, short of Ellen herself, murdered and dumped in the river.
This next clip also circulated, showing a 10-year-old ukulele player who speaks only Mandarin. Rather than interviewing him directly, Ellen jokes about the translation process and questions whether the stuff he says make sense. How rude!
That’s not because Ellen is an evil person. It’s because talk show interviews, rather than eliciting information, seek to set up a fun dynamic between host and guest. Going through a translator and having the kid speak long stretches in a language the audience doesn’t know was always an absurd idea, and Ellen makes fun of it. If you’re having trouble deciding whether this segment is cruel or is funny, just imagine Conan O’Brien’s head on Ellen’s body saying the same things she does.
Which reminds us: When Paul Rudd is eventually proven to be a vampire magician cult leader, let’s not say that his pranking Conan with Mac and Me clips foreshadowed the eventual revelations.
Elon Musk Never Pledged To Donate $6 Billion For World Hunger
It’s a little tricky to keep track of everything Elon Musk has said on Twitter, or about Twitter, but you might remember the following story going like this. CNN reported that Elon could solve world hunger by donating 2 percent of his wealth, $6 billion, to the UN’s World Food Program. Elon sad he’d do this, so long as the WFP provided a plan of how this would work. The WFP (not to be confused with WAP) complied, and yet Elon donated nothing.
Fact checkers later said yep that happened—meaning, yes, those people really tweeted what they’re alleged to have tweeted, which you can't always take for granted when you hear these stories. However, no, Elon never seriously pledged $6 billion. He pledged that sarcastically, while delivering an impossible challenge.
He said he would sell $6 billion in Tesla stock “right now” (an exaggeratedly large gesture, which he could not legally do) if WFP could describe how that amount solves world hunger. The key word there is solve, because $6 billion cannot solve world hunger. An ungodly amount for one person to own becomes quite small when divided among hundreds of millions. That’s the flipside of wealth inequality.
For reference, the USDA spent $180 billion last year on direct aid just to hungry Americans. So, an additional $6 billion couldn’t solve American hunger, let alone world hunger (the US is part of the world). $60 billion couldn't solve world hunger. No one-time payment could solve world hunger. Most world problems—with a few exceptions, such as eradicating certain diseases and parasites—aren’t actually ever going to be solved but instead will require systems that we’ll maintain forever.
Few who saw the exchange realized “solving hunger” is different from “alleviating hunger, particularly in places where food's cheaper than in Portland.” The WFP, however, understood that difference just fine. They responded, saying yes, $6 billion won’t solve world hunger. CNN had got that wrong and would go on to issue a correction. $6 billion was just the shortfall between what WFP wanted to spend and what it currently had. Still, $6 billion would postpone millions of deaths, and that's not exactly nothing.
Elon took this response poorly. He went with his go-to tactic of accusing his opponents of being pedophiles. Which this time was based on the fact that, uh, yes, UN soldiers raped children, but you can’t blame that on WFP, a separate aid organization.
WFP did not seriously expect this exchange to result in Elon giving $6 billion, just to draw general attention to their cause. While news sites say WFP followed up by posting a plan, they didn't really, other than to say they could scale up what they do (it'd take thousands of tweets to thoroughly detail $6 billion of spending, and even that wouldn't be a plan to solve world hunger). They did share a snapshot of future efforts, but it’s just a breakdown spanning a few hundred words. Later, Forbes contacted the agency to see if Elon donated—the man had moved some money around, raising speculation that he'd secretly donated after all—and when the director said Elon hadn't, he didn’t add “but we’re still eagerly awaiting it, please publicize this, we need him to save 42 million people from starvation.” He joked, “Whether WFP receives any of this money is yet to be seen, but I am excited to hear that Elon is engaged.”
If you’re still having trouble seeing Elon’s offer wasn’t serious, imagine the following. Picture Elon not as a billionaire businessman but as an alcoholic single dad. One day, his son requests money for a school fundraiser, saying they're trying to save the world. “Save the world?” says Elon. “Save the world? Yeah, you explain to me exactly how Mrs. Patterson’s third grade class is going to save the world, and I’ll sell my car tomorrow and give all the money to you.”
Elon’s son (Egon) knows his father's mocking him, but he still writes out a description of how his class aims to sponsor acres of rain forest in Ecuador. Elon crumples up the sheet of paper without reading it and turns back to his beer. In this scenario, Elon is not guilty of reneging on a promise. He’s guilty of being a dick.
It may sound strange that we put so much time into explaining Elon wasn't a dick in one specific way but was in another. But this story hits close for us. Because, you see, not too long ago, we offered the same sarcastic challenge he did.
This was an article about economic myths a few months before Elon’s WFP spat. We talked about how the government spends more on health care, income assistance, etc. than a lot of people realize, so much that a billionaire could not foot these bills singlehandedly. “We'd love to hear what your plan is for permanently feeding billions of people using only tens of billions of dollars,” we said. Readers did not think we were sincerely asking them to draft such a plan.
Of course, we brought that up while busting general misconceptions, not as a counter when someone asked us why we personally weren’t donating money to the hungry. If you asked us that, we’d say, “Money? What money? Lol.”
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Top image: Goop, Andrea Raffin