“…The comic mask is ugly and distorted, but does not imply pain.” – Aristotle, Poetics
The work of Brian Faltyn, better known to his fans on the online video service TikTok as “Brick Nermon,” subverts not only traditional expectations of comedy and filmmaking, but the more modern, hip, post-ironic motifs of the “hyperaware” comedian as well. Common themes of his work include kissing his brother, shirtless fighting, rigid and mechanical acting and confused takes on viral TikTok trends.
I was introduced to Faltyn’s work through a video in which he wears face paint modeled on DC Comics’ Joker character and says, erratically shaking his head like a football jock pumping himself up for a big game, “Society, you had a chance to fix me. But instead, you broke me.” What struck me about this video was Faltyn’s apparent misinterpretation/misrepresentation of the Joker, a famous meme in and of himself, especially since his adoption by (for lack of a better term) the “incel community” and “irony posting” collectives like “Gang Weed” (@gang_weed_on_ig).
But Faltyn’s novel misinterpretation doesn’t stop at the ironic. He goes so far as to subvert the expectation of an ironic Joker. Something about Faltyn’s erratic movement, his shirtlessness or just the look in his eyes contributes to a paradoxical suspicion that he isn’t even clued into his predecessors’ work with this character but that, somehow, he must be. Faltyn’s work exists in a kind of liminal space: between irony and sincerity, between hip and lame.
Like other examples of hypermedia (such as the recent “Hyperpop” phenomenon), Faltyn’s “Hypercomedy” is emblematic of the Gen-Z, or “Zoomer,” mindset. “Hyper” implies an accelerated sense of speed; analogous to the pace at which our behavioral information economy perpetuates itself. The media of the 21st century must be rapidly assembled and disseminated, and, in order to keep up with the speed of post-post-post-modernity, Zoomers, having internalized a DIY ethos as part of a “global village” mentality, eschew high production values and cogency in favor of new, less definable methods of cultural production.
Memetic impulses are central to this process. Brick derives his comedic impact from this new social dynamic, where the effect of inside jokes between close friends has been successfully translated into a kind of super-commodity. Comedy, for Faltyn, is abstracted from the typical vehicle of sensible, lucid jokes. Timing seems to take the brunt of his creative labor. His work belongs to a wide network of accelerated, avant-garde comedy, which implies both the emancipation of the performing subject from traditional rules and the establishment of new ones.
A critical part of Faltyn’s strategy is cultivating a perfect lack: a lack of preparation, a lack of organization, a lack of character and a lack of, well, jokes. The ostensible lameness or privation, which makes his content so fascinating, is due, in part, to Faltyn’s style. It has an air of anonymity about it: Under Armour t-shirts, training sneakers, athletic shorts; all seemingly composed with no coordination whatsoever.
But is this simply a part of the Brick Nermon character? In an interview with Jesse Yeltin for his new website, Blowout, Faltyn explains, “Regarding the fashion style, it's [sic] whatever clothes my mom buys.”
Is he being serious? Frankly, it’s hard to believe otherwise.
Images via TikTok