Humor Can Build A Community, But Can It Build A Tribe?

Yesterday I re-read Seth Godin’s book Tribes (We Need You to Lead Us) for my business book club I’m part of. On the way home I wrote this post using my netbook tethered to my phone. Technology is such an amazingly glorious thing is it not?

While reading Tribes I couldn’t help but take what has taken hold in pop culture and put them under the Tribeoscope. People are doing unique, interesting, and often funny things that are amassing a huge following, but are they amassing a Tribe? Take Shit My Dad Says.

Over 2,250,000 Twitter followers (including me), listed over 53,000 times and categorized as humor by the majority. Over 1,282,000 Facebook fans who comment and share everything new 10′s of thousands of times. Follow that with a successful book and a television series starring the one and only William Shatner. By most standards Justin Halpern is a success, but does he have a Tribe?

Personally, I don’t think that he does. To be a Tribal leader by Seth’s standards he would have to be a heretic. Fueled by the faith that what he’s doing is right and raging against the established religion of comedy. That he somehow has challenged the status quo and come out the hero. This has not happened.

Old people saying off beat things have been funny for a long time (hip-hop granny, or any elderly character in a Parker / Stone production for example), so that isn’t new or revolutionary. Yet it’s the greatest recent example I could think of where someone was using humor to build a community. Successful community? Yes. Successful Tribe? No.

There isn’t a rallying cry to build something better, there isn’t a give and take to make a better product, there isn’t anything going on but an audience just waiting to hear the shit Justin’s dad says next. There is no unifying purpose or goal that is driving the actions of everyone connected.

All through Seth Godin’s book he uses tons of revolutionary examples in industries big and small and yet not a single one was humor based. I’m sure they all had a good time and they had some laughs along the way (you have to enjoy your work to be passionate. about it.), but there were no entertainment examples. Funny or Die is about the closest thing I could think of to an entertainment based tribe.

However, I still see Funny or Die as more of a community and less of a tribe. Per Seth a Tribe has a goal, a focus, and is fueled by the faith in what they’re doing. Could Funny Or Die be a tribe that is dedicated t the vision of high quality, free comedy? Maybe, but with the way Seth lays out a tribe in his book the purpose has to be a bit more revolutionary than something that’s just YouTube with a theme. But then, maybe I’m wrong.

What I want to see is are examples where entertainment / humor is the product AND where humor / entertainment was used to gather and lead the tribe to achieve something it wouldn’t have without it. Why you ask? Well simply because Seth didn’t do it in his book that’s why.

What do you think? Do you feel like Justin is leading a tribe and not just amassing a community or do you have examples of your own that would fit?