Monday, May 14, 2012

Our Conga Line is Definitely Not a Cult

My Cracked cartoon about conga lines and cults actually started as a humor essay that I wrote for McSweeney's last year. Of course, on the exact day after I finished writing it, they published another article about conga lines. Eventually I realized that I could just doodle in the margins and turn it into a cartoon, but a lot of jokes got lost along the way. So now let's go back and pick up those jokes, since they've just been sitting on the side of the road for the past few months, trying to hitchhike home!

"Our Conga Line is Definitely Not a Cult"

Tired of dancing alone? Need some direction in your life? Wish you could be part of something larger than yourself? Well grab the shoulders of the person in front of you and join our conga line!

I’m sure you’ve read the brochure, but let me remind you of our history: we were founded at 9:23pm, making us one of the oldest conga lines at this party. At the time, Jerry—our great leader—found himself tired of making small talk with Kathy, and decided to establish a conga line in order to avoid speaking with her. Many other party-goers must have sought the same inner peace and outer quiet, because the new line was an instant success, and membership has exploded since then. Though the dance floor by the couch is our homeland, I’m proud to say that we now have members in such far flung locales as the bedroom, the kitchen, and the guest bedroom!

Other dance organizations in the apartment are chaotic, but we embrace structure and traditional conga values. This includes a strict no-talking policy, other than customary “cha-cha-cha”s. Call that old-fashioned if you must, but we are very progressive in other areas: for instance, we will dance to whatever the DJ is playing, even if it’s music not normally associated with conga lines. Hardliner “congservatives” may consider this heretical. But modern party-goers are increasingly apathetic, and we need to evolve with the times if this conga line is to survive beyond 10:00pm.

Still, we enforce a hierarchical chain of command, easily observed by the number of glow stick bracelets a member is wearing. Stepping out of line (figuratively or, more importantly, literally) will not be tolerated. As a historical example, consider Kathy, who was one of our most senior members until she broke off to form a splinter conga line about 15 minutes ago. Her branch engages in such deviant behavior as holding the next dancer at the waist instead of on the shoulders, and we do not recognize the legitimacy of her line. Don’t make eye contact or smile, especially if she asks you about Jerry. If her line happens to pass by ours, you are permitted to stick your foot out and try to trip them.

But as long as Kathy’s not around, relax! I don’t want you to think that we’re all about rules and regulations. In fact, unlike other lines at this party, we frequently conga past the mini-fridge, allowing you to grab a drink. Just make sure to keep one hand on the person in front of you at all times. If you lose contact, you will be immediately excommunicated and banished to the futon by the TV.

As the most recent joiner of the line, you are placed in an ambassador role, and are responsible for enlisting new members. You may have to shake your booty to attract potential recruits. Yes, I know it’s embarrassing. It’s an initiation ritual. If I had to booty-shake, then you do too.

We encourage assimilating other lines into our cause, especially lines that have already proven their conga-ing skills. As for individuals, we do not discriminate based on dancing ability, but intoxication is a concern. For instance, it seems like Kathy is getting pretty drunk, and we’re worried that she might fall over and topple our entire organization, dominoes-style.

Remember, a conga line is only as strong as its weakest link—when you have your hands on one of our shoulders, you have your hands on all of our shoulders. This is your last chance to leave without damaging our delicate ecosystem, so if you’re not up to the task, get out now. Exiting from the middle of the line is an incredibly complex and dangerous act. Honestly, you won’t be able to do it safely unless you’re a gymnast.

If you follow the party line, you’ll slowly move up the ranks, and eventually earn your plastic novelty top hat. Stay in formation. Wiggle your waist to the beat. Don’t bother Jerry. Some of our more arcane rules are listed in the literature that you were given earlier, but if you ever need guidance, feel free to seek out one of our elder “congofficials”—they can be recognized by the distinctive lampshades they wear on their heads. If you’re devoted to the cause and do good in this life of the party, your rewards will be unimaginable in the next one. Which will be on Saturday, by the way. You can RSVP on Facebook. And we’re not inviting Kathy, so everyone will have a great time.

Wait. Oh my gosh. Jerry, the great leader, has grabbed your shoulders. You’re the one that was foretold in prophecy, the Chosen One who will lead us to a higher plane of existence: the conga circle! This is the grand finale that we were promised all those hours ago. With no end and no beginning, our conga line can go on forever, like a party animal ouroboros. The lights are out? We don’t need to see when there’s always someone to follow. The downstairs neighbors are complaining about the noise? Let’s see them try to break us up. The music stopped? We can make our own music. Everyone sing! Dance faster! Shake your hips! All hail Jerry, the conga king! Cha-cha cha-cha cha, CHA!

Wait, Kathy is heading towards the snack bar. Let’s break up and rebuild the conga circle around her so she can’t get through.

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