The truth may or may not be stranger the fiction. But, as The New York Times has recently demonstrated, the truth is capable of being every bit as ridiculous as fiction. In a begrudging acknowledgment of this pesky “new media,” the venerable Gray Lady of print journalism has established its requisite beachhead on YouTube.
Among the offerings there is a series of brief non-fiction films called “Op-Docs,” and it is under this unassuming banner that the Newspaper of Record has given us a delightfully absurd little comedy sketch whose improbable dialogue all comes from real-life court transcripts, specifically a 2002 case in which the Recorders Office of Cuyahoga County, Ohio was being sued for charging citizens for photocopying documents. Apparently, one of the witnesses in the case was not too familiar with the relevant terminology, including the commonplace term “photocopier,” much to the dismay of his increasingly-annoyed interrogator, and the two men had a surreal, looping argument over what such a device might be. The resulting dramatization of this incident plays like a cross between the deposition scenes from The Social Network and an Abbott & Costello routine, if Lou had an attorney on hand to defend him from Bud’s angry onslaughts. “Verbatim: What is a Photocopier?” is the first episode in a proposed series, to be shepherded by producer Brett Weiner, whose previous credits include such well-regarded web shows as Honest Trailers and Paul F. Tomkins’ booze-fueled interview series Speakeasy. The cast includes Tompkins’ former Mr. Show castmate John Ennis, who very realistically portrays his character’s rising frustration in the face of profound bureaucratic idiocy. “If you feel stupid,” he barks at his nemesis, “it’s not because I’m making you feel that way.”