Recently I have been asked by a couple of people: whence Kenneth, the guy I’m always yelling at in my blog. I thought I had already written about his origins here, but I can’t find it and I need a blog post for today anyway, so here we are.
In 1986, CBS broadcast journalist Dan Rather was attacked by a man who was convinced that CBS was beaming signals into his head. For some reason, the man kept calling Rather “Kenneth,” demanding to know the frequency of the signals so that he could adjust his tinfoil, I guess.
The band R.E.M. picked up the phrase and turned it into their song, “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” From there it entered the public consciousness.
At least it entered mine. I will confess that I don’t know R.E.M.’s song, but the Rather attack and the song both made sure that a crazy person without a firm grasp on what we laughingly call Facts yelling at KENNETH stuck in my head.
A second piece of Kenneth comes from the hysterical, vulgar, and deadly snarky Wonkette blog, in which house style creates an acerbic Valley Girl voice which takes, for example, half the nation opposing the GOP’s efforts to kill poor people and asks “how is that even fair, even??” Again, the humor comes from the gobsmacking (assumed) cluelessness of the speaker.
The final piece of Kenneth comes from the Monty Python characters they called “Gumbies”:
“My brain hurts!”
So all of this gets combined into my head into a voice that, when faced with the inexplicable inability of amygdala-based lifeforms to grasp very plain reality, or when very plain reality has become gobsmackingly preposterous, has no recourse but to yell at KENNETH in a deranged, Gumby-esque way.
It helps if you read it with your head cocked a little to the side with your eyes wide open and glazed over.