My junior year of college, I lived in a building on campus called The Chateau. The first floor was for French classrooms and professors’ offices. The second and third floors were sweet-ass housing for juniors and seniors: huge wooden floors, epic sunset and mountain views, around the corner from the tastiest dining hall, up the stairs from the coveted, secret bathroom on the first floor (a bathroom that was very spacious and very bad at locking its door to keep away frazzled, French professors the three times I used it. Désolé! Désolé!).
In late August, we moved all our stuff in through the second floor window with a rope and belay. On days north of 40 degrees, we’d open our windows, play You Make My Dreams by Hall & Oates on repeat, and point at prospective students walking by on campus tours: you—yes YOU—make my dreams come true. Starting on a snowed-in night in early January, my pals, Kevin and Wilder, and I countered the Vermont winter with Comedy Night, a weekly Sunday night tradition where we’d use a classroom projector to watch a feature-length comedy or a series of moronic YouTube videos. We’d watch Leslie Nielsen and his commitment to character and expressionless absurdity (nothing in the world made me laugh harder than the Naked Gun series at age 18-19). We’d watch young Andy Samberg and his mastery of self-deprecating anti-comedy. And then, naturally, we’d turn to the vast, medieval world that is Chat Roulette.
I’m not promoting Chat Roulette. It’s a mostly vile place where super creepy folks do and say super creepy things. But we were drawn to the Roulette-ness of it. We loved the randomness. We loved the site’s fuel for improv. We loved reinventing ourselves each conversation (politicians, C-list reality TV stars, surgeons, pirates). We didn’t love the flashers who, in our not small sample size, happened to be almost exclusively Italian men—or Linguiners, as we called them. Chat Roulette is the Wild West of human interaction: there aren’t really any rules, and there’s gold out there if you get lucky.
There was a woman in Japan who asked if the three of us were brothers, lovers, a boy band, or all three. There was a smiley, older fella in Mexico who just patted his eyebrows and wiggled his mustache the whole time. And there were three dudes in Vermont who just wanted to stay warm inside and cause a ruckus.
The artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself.—EE Cummings