Matt Romney and Rob Paul

Matt Romney (not Mitt’s son) is a fictional character based on a simple idea: What if a typical email-forwarding blue-collar guy from your small hometown ran for president?

Matt Romney mostly exists as a Facebook page and a Twitter account. The schtick is that an embarrassingly out-of-touch adult (a “Don’t Dad”) discusses how he’d run the country, which looks horribly familiar to those of us with backward upbringings, and I assume laughably absurd to everyone else.

Matt’s running mate is Rob Paul, who will “keep our country like I keep my lawn.” Rob has his own Facebook page, a deconstruction of a certain “hands off my property” brand of Ron Paul supporter. One of his updates combines his dual themes of “VPs just want to be president” and “I’m just some guy who doesn’t at all belong in government, but look how much I resemble actual Tea Party legislators”:

some people ask me what it’s like to be in the shadow of matt romney i say it’s fine here i don’t mind the shade and it lets me hit my one hitter without the pigs being all up in my grill

Matt and Rob are part of this absurd-but-familiar form of humor trickling into the mainstream online — which I’ll name “flarf comedy” after “flarf poetry” (poetry made from Facebook feeds and Google results). These two characters’ feeds feel a bit like @horse_ebooks in their inscrutable grammar, spelling, and non sequitur ideas. I’ve mentioned that lack of punctuation is a cruise-control for cool because it implies timelessness and casualness — it says “I’m too busy for punctuation” or “My ideas can’t be contained in sentences.”

But this very cadence makes them familiar, because they resemble the tweets and status updates of the lower-class and out-of-touch. I have high school friends who type like these guys, and who think they could run the world even though they can’t keep their own shit together. And I see elected officials say equally absurd things, just with rhetorical polish. The guy in Matt’s profile photo is actually a conservative blogger named John Semmens.

And that’s why Matt Romney and Rob Paul are so funny. They pass off highbrow political commentary as lowbrow silliness, by way of impeccable character development.

And the joke works on all three of those levels. It’s so robust you could build a movie off of it. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis’s The Campaign kind of does, but there’s room for something more indie and realistically stupid, more American Movie-like. Because real-world politicians are now just pissed-off dentists and real estate salesmen whose simplistic ideas appeal to angry poor people in bad t-shirts, and we should keep exploring that.

God damn. Somebody give these Facebook accounts a movie deal.

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