Putting the IT in wit

Tech's greatest comedians
Written by Ella Morton, Contributor

Who are tech's greatest comedians -- intentional or otherwise?

Among the image problems faced by those in the tech industry (which include bad fashion sense, sensitivity to sunlight and social ineptitude) is the notion that those in IT are bereft of a sense of humour. (Or that, if they indeed possess a sense of humour, their comedy shtick centres around technical in-jokes that will bore the socks off the average civilian.) Assuming for a moment that this heinous belief were true, imagine a sysadmin performing a standup routine. It might go a little like this:

So there I was, giving my itemised evaluation of Ubuntu 6.04, when the entire time, he thought I had been talking about Mandriva 8.1! It was the wrong Linux distribution! Oh, how we fell about snorting when we realised that comical error.

Now, while some techs may not be capable of witty repartee due to having their synapses fried by too much Warcraft playing, it is surely unfair to tar all techs with the unfunny brush.

In Australia, we're experiencing a wave of tech comedians. SBS is currently screening the endearing and funny Nerds FC on Friday nights at 7:30, a show that plucks 14 nerds from their LAN parties and libraries and throws them together to form a football team. In the standup comedy stakes, computer science student and software engineer Paul Ayre recently won the NSW final of the Raw Comedy standup competition, and will compete in the grand final in Melbourne this Sunday.

Locally at least, techs are making a name for themselves in the annals of comedy. But what about global-level funniness? Who are tech's corporate comedians? A few suggestions:

Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO)
What a wacky japester is Steve, who is often referred to online as "Monkey Boy". Obviously a proponent of the lesser known "repetition equals hilarity" comedy technique, Ballmer is fond of shouting things like "Developers, developers, developers, developers!" while engaging in simian-esque dance movements before an often bewildered crowd. Legend has it that following a maniacal chant of "Windows, Windows, Windows!" at a meeting in Japan in 1991, his vocal cords clapped out and he required immediate surgery.

While Bad Boy Ballmer has claimed reports of him throwing a chair in a fit of anti-Google rage were apocryphal, there's no doubt that this feisty dude likes to get physical at work. A truly memorable occasion, captured for posterity on video and widely circulated on YouTube and Google Video, featured Ballmer dancing it up to Gloria Estefan's "Get on Your Feet" and shouting "Come on, give it up for me...wooo, wooo!"

Scott McNealy (former Sun CEO)
He may have just stepped down from his position as CEO of Sun, but McNealy's witticisms and criticisms will long be remembered. A man with a tendency to see the lighter side of adverse situations, his exploits include donning a penguin suit in 2002 to prove his love for Linux, and responding to concerns about Sun's financial performance with "I'm not going to kill anybody. What would you like me to do? Tear the hair off their arms real slow with a piece of tape?" at an annual meeting in February 2006.

Notable quotes from McNealy also feature cracks about his wife and children ("If I could embed a locator chip in my child right now, I know I would do that"), and requisite Microsoft-bashing goodness ("Microsoft is now talking about the digital nervous system. I guess I would be nervous if my system was built on their technology, too").

Who would you nominate for inclusion in a list of tech's corporate comedians?

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