I made this animated GIF for a forthcoming MAKE post about personalizing these rotating “message” promotional pens to make super-cheap, memorable, functional gifts for friends. But then I stopped short of actually using it, (at least with this particular set of messages) because I don’t want to have to fend off a bunch of enraged comments about a “pro-drug” message.
In point of fact, I like this classic stand-up line from comedy God Bill Hicks not so much because I am particularly drug-addled, nor even because I think it’s such a great knee-slapper, but rather because I admire its rhetorical craftsmanship. Properly delivered, it manages a complete semantic one-eighty in the course of twelve words—eight if you allow for the fact that the first four, “I don’t do drugs,” really just establish the starting point.
It’s one of those jokes that almost has to be spoken, to be effective. Even the most artful and creative punctuation fails to capture the effect in written words, because the speed at which most people read gives little time for anyone to be surprised between the first of those dozen words and the last.
But the 6-way message pen with its time-delayed, line-by-line scrolling marquee, opens up a new dimension not available in straight prose, and can make the joke work again, IMHO. And it was too good an opportunity to pass up.