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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Fri 22
Jun
2012

Irony Certification Agency

Writing

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA: Mr. Jeremy Frost, proprietor of the area’s newly-formed Irony Certification Agency, wears blue overalls. “People expect someone in a nice suit,” he says. “But I want them to see that irony is just a facilities problem. Like a leaky pipe.”

Mr. Frost’s business has been operating for eight months. In that time, he claims to have rendered services to some of the state’s largest employers, including a tech giant and two major insurers. But he’s unable to name names.

“People don’t like to admit they had an irony guy in,” he says. “They see the results. But they don’t like to talk about it.”

That’s something Mr. Frost aims to change. “Getting that first meeting, convincing them I can help them, it’s tough,” he admits. “But once I’m in, I’ve never left a customer disappointed. I figure if I keep doing what I’m doing, people will eventually get comfortable enough to share their irony problems.”

“Irony problems,” according to Mr. Frost, occur when places or objects build up irony over time, and then trigger ironic situations. He explains: “Say there’s a grocery store and they give me a call. I might find a guy to take in—Mike Slipper, for example, or Amanda Fall. I’ll have them walk up and down the aisles. Now, if Mike Slipper slips, or Amanda falls, that’s a pretty good sign we’ve got a source of irony somewhere nearby.”

It’s not always that simple. “I ask myself: what’s the most ironic thing that could happen? Because even a little irony nearby can be enough to set something off, if it’s potentially very ironic. One time an insurer had me visit this guy—he was a little accident-prone, and on a big, big policy. At first, everything checks out, but I’m just not comfortable with his car. It’s more likely to lock with the keys inside when you’re running late, the battery went flat when I tried to drive it to the store to buy batteries… nothing outside normal tolerances, but still, on the high side. Well, then I find out the guy has been writing letters to the paper saying we don’t need seat-belt laws. I can’t tell you the details of how that turned out, but let me just say that insurer saved a ton of money.”

Once Mr. Frost identifies a source of irony, what does he do? “Well, bear in mind, I do Irony Certification, not Irony Disposal. If you’ve got a restaurant on Ebola Avenue, I can check the premises over and tell you whether you’ve got a problem, but I can’t relocate your business.”

This is particularly the case when the source of irony turns out to be a person. “It is awkward, yeah,” he admits. “You have someone who’s been a long-time model employee, she owns a dog named Buster, and suddenly you’re telling her she can’t work in the accounting department any more. It’s not her fault. We still don’t know how the build-up of irony happens. We just know it’s there.”

Mr. Frost is straightforward about the skepticism he receives on the job. “Everyone has an opinion about irony,” he says, a touch wearily. “I do get people coming up to me, saying this isn’t really ironic, or that other thing is. Sometimes, a guy comes up, and three words in, I can tell from his accent where we’re going.” He shrugs. “But it doesn’t bother me. When you’re an Irony Certification Officer working on an irony-laden site, people telling you you’ve got the definition of irony wrong is just part of the job.”

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Stygian Emperor (#2947)

Location: Austin, TX
Quote: "Hope is but the first step down the path to disappointment."
Posted: 815 days ago

This is too smart for me. I'll try again later.

Machine Man subscriber coolpillows (#3749)

Location: new york general sort of vicinity
Quote: ""It's not working" -- Joseph Clark"
Posted: 815 days ago

What's really ironic about this piece is that I read something very similar in Fast Company just the othe day. It wasn't about irony certification, it wasn't even about irony or trying to be ironic. But it was ironic simply because it was about a new business in Fast Company. The article took me a long time to read too.

Great to hear from you Max!

ryandake (#2199)

Location: scenic monterey, ca
Quote: ""The rest is not our business.""
Posted: 815 days ago

hmmm, i would have thought that Vallejo was irony-central, not San Diego.

good to see you pop your head up, max!

Machine Man subscriber Barrie (#5111)

Location: Blackheath Australia
Quote: "So be it, mergatron!"
Posted: 815 days ago

Of course Mr Frost might have a problem with people who've had an irony bypass, as a lot of Americans seem to have, so I'd assume he'd have to work in areas where irony is thick on the ground, perhaps Florida or the Everglades where they've got a lot of thick moss, esp in trees. Texas could be another centre of thickness, sorry, irony, where the ex President likes to bury armadillos for fun and then have one of his dogs dig them up.

stanley becker (#5283)

Location: black hole
Quote: "DON"T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER!!"
Posted: 814 days ago

Eye-ronnie is Jamaican patois meaning something, if you get my meaning - Diogenes was of course the first Irony Certification Agent - his friends called him an old dog - they said he smelt like one - since then its always been important {NB.} for all agents to familiarize themselves with the smell of irony - much like the Giant in Jack of the Beanstalk who could actually smell the blood of an Englishman!! - the big problem this poses your regular Irony Detective is the abundance of odours he has to deal with in his day-to-day dealings with the 'Hoi Polloi' especially as satire smells so similar and so does double entendres - ironic dogs are being trained as I write this to sniff out ironies at airports and keep out unwanted unbelievers like ironists - Yours ironically S.

Machine Man subscriber tim (#3234)

Location: chattanooga, TN, USA
Quote: """
Posted: 814 days ago

I haven't tried to read so many words at one time in months. Give us a picture or a drawing or something. I hope this isn't a sneak preview of your new book...yikes!

Brittany O. (#1688)

Location: Montana
Quote: "My love calls me Boom..."
Posted: 814 days ago

It reminds me of if train A leaves the station at 6 am and is headed west 24 miles and train B...
But whatever it is I love it. I am hoping it is a sneak peek of the new book! I seriously have 12 books sitting here to read and I have yet to really get emersed in any. So I am patiently waiting for the new book.
Thanks, Max

Shoe (#4776)

Location: D.C. Suburb
Quote: "“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.” —Muriel Rukeyser"
Posted: 813 days ago

I think this is almost funny (isn't that ironic?) but maybe I'm too muddle-headed to get all the nuance.

The bit about the model worker with the dog named Buster has me entirely confused. Can anyone explain it to me?

Machine Man subscriber Roger (#1653)

Posted: 813 days ago

Max... is this an excerpt from your new book?

Dustin (#5984)

Quote: "It is far better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. -Abraham Lincoln"
Posted: 812 days ago

... I'll be honest, I don't see it selling. I mean, it's good, but it's just too smart for the general population (yours truly included). What you should do is add a car chase.

Machine Man subscriber Ben (#3924)

Location: Alberta, Canada
Quote: "I don't wanna ride the elevator."
Posted: 811 days ago

I will be honest Max, loved it and I don't care what anybody says, you write it, I will buy it. The subtle parallel of Safety Consultants and what their job consists of combined with the absurdity of the situation you have created was excellent. I found it quite humourous.

I would like to hear coolpillows and the other Machine Man commentators comments as well...

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 811 days ago

Not a new book, I promise. Just something that crossed my mind at 5am.

Machine Man subscriber Spadanera (#5986)

Location: Salem, MA
Quote: "Love is like a mystery.. Seriously.. Not a ****ing clue here!"
Posted: 808 days ago

Seriously funny!

Errr... Oops.

Farley (#4503)

Location: Vancouver
Quote: "The world is your oyster, but you are allergic to shellfish."
Posted: 806 days ago

Pretty sure the idea of Amanda Fall falling is not irony. It is an amusing coincidence. Like a restaurant on Ebola Ave (who named that street!?) having an Ebola outbreak. Not irony. Just an amusing coincidence. So yeah, I am one of those trying to tell you what is and is not irony. You can't hear my accent through the internet.

Chelsea (#5402)

Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posted: 801 days ago

this seems like something you'd find in The Onion. :P loved it!

Chris (#6002)

Location: Canada
Posted: 771 days ago

This was hilarious :D

Sadly, I agree with others that most would fail to find the humour... But at least there are clips from "The Simpsons" on Youtube to fit most situations ;D:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=HD8ZtM1sWgI

Michael (#6)

Location: North Carolina
Posted: 763 days ago

Comments are closed on previous COPYRIGHT posts but I just watched this video and it makes too much sense.

Max, I know you have written about Copyright law in the past but I think until these ideas and laws are changed it cannot be talked about enough!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk862BbjWx4&list=PL87DB3F7E8107A4AE&index=5&feature=plcp

Enjoy!

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