Computers are like health—you don’t think about ‘em until something goes wrong, at which point there’s nothing else to think about. Anyone who’s spent time on a help line can attest to this. It’s so easy to get wound up by glitches and bugs, especially if, like me, you’re a person who’s not at all technically inclined (and especially times two if you’re deadline-driven when said glitches go down). The notion of having a whole day or more derailed by a few lines of code is a folly particular to our era; maddening and specific.
So it makes sense that an oral history of Windows 95 would exist, right? Well, Lesley Tsina has written a fake oral history. She understands the aforementioned folly, that the computer realm is loaded with gags and punch lines, and elevates the oral history form to new comedic heights with this (mostly) fabricated story of Microsoft’s lauded operating system.
I say “mostly” because some of the subject material here is so absurd that I assumed Tsina was spoofing the modern day media tropes that blare for our attention by looking back twenty years and making them less bombastic and thus more silly. This isn’t the case, though—The Rolling Stones really gave permission for “Start Me Up” to be used as a theme song; Jay Leno really did host a gala premier. All of these events sound so ‘90s that on first read I gave kudos Tsina for spoofing every event opening, be it large or wannabe. The thing, again, is that they all happened.With that said, the conversations held around the real-life events were never as funny (such as the one here, in which Tsina’s Bill Gates negotiates with The Rolling Stones, who previously had never leant a song to advertising, so that Keith Richards can feed his addiction to Beanie Babies).
In less able hands, the material here might easily fall flat. But Tsina (who in addition to writing has appeared on Community) boasts pitch-perfect comedic timing, and her jokes fully embrace the latent absurdity of computers and the people who to this day line up outside of stores to buy them before anyone else. It would be easy to change the delivery a few degrees and resort to geek cruelty, but Tsina never once does. Her writing is crisp and light-hearted throughout. Restart Me Upis an absolute tour-de-force of both form and function, with nary an error message or bum note to be found. Thumbs way up. –Michael T. Fournier ($10, www.devastatorpress.com)