Comedy and controversy

With his blog, local comedian Justin Colucci revels in stirring things up.

Austen Macalus

With a penchant for anything anti-authoritarian, a casual disregard for creating controversy and a steady diet of ’90s cartoons, comedian Justin Colucci is familiar to anyone who went to high school with a devious prankster.
Colucci, a self-described “bitter, childish asshole,” candidly admits this disposition.
His attitude inevitably infuriates some, but it also makes for some hilarious work.
For more than two years, Colucci has written “The Trashcan,” a satirical blog that’s now a staple in the Minneapolis comedy scene.
The online space is an apt reflection of Colucci’s sarcastic and cynical outlook, and its content ranges from fantastically absurd headlines to caustic articles attacking societal norms and political mockery directed at both ends of the partisan spectrum.
Most of Colucci’s work focuses on attacking bandwagon mentality. Take for example, a January article: “Teen Becomes David Bowie Fan Just in Time to Mourn Him.”
“If everybody is saying one thing that is annoying me, that is oftentimes what I will write about,” Colucci said. “That’s kind of my thing: going against ‘group-think.’”
Colucci said the blog originated from a practical joke where he put up fake Craigslist ads impersonating local comedians.
After the gag, Colucci moved on to online impersonations of celebrities by creating Tumblr accounts routinely posting articles written from the perspective of notable personalities. 
So far, Colucci has written in character as Hillary Clinton, Ryan Reynolds, Sean Penn and more. Donald Trump has been a recent recurring figure. 
“I like writing as a really bad person that is maybe aware they are bad,” Colucci said. “It’s like, what if all these people had a ton of self-awareness and were forward with it?”
Though he exaggerates the personas, Colucci said he approaches each character with a sense of empathy and works to humanize their experience.
“I think people make other people two-dimensional without giving it much thought,” Colucci said. “Everybody is still a person.”
For Colucci, the blog format feels like a natural platform for his humor. 
“I am not much of a performer. … I enjoy writing way more,” Colucci said. “I like story structure.” 
The written form of comedy is particularly appealing for humor involving cultural material, Colucci explained. One article, titled “Our Liberal Future,” is set in a future ultra-liberal dystopia and satirizes “reverse-racism.”
“I feel like when you are doing stand-up, your job is make people laugh. It is not really to make people think,” Colucci said. “I think ‘The Trashcan’ is more substance. … I can do absolutely anything I want.”
So far, his tactic has been working — and catching public attention.
In an episode last year, Colucci posted a fake ad selling a PS4 controller that he claimed was possibly once used by Craig Finn, the front man of the Hold Steady. The post went viral, and Finn ended up naming his back-up band “The Uptown Controllers” after the incident.
Colucci revels in controversial moments where he can victoriously play the antagonist.
“If you are not being a little controversial, you are probably not being very funny,” Colucci said. “Isn’t a joke something that is different or surprising?” 
Luckily, Colucci has had no problem stirring the pot. He recounts one article joking about Harry Shearer, a voice actor for the Simpsons, after his return to the show.
Although Colucci thought the article was “absolutely ridiculous and absurd,” Shearer was not on board.
“He had his lawyers send me a cease and desist. I thought it was hilarious,” Colucci said. “I am very childish in that way.”
The way Colucci sees it, humor is justifiable when it is out of harmless immaturity and not reliant on cultural stereotypes.
“You can’t just generalize a group of people you don’t know anything about,” Colucci said.  “Nobody is saying you can’t make fun of yourself.”
For him, good humor comes down to the thought process behind the punchline.
“I think it is just a gut feeling. One thing I make sure is that everything ends with a joke or at least has a joke,” Colucci said. “A joke is a point. If you make a point in a colorful way, that is just a joke.”
Colucci readily admitted he is not always perfect at creating a clear statement behind his humor.
“Definitely some people don’t get it, or they take it wrong. But what are you going to do? That happens with everything,” Colucci said. “I am just trying to make people laugh.”