As the myth goes, very few people actually ordered slices at Famous Original Andy's, but nearly anyone who did went on to open their own famed pizzerias.
Lou Knead, the joint's visionary dough-thrower, was a purist and not a perfectionist. His was the authentic New York pizza, his pies reflecting the dark heart of a troubled time. The pie came covered in gritty toppings lifted from the street, the hard stuff other shops were too timid to bake. If his crew attempted to add pineapple, they were fined or fired. And if the 'za wasn't perfectly round? That just made it more real, man.
Bored yet? Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin is not.
Last December, the involvement of the child movie star turned doing-whatever-he-wants gadabout with The Pizza Underground—yes, a pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band—became a preformed, what-the-fuck Internet headline too dumb to not be clicked. Dressed in black and sporting recognizable shades, the group posed with cardboard boxes, posted songs like "I'm Waiting for the Delivery Man," "All the Pizza Parties" and, of course, "Pizza." You know, like, "Heroin," but with food and not narcotics.
Like the best of online meme culture, The Pizza Underground presented an idea so instantly understandable that it compels one to play along, cashing in minimal mental effort for a quick jolt of enjoyment. They provided an excuse to brainstorm your own song titles ("The Black Olive's Death Slice?" "Oh! Sweet Onion?" "I'm Sticking to the Roof of Your Mouth"? Sorry...) or edit Nico's frame into a group portrait of the Ninja Turtles. Once filtered through participation of the hundreds, thousands, or even millions of procrastinators, even the richest premise burns out with a speed that's terrifying. Jokes don't grow old anymore; they're born and buried within a matter of weeks. But thanks to Culkin's nostalgic star power, this Twitter hashtag game has becom flesh as an actual touring act, taking its repetitive punchline too far in sold-out small clubs across the country.
With The Pizza Underground, the man formerly known as the kid Kevin McCallister offers only a couple of vocal harmonies and an occasional kazoo solo. In a truer sense, he's the only reason it's allowed to exist at all. Like recruiting Twitter followers or securing Kickstarter funding, it's easier to find success for a meme band when operating from a place of pre-existing fame than from a place of anonymity. He'll likely be located center-rectangle in approximately all of the Instagrams taken at every show they play.
But don't let celebrity and the money it might help the band briefly make obscure The Pizza Underground's rightful place in a world of disposable online pop music, where the economy of clicks has resurrected the idea of a novelty single by subbing in a YouTube URL for a 7" pressing or a maxi CD. Companies like Turquoise Jeep have made an art out of turning low-budget goofs such as "Lemme Smang It" or "Treat Me Like a Pirate" into million-hit monsters. Los Angeles record producers Clarence Jay and Patrice Wilson even made it a business model, presenting a blip of online fame as a birthday gift rich parents can give to kids like Rebecca Black. Her song "Friday" might be the genre's defining moment, something so absurd and off-kilter that it cut straight through the noise to become what might be one of the closest things that this decade will have to a unified musical moment (or laugh).
And there's nothing wrong with that. A quick burst of forgettable fun is a formative goal of pop music. But trying to stretch that moment, retelling a joke again and again for crowds of half-amused people who bought a ticket to the freak show? That's a real drag. To keep the pizza out of a paraphrased Lou Reed lyric, that's what'll make anyone who ever played a part turn around and hate it.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Cold slice"