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John Hargraves has been updating his site weekly since 1995, one of the first comedy websites that is still in existence. Best known for his pranks, he also had his own show on Tech TV in the US. Here he recalls the early days of the web.

Back in the dark days before e-mail and search engines, only NASA scientists named Floyd were using the web, which consisted of a bunch of old coffee cans tied together by a massive network of strings. We had to program our websites with 'punchcards' and play video games in raw binary code!

When I started in 1995, there were no big media companies doing business on the web – no Comedy Central, AOL Time Warner or Most of the humour consisted of 'techie jokes' written by lonely computer programmers, like this wildly hilarious knee-slapper:

Q: What does IBM stand for?
A: I Blame Microsoft.

Ha ha! Get it? Me neither.

Even so, there were a few diamonds in the rough, a handful of sites that were truly funny. Here were a few of my favourites.

Matthew and Jake's Adventures. This was one of the first sites to use the 'new comedy medium' by experimenting with hyperlinks and interactivity. It was rudimentary by today's standards, lovingly put together by two goofy MIT students. You will either love it or hate it, but I lost control of my bladder the first time I read it. Really.

Mirsky's Worst of the Web. As the unwashed masses began flooding the internet with embarrassingly amateurish websites, David Mirsky began posting this daily skewering of the worst. His one-sentence comments were acidic, addictive, and insanely funny. He shut down the site at the height of his popularity, leaving a sharply disappointed audience.

Justin's Links From the Underground. Justin Hall is a godfather of the early web days – his daily site is still going strong, receiving 200,000 pageviews monthly. One of his funniest pranks was the true story of how he duped conservative American politician Oliver North into autographing his marijuana pipe ( Early on, site creator Steve Kremer understood that the web was a new medium, so he began creating free comedy graphics that users could convert to desktop wallpaper for Windows and Macintosh computers. His clever lampooning of pop culture earned him several cease-and-desist letters from companies that didn't get the joke (I won't name names, but Netscape was one of them), which he dutifully ignored.

The Onion. When this madly funny but little-read satirical newspaper found its way to the web, it finally reached the worldwide audience it deserved. What set The Onion apart from its predecessors, like Not Necessarily the News and Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update, is the consistently hilarious quality of its writing.

ZUG. When we started ZUG in 1995, we rudely dubbed it 'The World's Only Comedy Site'. Known for a 'fanatical following' and 'irreverent corporate pranks', ZUG is so funny that you'll shoot a cheese sandwich out of your nose. We guarantee it, or your money back.


  Justin's Links from the Underground



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