Chip Zdarsky is a comic book artist and journalist. He is also a devoted pen pal ... of an Applebee's. For the past several months, Zdarsky has taken to Facebook to befriend one of the fast-casual chain's Canadian franchises. And the franchise has, fortunately, returned his overtures. The results of the unlikely duo's interaction—you can read the whole thing at Buzzfeed—are hilarious and delightful and wonderfully weird. And maybe, in their way, literary. The Chip/Applebee's exchanges, played out on Applebee's Facebook page, are like Waiting for Godot ... if God were an Applebee's. They're like Her ... if ScarJo were a riblet.
The months-long conversation, in other words, pretty much defies description, except to say that it's a dadaist and absurdist and either way very of-the-Internet take on the epistolary novel—one that is earnest and ironic in pretty much equal measure.
It starts like this:
And then it continues:
I asked Zdarsky how he got started with his uniquely fast-casual friendship. As he told me in an email:
It started one day when I noticed my parents both "liked" a photo of a hamburger on our hometown Applebee's facebook page. I thought it was funny so I joined in, like one big happy family celebrating this hamburger photo.
But then I started digging deeper on the page and noticed it was, well, pretty barren of comments. It just seemed like whoever was in charge of their social media kept putting up new photos and trying to engage conversation and was left with a whole lot of nothing. So, I started chiming in.
Now, normally I'd be snarky to a chain restaurant on social media, but this felt different right off the bat. They were relentlessly upbeat and would respond to EVERYTHING with a positive message. There were no wrong answers with this Applebee's. It was ... kind of sweet? I found myself really looking forward to seeing how they'd react to my postings. And they never disappointed me. I love them.
I also asked Zdarsky about the most delightful cameo in the series, his Uncle Mel. (Or, well, his "Uncle Mel." Who is a little bit xenophobic—he wants, on his burgers, "NORMAL" toppings "liek catsup and buns"—and prefers food that is "not 'ethnic'(ITALIAN)".)
And, uh, my "Uncle Mel" was a recent addition because once people started taking notice of my interactions they kept trying to join in and ruin the fun, the purity of it. So I introduced a new character where we could post separately from the Applebee's-started threads.
So, to reiterate: You have a web-savvy journalist (Zdarsky). You have a made-up, vaguely ornery uncle (Mel). And then you have the nameless person on the other side of the Applebee's account, determinedly friendly and almost aggressively patient with all the tomfoolery.
"Wow," Zdarsky wrote. "Now that I've written it all out I seem quite insane."
Or insanely awesome. Never has one Facebook page seen so many pieces of flair.