What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?

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Departure of the Winged Ship by Vladimir Kush (2000)

Otto: Whoa! A talking dog! What were you guys smokin' when you came up with that?

David X. Cohen: We were eating rotisserie chicken.

Any work whose creation seems to have involved large amounts of hallucinogens, cocaine, crack, or any other illicit substance that makes people think really weird ideas are also really good ones. The plot hinges on bizarre transformations, freakish-looking creatures, and nonsensical actions that only seem to make sense in realms of logic far removed from your own. That it was the product of a deranged mind looks like a foregone conclusion.

And then you find out that it most certainly wasn't.

The creator claims that they weren't taking drugs—or at least weren't taking them then—or the creator just doesn't seem like a person who would take drugs of any sort.

Note that in real life, composing any work of art (or doing anything more complex than opening a door, for that matter) is borderline impossible when tripping on hallucinogens like DMT or mescaline. Sufferers of manic disorder exhibit symptoms that are similar to those of drug intoxication, and quite a number of magna opera are created under such circumstances. Most admitted users of entheogens tend to do their work between trips, not during. And stuff like cocaine doesn't actually make you hallucinate or think trippy things, though it does make doing more cocaine sound like a fantastic idea. However, if a creator does manage to produce a work while (or shortly after) being under the influence of a mind-altering substance, this is the equal and opposite trope, Made on Drugs.

Commonly uttered in response to a Widget Series, Non Sequitur Scene, or Dada Ad. Compare with Mind Screw and of course This Is Your Premise on Drugs. Can also overlap with Better Than It Sounds. And enjoy this Onion AV Club inventory of notably trippy children's shows.

Examples of What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs? include:

Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

  • This 1969 IHOP commercial.
  • The "Adventureland" ad Friskies catfood makes one wonder how much cat-nip is in there...
  • This moebius strip of an ad by Dior, featuring Jude Law.
  • The "SubLYMONnal" line of commercials by Sprite.
  • Bob's Discount Furniture commercials sometimes feature things like talking claymation furniture, himself multiplying to sit on each cushion on a couch, and old west scenes. Also the actual store tends to have some pretty strange things in it.
  • There was one joke where one of the people working on the talking dog Above The Influence commercial was completely stoned when he came up with the premise.
  • Quiznos. Enjoy!
  • This Kia Soul commercial. What does it have to do with cars? Nobody really knows.
  • This commercial for Reese's Pieces. The whole thing is Crazy Awesome

Art[edit | hide]

  • Salvador Dali­, despite what one might think from his paintings, made a point of not using psychoactives of any sort. He simply stayed up until he started hallucinating from sleep deprivation, then painted what he saw.
    • "I don't do drugs. I am drugs."
    • Although Dali sometimes made use of a mild (and legal) hallucinogen. He went to sleep very late after eating a Camembert cheese.
    • The other story was that in the evening Dali would sit in his favourite chair holding a set of keys over a dinner plate. As he started to drop into sleep, his grip on his keys would loosen and the resulting clatter would wake him up, leaving early dream images (which can be very weird) in his mind.
  • Joan Miró, a Surrealist painter and colleague of Dali, was initially inspired by the hallucinations that he would endure from poverty-induced starvation. Talk about taking lemons...
  • Quoth M. C. Escher, "I don't use drugs--my dreams are frightening enough."
  • Zdzislaw Beksinski's eerie, surrealist paintings are based on his dreams (or more likely nightmares from living in Poland during WW 2).
  • The pictured artist, Vladimir Kush, just has a thing for metaphors.
  • Artist and webcomic creator Ursula Vernon has done exactly one painting (Toadback Road) inspired by ideas she got when smoking pot. The rest of her work, no matter how weird, plays this trope straight.

Myths & Religion[edit | hide]

  • There is some speculation that the Book of Revelation, as well as a few other passages of The Bible involving visions, were written under the influence of hallucinogens.
    • "Nice fellow, somewhat too fond of strange mushrooms, though".
    • Some people do object to this characterization of Revelation:
      • Several have pointed out that Revelation makes perfect sense viewed through the lens of the time it was written. Political commentary written in symbolically apocalyptic form was popular in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries, and contemporary scholarship tends to regard it as an allegory for the reign of Nero.
      • Also worth mentioning is the attempts to interrelate Revelation with other bits and pieces of Biblical prophecy, and in particular the Old Testament Book of Daniel. Many Christians, particularly Protestants, see Revelation as being a sort of key that unlocks the mysteries of the rest of Biblical prophecy. This business only really began in the 19th century (although Christians have been finding interesting patterns and suchlike more or less since the canon of the Christian Bible was defined), and eventually led to things like Left Behind, so...use your judgement. (No pun intended).
      • Finally, none of this changes the fact that Revelation is still pretty darn trippy, particularly as compared to other Biblical prophecies, so even with the above, one really must wonder....
        • The book of Ezekiel is pretty trippy as well.
  • The Norse Myths have their moments. A notable example is the tale of the death of Baldur. While enjoying the Asgardian pastime of throwing any object at his body and watching them bounce off of him harmlessly, Baldur gets killed from a spear thrown by a blind guy named Höðr, who received it from Loki. The spear is made out of mistletoe, which is fatal to Baldur because mistletoe was apparently too young to swear an oath to not be able to kill Baldur. Everyone is upset that their favorite god is dead, so Odin knocks up a giantess named Rindr and they have a son named Vali who grows up in a day and exists for the sole purpose of killing Höðr dead, then promptly does so. Afterwards, they give Baldur a Viking Funeral with all his possessions (including his still living horse) and to lighten the mood, Thor kicks a random passerby dwarf (who was given a name for no clear reason; Litr) into the fire. Comic relief, I guess. There are a few different versions with a few minor changes (like that Loki guided the spear) but the majority of it remains the same. Hard to tell if it was mead-induced or if it was just bad storytelling.

New Media[edit | hide]

  • The Let's Play of Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Special Edition. The game itself is drugs.
  • Raocow's various Let's Plays of Super Mario World ROM hacks. Most of his more recent ones can be found on Dailymotion here, though there may be a few videos missing that are probably on Google video.
    • Raocow is also straight-edge, meaning that he simply has a bizarrely appealing thought process.
      • Raocow does comics, too. The art to a.t.x.s. does raise some suspicions,...
  • To anyone who has heard some of Alan Maxwell of KIPM's stuff. The Serpent Princess Tiamat is a wonderful Sci-fi story; the God, Illuminator of Our Lives broadcast? Downright out there.

Puppet Shows[edit | hide]

  • The puppet music video for The Wiggles' Point Your Finger and Do the Twist, as well as the fan edit of the more hilariously creepy acid trip known as "Scary Finger."
  • The Muppet Show has quite a few screwed up sketches, like this one, especially in its first season. Here's a list of other strange moments.
    • Jim Henson in general. Check out Time Piece and The Cube if you don't believe me.
    • And then there's the rejected original pilot for The Muppet Show entitled "Sex And Violence" (they may as well dropped the other shoe and called it, "Not For Kids"). Highlights include a convention for horrifying Muppet versions of the Seven Deadly Sins and a very strange early version of the Swedish Chef among other characters.
  • Teletubbies the show makes very little sense it involves four brightly colored creatures with televisions on their stomachs and antennas on their heads who can't even speak properly except for the words "again" and "tubby custard" and their names, it also has a wide field filled with rabbits who are never addressed and a sun with a baby's face on it, how this wasn't made on drugs is a mystery.
    • Children's television hasn't got any less insane for being contemporary. Remember how odd Teletubbies was first time you saw it? Imagine upping your crack dose and getting Sir Derek Jacobi involved. Behold -- In The Night Garden!
    • Both Teletubbies and In The Night Garden are created by a company called Ragdoll Productions Limited, who also created Boohbah and Brum. Beginning to see the pattern there?
  • Once Upon a Time, (June the 11th, 1934, to be more precise,) in Sweden, a child was born. This wasn't especially uncommon in itself, but it just so happened that this child was named Staffan Westerberg... One day, when he was 41 years, 2 months and 22 days old, (in other words, it was now September the 1st, 1975,) Staffan became the producer and show host of what was (supposedly) a children's show, Vilse i Pannkakan, Lost in the Pancake. This show featured finger puppets that Staffan played with, all of them with Meaningful Names, like the titular main character, Lost. It also included, amongst many other things, a Corrupt Corporate Executive potato, a Hobo, a firefighter who gets it together with a motorized angel and, naturally, a moose, all living on the titular pancake. Oh, and the show was actually An Aesop about society and politics... These days, Staffan Westerberg is more or less Sweden's official scapegoat for the psychological problems of the entire 70's generation.
  • Wonder Showzen. Since one of the head writers is the voice actor for Towelie, this was probably the case.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Dungeons & Dragons has a lot of this trope. See also: Flumph, Spelljammers, and Gelatinous Cube.
    • Every list of silly monsters from D&D includes the pinnacle of fabulous-ness, the Senmurv. Sad thing is, it's based off the Simurgh from Persian mythology.
    • 4e as a whole quickly got reputation for this. First, it seems to have "cool words" carefully collected from the previous ones and then shuffled around at random, but this may be just a market drone flying into circuitry, right? And then you look into details, like rogues having a power that makes opponents strike or bite themselves and surprisingly hard check to find out the obscure knowledge that dire bears "typically" attack with their thick, clawed, bestial arms. Things like that can really make one wonder.

Theater[edit | hide]

  • Cirque Du Soleil shows. Mystere acknowledges this with a gag in which the principal clown mocks an encounter with the Firebird by miming a puff off of a marijuana cigarette.
  • One might consider Peter Shaeffer's Equus...
  • Starlight Express attracts three main demographics: children, lovers of Camp, and stoners.

Web Animation[edit | hide]


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Given the frequent appearance of of "blue mushrooms" in CRFH, and the overall surreal nature of the series, it is hard not to think that Maritza Campos has some experience with 'shrooms herself, but at the same time, the artwork and storytelling seem too tight to have been produced while tripping.
  • Axis Powers Hetalia. History and politics become so much stranger when you imagine the countries as people.
  • This ink pawah strip.
  • Kukuburi can be summed up as "Whoa."
  • The Life of Nob T. Mouse is a surreal jaunt through a childlike interpretation of quantum physics; written and drawn by a teatotaller and featuring a talking mouse that runs a café.
  • Problem Sleuth starts off a a little wacky, but then quickly flies off the deep end. Once you realize that everything that happens is fan-suggested, though, the lack of drugs inherent in the creative process is a little easier to accept.
    • Andrew Hussie's next series, Homestuck, is a strange case; on one hand it's significantly more "out there" than Problem Sleuth in terms of how far beyond the impossible it goes, but on the other hand it's much less so in terms of having consistent internal logic and very clear plot progression, Timey-Wimey Ball aside (no offence meant to PS).
    • Then there's Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, which even inquires as to just how high you even have to be just to do something like that (the line even originated as a riposte to someone inquiring if SBAHJ had been made on drugs). Much as you'd expect, it employs quite a lot of jokes about stoners (SUDDENLY WEED DREAMS).
    • Hussie weighs in on this question in general:

"It's hard to underscore enough how ridiculous I and most creators I've talked to find this notion that being high is the wellspring from which all bizarre, absurd, or otherwise creative material must necessarily come from. For the most part, there's a very significant difference between quality work and pot addled horseshit.
"It's not that I think all drugs are JUST SO TERRIBLE on principle. But including them as a staple to the creative process is usually a serious detriment to the work in my view.
"But in looking at your question again, maybe you didn't hold this view anyway. Nonetheless, it's a topic that rears its head now and then."

  • Pokey the Penguin: A barely "drawn" surreal comic about penguins living in the Arctic, chronicling their adventures which commonly consist of a string on non-sequiturs.
  • Go ahead. Try to explain the premise of Achewood to anyone who's never heard of it.
    • The title itself refers to a fictional substance akin to wormwood (as in absinthe), which produces feelings of ennui and despair.
  • Mountain Time is practically nothing but this trope. See here for a good example of its logic.
  • Keithiscoolbykeith used to be a fine example of a badly-drawn yet compellingly surreal webcomic. Sadly it now seems to have disapeared from the net, making illustration difficult... unless anyone out there cached the damn thing.
  • The Fae Kingdom in DMFA fits this trope pretty well at times. Two words: Skydiving Psychology.

Other[edit | hide]

  • Everything made by Rob Zombie makes you wonder how he ever came up with it under any kind of sobriety.
  • Algebra formulas.
    • Statistics are even worse, since the hypothesis of many statistical distributions makes you wonder if Statistics is math on drugs.
    • Topology, where a mug and a doughnut are the same thing (a surface in the three-dimensional space with one hole somewhere, to put it bluntly).
  • Quantum mechanics. This is a theory so unutterably strange that one of the creators of the theory, Niels Bohr, has been quoted saying that "those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it." And yet it is the best description of particle physics currently in existence. This is the same theory that says anything can spontaneously happen (albeit under extremely strict circumstances).
    • The true story of how Schrödinger (of Schrödinger's Cat fame) invented quantum physics: he stocked up a cabin in the mountains, which he stocked with enough supplies for several months. After three months of complete isolation, he returned to civilization with complete theories that worked perfectly. Nobody but Schrödinger knows what happened up there in the mountains, and nobody else ever will.
    • And by extension, String Theory.
      • One criticism of/joke about String Theory is that it really should be possible for the public to differentiate between science and the ramblings of crazy people on park benches.
  • Cryptology - the study of how to write and solve codes. The field involves all fields of mathematics, and is very interdisciplinary. Where traditional maths are taught in a linear path of lessons that increase in difficulty, cryptology is like a professional contortionist that requires much much mental flexibility.
  • Pick almost anything made by Mike Patton. For an example, watch this and remember the man who wrote it takes nothing stronger than caffeine.
    • If you ever get a chance to play the video game The Darkness, the titular demon/spirit/pure bloody evil Darkness is voiced by Patton. His vocal performance was done entirely without effects in his home studio.
  • Say what you will about Jack and Kage, the director and co-writer of the Tenacious D movie, musician/director Liam Lynch is most emphatically not on drugs. Same goes for his skit and music videos podcast, Lynchland, which is even more surreal.
  • As Eddie Izzard once said, "People think I'm on drugs, but I'm not, really. Just a little coffee... put me on drugs it has the opposite effect! I start going: 'Oh! Pensions! Very sensible. And car insurance, yes...'"
  • Doug TenNapel's work is usually seen as very weird and surreal by a mainstream perspective, and therefore people tend to assume he's on drugs. Contrastingly, he's a rather conservative Christian who admits to being offended by the assumption that anyone would need drugs in order to create something weird.
  • Andy Kaufman is another example of a 1970s performer whose work, from Foreign Man, to bringing a sleeping bag out on stage and taking a nap, to his various Worked Shoots, to his posthumously published writings, would suggest he was on something illicit when he conceived them. But since childhood he had been prone to eccentric behavior (he conceived routines such as "Mighty Mouse" then), and his drinking and drug use as a teen hardly figured into his artistic equation. As an adult he was a near-health nut who practiced Transcendental Meditation.
  • Tim Allen sold far more drugs than he ever took.
  • Cartoonist John Kricfalusi, who is best known as the creator of The Ren and Stimpy Show which is known for its Deranged Animation was asked in an interview if he used drugs. He replied, "Of course not, I don't need them".
  • Comedian Bill Bailey is eager to point out that watching someone on acid is boring in response to TV show pitches along the lines of "It's X, but on acid!").
  • Seth MacFarlane used to smoke pot, but stopped because it made him paranoid. He once got so high that he was convinced one night that if he stopped moving his body, he would die.
  • Political cartoonist Joel Barbee made some pretty bizarre cartoons. Looking at them beforehand, you'd probably never guess them being drawn by an old conservative who wasn't on any known drugs.
  • The German comedian, actor, director, author, and musician Helge Schneider uses non-sequiturs, absurdistical actions and statements, weird behaviour and voices, exaggerations, purposefully bad playing, sheer stupidity and mundanity mixed with rather insightful contents. He stopped taking drugs as his career went upward.
  • As serious as the SAT is for many students, College Board's Test Day Simulation video is really bizarre. Apparently, pencils and snack foods are going to rain from the sky, you will take the test in a room made of cardstock, and old, vintage-looking cartoons will appear in the window. Yeah.
  • What about dreams? They can get pretty funky from time to time.
    • Quite a few entries on this page were inspired by- or were recreations of dreams the author had. Salvador Dali also induced dream-like hallucinations on himself by going without sleep for extended periods of time, then painted the results.
  • David Cross has noted that he's offended when people ask him how high he was when he wrote a piece of comedy. He insists that all his comedy comes from hard work, not drugs.
  • Bosozoku, a kind of Japanese biker gang/street racing culture make illegal modifications to bikes and cars. In most street racing cultures, this means nitrous oxide, underglow and such. For the Bosozoku, they defy any explanation.