We may never know exactly how the horror began. Some historians trace the scourge all the way back to 1992, to a cheap apartment in the Wrigleyville section of Chicago's North Side. Three bored, slightly entitled college graduates and a woman named Chloe who had briefly dated two of them decided it would be harmless fun to start an "alternative" improv group called Room for Improv-ment. Within a year, that single improv group had metastasized into 400 quasi-alt-improv-sketch-comedy collectives, each offering eight-week classes, taught by "instructors" who had, just the day before, completed their own eight-week class. The madness was spreading.

It could have ended there, but just then—at the worst possible moment—cable channels and the Internet erupt and the demand for ironic content becomes insatiable. New late-night talk shows appear so rapidly that the fight for guests turns violent. When David Letterman steals Dr. Drew from Chelsea Handler, he is shot nine times from a passing van. He delivers the next night's monologue in a drug-induced coma.

Overnight, comedy is no longer just for comedians. Doctors, lawyers, and educators walk away from their jobs to make videos of their pets demeaning themselves on toilets. Wheat production plummets as farmers scan the Internet for videos of other farmers parodying farming. No longer able to feed themselves, most Americans resort to snarky, eye-rolling bits about their hunger. "I'm so hungry that ... " becomes an Internet meme. The new hilarious trend is to take a Twitpic of yourself eating your belt.

Order starts to collapse. The government tries to mobilize the army, only to find that soldiers everywhere have laid down their weapons to create a massive "Gangnam Style" spoof. Scandal erupts when the highest-ranking admiral in the navy turns out to be nothing more than a fake Twitter account created by a 14-year-old girl. Unable to govern, the president of the United States resigns in shame and is immediately replaced by the comedian on Saturday Night Live who does the best impression of him.

By 2022 the last vestiges of reality dissolve. The Onion becomes the newspaper of record, only to be supplanted by an "Onion" version of The Onion, which makes the original Onion look "totally lame." Few even react when, on a crisp fall evening, a smirking mob descends on the National Archives and adds emoticons to the Constitution. The faces on Mount Rushmore are demolished and replaced with the cast of Napoleon Dynamite. And an entire nation mourns when the founders of Funny or Die are buried, with highest honors, at Arlington National Cemetery.

In the winter of 2032, the remaining lights flicker out as all energy is drained by more than 500 million podcasts. America is in darkness, without food, and devoid of any sincere, un-ironic information. Wolves roam our empty streets, attacking the occasional performer who dares to improvise alone.

It is now 2035, and I am an old man in a tattered red wig. I sit alone on a hilltop, looking down at the dead city. I am sick with shame. As a young boy, I had shown great promise as a cranial surgeon, but instead I devoted my life to spreading this madness. As I chew on the remnants of my belt, I am overwhelmed by the desire to make it all stop.

And then I have my first serious idea in 60 years. I will build something real, with my hands. This thing I build will have a function, and it will not be funny. Others will see what I have made, and they will follow.

I stumble down the hill, filled with excitement. I climb into my barely functioning satire of a car, a 2029 Colbert Electra, and drive north. My journey takes me through the ominous Aziz Ansari Mountains and then deep into the wilds of Dane Cook National Forest. I drive for hours and stop near a bronze statue of Louis C.K. mounted on a steed. I turn off the car, which makes an automated quip about the Republican Party, and then I run into the woods. In the middle of a clearing, I drop to my knees and begin scraping at the dirt with my bare hands. I dig through soil and stone, frantically, looking for small traces of iron. I want to make a simple tool and, with it, a new world.

But then it happens. I become self-conscious. I imagine what I must look like, crawling in the dirt, and I wonder if it's funny. I fumble for my iPhone 600 and take a photo of myself digging. With one touch of an app, an eye patch, cutlass, and pirate hat are instantly added to my photo. Suddenly, I am Redbeard, digging for lost treasure. This is a funny Twitpic, I think to myself as I walk back to my car. All is lost.