Dennis Rodman sings Happy Birthday to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seated above in the stands, before an exhibition basketball game at an indoor stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon) Dennis Rodman sings Happy Birthday to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Kim Kwang Hyon/Associated Press)

What do you want from us, Dennis?

At first the Dennis Rodman visits to North Korea were almost a weird creepy joke commentary on how far washed-up celebrities will go to get attention, any attention at all, even the kind of attention that comes from affiliating yourself with an autocratic and horrible regime.

Now it’s gone on long enough that any joke-like vapors that were still hanging in the air around it have completely vanished. This would be a hilarious train-wreck if it were fictional. But there are actual people on board.*

In most recent news, Rodman serenaded Kim Jong Un for his birthday. I guess Kim Jong Un is the only person on the earth who thinks of a birthday serenade by Dennis Rodman as something to be cherished rather than a terrible fate to be actively avoided.

I had theories about why he was doing this, once.
• Dennis Rodman is a time traveler and he’s trying to save us from something even worse that will happen in the future, and this is why none of his words and actions seem to make any sense.
• Dennis Rodman needs more friends.

But I abandoned these. Time travelers don’t exist. And literally anyone would be a better friend than “Kim,” which is, as Ken Jennings pointed out on Twitter, not even Kim Jong Un’s first name. Just from a human rights perspective, here are a few suggestions:
• Some old cheese in a big brown paper bag.
• A tooth
• Lenny from “Of Mice and Men.”
• A urinal cake with a picture of Jesus on it.
• A urinal cake that might not have a picture of Jesus on it.
• A dead tree in a knit sweater.
• The entire cast of “Gilligan’s Island.”
• A VHS tape
• Benedict Arnold
• A big tangle of hair on a salad
• Invisalign braces.
• A pez dispenser that looks like Tony Stark
• A Russian nesting doll with all the dolls taken out from the inside so you open it up and you’re like WHAT HAPPENED HERE
• A pig’s head on the end of a stick surrounded by flies and allegory
• A creepy subreddit


But this isn’t funny. It’s just crazy. For it to be funny the punchline would have to be something other than “Dennis Rodman bolsters the credibility of a brutal dictator.”

We used to thrive on the faint hope that Rodman could use his diplomatic status to advocate for U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, currently imprisoned in North Korea and forced to perform hard labor. But then he folded, in the word’s of Bae’s family, “like a cheap tent.” In this CNN interview, Rodman goes ballistic and seems to suggest Bae is being correctly punished. So much for putting his diplomatic power to good use. Now his visits aren’t even theoretically anything but good PR for a terrible regime. Ugh.

* Also, who are these people who find train-wrecks funny? What horrible sadist set this bar? Is it the same guy who determined that there was more than one way to skin a cat?