But it isn’t the fun of DIY invention, urban exploration, physical danger, and civil disorder that the Z-Boys enjoyed in 1976. It is fun within serious limits, and for all of its thrills it is (by contrast) scripted. And rather obedient. The fact that there are public skateparks and high-performance skateboards signals progress: America has embraced this sport, as it did bicycles in the nineteenth century. Towns want to make skating safe and acceptable. The economy has more opportunity to grow. America is better off for all of this. Yet such government and commercial intervention in a sport that was born of radical liberty means that the fun itself has changed; it has become mediated. For the skaters who take pride in their flashy store-bought equipment have already missed the Z-Boys’ joke: Skating is a guerrilla activity. It’s the fun of beating, not supporting, the system. P. T. Barnum said it himself: all of business is humbug. How else could business turn a profit, if it didn’t trick you with advertising? If it didn’t hook you with its product? This particular brand of humbug was perfected in the late 1960s, when merchandise was developed and marketed and sold to make Americans feel like rebels. Now, as then, customers always pay for this privilege, and purveyors keep it safe (and generally clean) to curb their liability. They can’t afford customers taking real risks. Plus it’s bad for business to encourage real rebellion. And yet, marketers know Americans love fun—they have known this for centuries. And they know that Americans, especially kids, crave autonomy and participation, so they simulate the DIY experience at franchises like the Build-A-Bear “workshops,” where kids construct teddy bears from limited options, or “DIY” restaurants, where customers pay to grill their own steaks, fry their own pancakes, make their own Bloody Marys. These pay-to-play stores and restaurants are, in a sense, more active, more “fun,” than their traditional competition: that’s their big selling point. But in both cases (as Barnum knew) the joke is still on you: the personalized bear is a standardized mishmash, the personalized food is often inedible. As Las Vegas knows, the house always wins. In the history of radical American fun, pleasure comes from resistance, risk, and participation—the same virtues celebrated in the “Port Huron Statement” and the Digger Papers, in the flapper’s slang and the Pinkster Ode. In the history of commercial amusement, most pleasures for sale are by necessity passive. They curtail creativity and they limit participation (as they do, say, in a laser-tag arena) to a narrow range of calculated surprises, often amplified by dazzling technology. To this extent, TV and computer screens, from the tiny to the colossal, have become the scourge of American fun. The ubiquity of TV screens in public spaces (even in taxicabs and elevators) shows that such viewing isn’t amusement at all but rather an aggressive, ubiquitous distraction. Although a punky insurgency of heedless satire has stung the airwaves in recent decades—from equal-opportunity offenders like The Simpsons and South Park to Comedy Central’s rabble-rousing pundits, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert—the prevailing “fun” of commercial amusement puts minimal demands on citizens, besides their time and money. TV’s inherent ease seems to be its appeal, but it also sends a sobering, Jumbotron-sized message about the health of the public sphere.