Partly to mostly funny: interview with Jon Malay, author of new weather joke book

December 24, 2013

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Where do meteorologists go for happy hour?  The IsoBar!  And where do meteorologists go for a very quick, short drink?  The Millibar!

Those are just two of countless jokes in Jon Malay’s brand new book: Partly to Mostly Funny: The Ultimate Weather Joke Book

Malay, a past president of the American Meteorological Society, compiled some 232 pages of jokes – from knock-knocks to puns to cartoons.   He graciously answered my questions about this book project…

What was the motivation to write a book of weather jokes? Was there a particular inspiration?

When I joined the AMS Executive Committee and Council as President-elect in 2010, I learned that sales of the Society’s public-targeted book “The AMS Weather Book:  The Ultimate Guide to America’s Weather” had been disappointing.  It’s a fantastic book; well-written and wonderfully illustrated.  And it had been planned as something that would sell in large numbers to raise funds for the important work of the AMS.

So I started thinking – and continue to think – about ways to raise revenue so we can expand the AMS Policy Program, fund more graduate fellowships and undergraduate freshman scholarships, and expand WeatherFest at our Annual Meetings, etc.  I also was pleasantly surprised, in attending as a guest my first dinner of AMS Past-Presidents to find these great men and women have a longstanding tradition of rising to tell jokes after dinner.  And so the idea of jokes and fund-raising came together in proposing to the AMS staff and the elected leaders in the AMS Council that we publish a weather joke book.  And now it’s a reality.

Who is the intended audience? Children? Adults? Or pretty much anyone with a sense of humor?

Well, of course we’re targeting our members, most of whom are meteorologists or scientists in the physical sciences.  As I wrote in the introduction, people tell jokes about blondes, lawyers, and engineers, but not so much about meteorologists.  It’s meteorologists and a whole lot of people including TV personalities (“No, how hot was it in New York today, David Letterman?”) who tell weather jokes.  People tend to laugh at things we can’t control… and that includes the weather.

I hope we launch a whole new wave of weather joke-telling by members of our community, and by anyone who just likes to laugh or to make people laugh.  The AMS publications staff did a great job in helping me to edit out anything potentially offensive and it’s a clean book; fun for everybody and safe for all ages!

Share with us a couple more of your favorite jokes from the book….

Well, I need to admit some of the funniest ones in my mind fell victim to that editing!  But here are a few I particularly like:

Our government created these three-day weekends because they couldn’t cram all the rotten weather into just two days.

Do you know what they call people who believe in letting a smile be their umbrella?  Wet.

Great title.  Who came up with it? Were there any other good ones in the running which you can share?

The title was mine and I think I proposed it when I first blurted out the idea at a Council meeting.  We never even considered a different one.

The AMS added the subtitle “The Ultimate Weather Joke Book,” maybe as an homage to the subtitle of The AMS Weather Book I mentioned earlier.  Hey, maybe everybody should buy both “ultimate” books at the same time. You can have quality education and quality entertainment side by side on a bookshelf… or anywhere reading material comes in handy!

'Partly to mostly funny' author Jon Malay
‘Partly to mostly funny’ author Jon Malay

You have some serious professional credentials – Director of Civil Space and Environment at Lockheed Martin and past AMS president. Have you incorporated humor/jokes into these settings? Has it had a positive response? 

I work closely with very serious and talented professionals in engineering, science, information technology, and government affairs and the things we do are all extremely important.  Dare I say they’re of the highest national priority, such as our current NASA contracts to design and build the next generation of geostationary NOAA environmental satellites, the GOES-R series, and two of the instruments for each of them.  These satellites will enable huge improvements in hurricane tracking and all elements of weather predictions and warnings.  That’s not a laughing matter.

But in working with our customers and user communities, the use of humor, along with passion and, of course, solid technical and programmatic understanding, can be a powerful tool to success in building strong relationships.  I’ve always enjoyed public speaking but I’ve not been very good at using jokes in my presentations.  Maybe I’ll be a little better armed after having done this book.  And I’ll definitely be better at joke-telling at the future AMS Past-President dinners I look forward to attending for the rest of my life!

Anything you’d like to add about the book?

Yes, and it’s important.

Norm Dvoskan
Norm Dvoskin

When I proposed this book, I thought it would be a simple thing to post a notice in the Bulletin of the AMS and ask members to send in jokes.  We’d simply sort through them and assemble a joke book.  Well, that really didn’t work.  While we didn’t get any negative feedback on this as maybe a frivolous project, we didn’t get many jokes either.  That’s when I was contacted by our professional member Norm Dvoskin, a senior broadcast meteorologist from Channel 12 on Long Island, NY.  Norm told me he’d been collecting weather jokes all his life and generously offered us his entire treasury, which turned out to include literally thousands of jokes.  It was my job to sort through, select, and arrange them, and put together the book from them, augmented by jokes submitted by members, but we couldn’t have done this book without Norm’s contribution.  And that’s why his name is on the cover with mine.

Also, since this was a fund-raising project, we couldn’t afford to go out and pay for artwork or cartoons.  So I reached out to my fellow retired Naval officer/oceanographer/meteorologist Jeff Bacon.  Jeff’s hilarious “Broadside” cartoons have been published weekly in Navy Times for years and enjoyed by a wide audience.  Even though all his humor is military-themed, some of his cartoons draw from his experience, similar to mine, as a “Navy weather guy.”  Jeff generously offered a number of cartoons that we put all together as its own chapter in the middle of the book.  Like me, neither Norm nor Jeff took a single cent for their contributions to this project.  I know we’ll all be very proud of the product and we hope the AMS sells a million of them.

The book, Partly to Mostly Funny: The Ultimate Weather Joke Book, can be purchased directly from the American Meteorological Society or Amazon.

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Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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Jason Samenow · December 24, 2013