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Chatological Humor*

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 6, 2004; 12:00 PM

*Formerly known as "Funny? You Should Ask."

Gene Weingarten's controversial humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in the Washington Post Magazine. He aspires to someday become a National Treasure, but is currently more of a National Gag Novelty Item, like rubber dog poo.

Gene Weingarten (Richard Thompson - The Washington Post)


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Below the Beltway archive
Style Invitational
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He is online, at any rate, each Tuesday, to take your questions and abuse.

He'll chat about anything.

This week's poll!

Weingarten is the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca.

Colleagues on Weingarten:

"As for you, Weingarten, get a life. If you exercise every day, and get off the sauce, you will learn Deep Throat's identity, when we want you to know." -- Washington Post Vice President at Large Ben Bradlee

"Interestingly, he doesn't joke about poop in person (at least he never has with me)." -- Former Washington Post columnist Bob Levey

"W. attracts all of us loyal, devoted, strong yet vulnerable, affectionate women who lavish him with attention way beyond what he deserves." -- "I'm With Stupid" co-author Gina Barreca

"The truth is, Weingarten DOESN'T know who Lesley Stahl is. He's that out of it."
"Weingarten's hair is a national disgrace. Seriously his hair is a war crime." -- Washington Post staff writer Joel Achenbach

"The whole world is the butt of Gene's jokes...consider it a form of flattery." -- What's Cooking host Kim O'Donnel

"I do not even acknowledge the fellow columnist to whom you refer: He who shan't be named. I believe I once said he is filth, he is scum. He is... simply the worst thing in the world." -- Washington Post Reliable Source columnist Richard Leiby

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

In last week's chat, I speculated once again that Johnny Hart was not writing about prehistoric times, but about some hellish post-apocalyptic world. Bizarrely (I had not known about this) the very next day, B.C. stepped boldly into what seemed to be just such a pronouncement. The B.C. in question is linked to below. I'll wait right here while you check it out.

Okay? You read it?

Pretty unambiguous, eh? Many readers emailed me about this during the day, but I was already on top of it, like stink on the s-word. By ten a.m. I had alerted the Style desk that I would be writing a Big Comic Story for the next day's paper. They cleared space. Summoned the appropriate artwork. We were Ready.

I wrote the top of the story. It began like this:

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There may be no precedent for what happened yesterday in the comics pages across America. One of the country's most beloved cartoonists appears to have made a breathtaking revelation, redefining his strip as stark social commentary. The implication is that it was there to see, all along, for the last half century, if only we were smart enough.

In yesterday's cartoon, Johnny Hart, the septuagenarian creator of "B.C.," had his troglodytes refer to the year 2004 as though it were the distant past. He appears to be saying that his characters dwell not in prehistoric times, but in some primitive, post-apocalyptic Earth. Mankind, we are left to presume, has bombed itself back into the Stone Age.

With one startling stroke, hidden inside an otherwise tepid real-estate joke, Hart flipped the script on us. In terms of a sobering disclosure, this would be as though Charles Schulz had one day casually revealed that Charlie Brown, Lucy and crew were not children, but achondroplasic dwarfs.

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Then, as journalists occasionally do, I began actually checking this theory. I made phone calls.

Johnny was unavailable (Johnny may be permanently unavailable to me, I'm not sure). Johnny's editor at his syndicate said he thought I was reading too much into it, though, frankly, he was unable to supply an alternative theory as to what Johnny might have meant, other than that he was being "playful" with time.

Garry Trudeau was skeptical. He also thought I was over-analyzing, pointing out that Hart has used bizarre and inexplicable anachronisms for years, and that he's hardly the first to do that sort of thing. Mutt and Jeff, Trudeau pointed out, used to change their occupations daily just to make a certain gag work.

Then I called other cartoonists. We debated. We sent accusations and theories and insults back and forth, by email. I consulted my soul, withered though it is. And ultimately, I came to believe that Trudeau is right and Hart is NOT making some sort of political statement; that his characters long ago ceased to be cavemen; they just look that way. They have become sitcom characters in a generic buddy scenario. Time is meaningless. Time frames are meaningless. The fact that they dress in skins and sit on rocks is meaningless. This is a crying shame, because he has forfeited his franchise in doing this. But he has done it. Ultimately, I think what persuaded me is the fact that it is hard to believe Johnny would deliver such a disclosure as part of a ridiculously lame joke.

So there you have it. The story of a story not written. Delivered via chat technology.

Today's Poll is an homage to the great Leonard Pinth-Garnell. In it, we examine the joys and heartbreaks in Bad, Bad Comics. You will be asked to become a connoisseur of crap, a sommelier of suckiness -- discriminating between the bad, the truly bad, and the heroically rancid. As always, I shall disclose the correct answers three-quarters through the chat.

As in last week, I could find no worthy Comic Pick of the Week. As in last week, though, I offer three pretty good ones, in the hope that they gain power as a group.

Let's go.


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washingtonpost.com: Comic Picks of the Week:
Doonesbury, (July 5)
Get Fuzzy, (July 5)
Speed Bump, (July 2)

And...
B.C., (June 30)

Vote in this week's poll!

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I Must Be Stup, ID: Has anybody figured out Sunday's Opus yet? I need a clue.

Gene Weingarten: Sunday's "Opus" was extraordinarily good, if a little difficult to get. I am guessing that Breathed is introducing a new character -- a very, very bad little girl or small woman. She arrives and asks Opus to hide her. Then a singed nun arrives carrying a fire extinguisher and looking for the girl. Opus is rather appalled that he has conspired to hide this person, and she says something like "Please pretend I have no past," and Opus turns to the reader and says, "Why do women think we can do that?"

This is really rather great. The first Opus that has excited me in a while.

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StayingWithTheWi, ND: Gene,

I just saw "Gone With the Wind" for the first time. It was awful!

I thought you could come up with the definitive list of movies that "everybody" thinks are great, but really suck. Maybe you could work with Gina on the definitive male/female split for "great movies that really suck". My wife thought GWTW was OK, but I really hated it.

washingtonpost.com: Giant. Withnail and I. Hud. My Fair Lady. High Noon.
(fully prepared to be slammed by Gene starting... now)

Gene Weingarten: Withnail and I? Everyone thinks this is great?

I totally agree on GWTW. I have seen it, but only by watching small parts at different times. It is essentially unwatchable, start to finish.

I'd add Titanic, A Fish Called Wanda, Matrix, There's Something About Mary, and Rushmore.

(Actually, I put that last one in there just to annoy Liz. It's pretty good.)



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Gene Weingarten: OOh, did anyone see the great aptonym in yesterday's paper? It was an article about how the Lexington Herald-Leader apologized for the newspaper's benign racism during the civil rights movement. (A neat, wry little apology. This was it: "It has come to the editor's attention that the Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil rights movement. We regret the omission.") Anyway, the article quoted a woman complaining about how awful the paper's policies were, at the time. Her name is "Audrey Grevious"

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FC, VA on BC: Is it possible that they live in the time between 2004 BC and 2004 AD, (like, say, 1000 BC)?

Gene Weingarten: Well, um, there weren't Mars probes in 2004 BC....

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Lancaster, Pa.: In support of your position that polls and surveys should have nothing to do with newspaers selection of comics, my local paper the Lancaster New Era, brought back "Fred Bassett" after being flooded with complaints. They have also been printing letters to the editor by people complaining about "Pearls Before Swine," which is the only decent strip they run. It seems that unlike you, many hip people don't read comics.

Gene Weingarten: Sigh. I believe Fred Basset is drawn by the same guy who does Red and Rover. I am not sure of this. Am I right? I can't check just now.

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In a scam dunk funk: If you still need more complaints about "B.C.," last Thursday's had "Wiley's Dictionary" redefining a term ("scam dunk") that doesn't exist in the first place.

Also in last Thursday's comics: how did Bucky use the phrase "funked up" in a way that I thought only Cheney was allowed to?

washingtonpost.com: B.C., (July 1)

Today's is fun, too... re: "the rapture"... B.C., (July 6)

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, check out today's!

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Chicago, Ill.: Greetings,
On last night's late evening news, my son and I saw the "always a bridsemaid and never the bride" VP wannabe Dick Gephardt.

Most of the interview I saw showed the typical face shot. As the video camera panned back, it was evident that the interview took place while he was walking his dog.

Much of the interview (if not all) took place while Gephardt was holding a bag of his dog's droppings in what appeared to be a newspaper sleeve.

I couldn't tell if it was a bag from the local paper or a bag from the national edition of the New York Times. Either way, it has to be kind of disappointing to be passed for VEEP for the 10th time and then be interviewed with the output of a very large dog in your hand.

Gene Weingarten: I once did an entire interview with John McCain as he was peeing. Combination short interview and large bladder.

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Medford, Mass.: Hello Gene...

While up in Boston for the summer, I've discovered the rather conservative comic "Mallard Fillmore," and frankly, I don't get it. Is it my liberal bias that just doesn't find this cartoon funny? I think Doonesbury is often humorous, and Non-Sequitir too, and I even think Boondocks is often over the top.

So I guess my question is: Is Mallard Fillmore remotely good as a comic, or is it merely a soapbox for a right-winger to counter the liberal comics?

washingtonpost.com: Mallard Fillmore

Gene Weingarten: Mallard Fillmore is usually a pretty lousy comic, though I like that it is right wing. But this one you link to is really quite good!

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Maryland: Kerry picks Gephardt! No, wait, Kerry picks Edwards!

How funny was the New York Post's goof this morning? And how funny is it that they have now tried to erase all evidence from their Web site (fortunately it is preserved at thesmokinggun.com)? I wonder if they tried to retrieve and incinerate all the copies of the newspapers they printed last night.

And, how funny would it have been to have Kerry and Gephardt -- two wooden, charmless stiffs, on the same ticket? For that matter, how funny is the name "Dick Gephardt?" I'm disappointed that Kerry passed up this opportunity for high comedy. Now I'll never vote for him.

poop.

washingtonpost.com: Kerry Picks Gephardt, (thesmokinggun.com)

Gene Weingarten: I didn't know this. This is fabulous.

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washingtonpost.com: Re: Fred Bassett & Red and Rover. No, not drawn by the same guy, but the Red & Rover cartoonist's name is Brian Basset.

Gene Weingarten: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene, since you brought up movies, I thought I'd ask...

I saw "French Connection" for the first time last weekend, and liked it. But, I didn't get the ending. Who is that final shot fired at? How (without giving anything away) could Doyle make the same mistake twice and get such light punishment?

I used to think of myself as a cutting-edge moviegoer. The fact that I didn't get this disturbs me. Should I just start reading "Family Circus" and get it over with? Please help!

Gene Weingarten: Can anyone help here? I don't remember the end that clearly, but I DO remember that in the FC II, it was revealed that the frog bribed a cop to help him get away. Does that give a clue?

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Lansing, Mich.: A lot of hip people read the comics -- they just read them online, instead of in their local newspapers, which are busy running things like "Nancy" so their less-hip readers (who seem to have the most time on their hands to respond to polls and write indignant letters to the editor)remain appeased.

Patty Mallett

Gene Weingarten: On a trip to some backwater city some many months ago -- actually, I think it was Battle Mountain, Nevada! -- I discovered that the local paper printed "Henry." Remember "Henry," Patty?

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Eastern Market, Washington, D.C.: Gene -- Saw you out walking and smoking a cigar the other day. Now I know why the weather bureau designated the air quality for the day "code orange." Where do you get those rank things?

Gene Weingarten: Was this watching the fireworks? The woman in front of me gave me a dirty look. Was that you? If it was, you had bad pit stains.

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Washington, B.C.: I missed the June 30th BC, so this was new to me, but honestly, I thought the big furor over BC this week would have been Saturday's.

Gene Weingarten: Right, this too! Actually I thought this was pretty good. But... "sans"?

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Lansing, Mich.: I do indeed remember "Henry." The Grand Rapids Press ran it when I was growing up, and I thought it sucked even then. (I was an exceptionally hip child.)

Gene Weingarten: He was a bald kid who never talked. I think it is because his voice was too high. I think he was a eunuch.

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Regarding B.C.: What of the possibility that the characters in "B.C." are not actually on Earth, but on another planet that could sustain life? It appears that the characters are a little stumped that humans would be searching Mars for water. They seem to know something. Perhaps they know through their history that Mars was the wrong place to look and that they are on the new planet working their way through the ages all over again. Did you ever consider that?

Gene Weingarten: I will now.

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Washington, D.C.: As a professional humorist, how do you feel about the selection of John Edwards? Obviously, if Kerry had chosen the TV psychic John Edward, you'd have excellent humor opportunities, but I'm concerned that Sen. John Edwards just won't be very funny.

Would you agree that the funniest choice for VP candidate (among the mainstream options) would have been Bob Graham, with his obsessive daily diaries ("7:45 a.m. Had breakfast; branola with peach")?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I do. The thing many people do not know is that Bob Graham is very, very funny. When I was his editor, Dave Barry did a brilliant interview of Graham. This was about 1984 or 5. Can anyone find it? It ran in the Miami Herald's Tropic magazine. A phrase you might search for is "harmonica safety." Also, Pennsuco.

Warning: Liz has not been able to find it, and She Is Liz.

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Not Vancouver but Johnny Hart, B.C. : Maybe this strip has become the comic version of "Happy Days," which ceased to be about the '50s after a few seasons. The show reached a point where it wasn't even trying to be period-authentic, like with Chachi's hair.

Gene Weingarten: Good comparison.

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Arlington, Va.: You were smoking a nasty, disgusting, filthy cigar in a crowd that was watching fireworks? I have lost all respect for you. It's one thing to do that in a bar or at home, but in a crowd when people are smushed like sardines? That's just mean and rude.

P.S. I assumed it was a packed crowd, as you were close enough to see her pit stains.

Gene Weingarten: No, I wouldn't have done that. My wife and I were standing in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, a good mile from the 'works. First time we have not gotten closer. The woman in question was fifteen feet away, and could easily have moved thirty feet away, if she wished.

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Pickin' my feet in Poughkeepsie: The shot at the end of French Connection:

It's unclear who takes the shot, whether it is Doyle or the Frog. I think it is merely a thing thrown in there to make the audience think someone was shot. In the 5-10 seconds between the shot and the epilogue, it actually is kinda suspenseful.

My guess is that Doyle shot at the Frog and missed.

A great film with an amazing chase scene--better than Bullit.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, yes, I remember now, he disappears offscreen and fires a shot. And yes, I think this might be the best chase ever. And the end of the chase was great.

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Albany, N.Y.: The Albany (N.Y.) Times Union this weekend had an article about how manufacturers are supersizing lawn chairs and hot tubs to keep up with customer waistlines. They even quoted a salesman from a local outdoor store with the perfect name for this subject -- Lou Butts, a salesman at Islander Pools & Spas Inc., in Colonie.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

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Bad Taste -- in Color: Another chatter alerted you last week to the recent Dallas Morning News comics poll and subsequent rejiggering of the comics selections. Among the top 10 were B.C.(7), For Better or for Worse (3), Crankshaft (2) and Luann (1). Now, the DMN has decided to run these top 10 favorites IN COLOR. The hue and cry is over the dropping of "Love Is...", an insipid one-panel drawing featuring what looks like a naked troll couple.

Berke Breathed weighed in with this opinion on the poll: "After 25 years of these surveys, I can tell you what my results will be: A gaggle will like it. Another bunch will hate it as if it were an al-Qaeda plot. A wash."

Gene Weingarten: Oh, yes, and this reminds me. Last week I seemed to agree with a chatter who disliked For Better or For Worse. I didn't mean to create that impression. I have come to accept this strip as being quite good at what it does, even if what it does is not strictly "funny." It is good the way "Gasoline Alley" was good. I think Lynn Johnston is talented. She is drawing mostly for Alan Alda and women, but she is really good at creating interesting situations. I have moved on this over the years.

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Arlington, Va.: Your dislike of "Henry" (as well of "Mutts") simply shows that you have no appreciation for Zen. Get yourself some enlightenment, and then come talk to us.

"Red & Rover," though, is just creepy. That kid needs some friends.

Gene Weingarten: Hey, Get Fuzzy's Rob needs some friends, too. Big time. I am pursuing my theory about that one.

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Arlington, Va.: Re bad movies. Rented "Eyes Wide Shut." It was BAD. Amazing amount of nudity. Could have easily been cut in half with nothing lost. But very interesting morality lesson about the costs of extramarital sex. But I found it odd that all that background about their marriage on the rocks, and set ups for cheating, and neither actually did anything with another. A movie about marital infidelity without any marital infidelity.

Gene Weingarten: The Ryan-Senate-whips-and-chains sex scandal is similarly interesting. A sex scandal with no actual sex having been committed.

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Gene Weingarten: I don;t do this very often, but: Confidential to the woman who got the email about the brownies. Yes, very very funny. You are not evil. But I am not going to print that post for reasons you should understand. This sounds like the start of a stalking, and I would be careful.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: No list of over-rated films can possibly be complete without including "Rocky"... what a cliched pile of dreck. I also vote for GWTW & Titanic. And while I like Withnail & I, I've never seen it listed on anyone's best list.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. You are wrong about Rocky. Rocky 1 was a good movie. Also, Stallone's second movie, FIST, was hugely underrated. Then he started to suck.

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Lansing, Mich.: It seems that sometimes when lots of cartoonists get together, they drink a bit too much and draw pictures that show what other cartoonists' characters would like naked.

My recollection from Jef's description of such an event is that Henry ws NOT a eunuch.

Gene Weingarten: Is this true?

Um, Patty, I will pay big money for some of those sketches. Or, in return I will happily intellectually prostitute myself. Like saying, um.

"Jef Mallett is the greatest cartoonist who ever lived. Bill Watterson's work pales by comparison."

-- Gene Weingarten, The Washington Post

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Browni, ES: Damn. now I'm curious.

Gene Weingarten: Sorry.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, here are the answers to the Poll.

First, let us dispense with the notion that it is impossible to decide which of the two serial strips is the lousier. This is nonsense. In any field other than science and math, there are no absolutes, other than absolute certainty about one's opinion. One piece of art, one joke, one contention can ALWAYS be judged better than another. The answer to question one is the last choice.

As to the competition among heat jokes, they are all clearly putrid, but at least Curtis and Red and Rover deliver SOMETHING: We have all felt the effects of hot dog breath and hot coffee on a hot day. The beach gag is actually meritless, made DEmeritless by that stupid, unnecessary, flatulent last line.

As to the Gang of Four, well, this is really a great case for the connoisseur. The bouquet of all of these assault the nose, but since our quest is inverted, and we SEEK putrefaction, they all are delightfully impertinent. Each is flaccid, each delivers either a totally mirthless punchline or a punchline as old as B.C. should be. My final choice is between One Big Happy and Marvin, but I have to go for the latter. Why? Look at the space it takes to make its non-joke! If you were an advertiser, you would pay something like $150,000 for that much space in the Sunday Washington Post. Look at the use to which that expensive real estate was put.

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Re: "Rocky": This is a question I keep meaning to send the reviewer formerly known as Howe:

How come, given long enough, some stars like Farrah Fawcett eventually learn to act; while others, like Sylvester Stallone, forget?

Gene Weingarten: Oh, I am not sure Stallone ever knew how to act. But his one-trick thing just got old. He plays the same character all the time.

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Arlington, Va.: At least Rob seems to have some sort of life, unlike Garfield's owner who seems to wander around next to ledges that animals sit on.

Gene Weingarten: But you never really see Rob's life. He is always closeted with animals he talks to, who talk back.

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RE: Red and Roverq: Red and Rover doesn't suck because Red has no friends. Calvin had no friends and that was one of the real strengths of the strip. Hobbes was his entire world and that was more than enough for him. Frankly, if I had a Hobbes in my life, I'd be happy to do without people. Red and Rover sucks because it is simpering and never funny.

Gene Weingarten: Precisely.

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Cantsee Anythi, IN: when I clicked on this week's poll it came up with a dark blue background so I can't read anything. is this just on my computer?

washingtonpost.com: Yes.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, then.

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And last. . .: Did the empress make a tactical blunder this week in her write-up for the Invitational? It's one thing to get 100+ entries from someone (whom we shall not name) who at least has a good batting average in his favor, but is she actually encouraging the people who aren't funny to also send in hundreds of examples of their unfunniness?

Gene Weingarten: It wouldn't be an awful development. As someone familiar with persons who have judged this contest, I can tell you that if someone submits 100 entries, and the first eight or nine show no moves whatsoever, the remainder get read very, very, very cursorily.

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Arlington, Va.: I was in college when the "English Patient" came out. Everyone I knew was crying a week after seeing it and swearing up and down that it was the finest cinema ever created. I hated it so much I wanted to demand my money back after seeing it. Needless to say I was raked over the coals and called a souless heathen. Then, like 6 months later, Seinfeld does an episode where Elaine hates the English Patient. And all of a sudden all of the folks around me really never liked it either.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I think this happened with Titanic, too. Suddenly it became hip to not like it.

Man, it sucked. I laughed several times, such as the gunfight.

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Lansing, Mich.: Oh, trust me. I'd pay for some of those sketches, too. Unfortunately, Jef failed to pocket any of them. (I guess the one of Nancy was pretty good, too.)

Gene Weingarten: One of the itemson my wall that I am proudest of is Jef's drawing of Mrs. Olson, in the buff.

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Iro, NY: Okay, like all good English geeks I am aware that all of the examples of irony given by Alanis Morrisette in her song "Ironic" are not, in fact, ironic, and this is in itself a good example of irony. My question is, is there a term for the situations she describes (a no smoking sign on your cigarette break, etc.)? Sort of a more official word to describe "it figures" situations? I was hoping someone out there (PtheP?) could help me.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, it is "bad luck."

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Absolutely Bad Flicks: All of La Streisand's films. Boy does that woman suck as an actor. Actually I don't like her singing much either.

Gene Weingarten: I thought Funny Girl was pretty good. Not great, but pretty good.

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Polland: Do you ever get flack from cartoonists or the comic syndicators over using their strips in polls that are often derogatory?

Gene Weingarten: Nope. It's fair comment. They'd be idiots to object.

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Okay...: So which serial strip is worse? Mary Worth, right?

Gene Weingarten: I already told you.

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Gambrills, Md.: Where does the work of Harrison Ford rate on your scale? He can be funny (i.e. , some scenes in the first and second "Star Wars," and the scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" where, instead of using his whip against the guy with the sword, he shoots him), and also a good actor (he should have won Oscars for "Witness" and possibly "The Fugitive").

Gene Weingarten: I think he's one of the best. I wish he weren't so devastatingly handsome, but other than that I like him. At least Cruise is, like, five foot four.

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FIST: I can't believe someone else remembers FIST!; I remember seeing it on TV when I was really young and thinking how great Stallone was, given that he'd only done Rocky and FIST. How sad for him, and for the rest of us, that he was allowed to continue.

Gene Weingarten: If you can rent this movie, you should. It really is good.

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Brownie woman: Thanks for your response, Gene. I appreciate your concerns; re-reading, I can see why you'd be reluctant to post it.

No wonder Gina says the chicks dig ya!;

And in a totally unrelated note, I have used your wife's trick of breaking eggs into a bowl before frying them with great success. I don't actually like fried eggs, but the hubby does. Please tell her she has contributed to his happiness!;

Gene Weingarten: I will, and thank you!

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Woodley Park, Washington, D.C.: Wait... so, if B.C. really did take place in some post-apocalyptic future, and the ants are commenting on a Rapture that has already occurred, then does that make the world of "B.C." Hell and all of its cave-person residents the damned?

Maybe that's why it's not funny.

Gene Weingarten: Oooooooh.

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Bad movies: I almost chewed off my own leg to escape the bear-trap that is "Forrest Gump". Except I was in Japan at the time.

Gene Weingarten: Actually, yes! A pretty piss-poor movie, considering the hoopla surrounding it.

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Titanic True Story: My wife took her then-80-year old mother to see Titanic in the theater and about two hours in, her mom couldn't take it any more and shouted "Sink the Boat!"

Oh, and "Lost in Translation," "Road to Perdition" and "The Color of Money" sucked, too.

Here's the deal: most movies are so bad that the reviewers are desperate to praise anything that doesn't suck, so there's grade inflation.

Gene Weingarten: I like this post, and really, really agree about Lost in translation. I thought Road to Perdition was okay.

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Harrison Ford: Is one actor who will make a film neither better or worse than it is otherwise. Start with mega-blockbuster filmmaking like "Star Wars" or "Raiders," and Ford won't ruin it.

He won't add anything to "What Lies Beneath" or "Sabrina," either.

Gene Weingarten: I thought he made "Executive Action" good. Did I get that name right? Also, I think the quality of the Raiders movies were a result of him. Actually, I think you're wrong. You SOUND right, but you're wrong. Go away.

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Washington, D.C.: re: not good movies that everybody likes

Rocky Horror Picture Show

Marijuana didn't even help.

Gene Weingarten: Absolutely correct.

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Another popular movie that sucked: American Beauty. I was ostricized in the office for several months when I said it sucked. After a while, everyone else said it sucked too.

Gene Weingarten: Wrong.

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Lurk, ER: Regarding Dave Barry's Graham interview, has anyone asked Dave's assistant Judi? When not reading your chat I spend quite a bit of time reading Dave's blog. Judi is quite a helpful woman, she pointed me in the right direction re: the Weinermobile incident your son mentioned in a previous chat. I really just wanted to know how Dave got his hands on the Weinermobile in the first place.

Also, why does Dave get an assistant and you don't? If you decide you do want an assistant I can send over my resume. Oh, and I promise not to read chats/blogs on work time. Honest.

Gene Weingarten: I shall obtain the story for next week.

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washingtonpost.com: Lost in Translation was a good movie, Gene. I have to say this.

Gene Weingarten: Liz and Billy sittin' in a tree....

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Denver, Colo.: Someone was smoking a cigar at our fireworks display too and he got dirty looks too. Smoking cigars in a crowd is just rude. You've gone too far this time, Weingarten! I'm telling Leiby.

Gene Weingarten: It. Was. Not. A. Crowd.

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Logan Circle, Washington, D.C.: I joined late and just read your intro. I though that Hart long ago established that his comic world WAS in the future. I remember years ago when they found books in a cave. This is when they started learning about our current time.

Gene Weingarten: I have no memory of this, nor did the syndicate. Can you prove this?

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Washington, D.C.: You are walking a fine line, Mr. W. There is a general respect for your opinion on the suckiness of comics. You are, for lack of a better phrase, the ultimate authority. Now you are taking on the ranking of movies. At least sitcom characters are only a slight move from the comedic world in which you exist. Movies, dramas and comedies alike, are just a little out of your authoritative league, don't you think? Ultimately, espousing your cinematic opinions as fact undermines their persuasiveness in the comics world where you reign. (Doubt you'll print this, but fyi anyway).

Gene Weingarten: Why wouldn't I print it? I frequently publish the work of blowhards, to make fun of them.

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Washington, D.C.: Is it not possible that Mr. Hart, hearing about speculation that B.C. was in fact set in a post-apocalyptic future, decided to throw that strip in there as an ad hoc fix to his decades of lackadaisical inattention to time? I fully expect to read an interview wherein he claims to have been using that conceit all along, most likely incorporating the phrase, "Yeah, that's the ticket!"

Gene Weingarten: Honestly, I fear he is not that coherent of thought.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, thank you all. Same time, same place, same blather, next week.

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The Empress of The Style Invitational: ...suggests that all the entries you send be funny. The nameless one's were almost all very, very good. Two were cut from the paper at the last moment for taste reasons.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, noted.

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