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Chatological Humor*

A Long One

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 29, 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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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.


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Thanks for the many good things you all said about my son's chat; yes, I know he is funnier than I am. No, I am not afraid he will take my job. To have my job it is necessary to at least occasionally arise before noon.

Many people observed that Dan seems to share with me a certain seditious cynicism, and wondered if this might be a genetic trait. Can a sense of humor be inherited?

True story: On Sunday, my father celebrated his 90th birthday. Also celebrating his 90th birthday, on the same day, was my Uncle Irving. For the occasion, Irving and his daughter Margaret arrived from New York, and my brother, Don, arrived from San Francisco. We had a party at my house.

My father is doing very well, for his age. My Uncle Irving is doing INCREDIBLY well, for his age, hardly having slowed down at all. As part of the toast, I said to Irving, "you know, MOST 90-year-old men aren't still driving." And my brother interrupted to observe, "Of course, MOST 90-year-old men are dead."

So, you know.

Terrible comics week. There is no CPOW. However Monday's paper had three pretty good strips, so I am nominating all three; perhaps adding them together will achieve the humor candlepower of a CPOW: Gene Pool, Pearls, and Baby Blues.

As you will see, today's poll is influenced by my son's spectacular poll last week. What he taught me is that, sometimes, a poll is just a poll. Hahahahaha. (Think about it.)

And lastly, we are going to attempt a record today: The physically longest one-hour chat in history. If you will recall, two weeks ago I called for readers to reveal their little insecurities: True examples of their eccentric, neurotic behavior. Well, we posted plenty of funny responses. But unknown to me, there was a huge hemorrhage of posts that I never saw: Liz had to hold them back or I would have been inundated.

They are a scream.

You are loons.

Here they are.


washingtonpost.com: Comic Picks of the Week:
Baby Blues, (June 28)
Pearls Before Swine, (June 28)
Out of the Gene Pool, (June 28)

Don't forget to vote in this week's effing poll.


Gene Weingarten: I like to align my folding money so that all the bills are "face-up" and sorted by denomination (big in back, our outside, when folded, small in front).

NUTSO, USA: In my house, my husband is the neurotic one. Before we leave the house, he unplugs the coffee pot and the TV. Every time. Even if we're only going down to the corner for a paper.


1. I must put hand cream on after washing my hands.
Every time. This requires carrying hand cream on my person at all times.
2. When walking next to someone, that person must be on my right. No exceptions.
3. I must have sometihng on my lips at all times: Vaseline, lipstick, lip gloss, CarMex, etc. When I was a kid I used Vicks Vapo-Rub. You can imagine how popular I wasn't in high school.
4. Any route I travel regularly must be done is exactly the same way each time. Example: when walking the dog, I must exit the driveway to the right.
This is just a small sample. Any attempt to change any of these
behaviours will cause the world to end.
Washington DC: I have 2 related neuroses that both have to do with letters on signs. It started when I was a little kid, in the car with
the family on road trips.
First, I organize the letters in words or groups of words into smaller groups. For instance, Gene Weingarten is 14 letters, so that can be 2 groups of 7, or 7 groups of 2, but that's about it. Then I have to count out the letters by tapping them on one hand. Thumb goes down with first letter, ring finger comes back up again right after the pinkie taps, and so forth - it can go on forever. So "Gene Weingarten" would end with the 2nd and 3rd finger down, others up.
You can add the other hand to really make it interesting.
Washington, D.C.: I eat my food in 3s and 5s to correspond with the 3 and 5 parts of my mouth. For example, I just ate 5 pretzels. One I ate on the back left, one on the back right, one in the middle left, one in the middle right and the last pretzel I chewed with my front teeth. If I eat in 3s, I chew in the back sides of my mouth and in the front. I also divide M&Ms by color and even out the numbers by eating the extra ones first and then proceed to each one of each color, keeping the groups numerically even.
Neurotic Behavior: I type words in my head, in particular looking for words which have an equal number of letters being typed by each hand (e.g., laboring).
The light switch at the bottom of the stairwell must always
reflect the state of the light (down for off, up for on). If someone
messes it up, I will walk up or down the stairs in the dark to "correct" the problem. It does come in useful during power outages, though. I can ensure the light is off so if the power comes in the middle of the night I am not woken by light glaring in from the hallway.
Washington, D.C.: RE: Neurotic: I count my steps as I walk. When I catch myself doing this, I get scared.
Neurosis....: This is somewhat embarrassing...but I have to get
completely naked to go to the bathroom. And I'm a guy. As a result, I can't go at work or at parties. Well, maybe some parties, but none that I'm invited to.
My wife, God love her, tolerates this. She thinks it's the strangest and wierdest thing she's ever encountered, but she married me anyway.

Arlington, Va.: I often sleep with a pillow over my head. I once
mentioned this to a female coworker as we were discussing some of the hardships of business travel (and how the hotel curtains always allow a sliver of light that hits you right in the face). Some months later, we were both in our boss's office, discussing travel, and she mentioned that I often sleep with a pillow over my head. She was oblivious to the implications of saying this, but now our boss thinks we're sleeping togeth
neurosis: When I shower, I cannot touch the walls without the water running. I am the only one who uses that shower, and while it is reasonably clean, i feel that if the water were not running, i would get germs on me.
Do not get me started about body parts other than my hand possibly touching the walls.
Falls Church: I can't fall asleep if the closet door is open, even if
it's just an inch. I can't hang my foot off the bed either. The covers must be able to come just above the tip of my nose and if they've come undone a bit, I will actually get out of bed to remake it.
Neuroses: I can't tolerate wet paper products - paper towels, toilet paper, tissues. Just seeing someone use tissues to wipe up spilled water makes me cringe. I can use paper towels to wipe up a spill, but only if I have a bunch of dry ones to shield me from the ones that get all wet.
Friendly Skies: I cannot start my day without first checking my frequent flier miles online. I know perfectly well I haven't taken a trip since the last time I checked (yesterday), but it doesn't matter. I am unable to move on to other activities until I have checked in with the airlines.
Ellicott City: I can not stand finger nail files. When I use them (no more), I would get goose bumps on my arms, same if my nails touch sandpaper or other rough surfaces. It has gotten so bad that I can't stand to watch others file their nails, I ask them to stop or leave the room.
Now I got the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it...
If I put my left sock on before the right sock, I put my right shoe on first, just to keep it fair.
When my husband kisses me on the cheek I feel physically uncomfortable until he kisses the OTHER cheek as well. He
finds this hysterical and therefore makes a big thing out of NOT kissing the unkissed cheek, thus often causing me to apply my cheek to his lips forcibly.
I would never, never admit this other than anonymously.
Neurotic Behavior: I scrub the under-side of the lawnmower after each use.
Arlington VA: Whenever I open a bag of M&M's or Skittles, I
organize them by color in straight lines. Then I eat
one of each color, one at a time, so that the number
of candies of each color remains the same in each
row. Don't tell anyone.
When cutting vegetables for dinner, I count the number of cuts I am making - for no specific reason, I just count them
Food Neurosis: I dated a young lady several years ago who insisted that none of the food on her plate touched any of the other food on her plate. She said it b/c she didn't want to see her food "mixing". When I pointed out that it "mixed" while being digested in her stomach, she said she just tried not to think about it. If ever there was an accidental "mixing", she would stop eating b/c her food had been "contaminated". Also, she would never drink anything once she began to eat b/c she was afraid of "contaminating" her drink. Needless to say, I didn't ask her out past a second date.
Neuroses: I cannot sit through parts of movies where characters I like are embarrassed or hurt by people they love - I either hide my face (in the theater) or leave the room (at home). I don't mind so much the parts where characters get killed in horrible ways - just the bits where they get emotionally bruised.
Woodbridge, VA: Of my many neurotic tendencies, the worst is having to bleach the tubs and toilets when I stay somewhere other than my own house. Even in a 4 star hotel. I find I just can't poo until I do...
herndon, va: Neurotic behavior: I CANNOT eat while standing up - if I have to sit in the dirt, or if it's, say, a picnic with no seats left
and the ground is wet, I'll crouch. Some near and dear to me tried to
force me to eat while standing in my younger days - when I had extreme trouble swallowing, they gave up
Big Evil Pharma Company: After noticing it on my library's DVD shelf, I finally watched Dr. Strangelove this weekend, and I have to ask - why was it called Dr. Strangelove if he's a fairly minor character in the film?
Oh, and I can't sleep if the sheets aren't tucked in. I once went six days without sleeping in Germany as the only cover I had was one of those duvets, no sheet. I even tried sleeping in the duvet, sleeping-bag style, but those darn eider feathers kept going everywhere.


Gene Weingarten: With regard to the last question: "Dr. Strangelove" was called "Dr. Strangelove" because the entire movie was making the point that men go to war as a sublimation of their sexual frustrations. This was brilliantly foreshadowed in the opening credit sequence, behind which you see a warplane being refueled in flight. The tube coming down from one plane, and penetrating the fuel tank of the other plane, is VERY suggestive.

This is the funniest movie ever made.

Oh, and as far as eccentric habits, my wife dresses as follows: Sock-shoe-sock-shoe. Is there anyone else out there who does this?


Fairfax, Va.: Along the same lines of Dr. Aas and Dr. Tits, it's imperative that Reps. Dingell and Berry (of Arkansas) co-sponsor some legislation! But what should the Dingell-Berry bill do?

Gene Weingarten: It would involve toilet paper procurement.


Chicago, Ill.: Why did your son not answer my question about whether your wife is as hot as you claim?

Gene Weingarten: So, how hot is YOUR mother?


Newcomer: I hope you mention yesterday's (and to lesser extent today's) "Get Fuzzy" -- laugh out loud funny and awfully poignant. I also have a soft spot for it as a recent transplant from Boston. The Red Sox jokes can be cruel, but they are still welcome

washingtonpost.com: Get Fuzzy: June 28 | June 29

Gene Weingarten: You know, some months ago, a reader wrote in to suggest that B.C., with all its anachronistic references, is much deeper than we think: that it is in fact taking place not in prehistoric times, but in some post-apocalyptic future.

Sobering, no?

Well, I have been thinking lately about Get Fuzzy. This guy Rob? He talks to animals. And the animals talk back. And you almost never see another character. Rob, as far as we see, doesn't have a girlfriend.

I think we are looking at a schizophrenic, in his world. He is probably in an institution.


washingtonpost.com: Don't forget to vote in this week's poll.


Lansing, Mich.: Note for Gene: Do you read "Big Top," by Rob Harrell? Jef and I both love this strip, because it's smart, funny, and beautifully drawn. It takes a little time to get to know the characters, but I hope you'll check it out.

(I nominated Monday's "Big Top" as comics POTW in another e-mail, but I thought my rave reviews for the strip might sound a little too self-interested if I included them in that e-mail...)

Patty Mallett

washingtonpost.com: Big Top, (June 28)

Gene Weingarten: Hi, Patty. I have now tried to click this link twice and my screen was taken over by spam, and I lost the chat. So don't click it. But I don't love this strip. I monitored it for weeks. Don't love it. It is well drawn, but so is Mutts.

Hey, Liz, can you link to today's Mutts? I promised to do a Mutts Embarrashment of the Week (MEW). Today's will do nicely.


Op, US: Gene -- didn't you think "Opus" was fabulous on Sunday? Especially now that Bill the Cat is back. Or doesn't "Opus" count as a comic since the Pantless One can't link to it?

washingtonpost.com: Oh sure, blame me. The comic isn't on the Web.

Gene Weingarten: I tend not to post things about Opus, because we can't link to it. I have to say most of the comments in the last several weeks have been negative. I'm still not sure.


washingtonpost.com: Mutts, (June 29)


Drea, MS: So, in my dream the other night I had an affair with you. When I awoke, a bit disturbed, I told my husband. His groggy response? "At least it wasn't Kornheiser..."

Gene Weingarten: You can do a LOT better than me, with a body like yours.


Pear, LS: I'm ashamed to admit this, but I just don't get yesterday's "Pearls"!; Can you please explain to us oblivious people?

Gene Weingarten: He has pulled the "Saturn" from the balloon.


Word Poll: According to Merriam-Webster Online the 2004 Top Ten Favorite Words are:

Seeing as you are an expert on all things funny -- which is the funniest word of the list? Also is this judgment based on how it sounds, what it means, or how it looks?

Gene Weingarten: Discombobulate is the funniest sounding word. "Bobulate" is a hoot. The words like "flibbitergibbet" aren't funny because they are deliberately "funny sounding," like supercalif etc. In terms of meaning, you can't beat "defenestration." "Callipygian" is number two. As it were.


washingtonpost.com: Don't forget to vote in this week's poll.


Mutts Lover, Md.: I love Mutts! Why does every comic strip have to be hilarious or clever? It's just beautiful to look at and it makes me smile every time I read it, even when it doesn't make any sense. And get this... I am at times clever and cynical. It just makes me happy. Is that wrong?

Gene Weingarten: Yes. It is wrong.


big top = big pile of %&#@: Wow. Based on today's "Big Top," I can't see how anyone likes it.

I can at least envision why sentimental twits could like "Mutts."

Gene Weingarten: Patty, no offense, but your affection for this strip is like Paloma Picasso complimenting the work of Walter Keane, the big-eyed waif painter.


Washington, D.C.: Gene--

A simple question. What is the greatest moment in the history of comedy?

Gene Weingarten: The greatest moment in the history of comedy occurred one day in the mid 1970s, when J.I. Rodale, the health guru, appeared on Dick Cavett's talk show. About 70 at the time, Rodale pounded his chest, proclaimed how he felt like he could live to be 150, and died.

Tragically, this show was taped, but never aired.

Sorry, but you asked.


washingtonpost.com: Walter Keane Art. Blech.


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Is there anything funny about The Post printing the "F" word when recounting that Cheney said it, as opposed to not printing it when various Dems have uttered it over the years?

Is there anything funny about The Post choosing to print the word only in the current political climate?

Is there anything funny about this even being a big deal seeing as how grade school kids use the word every single day?

So Cheney dropped an F-bomb. I say: who the "F" cares?

Gene Weingarten: I assure you Cheney's political affiliation was irrelevant. The Post printed it because he is the vice president of the united states.

The New York Times printed, on page one, a photograph of Nelson Rockefeller (as vice president) giving the finger to a heckler. Of course, he was a republican, too.


Washington, D.C.: So these people, with these neuroses, they live in our communities, ride our buses, shop in our stores?

Gene Weingarten: I KNOW! It's scary.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: Dear Gene,

I'm submitting this early because teh evil overlords for which I work may keep me away from my computer during your chat.

My question is premised on your love of the comics and my former work as a media analyst reading 10 newspapers a day.

You've often expressed great dismay at the state of the comics in general and dismay at the choices the editors at The Post make when choosing comics. However, I'd have to say that among all the paper's I've read, and I've read a lot, The Post happens to have the Best Comics Section in the Nation, with the Philadelphia Inquirer coming in a close second.

So my question for you is: Which U.S. newspaper does have the best comics page if its not The Post?

Or is the kind of question the answer to which will get you fired?


Gene Weingarten: I have, in fact, read the comics pages of most of the largest papers in the country. And the Post's is the best. Unfortunately.

They are ALL addicted to aged, unfunny or never-funny strips.


Re: Mutts Lover: Comics are not supposed to make you warm and fuzzy, they're supposed to make you laugh. The "warm and fuzzy" theory has brought the world such travesties as Family Circus and For Better or For Worse.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Expletive Deleted, Washington, D.C.: Gene,

To whom was George Bush referring as a major league [expletive]?

If you could get George Bush to refer to you as a major league [expletive], it could take its place at the top of the list of testimonials on this discussion page. It would be a badge of honor.

Gene Weingarten: He was referring to Adam Clymer, of the New York Times. I am jealous.


Cheney vs. Leahy: Gene--Actually, the funniest thing about the Post usage of the F-word was the sentence within which Dana Milbank framed Cheney's comment: "...said the man who is a heartbeat away from the presidency." Maybe you should let Milbank do a guest shot here sometime.

washingtonpost.com: Milbank is on every other Friday with his "White House Insider" show.

Gene Weingarten: A public service announcement.


Hierarchic,Al: Gene,

Since you are a self-proclaimed expert at humor and the differences between the sexes, I wonder if you'd humor me here and say if this is funny or not.

I was visiting Colonial Williamsburg with a former girlfriend. We'd be wandering around all day, and came upon a fenced in area where there were horses. Being an animal lover, she demanded we go over so she could see and pet the horses. I wasn't to thrilled to do so, and let it be known. I lost the battle, so I stood around while she ooed and aahhed over the horses, and petted one along it's nose. Alas, she picked wrong, and the horse bit her hand.

So, being a guy, I was cracking up about it. Needless to say, she wasn't amused. There was no major injury, blood loss or anything, but I found it quite helarious, alas she didn't.

So, funny ?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, this is funny in the same sense that Rodale's death was funny. Comeuppances are funny.


Chicago, Ill.: Ah, so we're only allowed to talk about someone saying the F-word and castigating them for it when it is Kerry doing it in Rolling Stone? I can't believe someone thinks this is an example of liberal media, don't they know this makes Cheney seem more like an actual person?

Gene Weingarten: Precisely. This will help Cheney a lot.


Re: favorite words: Someone noted in one of Michael Dirda's recent chats that James Joyce thought the most beautiful English word was "cuspidor." I thought you might be a better person to comment on this sentiment than the good Mr. Dirda.

Gene Weingarten: James Joyce was a genius at the sound of words.

I never thought about "cuspidor," but it does, indeed, sound beautiful. Actually, it sounds like a word in Spanish. Spanish is a gorgeous sounding language.


Washington, D.C.: Gene, you have started a flood in my apartment. My roommate and I have been discussing neuroses nonstop since the topic first arose. My biggest: I cannot drink soda in a coffee mug (especially if it has ice in it). A good one from her deals with mirrors -- she can't wash her face in front of a mirror with an open door behind her. Now we cannot focus on anything else, and discussing neuroses has become something of a neurosis in and of itself. Infinite regression?

Gene Weingarten: That mirror one is really cool. Is this a Hitchcock-type concern?


washingtonpost.com: Vote in this week's poll.


Baltimore, Md.: Has tatoo technology changed that much in the last 30 or 40 years? What I mean is, are all of those young women who now have tatoos going to end up with amorphous red and blue splotches in 20 years or so?

washingtonpost.com: Oh man, I sure hope not.

Gene Weingarten: We appear to have just learned something interesting about Wormlegs!

In our special secret channel of communication, Liz confesses she has FOUR tattoos, and revealed to me their shape and location. She asked me not to reveal these because, and I am quoting directly, "I don't want people to be able to identify my corpse."


Lansing, Mich.: Paloma Picasso? Hmmmm. I don't much like Pablo's stuff - you'd make a better point with me by comparing me with the wives (if they had them - I'm not actually sure) of Edward Hopper, John Singer Sargent or Winslow Homer.

I can understand why you don't like "Mutts," as sincerely nice a guy as Patrick McDonnell seems to be, but "Big Top" is good!; Really!; I swear!;

OK. Tastes vary. You very much like a strip I hate, although I won't name names.

Patty Mallett

Gene Weingarten: Aw c'mon, name names. This is an open forum.

And I hope you realize that what I am really saying is that Jef is the best.


Pondering chatster: one thing I never got was how does a born-again nut like Hart draw a comic about cavemen. Don't BACs disallow any possibility of cavemen? I think it is the future, but that would give Hart way too much credit

The wide-eyed art is f'n creepy.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, Hart believes there weren't cavemen. Actually, he told me once that after the tower of Babel, when God scattered people all over the Earth, he probably sent people to Antartica and Greenland and such, and they probably dressed in skins, so those probably are the cavemen.

He also believes that the reason there are no dinosaurs today is that they could not fit on the ark.

I ain't making this up. he told me this for a profile I did on him years ago.


Big na, me: Just wondering if you know why Post sports writer Matt Bonesteel didn't go back to using his real last name after his porn movie career ended?

Gene Weingarten: Matt indeed has a great name. But if he had been a porn star, he would have been "Lance" Bonesteel.


Washington, D.C.: Who the hell is Jef Mallett?

washingtonpost.com: Frazz

Gene Weingarten: Now you know.


Anonymous: How long, oh God, how long are we going to have to suffer through that tedious, obnoxious, trite, puerile, offensive, sophomoric, bigoted so-called "comic" strip "BC" penned by that moronic, washed-up, sack of tripe Hart?

P.S. No, I didn't use the thesaurus key -- I always talk like this.

P.P.S. What's sad is, I remember when "BC" used to be funny.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, B.C. was once not just funny, but brilliant. In the late 50s and early 60s. It was back when the characters were really cavemen, and not just sitcom characters.

I think I have mentioned this before, but I recall one particularly brilliant Sunday strip. Peter, the smart one, declares that he is going to embark on a round-the-world trip to prove his theory that parallel lines never meet.

So he takes a forked stick, and drags it behind him, leaving parallel lines in the sand. He sets off in one direction, and walks for months through rain and snow, etc, and finally returns. Everyone looks down at the stick, which has worn down to a single nub. The parallel lines have met.

That is genius.


Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: I think you have made your feelings about our current president fairly clear in past chats. Have you seen "Fahrenheit 9/11" yet? If so, what did you think? I thought it was hysterical.

Gene Weingarten: I see it next week.

You thought it was ... funny?


Tattoo U: Betcha that none of the four are on her legs.

As to identification of the corpse, Liz is already made: no pants.

washingtonpost.com: Ah, but that only works if I die while producing Gene's chat. Which is possible.

Gene Weingarten: Admit it, Liz: This is the most stressful hour of your week.


Poll-Cat: So when today are you going to tell us why the overwhelming majority of the voters in today's poll are idjits?

Gene Weingarten: Well, as with Dan's chat last week, I don't really think an analysis is called for. Is it?


South Carolina: I thought you would enjoy knowing that my daughter, who is not named Madison, was born during your chat on April 27. Also, since she has realized that she can control her hands, she has been regularly spotted with one arm out of her tightly swaddled blanket.

Does this mean she will have a sense of humor? Or does it mean she is doomed to be a neurotic chat-monger?

Baby poop.

Gene Weingarten: April 27 is also my wife's birthday. I think it means she will look like Martha Stewart. Which is a GOOD thing.


Washington, D.C.: My husband has a great neurotic habit... he cannot make a transition without first going off to pee. He has to pee when he wakes up, when we are leaving the house, heading back home, sitting down to dinner, and so on. The best ever was when I was about to deliver our son and he had to run to the bathroom first. Our doctor said it was the first time in 20 years he ever had a father-to-be ask him to hold on while he ran to the john.

Gene Weingarten: Before Dan was born, I begged my wife to hold him in for just a little bit. She did not find this particularly funny, but I had my reasons.

She did hold out long enough. He was born during the very early hours of July 4.


Ridiculo, US: Speaking of bad comics, the Dallas News recently conducted a readers' poll for comics. The results were disturbing, to say the least. They were:

1. Luann
2. Crankshaft
3. For Better or For Worse
4. Peanuts
5. One Big Happy
6. Zits
7. B.C.
8. Pickles
9. Dilbert
10. Get Fuzzy

"B.C." and "Peanuts" alone were enough to have me screaming in disbelief.

And they cancelled "La Cucaracha," which is sort of a Hispanic "Boondocks." Sigh.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, for crying out loud. Comics choices are far too important to trust to the masses. Look what happens!


Effar, AZ: To the Washington, D.C. writer: May I use "Who the hell is Jef Mallett" for my epitaph when the time comes? That sums it up wonderfully.

You can take your time. I'm no J.I. Rodale.


Gene Weingarten: Nice to have you, Jef.


Tatt, OO: Come on now, has ANYONE ever seen a tattoo that made any woman look better? As a guy, I can't stand women with tattoos, at least very large or noticeable ones.

You might as well draw something on your skin with a magic marker!

washingtonpost.com: [expletive] you.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. I can't say I agree.

Navel piercings, on the other hand, are barf city.

Um, Liz, you wouldn't, ah....


Hitchcock mirrors: I am Washington D.C.'s roommate (the one who can't drink soda out of a coffee mug) -- I tend to think this has to do with my wonderful Catholic school upbringing, which saw groups of girls playing "Bloody Mary" in the bathroom during recess. The idea was to shut off the lights, huddle in front of the mirror, and chant those words to make a bloodied image of the Virgin appear. When you get a bunch of hysterical and repressed schoolgirls together in a dark room, well -- bad things happen. One time I SWEAR I saw something, and it freaked me out completely. Thus began my lifelong fear of mirrors, especially when I learned later on in my schooling that mirrors can be seen as a portal to the "other side." I slowly became convinced that evil spirits were waiting behind the glass to get me, and why wouldn't they want to get me at my most vulnerable moment, with my face and hands full of water and soap? (I have horrible eyesight, so when I take off my glasses to wash, the slightest blob could be construed as evil) It got so bad that I could only wash my face in the shower after a certain point. It's not so bad now, but every now and then, when I hear a noise behind me that I know is NOT just running water, I steel myself for the inevitable.

Otherwise, I'm mostly normal.

Gene Weingarten: Okay! Splendid! Go away!


RE: printing obscenities: Several newspapers reported on the recent story that the President of Colorado University stated in a deposition that an obscenity used in reference to the former female place kicker could be used as a term of endearment. None of the newspapers would say what the word was or even hint at what it was!; I thought that was ridiculous because the whole story was predicated on that word, but if you didn't know the word, the story was next to meaningless.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, that was stunning. I believe Sports Illustrated used the word. It was the c-word. And I have to confess I do not see how this word could ever be a term of endearment.


Born on the 4th of July: And you then went ahead and named him Dan?

Gene Weingarten: His first birthday cake said, "Yankee Doodle Danny."



BushWorld: I've become convinced that Dick Cheney looks exactly like the Simpson's character Mr. Burns, especially in this picture.

Also, the expletive was a big deal because it was uttered by the veep on the Senate floor, where there are rules about these things.

Gene Weingarten: Very nice! Liz, can we link to Mr. Burns?


Washington, D.C.: So why can't a born again Christian write a comic strip? Oh yeah, it's not "fashionable" to allow any religion enter into daily life except to poke fun at it.

Some liberals, for all their rhetoric, can be about the most bigoted people on the planet. Of course they don't see it as such. To them they are just right.

Gene Weingarten: A born again Christian can do a strip, and he can proselytize if he wants. And newspapers can carry the strip, or not carry the strip. This is a free country. At least theoretically. In all directions.


washingtonpost.com: Montgomery Burns


Middlebury, Vt.: Re last week's chat with Dan... I'm 19, female and now really wishing that I had looked at Goucher more seriously.

Gene Weingarten: Well, far be it from me to intrude on my son's love life, but his email address WAS at the bottom of his column.


Whatmewor, RI: My wife thinks that the word "butt" is funnier than the word "pants." I will grant that "butt" has a long, distinguished, and important place in humor, but believe that "pants" just sounds funnier, and that gives it the edge.

Can this marriage be saved?

Gene Weingarten: Pants is much funnier than butt. Butt is not particularly funny. Kiester is funnier than butt, but not as funny as pants. Behind is funnier than kiester, but not as funny as pants.

Pants is doubly funny because it is short for pantaloons.


Effar, AZ: Thanks for having me on, Gene. And Paloma.

The comics survey results your reader posted would seem to hint that some folks do think comics are supposed to be warm and fuzzy. Or not. For the most part, comics surveys seem to imply that comic strips should be old and familiar, like Grandma's meatloaf.

Not that there's anything wrong with Grandma's meatloaf (other than it's a kind of lame metaphor). But it alone wouldn't make for the most balanced diet.

I'm not a fan of comics polls -- I think it's lazy decision-making -- and I'll stick to that opinion until my own strip starts dominating more of them.

Gene Weingarten: Noted, Jef.


New York, N.Y.: Would your daughter do as well with a chat of her own?

Gene Weingarten: Dan is faster than either Molly or me.


Fairfax, Va.: I also have a thing about mirrors in the dark but the weirdest might be my inability to flush the toilet when I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I can't and won't do it. Ever. I wait until the morning when I am getting up. It's gross I know. Thank God my old roommates and current husband put up with it so well.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.....


Soc, KS: What about trousers v. tuschie?

Gene Weingarten: Trousers, funny. Tushie is a little too self-consciously funny. Trousers is funnier because it is a pompous word. A fine men's store won't sell you pants. They sell trousers.


Bowie, Md.: Are underpants funnier than pants; or are they between pants and keister?



The Vice-President's Residence:
Dick Cheney is not Montgomery Burns. He's Old Man Potter.

Gene Weingarten: I disagree. He has Montgomery Burns's sour, scheming look. You can SEE his steeple his fingers and cackle to himself.

Okay, guys. I am out of here. Thanks for the fun. Be back next week, same time.


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