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Chatological Humor (Updated 12.17.04)

Meet Molly

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 14, 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)

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.

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: Sunday's column about ethics tests in the workplace got some mail from people who went through similar experiences. My favorite was from Suzannah Smith Miles of Gettysburg, Pa. Suzannah recounted her own experience with workplace ethics: Once, when her employer ran out of copy paper, she kindly brought in a stash from home to tide them over until new paper could be procured. That day, she printed out something personal on her own paper. When her pinheaded boss saw what she was doing -- apparently not knowing that it was her own paper -- he chewed her out in front of her coworkers, without her being able to get a word in edgewise, and FIRED her, on the spot. Suzannah points out that this moment would have been delicious simply on its own terms, but an additional fact made it completely heavenly: She had just given notice to her boss's boss, meaning her bosses' apoplectic fit now qualified her for unemployment insurance.

It is disclosed here, with hangdoggy shame, that this correspondent recently was scooped on his own beat -- and not only that, but by a good friend. I refer to an article by Tom Scocca, the media critic of The New York Observer.

Off the Record. (It's the second item in the column.) Tom directed my attention to it last week -- a little too gleefully, if you ask me -- but I graciously assured him that I was not upset, inasmuch as he is such a worthy competitor despite habitually sleeping with his sources.

Speaking of comics, check out this Web site, called to my attention by the great Richard Thompson: Skeletal Systems.

Okay, lessee. I received an e-mail chiding me for a line in a cover story I wrote about non-voters. I quoted a non-voter saying that, in hunting mushrooms, there is a rule of thumb that it is safe to eat those that are covered with insects. Well according to Laszlo Pentek -- an actuary who belongs to the regional mycological association - this is terrible advice, but only in the sense that it could kill people. Bugs will eat some poisonous 'shrooms. So I decided to correct this error by attending a meeting of the mycological association, which I figured would be a real hoot, filled with eccentric people and hilarious happenings, and mention my error as part of the resulting column. So I attended the meeting. It was populated entirely by nice individuals who find mushrooms fascinating, if you see what I mean. Therefore, I have decided to correct my error here. Don't assume a mushroom is safe just because it is buggy, okay? Don't die. Thank you!

My daughter -- who lives in Denver -- came home for the holidays on Sunday. It was to be a big surprise to my wife. Molly and I had communicated itineraries in secret messages and stuff, and I sneaked off to pick her up at the airport. When we got back, alas, my wife was out shopping. It had been eight months since Mol had been in the house. Within seconds of arriving, she noticed that 1. the front doorknob had been replaced by an identical, but newer, doorknob. 2. An antique advertisement in the bathroom had been changed by the addition of a calendar; the calendar was the size of a matchbook. And: A cabinet had been pulled one inch away from the wall.

I marveled at this, because, frankly, I am not exactly the most observant person in the world. I would not notice if a cabinet had been pulled one YARD away from the wall, unless it had also been, like, painted orange or set on fire. I found myself wondering where my daughter got that detective skill.

Then my wife got home. Molly stayed in a back room, to surprise her. My wife came, walked toward the rear of the house carrying packages, looked down for a second, didn't break stride, and said, "Those are Molly's sneakers. Molly is here."

This is a long intro. It's gonna get longer. We're going to set a washingtonpost.com intro-length record, right here before your eyes. I am sitting in my basement office, at one computer, and Molly is sitting a few feet away, at another. If you have any questions for her, she'll be happy to take them. Mol is 23, recently graduated from UPenn, recently returned from Ghana where she worked in a sickle cell clinic, is now working at a vet clinic, and is applying to veterinary schools. Any subject is okay except those concerning her "availability." She is unavailable. At least while her father is this proximate.

I want to direct your attention to one of the most amazing quotes in Washington Post history. It came midway through a good sports story on a woman married to two Heisman trophy winners. Search for the paragraph that begins "It gives you immortality," Davis says.

And lastly -- here is breaking dotcom news -- Chatwoman is no longer satisfied that this chat gets forty gazillion hits every Tuesday, from places as far away as Kuala Lumpur, and people ranging from chickenhawks on Bourbon Street to Dick Cheney, who writes in often under entertaining pseudonyms. Liz wants MORE eyeballs ALL WEEK. And so I am going to be updating the archived version of the chat with a couple new questions and answers every day. They'll be at the bottom of the chat. And yes, you can send in queries all week.

This week's poll explores, as always, important issues of humor. As always, I will explain the correct answers midway through the chat.

This was a terrible week for comics until today. This often happens on Tuesdays, for some reason. The CPOW is today's... RED AND ROVER!

Runners-up are today's Piranha Club, and today's Get Fuzzy.

Okay, let's go.


washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: Life at the Post-Tattler, (Post Magazine, Dec. 12)

Vote in today's poll!


Phob, IA: Almost every woman I know is afraid of spiders. These are women who would fight like tigers if their children were in danger. But the sight of a tiny arachnid brings out a cry for help that would put Lois Lane to shame.

So what phobia do most men share, even football players and Soldier-of-Fortune types? Speaking as a man, I believe it's poop. My wife and her friends commisserate over their men's prodigious use of toilet paper. But it's really noticeable when a man becomes a father and has to deal with the dreaded menace of the poopy diaper. For the first year after my oldest was born, I would change a poopy diaper and run to the sink at top speed. Then I would scrub my hands as if I had just dipped them in sulfuric acid.

Gene Weingarten: It will not surprise you to know that I am not disturbed by poop. That is not to say that poop is not disturbing, but it is my Medium. I bet Marie Curie was not disturbed by radium, either.

In my experience, men are mostly afraid of emotionally needy women. I am. When women cry in my presence I get VERY upset, and uncharacteristically helpless.

Molly Weingarten: I must say that, as a woman, I find you to be a weenie. I work at a vet's office and I practically bathe in poop everyday. Get over it.

Now, maggots and pus-filled anal glands, I must admit, are kinda gross.


Fairfax, Va.: Got this email today. Is it true? Has there been some massive cover-up all this time?

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December. Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring. Therefore, according to EVERY historical rendition depicting Santa's reindeer, EVERY single one of them, from Rudolph to Blitzen, had to be a girl.

Gene Weingarten: RUDOLPH WAS A GIRL?


Washington, D.C.: Looks like you were wrong about the Ukranian guy... that's the last time I take medical advice from Dr. Weingarten.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, yes. I meant to mention this in the intro. Last week I stated with some certitude that he would be diagnosed with carcinoid syndrome, and that I usually dismiss all wacko conspiracy theories.

I, um, also, think there was nothing on Bush's back, during that debate.


Ellicott City, Md.: How should one look on trial for the murder of your wife? I can not imagine how one should look other than not laughing and joking the whole time.

Gene Weingarten: One should look aggrieved. And bereft.

The only thing remotely funny about this whole affair is that Peterson was a fertilizer salesman.

Gene Weingarten: But that was not a joke.


Norfolk, Va.: Gene - This may not be your area, technically, but what the hey? Saw "Ocean's Twelve" over the weekend and it s--ks, big time. Not funny by the longest of long shots. But seemingly everybody leaving the theater, and even several of my friends (who are pretty sharp, by and large), went on and on about how funny it was. So, can people be duped into thinking something is funny, via some kind of Hollywood Jedi mind trick, that wouldn't be funny if it happened in real life? Or are there that many people with a really lame sense of humor? Thanks.

Gene Weingarten: I know a lot of people, including experts, who thought "A Fish Called Wanda" was brilliant. Also, "There's Something About Mary." Fortunately, as the supreme arbiter of humor, I can assure you they both were disappointing.

Molly Weingarten: Can you tell my dad has a bit of an ego? While parallel parking the other day he actually said, "You know, you are in the presence of a genius?"


Anonymous: Is it just me, or is the guy inn Monday's Six Chix definitely looking up that girls skirt?

washingtonpost.com: And he's Amish!

Gene Weingarten: Wow.


Fairfax Hospital, Burn Unit: If you were a REAL man you'd get rid of that straight razor and shave the way I do -- with some isopropanol and a match.

Gene Weingarten: Oh yeah? Have you ever tried #4 steel wool, wussbag?


Washington, D.C.: Do you like doing this chat? Are the other Post writers jealous that you have a chat?

Gene Weingarten: Initially, Liz and her predecessor, Lisa, had to sort of beg me to do it. It started off every two weeks. After about a half year, I had to beg them to make it weekly.

Yeah, I like it. I like it for the obvious, ingratiating, but true answer. It lets me talk to you guys. I am basically shy; I don't like public appearances. This is the next-best thing. Or maybe better.

Also, I am not really quick and spontaneous, like Dave Barry. My brain has a seven-second synaptic delay. This chat format is ideally suited to that sort of dysfunction.


Wheaton, Md.: How much should Pastis be fined for today's "why did the chicken cross the road" strip?

washingtonpost.com: Pearls Before Swine, (Dec. 14)

Gene Weingarten: No, I thought this was pretty good.


Abirdintheha, ND: An ornithological aptonym submitted by an early bird.

Regarding the removal of a red-tailed-hawk nest and its metal-spiked supports from a New York City Fifth Avenue apartment building:

"John Flicker, president of the National Audubon Society, said the conservationist group would meet with the building's management on Monday to ask the metal spikes be returned."

(For the ornithologically challenged, a flicker is a kind of woodpecker.)

Gene Weingarten: To quote Chatwoman, whatever, nerdo.


Michael Paulus' website: Am I the only one who thinks that this is... cool? Perhaps this guy has too much time on his hands, but it's neat to look at, isn't it?

washingtonpost.com: I think they're great. I'd like one for Christmas. Ahem.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, it's fabulous. And forget it, Liz. I've already bought you a girl scout uniform.


Flushing Meadows: A urinal-related query for you and the wider world of Your Followers:

Why don't men flush the urinals? I work in a nice office with lots of guys in suits and spiffy shoes, and yet, the bathrooms stink like a biker bar.

I've always been baffled by this -- I've seen it in lots of places.

Does the fact that it bothers me make me less of a man, or less of a guy?

Gene Weingarten: My son is also here. He says "You don't flush a urinal until the next drop will cause overflowing."

Most men have no sense of smell.


Rockville, Md.: My 15-year-old daughter is interested in becoming a vet because she loves animals. What do you recommend she do in order to find out if this is really what she wants? What are good vet schools?

Molly Weingarten: work with animals. this is also REQUIRED for vet school. one great place that i worked at was called Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary in poolesville. also, ask vets if they'll let her shadow for a day. vet schools--well, there aren't that many, so they are all pretty good. i've applied to penn, tufts, cornell, and colorado state. good luck to your daughter.


Alexandria, Va.: Yo Gene!
As a Christmas convert with some ability to be impartial, you are the perfect judge of what is the most ridiculous "time-honored holiday tradition" that, in reality, probably dates from the early 1980's and is just a product of shameless marketing.

My nominee:
Clementines. These are the lamest excuse for citrus I've ever seen. Sure, the first couple may taste OK but by the time you get to the bottom of the box there is nothing but pulpy deformed spheres full of seeds. About the only redeeming feature is that they peel easily. I've read that they've artificially altered the growing season in Spain so they can ship these babies off to the suckers in the U.S. Give me Mandarin oranges any day, a time honored tradition in Western states since at least the mid-70's.

Gene Weingarten: Man, I disagree with this. I love Clems.


Idonwannasay, Kenya: I committed a social faux pas this past weekend. Should I:
(a) Laugh it off;
(b) Get depressed and stay depressed; or
(c) Shift the blame to the offended party?

Gene Weingarten: We need more information. Along with your name and address. Out here, in the chat.


New York, N.Y.: Hi Molly, nice to meet you.

My wife and I are both Penn grads. Is it wrong to throw toast at random people on the street on Saturday afternoons because we miss football games so much?

Molly Weingarten: my dad and brother are so utterly confused by this question. no one in the known universe besides penn grads will understand this esoteric question. muhahaha.


Re: Veterinary school: Mol, are you inclined toward working on cute l'il puppies and kittens, or will you work on the sort of large livestock where you occasionally have to reach inside to correct an intestinal disorder? Your father will benefit professionally from the latter, of course.

Molly Weingarten: do you realize that in order to actually get inside a cow's butt you have to methodically pull out the poop, clump by clump? and then you start to lose feeling in the arm as the sphincter closes around, tighter and tighter?


Eye for detail: My mom has the ability to see smudge of dirt a mile away, to know if anything has been moved/replaced in her entire house and can spot one of her children in a crowd of 20,000 people. However, my dad never had any difficulty in bringing a gift for her into the house. He would just walk in the door carrying whatever, and calmly walk to the closet, hang his coat, and proceed about his business. It did not matter if my mom was in the same room or a different part of the house, she never paid any attention to what he was doing.

Is there an invisibility cloak that comes with marriage?

Gene Weingarten: If there is, my wife has x-ray specs that penetrate it.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: Glad to hear that you are at home, Molly. I'm sure your parents have missed you terribly.

About the men and poop thing. My husband doesn't have a problem with changing our daughter's poopy diapers, or dealing with her drooling or throwing up, but he WILL NOT give her medicines of any kind. If she has to go to the doctor (even for a routine check up) or she has to take any type of medicine, I have to do it. And forget about having to take her temp with a rectal thermometer -- he'd rather have his legs waxed. What's up with that?

Gene Weingarten: When Molly was an infant, she had, er, diarrhea, and some quack allergist diagnosed her with multiple allergies. I had to give her an INJECTION in the butt every two days. After a while, she would cry when she saw me coming. So I just stopped doing it, and the runs cleared up. Isn't chatting fun, Mol?

Molly Weingarten: my dad also published a picture of me with a vagina-shaped head, straight from the birth canal. family means nothing to him.


Unemployment Compensation Bureau, Harrisburg, Pa.: Shhh. don't tell anyone, and, if memory serves me correctly, you did not name this individual Suzannah somethng or other from Gettysburg (case number AX216), but she can only qualify for unemployment compensation in Pennsylvania is she loses employment through no fault of her own. If she was fired with cause, she can not collect. You may wish to tell her this in case the Unemployment Compensation office gets to her case, which, fortunately, we won't for at least several months and by then I am certain we won't remember Ms. Miles's name.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, two people have pointed this out. She did not actually EXERCISE this right, but I assure you, had she done so, she woulda won. I mean, she committed no offense.


Maryland: The quote:

So that lady wants to "live in infamy" like the Japanese at Pearl Harbor?!!

Gene Weingarten: Amazing, no?


Alexandria, Va.: Molly--I am so glad you brought up anal glands! Our youngest cat gets clogged ones regularly and we take him to the vet to "express" them (makes me enjoy my espresso less on those days!). Is there a way we can learn to do this at home so that I don't have to pay the vet $20 every time?

Molly Weingarten: ok, this is not funny, but i'll answer it anyway. yes, just ask the vet to show you how. it takes awhile to get, but it is not really hard. but make sure you have a strong person holding your cat or you might get scratched.


Bush's back: Of course he had something on his back during the debate -- it was the combined intellectual power of all of you left-wing elitists who have been riding him for five years. Of course, he had to use bubble wrap to fill out the package (not like his, um, flight suit package).

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Silver Spring, Md.: What thought have you given to the fact that your column in The Washington Post Magazine is toward the front and Dave Barry's is on the back page? Quality, perhaps?

Gene Weingarten: Indeed.

On January 16, I leap to the back and Joel Achenbach takes my place in the front. Clearly, a quality decision.


Vet question: My little brother adores animal and wants to be a vet, but organic chemistry is making his life miserable. Is that class really necessary, or could he drop it and take East Asian History instead?

Molly Weingarten: in my personal opinion organic chemistry and green peppers are the spawn of satan.


Springfield, Va.: "Molly Weingarten: do you realize that in order to actually get inside a cow's butt you have to methodically pull out the poop, clump by clump? and then you start to lose feeling in the arm as the sphincter closes around, tighter and tighter?"

She is definately your daughter.....

Gene Weingarten: Oh, yeah, baby. My work on Earth is done.


Grossed out: This chat is getting really gross.

Gene Weingarten: What did you expect? You have TWO Weingartens, with a third sitting here, kibitzing.


Spockville, Pa.: Molly, what tortures... I mean parental measures, did your father use in guiding you into the fine woman you are today?

Molly Weingarten: My father once chased me around the house with a hammer.


Gene Weingarten: I did not!


Molly Weingarten: Yes you did!


Gene Weingarten: Once, when Mol was about 12, she walked into a room when I was using a hammer to crack lobster. I turned around, holding the hammer. This startled her, and she wheeled around and ran away, running headlong into a wall. After we all stopped laughing about 15 minutes later, this morphed into a standing story that I had chased her around the house with a hammer. It still lives.


Aquavel, Va.: So what would you say is the funniest Christmas song? I've always liked "The 12 Things at Christmas That are Such a Pain to Me" (or something like that), and Weird Al's "Christmas at Ground Zero" is a classic, too.

Molly Weingarten: ya ever heard that CD of power tools doing christmas songs? or the dog/cat one? my brother had the dog/cat one as his alarm clock because that was one CD he could NOT sleep through


Alexandria, Va.: Well, I think Molly has probably just finished off Liz by using the words "sphincter," "vagina," and "anal glands" just in the last five minutes. Looks like Liz might be needing that information on unemployment insurance sooner rather than later.

washingtonpost.com: Well, at least I'll have a Girl Scout uniform.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Laurel, Md.: So if Beth Chang doesn't get a raise this year, is she going to sue you?

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: Life at the Post-Tattler, (Post Magazine, Dec. 12)

Gene Weingarten: Actually, this raises an important issue. The magazine has three excellent copyeditors, and only two of them have nicknames. Michelle Gaps is "Spike," and Bill O'Brian is "Officer Obie." Beth needs a nickname. I would tell you all about her, but a good nickname should transcend facts. I'm taking nominations.


Annandale, Va.: On a different topic, when did comedy become a "zero tolerance" profession?

Edmund Kean said, "dying is easy. Comedy is hard." It IS, so why are practitioners careers in ruins for doing a poor job on something hard, just one time? I'm thinking of:

- The Greaseman who's been trying to recover from a tasteless remark for years now;
- Don Imus was chased from D.C. for his 14th Street bridge joke;
- Bill Maher lost a show for something that was just plain misunderstood;
- Ted Rall -- your comments here a couple of weeks ago got me thinking about this in the first place...

And there are others. I remember a DJ in North Carolina who lost his job over a poor joke, Don & Mike were suspended more than once, etc.

Even the doctor who removes the wrong leg goes on with his career. Darryl Strawberry takes drugs, goes to rehab, goes back to baseball, takes drugs, and on and on.

Why does the jokester not get any slack?

Gene Weingarten: Boy, this is a good question. It's because the best humor is on the edge of propriety, and sometimes you slip. The Greaseman was a genius, but he slipped very badly, and it revealed a pretty evil little center.


Re: availability: I'm assuming that it's OK to ask Gene about Molly's availability, so I have a question.

I notice that you didn't announce that your son was unavailable. In fact, you seemed to be scouting for prospects. So my question is, if a man roots his son on romantically but gets all sexually protective of his daughter, who I'm QUITE sure can look out for herself, does this make his a bad father, or just a sexist pig?

Thank you.

Molly Weingarten: leave me alone, i'm not available! my brother on the other hand...


New York, N.Y.: Why were you using a hammer to crack lobster? Why wasn't your entire family sitting at the dinner table using nutcrackers?

Gene Weingarten: Because we tend to get monster lobsters. 8 pounds. The claws sometimes require a hammer.


New York, N.Y.: How about Beth "The Copy Editor" Chang?

Gene Weingarten: That's funny!


Police Headquarters, Washington, D.C.: Who is the third Weingarten there and can the third Weingarten confirm or deny the hammer incident?

Incidentally, was there threatening with the hammer (a felony) or incidental having a hammer in hand (no crime) or just spanking with the hammer (protected by the Supreme Court as justifiable family punishment)?

Gene Weingarten: There was no hammer activity whatsoever. And Dan confirms the incident as related. Please, no one call Children's Protective Services.


Don't Wake, ME: Gene,
What is the best way to fall asleep at work? I can't put my forehead down on my sleeve, as that leaves sleeve-wrinkle prints embedded in my brow. Putting my head face-down on a notebook seems to leave a red mark on my forehead, too. I'm afraid of getting smooshy-face if I lay my head down on its side. Is there any way to sneak a nap at your desk without leaving a telltale indication of the act? I'm seriously overworked and stressed out, and I could really use a nap.

P.S. I have very fair, white skin. Perhaps darker-complected people do not have this same problem?

Gene Weingarten: The principle here is the same as the principle behind bra selection. You want to hide something. If you are a dark skinned black woman, you want a black bra. If you are a white woman, you want a tan bra. We have already established this, scientifically, in this chat. Okay, so you want to rest your head against stomething close to the color of your skin, with a smooth, undimpled surface. You're welcome.


Frankfurt: This has nothing to do with humor -- I'm asking you this question in your capacities as a native New Yorker and as a pedantic fusspot who likes to weigh in on topics outside your areas of expertise: Why is ketchup verboten on hot dogs?

Gene Weingarten: For the same reason ketchup is verboten on ice cream or steak. Ketchup is an unsubtle taste, and it works best on foods that are mostly texture and need taste, like french fries, or foods with a diffuse, monotonal, strong taste, like burgers, which ketchup enhances without dominating. (Steak is not diffuse or monotonal; it is complex.) Hot dogs are neither: they have texture, but a fairly subtle taste. Ketchup just overwhelms it.


Center of the Universe: Gene, I'm submitting this early because I'm just too important to arrange my schedule around your chat.

Gene Weingarten: I know, Dick. I referred to you in the intro.


Frederick, Md.: I just wanted to thank you so much for writing your columm. I've been meaning to e-mail you that for quite a while but never seemed to get around to it.

I also had a question for you. Suppose democracy got in a fight with a glass of water. Who would win and why?

Gene Weingarten: Democracy wins against anything except "paper."


Greaseman?: Who is the Greaseman, why did he have such an unfortunate name and what wrong did he do?

Gene Weingarten: The Greaseman is a local deejay who said something horrifically racist. He was the best shock jock I ever heard. I loved him. His was sophisticated shock. He was a master. He made Stern and Imus look like babbling idiots. It was right that he got fired for what he said. You can look it up.


Washington, D.C.: True story:

The very last time I babysat (as a teenager) I had the following experience. The four kids I was sitting for were playing in the basement, when all of a sudden "CRASH" the sound of breaking glass gave me heart palpitations. I ran over to see what the little brats had gotten themselves into, and lo and behold they had broken a glass of water. In the grand scheme of things this wasn't a big deal. I ordered them to back away from the accident scene so that I could clean it up without injuring anyone.

Anyway, as my back was turned one of these aspiring homicidal maniacs grabbed a small hatchet from its brackets on the wall (why parents would leave such a thing in reach of children beats the living crap out of me). I was climbing back up the basement stairs, after completing my cleaning job, when I looked up and saw the oldest child (about 10) holding the hatchet and blocking the door at the top of the stairs.

I firmly told him to put the tool down (do not use the word "weapon" when around aspiring homicidal maniacs, it only gives them ideas.) Needless to say, he did not put the hatchet down. Instead he entertained me by chasing after me around the whole house holding this thing. I managed to disarm him without harming him (or him harming me), but I swore that I would never babysit again.

And I didn't.

Gene Weingarten: During one Thanksgiving, we looked up to see that Dan (about 7) had retrieved a pickaxe from the shed and was gleefully pursuing Molly and Rob Barry.


Washington, D.C.: Molly: I wonder if it bothers you that your father has a dedicated online following of young women your age. It would creep me out if it were my Dad (a prospect which is totally laughable).

Molly Weingarten: you simply haven't seen him.


Anonymous: So it's not just me! My husband is convinced that I often try to kill him since he comes up behind me while I chopping vegetables and I turn around with knife in hand. He's been saying this for three years. I'll have to tell him, "At least it's not a hammer!"

Gene Weingarten: Exactly.


Now that you have admitted : to enjoying these chats, I must chime in. I purposely avoid scheduling things for Tuesday afternoons. Somehow reading the archieves is just not as funny as reading this chat live. It is sad, but since the comics are filled with rerun or just not funny strips, this is my weekly infusion of (odd) comedy.

Not to mention bathroom rules.

Gene Weingarten: I like "archieves." This is what Liz is trying to create.


Washington, D.C.: OK, I'm happy about the archived chats. Really, I am. But I already spend two hours a week participating in this chat. It's fun, but now I'll have to resist spending ALL my time reloading the archive page waiting for new questions! So here's my question: Can I please have a note?

washingtonpost.com: Wait -- how are you spending two hours participating in this chat?

Gene Weingarten: Hey, I spend about six hours on it.


Question for Molly: In a chat a while ago, your father ripped into your little brother for staying out all night in Towson. What's the worst thing you've done that would have received a similar keyboard-lashing?

Molly Weingarten: haven't you noticed that i'm the perfect child?


1302 New York Ave.: If your kids are both unavailable, Gene, how about your wife?

Molly Weingarten: you're hitting on my MOTHER ???


Sevilla, Spain: Clementines are wonderful and delicious and cheap (at least in Spain). If you don´t like Clementines, you are welcome to come to Andalucia and pick a bitter orange (destined to become bitter British marmalade) off one of the trees on the street. The faces people make after biting into those oranges are usually pretty funny.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Arlington, Va.: Suppose that Richard Pryor (onstage) or Eddie Murphy (as an SNL character) had made the same joke that got the Greaseman fired. What result? I would think we'd all get a good laugh out of it and go on to the next thing. But the Greaseman can't do such humor because he's white. Is this fair?

Gene Weingarten: 1. Yes, it is fair. And,

2. They would not have made that same joke. No way.


Germantown, Md.: "On January 16, I leap to the back and Joel Achenbach takes my place in the front."

YAY! Joel is back! Did the Style aliens let him go?

Gene Weingarten: They did!


Funniest Christmas Song: Gene--Hands down, it's "Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo" from the South Park Christmas Album.

Gene Weingarten: Agreed.

Molly Weingarten: agreed.


Disgust, IN: Googled Greaseman and the reason he was fired. Jeepers, what a moron.

Gene Weingarten: Precisely. This is not "humor."


See?: Even you have zero tolerance for a fellow jokester. Why can one tasteless joke end a career?

Doug "The Greasman" Tracht is on the air on a few low-power AM stations now, he's done volunteer work translating for the Arlington courts, and he seems like a nice (albeit right wing) guy who told a bad joke to too many people. If he told it at a party he'd still be on top of the radio game today.

Gene Weingarten: I am not saying he should be permanently out of work. I'd like to see him back. In fact, I'd love to see him back. I think he has done his time, and penance.


Ze Hill: Mr. W,
You are much loved and respected as an arbiter of humor. However, as a Man you must have a blind side and flaw that makes you human. "A Fish Called Wanda" is funny -- really really funny. I just can't see why you would not think an animal lover trying to murder an old lady but accidentally killing off several Yorkies would not be funny.

But as I said, that is what makes you human, that and the dark vs. milk thing, you are soooo wrong on that one, but I think it is because you are a sweetie not a savory, yes?

washingtonpost.com: And the ketchup/hot dog thing. He's wrong on that, too.

Gene Weingarten: I am right on both scores. Liz, you consume ketchup with hot dogs?


Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll.

All of those political ones, in my opinion, were intellectual. The first Nonseq was actually quite clever. But they all read tedious and whiny. Whereas Big Nate, without a trace of cleverness or intellectualism, is laugh out loud funny. A sight gag can be terrific. That was the point.


insomn,ia: Weingarten:

You were wrong about bacon, and now you're eating 8 lb lobsters. Anyone with a palate knows that eating any lobster over 2 lbs is essentially the equivalent of chewing on a lightly cooked tire.

Get some taste buds, poopmeister, and stop feeding this stuff to the kids.

Gene Weingarten: You are astoundingly wrong, and anyone who knows anything about lobster will confirm this.

As they will confirm that crisp bacon is nothing more or less than overcooked meat.


Kensington, Md.: Mr. Weingarten (and family), my husband, a Mainer, taught me early on in our courtship that those who know, Mainers, prefer smaller lobster. They are sweeter in taste and more tender. The ideal is 1-1/2 pounds. The monsters taste like lobster jerky. Aren't you also the arbiter of taste? Wouldn't you know this? Oh, and do you eat the green goo?

Gene Weingarten: AGain, wrong. And yes, I love the tomalley.


Dickens: In his lay capacity, he persisted in sitting down in the damp to such an insane extent, that when his coat was taken off to be dried at the kitchen fire, the circumstantial evidence on his trousers would have hanged him if it had been a capital offence.

Gene Weingarten: We are all three of us trying to figure out what the hell you are talking about.


Poll: Wow. I have never been so wrong on the poll. Well, my women are better than men comment wasn't serious (well, it is true, but had nothing to do with the poll).

Gene Weingarten: It's okay. I am a professional.


Laurel, Md.: The Greaseman was fired for going about one inch beyond the line he usually toed between being politically incorrect and appealing to prejudiced attitudes.

And he was funny. Probably the best radio artist since TV began.

Gene Weingarten: I agree. But it was more than an inch.


If you are shy...: Are you just in-person shy? I get telephone shy, but am fine in person. You do so many telephone pranks, I mean you use the telephone journalistically, that you must be comfortable over the phone.

Gene Weingarten: Absolutely. Phone confers invulnerability. Somehow.


Lobsters: Some of the best lobsters I have ever eaten were the ones so big you had to carve the tail like a turkey breast. Freshness matters much more than size, the big ones I have had were out of the ocean that morning.

Gene Weingarten: Right.


Washington, D.C.: It was Howard Stern, not Imus, who was fired for the 14th Street bridge comment. He was on either 101 or 105 in the early 80s.

Gene Weingarten: Right. Before my time. Several people have mentioned this.


I got yer nickname right here: I'd offer "Groucho" but I'm using it.

Gene Weingarten: I like Groucho. I will try it out. It doesn't fit, but that's what I like about it.


Hot dog sta, ND: OK Gene, I agree with you about ketchup and dogs. But I've always thought that dogs were the only excuse for yellow mustard. And yellow mustard is a really unsubtle flavor. So I'm trying to figure this out. Help me here. What do you eat on dogs? Please don't say Grey Poupon.

Gene Weingarten: Sauerkraut and a slight tickling of good mustard. Just a hint.


Re: Dickens: Sorry; I meant that for Jefferson Morley's chat.

Gene Weingarten: Wait... are you kidding?


Illadelph, PA: You never post my witty comments. Should I conclude that I am not funny?

Gene Weingarten: Yes.


Arlington, Va.: Query: when all four Weingartens go out in the family car (presumably Mom's car, and not that junker with last year's pizza on the back seat), is there room for Dad's ego? Or do you have a Suburban?

Molly Weingarten: it wasn't last year's pizza, it was a three-year old dead chicken


Closer than you think: Dear Mr. Weingarten
If anything happens to my mom or me becuz of your tattling I will make you wish you were never borned you poo poo head you!
Your friend Sara
P.S. I mean it.

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: Life At the Post-Tattler, (Post Magazine, Dec. 12)

Gene Weingarten: I know this is from Sara and not her mom because her mom would have written "poo-poo" head. Her mom, Groucho.


New York, N.Y.: What's your nickname, Gene?

Gene Weingarten: In college, it was "Slime."


Harrisburg, Pa.: Ukrainian women are just like American women. I concluded this when I read that Yushchenko's wife told him after he ate the poisoned soup that she could smell the poison. Notice that she waited until after he ate the soup to tell him?

washingtonpost.com: One can only conclude that Ukrainian men must be just like American men.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, this was GREAT.


I asked this before b, UT: Since your children are here, I will ask again: how can you feel so strongly about women keeping their own last names when they marry, but then give both your children your name without a second thought?

Molly Weingarten: weingarten was a cruel trick to play on the children


Silver Spring, Md.: The Washington metropolitan region has an estimated 3.5 million people -- or something like that. So why can't the increasingly-tired Style Invitational stop publishing the same tired names in its contest every week? Please -- we're not sure that The Post realizes that people have generally stopped reading or caring about the Style Invitational because the same, boring, tired, tedious regular people appear week after week after week. Just put a regulation in that limits the amount of time someone can appear as a winner or runner-up, and include some fresh names and entries. You do that -- and people will start reading the feature again. As of right now, people are fed up with the same names appearing week after week.

Gene Weingarten: This really should be addressed to the Empress, but I think I can answer for her. Because the goal of the Style Invitational is to print the funniest entries received. Period. No further argument. It is why the Style Invitational is so great. It is not, never was and never will be, a contest in which Everyone Gets A Chance to Win!!! Unless you are good. Then you get a chance. The reason that other people get in and you do not is that other people are funnier than you are.


Nickname: "Irish"

Gene Weingarten: Also good!


Anonymous: So where do we continue to post questions? Here, or in the next week's chat when the link appears?

washingtonpost.com: I think the best solution would be in next week's queue when the link appears -- and from here on out it will appear by 5 p.m. each Tuesday.

Gene Weingarten: And on that, I depart. And Molly departs. Thank you all -- I think she got as many questions as I.

Molly Weingarten: this was fun. thanks for the great questions. adios


UPDATED 12.15.04

Washington, D.C.: Can humor be found in every situation? I recently found out that while away on a job for seven months my husband cheated on me. One of the first things I did was have a t-shirt made that says, ahem:

"If (husband) and (girlfriend) had been working instead of (sleeping together) John Kerry would have won (state he didn't win)."

Gene Weingarten: Wow. I hope this is real. Where did you wear this t-shirt? How did you first present it? Did you wear it as a nightie, because that would have been terrific, over there on your side of the morgue-slab of a bed?


State College, Pa.: Welcome, Molly! Who's the funniest person in your family?

Molly Weingarten: My brother, Dan. Hands down. He can make me laugh with a single syllable, or just a look, or a noise. My dad has to work harder.


Anonymous: You're out of your league with food because you haven't experimented enough. 1/4 inch (or more) thick sliced bacon, baked in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes is crisp and still squirts fat in your mouth with each bite. It is nirvana

Gene Weingarten: Well, here is one enormous example of the advantages of archive-targeted, delayed-answer, next-day chat technology. I tried this, and achieved more than acceptable results. However -- who defines 3/8-inch slices of pig as "bacon?" What you have proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that baked ham is good.


UPDATED 12.16.04

An Ethically Educated Office: I loved your column Sunday on Ethics courses. I never understood it. If you're an ethical person, you don't need it. If you're an unethical person, it won't help.

Gene Weingarten: I think you are missing the point of these courses. You are not thinking cynically enough. This has nothing, really, to do with educating you. This is all about liability. This is your employer, covering its own behind. If you do something unethical, you can't claim ignorance, and they can fire your scrawny butt, and be less liable for your actions.

Plus, in the case I was writing about, it is mandated by federal law, so of course it is silly.


Wedded Bliss: This isn't necessarily funny, but just plain eerie -- from Sunday's New York Times weddings pages (mandatory reading for all women ages 20-40):

The wedding of Romaine Orthwein and David Gutterman:
...Ms. Orthwein was taken aback, however, when she met Mr. Gutterman's mother. She bore a striking resemblance to her own mother, who had died when Romaine was 9 years old.

"She really did look so much like the photos I had seen of Romaine's mother," Mr. Gutterman said. Then he looked at images of his mother in her 20's. "They wore their hair the same way, and even dressed in similar outfits," he said.

When he pointed this out to his own mother, it triggered a memory that led her to dig through some old letters. Among them was a newspaper clipping that an old friend had sent to her in 1954.

"She called me and told me that she had found the clipping," Mr. Gutterman recalled. "It was about a woman that neither she nor her friend knew. The friend sent it because she thought that the photo looked so much like her.

"Then she said to me: `I can't believe it. I have goose bumps. The woman in the newspaper article is Romaine's mother.' "

Mr. Gutterman continued: "I was speechless. Mind you this was more than 10 years before either Romaine or I was born. We all thought it was really strange."

He added, "I took it to be further proof that we were meant to be together."

Gene Weingarten: I missed this. The story should have been on page one of the Times, and the fact that it wasn't is an indictment of Times's fuddy priorities. I think The Post would have found a way to run this outside.


Humor Question: Gene, Can you have a good sense of humor while having a complete inability to tell a joke? What about being funny? Someone at work asserted that in order to be considered funny, you have to be able to tell jokes. And then he said that you probably don't have a good sense of humor if you're not funny. Now, my first response was yeah, well, you look funny. But now I'm worried.

Gene Weingarten: I used to agree with your coworker's assessment, but have changed my thinking about it over the years. The ability to tell a joke does indicate a good sense of humor, I think: It reflects an intuitive understanding of the structure of humor -- what facts must be told, and in what order, to best set up the punchline, etc. It also illustrates a basic skill at narration, which is essential to a lot of humor. (Women in general tell jokes less well than men. Even Gina agrees with this. However I have found that women WRITERS tell jokes just as well. They have narrative skills.)

So, for years, this was my thinking about joketelling. And I guess that meant that I felt that women, generally, had inferior senses of humor. I've rethought this over time: there is yet another factor in being funny, and it is important -- an appreciation of, and understanding of, irony. Many people who are inept at joketelling have highly refined, intuitive, and even ingenious understandings of irony (my wife, for example), and perfectly excellent senses of humor.

After your coworker's long, pretentious, obnoxious monograph on humor -- your response was quite good. For example.


UPDATED 12.17.04

Blacksburg, Va.: Gene, how do you feel about Molly's lack of capitalization in her answers?

Gene Weingarten: mol gets no demerits. i myself type like this in all my emails, except, like, job applications and condolence letters, and the chats -- where it is a real strain for me to remember to capitalize.

i adhere to normal punctuation in the chats because i see it as an extension of the newspaper, and because some people have told me they find lowercase communication offputting, as though the writer doesn't care enough to punctuate correctly. also, some people GET ALL UPSET AT THE USE OF CAPITALS BECAUSE THEY THINK YOU ARE YELLING AT THEM.

I think, given my druthers, I'd do away with capitals altogether in all communication. They're almost never necessary, for clarity. In German, all Nouns are capitalized, and it looks ridiculous, and pompous.


Washington, D.C.: Gene,

A co-worker with whom I unfortunately exchange many, many e-mails has set up her system to automatically add, to every message:

FistName LastName

So EVERY SINGLE E-MAIL, no matter how trivial, arrives with this full signature.

For example:

I'm off to grab a sandwich.
Jane Smith

The printer needs more toner.
Jane Smith

Is anyone else cold?
Jane Smith

It's driving me insane. Can you help?

Gene Weingarten: Actually, this does not beat the moronic "DO YOU YAHOO?" that seems to be appended to the e-mails of all Yahoo clients. I have received sad emails from, like, people writing in grief about the death of a loved one, ending with "DO YOU YAHOO?"

washingtonpost.com: Oh, get over it. These things can be tuned out, much like the perennially inane "How are you?"/"I am fine" exchange.

Liz Kelly

Do you Live Online?


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: The GREASEMAN? Funny? I must have missed something. As I recall, he was notable mainly for inaugurating the moronic frat-boy idea that pronouncing "s" as "sh" makes you funny.

Gene Weingarten: You seem to be confusing Greaseman with the egregious "Mutts."

Yeah, actually Greaseman uses a "sh" conceit. He also is a gifted mimic, and a master at creating a theater of the mind. Sitting alone at a mike, he creates a believable universe of madcap activity He understands people; I remember once a woman called in, complaining about his gratuitous use of profane sounds and thinly veiled sexual innuendo. He instantly realized this was not a stupid woman, that she was just an aggrieved mom, and he engaged her. Innocently, he asked her what, precisely, she objected to, recreating these sounds and innuendos and asking, for each, whether this was the thing that offended her. Within a minute or two she was laughing uproariously. This was Lenny Bruce-like. A brilliant defusing.

You're just wrong.


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