Owe, That's a Riot!: Gene Weingarten and Eric Shansby Try to Cheer Up Government Workers

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, August 16, 2009

Memo to: Dept. of the Treasury, Bureau of the Public Debt

From: Gene Weingarten (humorist) and Eric Shansby (cartoonist)

Re: Contractor Solicitation # RFI-BPD-09-0028.

We were intrigued by this job posting, which seeks a humorist and a cartoonist to cheer up your employees with a funny presentation about the need for humor in the workplace. Alas, you withdrew the posting roughly 12 minutes after the media got wind of it. They laughed at you. A waste of taxpayer money, they implied. Nonsense. We think it was a swell idea, particularly after doing a little research on how your employees spend their workdays: Basically, they maintain a penny-by-penny accounting of exactly how inescapably deep in hock the United States is, and to whom it owes money, including -- this is true -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Latvia.

Your employees don't need mockery. They need help. You can have the following presentation for free.


Gene: As I look out today on all your pinched, joyless faces, faces that have been stupefied by years of bean counting, bleached into the lifeless pallor of Dickensian clerks, benumbed by numbers, a roomful of sedentary, sun-deprived, exercise-ignorant, over-upholstered, juiceless, empty-eyed dullards, I find myself unable to entertain myself even through the standard speaker's device of imagining all of you in your underwear. You are giant blobs of tofu.

Howdy. It's a pleasure to be here!

We begin today with a basic dilemma: The required purpose of this lecture is to teach you how to be funny, and to do this through humor. But, paradoxically, humor seems to be the language you don't understand. Do you see the irony in this? Ironically, you don't! You're not even cracking a smile. Fortunately, your bosses have suggested a perfect medium to reach you, one that has historically been accessible even to those whose senses of humor range from the nonexistent to the infantile. Cartoons! Eric?

Eric: (cartoon #1)

Gene (pauses for laughter to subside): To bone up for this presentation, I spent some time on your Web site, which includes a page that keeps updating the size of the public debt, precise to the penny. It is currently at $11,605,521,079,842.13. Moreover, you can also search for the exact national debt from any other day in the last 15 years. This versatile tool allowed me to determine that the public debt was $8,877,766,570,437.56 on the day my dog was born. With something this entertaining, who needs Minesweeper? Downtime at your office must be a hoot.

You are not laughing.

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