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Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten
(Illustration by Richard Thompson)
Below the Beltway Archive
Funny? You Should Ask Discussion Archive
The Style Invitational
Post Magazine
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Funny? You Should Ask
Hosted by Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, April 15, 2003; Noon ET

Gene Weingarten's controversial humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in the Washington Post Magazine, generating more mail than Santa gets at Christmas. Not all of it is wildly condemnatory. Some of it is only mildly annoyed. Weingarten came to the Post in 1990 after being chased out of Miami at midnight by farmers with pitchforks and burning torches. He is also reputed to be close to persons thought to be familiar with individuals claiming to be authoritative spokesmen for the mysterious and reclusive Czar of The Style Invitational.

He is online, at any rate, each Tuesday, to take your questions, and abuse.

He'll chat about anything. See for yourself. The transcript follows.

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: Declaring victory in Iraq, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is now saying that we have intelligence that Syria has obtained weapons of mass destruction!

Anyone feeling a little nervous about this?

WASHINGTON - Reuters, May 26 -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today that the United States has learned that Iran, the Sudan, and The American Civil
Liberties Union have obtained ...

On the cartoon front, we were delighted to see that Aaron McGruder (Boondocks) seems to be listening to this chat. Last week we applauded his intelligence but booed his lassitude, encouraging him to experiment with his art. Sure enough, in yesterday's cartoon, he did! Unfortunately, here is how he did it. Anyone see this bizarre thing? Is it a thumb of the nose at us? Or is it the comical ultimate in lassitudinosity? More on this important story as it develops.

This week's comic pick is today's Out of the Gene Pool, which wins for its spectacular mean-spiritedness.

Questions? Comments?

washingtonpost.com: Out of the Gene Pool," (April 15)

The Boondocks, (April 14)

Washington, D.C.: Good morning. You get any taste complaints about that winning entry on Sunday in the Style Invitational?

washingtonpost.com: Style Invitational, (April 13)

Gene Weingarten: Yes. I received one email yesterday from someone who politely and articulately informed me, basically, that everyone associated with the publication of that entry
should have their stomachs roasted in hell. We had a spirited exchange of letters in which we agreed on many things, but not on the key issue.

The entry, in the Czar's view, was definitely edgy -- mostly because it was finding humor in a very, very serious realm. But I think the Czar felt this was justifiable, on
several grounds:

1. It was very funny. This is a vitally important element; absent this element, all debate ends and the entry is not printed.

2. It was evenhanded in its lampooning, flogging two unfair stereotypes simultaneously: young Arab men as potential suicide bombers, and young Jewish men as
mama's boys.

3. It was a reasonable reaction to news. Palestinians blowing themselves up, then being robustly celebrated as heroes, even by their own families. There IS a different
view of suicide on the two sides.

4. It took no political stance on the issue.

5. It was very funny. (This bears repeating.

The main area where the letter writer and I disagreed? I said this entry made the case that suicide bombers are Arabs, but not that Arabs are suicide bombers. The
letter writer said it said both of those things. We disagreed.

Dumfries, Va.: Gene,
My computer refuses to load your picture. Is it a cyber-conspiracy or is the picture that unflattering?

Gene Weingarten: The picture is not "unflattering." It is also ugly.

C: Gene! Help, please. I am a woman who's recently lost a few pounds and really toned up. There's this pinhead at work who is always sneering at me that I "need a sandwich." I think I look great! But he says this to me two, three times a day, and NOT in a complimentary way. Got a good retort?

Gene Weingarten: Whew. This is almost too easy. I would say "Thank you. I will take that as a compliment. But since YOU are obviously entirely out of the question, you will have to
find two other more appealing guys.'

Sorry, you asked.

Sorry you asked?

Apto, NM: Motored up to Lancaster, Pa., Saturday morning to sample the goodies on Central Market. Heading into the center of the city, along Columbia Avenue, spotted a chiropractor's shingle that read, "Dr. Sickman." Immediately thought of you... please leave my Saturday's alone. Isn't it enough that you overshadow my Sunday's in your role as the Czar?

Gene Weingarten: "Sundays,' not Sunday's. And "your role as the Czar's confidant,' not "your role as the Czar.'

New York, N.Y.: Was the person offended by the winning entry polite?

Gene Weingarten: Yes. But extremely angry.

Keeping the Style Invitational Deck: Despite his aged status, the Czar does an admirable job of keeping the contest's humor accessible to the "young people." This common touch must be attributed, in part, to the influence of the Czar's offspring. What role, if any, do the Czar's Czarevich and Grand Duchess play in keeping their dad current on the latest trends?

Gene Weingarten: They each have assigned roles. The Czarevich makes certain that the Czar remains current on pop music, standup comedy, mainstream and underground comics, and poo. The
Grand Duchess, being more mature by virtue of her age and gender, is a valued adviser on matters of contemporary world religions, nutrition, feminist theory, and poo. (She is pre-med.) The poo front is solid, as it were.

C: That's so f---in great, Gene. I'm going to find the pinhead right now. I'll bet he says it, and I'll let you know if you want. Thanks! LOL

Gene Weingarten: It's definitely a worthy experiment. He will be speechless, no question.

Los Angeles, Calif.: We don't know if Saddam Hussein is dead or alive. But now that we have his DNA, what if we cloned him and then killed him?

Gene Weingarten: This would definitely be a solution. Thanks.

Outbid every Monday, Md.: When is the last time you tried to buy a house in the D.C. area? Do you know how crazy it is out there? Houses go on the market on Friday; there's an open house on Sunday; and the place is sold on Monday. It's unreal. We've put together good contracts with solid financing and escalating clauses, and we've lost five times.

Is there anything funny about trying to buy a house? Other than that we're trying to buy one at Ground Zero of the next global war?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, we bought a house seven blocks from the capital, after losing out on two other offers the way you did. This isn't a particularly funny response, but when you find the house you want, you have to figure out how much you can spend, add $50,000, and make that the cap on your escalator clause. Then pray.

When we bought, we had already sold our previous house, and had only weeks to move. We were highly motivated.

New York, N.Y.: Was copyright law changed to protect Micky Mouse?

Gene Weingarten: I don't think so. But the Cell-o-phane company lost the giant trademark suit that permits a trademark to lapse after 30 years or so. I know that.

X Ray, VI: Have you gotten your "X Ray Specs" yet? Do they do anything?

Gene Weingarten: I have not received them yet, but I can assure you they definitely "do" something. They separate you from about five bucks.

The woman at Betty's Attic actually told me what they "do." They LOOK like X-Ray specs, and SAY X-ray specs. so they basically exist so you can leer at women and make them feel uncomfortable. Or men, I guess.

Many years ago, for my book, I actually consulted an expert in phototechnology to find out if it would be possible to make real x-ray specs, whatever the cost. He said yes, for about $2,500, you could implant a computer in a pair of eyeglasses that would do the trick. EXCEPT -- it could not see pubic hair. Pubic hair would look like clothes. This, we agreed -- not the price -- would make them a commercial failure.

Sofa King, Wash.: Gene, I'm wondering. I've been told by many people that I'm a funny person, but I noticed that I'd never be able to enter the Invitational. I'm sort of talking humor person. Like some comics that aren't funny in print, but in person they're great. Is print humor born in you, or can you learn to do it?

Gene Weingarten: I think you can learn written humor but not spontaneous in-person humor. I envy that. I don't have it.

Gina has it.

Your Charlottesville Correspondent: Yes, indeed, the copyright law was changed with heavy lobbying by Disney, which was about to lose exclusive rights to Mickey. To add insult to injury, the act was termed, "The Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act."

Gene Weingarten: Okay. We'll accept this as fact unless otherwise challenged. I do recall that many years ago when I was the editor of The Miami Herald's Sunday magazine, we did a parody of Mickey on the cover. Our lawyers told us we had to give him teeth!

This was because Disney people were very, very unfunny about suing. They do it.

Acey, DC: Any breaking news on the Boondocks story? CNN doesn't seem to have picked it up yet.

Gene Weingarten: I will keep you informed.

Washington, D.C.: Out of curiosity, what do you think of the "Red and Rover" comic of a week ago today? It seems to fit the meta-toon prescription I see here occasionally, (kinda) funny in ways that have to do with playing with the medium. Or am I wrong?


Gene Weingarten: Pretty interesting. But I find it equally existential that they have the dog thinking his responses, and Red understanding him. This has become a staple, and no one ever says, "Huh?"


By the way, today's "Zits" is also nicely existential. Liz, can you link to it?

New York, N.Y.: Chocolate or Rocky Road?

Gene Weingarten: Neither. Haagen-Dazs has just come out with a Bananas Foster that is really, really dangerous. We are banning it from our house.

Please forget that you heard this.

washingtonpost.com: Zits, (April 15)

Germantown, Md.: What kind of person has time and energy to [female dog] about a humor contest entry?!

Gene Weingarten: An Arab person who really, really took offense. I don't think this person was a jerk. It's why I spent a lot of time discussing it.

Bowie, Md.: I suppose mid-April is longer than most people go without breaking New Year's resolutions.

From the January 5, 2003 Below the Beltway:

"No longer will I give in to immature impulses, such as when I telephone the 800 numbers printed on the packages of commercial products and ask stupid questions of earnest customer service reps."

Gene Weingarten: Coming soon to a page near you.

Cubeville: How do you help a child with NO sense of humor? My niece is eight and just doesn't understand the concept of a joke. Her brother, six, is hilarious, so I don't think it is genetic. Brother's idea of a joke -- What do you call a brown sheep? A Hershey baa. Niece's idea of a joke -- What did one car say to the other? beep, beep

Gene Weingarten: The sister's joke is funnier. Sorry. This is quite obvious. Look within yourself.

Boondocks: I'm afraid that I'm missing the bizarreness of it. Is it that two characters that have been missing for awhile make an appearance but in the most boring fashion?

Gene Weingarten: I am referring to the inexplicable squiggle on the right.

My Wretched Office, USA: Gene,

Why do otherwise nice and intelligent people pile on enough cologne or aftershave to knock a buzzard off a manure wagon?

There's a special place in hell for Elizabeth Taylor who will have to spend eternity inhaling nothing but the noxious fumes of White Diamonds.

Thanks for letting me vent - now if only this office had a vent...

Gene Weingarten: Terrible and inexcusable and true stereotype: When I was in Miami, a writer for the Herald got in some trouble for accurately describing a scene at a Cuban-American fundraising affair where he nearly passed out from per-fumes. Cuban-American women, when in party attire, use more scent than Anglos are used to. It's simply cultural. Your coworker probably thinks you smell bad.

Squiggle me this: The black squiggle uses more ink, which costs The Man more money.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

Meta what?: Please define meta-toon

Gene Weingarten: A meta-toon is a cartoon that is about cartooning.

C: It was even BETTER than I thought! This time, he OFFERED me a sandwich! And he definitely was speechless, and everyone around us laughed! Mwahahahahaha! Thanks Gene, I knew you could help.

Gene Weingarten: I don't know if this is for real, but I hope it is.

New York, N.Y.: What's funnier about customer service reps: the fact that they're so earnest, or the fact that they're not allowed to hang up?

Gene Weingarten: The fact that they HAVE to be nice. It is so unfair, those calls I make. I WAS once hung up on. It was when I called the makers of Dental Floss, and asked if it was okay to use the product to strangle people. She just hung up. So then I immediately called back and got another rep, who didn't.

It's really, really mean. I'll keep doing it every few months.

Anchorage, Alaska: Mr. Gene, have you ever done, or thought about doing, standup comedy?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I once tried, for two minutes. I wrote about it. It was grueling and humiliating, and I was no good. I really admire good comics.

Liz, think you can find this? It was about two years ago, at the Improv. Search for my byline and Demosthenes.

Boston, Mass.: You do not live seven blocks from the capital. You DO live seven blocks from the CAPITOL.

Gene Weingarten: Ooop. Sorry.

Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Does Liz automatically forward questions/comments that appear to be from your kids, letting you decide if it is in fact them, and if so, if they're funny enough to post? Or does she hold them to the same standard as everyone else?

Gene Weingarten: I dunno. Liz?

Unfunny Question: Hey Gene --
I'm hoping PtP is online now... or heck, maybe you know the answer.
Something that's been bugging me for years showed up again in some column, and now I've gotta know.
What's the derivation of "sic" when quoting people in print? Is there a verbal version?

Gene Weingarten: I'm not sure. Pat? I know in the news biz, the way we writers tell editors that something that looks wrong in our story is really correct -- say, someone who spells Schultz "Scholtz" is we mark it with "cq." Not sure why.

Schenectady, N.Y.: At 9 p.m. last night on PBS, the first part of a series on Armageddon: The Army Public Affairs officer's last name was "Covert."

washingtonpost.com: PBS: Avoiding Armageddon

Gene Weingarten: Noted. I have also been eagerly following the exploits of the man who has been such a source of calmness and command on the front lines, Brigadier Gen. Benjamin Freakley.

washingtonpost.com: I usually do forward all suspected Weingarten Jr. posts. Figure Gene will sort them out. -- Liz

Gene Weingarten: I do. I have not yet been fooled. I know my kids.

Amity, N.Y.: An AP story about a shark exhibit at the National Aquarium contains this astonishing statement:

"People are more likely to be injured by a hamster or killed by lightning than by a shark."

Lightning I can see as dangerous, but HAMSTERS? Possibly apocryphal stories of deviant sexual practices involving hamsters and body parts that never see sunlight aside, how much damage can those little fellas do compared to sharks? Being chomped on the thumb by a golden hamster isn't exactly on a par with being chomped on the body by a great white shark.

Feh. Trust sharks to have the public relations people all in their corner.

washingtonpost.com: Aquarium Says Sharks are Misunderstood, (AP, April 14)

Gene Weingarten: Wow. BOY is that a stupid sentence.

For one thing, I seriously doubt that any group, anywhere, keeps track of hamster-related injuries, so you can be pretty sure this is completely made up.

AND silly.

Times Up, Tex.: Hi Gene,

I went to a film festival this weekend, where the audience voted on one of the awards. At each screening, a representative from the festival gave the instruction that on our ballots, "ten is best, and one is least best." I suppose they didn't want to say the word "worst" either to prevent hurting the filmmakers' feelings, or to avoid the suggestion that the audience had paid good money to see a bad film.

If this was the festival's reasoning, what alternative language might you suggest that is equally namby-pamby, but at least grammatically correct? "Ten is best, and one is (dramatic pause) the opposite?"

Gene Weingarten: Well, I would lobby for "worst." But I'd have to say that if the weenies prevail, "Tenth Best" is better than "least best."

Arlington, Va.: Every year my husband and I try to eat the most un-Pesadic meal imaginable the night before Passover begins. What started out as a pizza dinner has become an epic challenge to combine as many leavened things into one meal as humanly possible, the more ridiculous the better (but it still needs to be edible). Any suggestions on what we should include in tonight's feast?

Gene Weingarten: Well, I would say that you want to eat not just leavened, but extremely Presbyterian. You want Fluffernutter on White Bread. With a glass of milk.

washingtonpost.com: Gene's Improv article. Apologize for posting in entirety, but couldn't find it in link form:

So Who's the Comedian?, (Post, Sept. 14, 1999)

According to a recent poll, 84 percent of adult American men believe they are funnier than the average stand-up comic, and that if they ever got up behind a mike and in front of a brick wall they'd bring down the house.

I just made that poll up, but literal truth is inessential to being a stand-up comic, which I now am. I became a stand-up comic at 12:45 yesterday afternoon when I walked onto a stage at the Improv, Washington's top comedy club, and did a "bit." It was an open-mike casting call in which professional and semi-pro comedians had exactly two minutes each to perform for a big-shot producer, in the hope of landing a shot at a spot at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival next February in Aspen, Colo.

During my two minutes, I learned many things about the craft of comedy, the main ones being:

1. Two minutes is a very, very, excruciatingly long time.
2. You should always remember not to inhale beads covered with spit, because you can die.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

I submitted my name as George Spelvin, the catchall pseudonym used in early theater when an actor did not wish to be identified by his real name. I used this name on the theory that no one would be old enough to have heard it, inasmuch as most of the 45 comics in attendance seemed to range from 25 years old to maybe 11. They also ranged from male to female, good to bad, and dirty to real dirty to un-%*#@$%l-believably dirty. One routine, by comic Douglas Berryhill, repeated the S-word 44 times, by my count. Remember, this is a two-minute gig.

Some jokes were printable, if not exactly genteel.

"My girlfriend calls me her Popeye," said Doug Hecox, "because of my build. I call her Sweet Pea because she has a bladder infection."

Kevin Downey Jr. confessed to being a little weird: "My dad says I'm too effeminate for my own good. But my gynecologist says there's nothing to worry about. . . . My wife asked me, if you could have sex with any woman living or dead, who would it be? I said Cindy Crawford, dead."

You would think an audience consisting entirely of stand-up comics would be pretty demanding. But this crowd was enthusiastic, since virtually all them are dreadfully underemployed. The 1990s have not been a prosperous time for club comics. Club comedy has been clobbered by cable TV--which makes good stand-up available for free--and by stricter DUI laws, which make people less likely to patronize drinking clubs. And so these comedians, by and large, had wounded eyes and a slightly hunted look, and they needed laughs and were not about to deny them to others.

One of the loudest laughers, and better comics, was Joe Hansard, from Dundalk, Md. Hansard says the biggest paycheck he ever got from a gig was $40. "Wait," he amended, pointing to fellow comic Nick Curtin, who looks exactly like a young Fatty Arbuckle, "Nick and I once got $50, but we had to split it."

The one-liners continued.

Wendy Webb said she had some lump on her arm and was hoping it would develop into a third nipple; it might help her get guys.

Debbie Perlman said she was weirded out by a sperm bank: "I can't imagine getting pregnant from a total stranger. (Pause.) While I'm sober."

One guy named Laughing Lenny may well have been a comic genius but he spoke so fast, and in such thick street dialect, that virtually no one in the audience could understand a thing he said. My notes read, verbatim: "lwa swa ig'n hawta fwahzz sma sheeee."

He got a nice round of applause.

I didn't decide to perform, for sure, until I heard Laughing Lenny.

I am not a comic, have never appeared onstage, am awkward before a mike, have no spontaneity and basically no interpersonal skills. But I have written some funny things in the newspapers, and I figured that if you can write funny, you can be funny. That was my first mistake.

My second mistake was not staying in my seat when George Spelvin's name was called. Good stand-up comics hone their acts over months if not years, polishing them before bathroom mirrors, their friends, etc. I developed the key element of mine the morning I went on. The last thing I did before I left the house was bring a box full of plastic beads, because I figured they could be a prop for something. I figured out what between Tenleytown and Van Ness on the Red Line, and wrote the bit in the margins of my Washington Post, which I then accidentally tossed away at the station.

Here's a fact I didn't know: When you are onstage in the spotlight, you can see nothing but the spotlight. You are totally blinded by the light, not in the sense of a man undergoing an intense religious awakening, but in the sense of a man staring at a thermonuclear explosion through binoculars. And so for the first few seconds of my two minutes, I was simply staring forward, mouth agape, expressing the concept: "Uuungh."

"This is the debut of my career as a professional stand-up comic. It's a kind of a special moment for me. I'd like to take this opportunity to say something to my mother, who was an inspiration to me throughout my life. My mother is dead. She died a few years ago, but I feel she is still with me. All the time, wherever I go, I feel her presence. Day in and day out. So I would like to say this to her. LEAVE ME ALONE, MA!"

Some people actually laughed.

Then I said, "Anyway, this really is my first time onstage, and I'm pretty insecure because, y'know, I'm not all that funny and I have a really lousy stage presence . . ."

People were laughing. Yes, I realize they were mostly laughing about how bad I was, but, um, I seemed to be working reasonably well as the butt of my own joke.

". . . And when I'm nervous I tend to stammer and stutter and, y'know, projectile-vomit and . . ."

Still laughing.

"But I've been working on the problem. A long time ago a Greek guy named Demosthenes had the same problem I have, and he became a great orator by sticking pebbles in his mouth, so I thought I would [and here I began putting the beads in my mouth] try that. See, the idea is that if you can talk through the pebbles [now I was stuffing them in by the handful] you can learn to . . ."

More laughter.

". . . talk better and wfnm fmuff frmphm grphnm fprm . . ."

I looked at my watch, said something that might have sounded like "My time is up," and left to somewhat spirited applause. What the audience did not know was that I was quietly choking on a slippery bead. I finally hawked it up, but for a few seconds it occurred to me I might actually die for my art.

When I got back to my seat, Nick Curtin told me he'd wished he'd used my bead act.

My act!

After all the performances were done, the comedy honcho, Lou Viola, chose his 12 finalists to perform later that night, in a second audition. Joe Hansard made the cut, and Doug Hecox and Debbie Perlman and Wendy Webb. Nick Curtin did not. Kevin Downey did not. George Spelvin did not.

Afterward I asked Viola how the judging went.

Okay, he said, noncommittally.

Viola is a guy about my age, around 50, a kindly-looking man with a gray beard and a very difficult job. He knows stand-up, and has to make some hard decisions about the careers of some earnest and vulnerable people. As we spoke, a polite kid came up to us. Paul Jay is 24. He didn't make the final cut. He and asked Viola for a critique. Before Viola could answer, Jay blurted, "Sometimes I don't know who I am as a comic."

Viola nodded encouragingly. "Right. The audience needs to figure out who's talking to them." He asked Jay why he performed, and Jay said, "It validates me."

Viola thinks Jay has some promise. But sometimes, he says, "I want to say to someone, 'You're never going to be a stand-up comedian. How are you going to support your family?' " But he never says that. He tries to be upbeat.

I asked him what I did wrong.

Everything, he said.


"You took way too long to get to the punch line of your first joke, waaaaaaay too long, and Demosthenes needed a better payoff."

So basically, I sucked?



Virginia: Cheer me up, because, man, am I depressed about this Iraqi National Museum and Iraqi National Library and Iraqi Islamic Library being utterly trashed because some bonehead at the DoD said, "Think there'll be a general breakdown of society if we starve Baghdad, bomb it, and then chase off the police? Nah. But make sure that you send some soldiers over to the Oil Ministry, just in case. Be sure to pick up a copy of 'Lord of the Flies' on the way back here, too. Been meaning to read that." If we destroy the public schools and concert halls, and send in the evangelists, Iraq will be indistiguishable from Texas. 7,000 years of civilization, down the drain.

And do you get the feeling that O.J. will find "the Real Killers" before Bush finds "Weapons of Mass Destruction"?

Gene Weingarten: I have a feeling we will "find" weapons of mass destruction.

washingtonpost.com: ARGH! I apologize for the lack of formatting on the Gene article. Will clean up in the transcript. -- Liz

Derwood, Md.: Is today's "Toles" really a redrawing of the older cartoon?

washingtonpost.com: Tom Toles, (Post, April 15)

Gene Weingarten: I haven't asked Tom, but I am sure it is.

Laurel, Md.: Gene,

What do you think of the three cartoons that are in Parade Magazine? "Howard Huge" and the two others. Sometimes they're reasonably clever for something that isn't allowed to offend ANYONE.

BTW, how does Parade manage to put out so much innocuous material every week for so many years?

Gene Weingarten: I am actually an expert on Parade, because I once tried to start a national magazine to compete against it, on the theory that it was a bland abomination. And what I ran into was editors around the country saying, "No, that's too good. Waaaaay to interesting. Our readers won't understand that."

It's a big, flat expanse out there. I think the editors were wrong, but it was their perception that any edge is too much edge.

I think the three cartoons are fairly good for being tofu.

Bowie, Md.: Do you wish your kids would stop wasting everyone's time; or are you proud your kids are such disrespectful pranksters?

Gene Weingarten: I don't let em waste your time. I'll only print funny posts. They've tried several times and failed. Hate me for it, no doubt.

Pat the Perfect, ME: What a Sic question: It's just the Latin word for "this way," probably most famously used in John Wilkes Booth's cry "Sic Temper Tyrannis" -- this is what always happens to tyrants -- as he jumped from the presidential box to the stage of Ford's Theatre, breaking his leg.

The journalist's abbreviation "cq" (meaning: I swear on my child's head that you don't have to look this up) is of disputed derivation.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

WOW!!!!: Talking about the Toles cartoon, you said "I haven't asked Tom ...." How cool is that? It's like "I haven't asked Woodstein" or "I haven't asked Boisefuillet." I am awed.

Gene Weingarten: I am awed, too. We went to lunch last week. I think he is among the best there ever was. An incredibly smart and funny guy -- and then he asked me if I am making Gina up! Do you guys think I am making Gina up?

Bucks, : Dad,

I need $100 for new shoes. Is this funny?

Gene Weingarten: See, now this is definitely not my daughter. She is a vegan; her shoes cost $17. Her EDUCATION costs $198,000.

Laurel, Md.: Just a quickie and not funny...

John Wilkes Booth did NOT break his leg jumping from the Presidnetial box. The audience members testified that he ran quite nimbly from the stage.

His horse DID roll over on him riding into Maryland. That is not just a lie he told Mudd.

Gene Weingarten: Really? This is incredible, if true. It is like being told Canadians have three buttocks.

Bowie, Md.: I thought you were making Gina up until I found she had something like 14 books for sale on Amazon.com.

Gene Weingarten: Well, we'll resolve this once and for all in a column in early May.

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