Humor is often hostile. But sometimes readers ask me: Does it really have to be? To which I answer: Of course it does, you morons.

The fact is, I recently did some research for the purpose of humiliating two companies in humor columns. When my efforts failed, my first impulse was to abandon the columns, but then I thought: Wait a minute. Gosh darn it, maybe the readers are right! Maybe humor doesn't have to be mean! So, I decided to phone the companies, 'fess up to my sins and mine the terrific humor of the situation, in a positive way.

Me: Is this the Art Instruction Schools?

Steve: Yes.

Me: You are the place that offers that simple test where people are supposed to copy some cartoons to see if they are talented enough to qualify for your art course?

Steve: Yes.

Me: Well, I am a pretty skeptical person. And I guessed that, to get an applicant's money, you would conclude that he had talent, however unsplendid his artwork. So, instead of drawing the cartoons myself, I asked Chipo Tucker to draw them.

Steve: Who is that?

Me: She is an adorable 5-year-old of my acquaintance. I am looking at your original, and Chipo's attempt at a copy, which I mailed in to you two months ago.

[PRINT ORIGINAL AND DRAWING HERE]

Here is the amazing thing. You guys didn't bite. You didn't respond at all. So, it turns out that you are not greedy, dishonest jerks!

Steve: We appreciate that, but I'm not sure where you are going with it.

Me: I thought we could establish how funny this situation is.

Steve: Well, you did make one assumptive comment that led you into the rest. The school started in 1914, as a historical note, and our students aspire to a level of professionalism.

Me: Those aren't funny observations.

Steve: Maybe I'm missing something here.

Me:

Steve: When columnists call, they usually have some kind of direction that they want to go in. So, I guess I'm trying to fill in the gap.

Me: Well, do you know any art jokes?

Steve: Wait a minute. Hang on. Hey, Kelly, you got an art joke? . . . Sorry, I think we're drawing blanks here . . .

Me: Ha-ha.

Steve: What?

Me: You said "drawing" blanks. That's funny.

Steve: Okay.

Second call.

Me: Is this Gillette?

Tina: Yes.

Me: I use your Mach 3 Turbo razor. My wife uses your Venus razor. Well, it occurred to me that even though the Mach 3 is steel gray and marketed real tough, like it was a Bradley Fighting Vehicle or a hand grenade or something, and the Venus is turquoise and looks all girly, like it should be dressed in a petticoat, the business end of both products looks identical. So, I figured that what we had here was a craven marketing ploy, where the products were the same, but you were selling them as though they were different. So, I took my wife's blade and put it on my razor, and I put my blade on her razor.

Tina: Okay.

Me: My wife reported that the Mach 3 didn't do a great job on her legs. Me, I thought that the Venus gave me a fine shave until about five minutes afterward, when several raging geysers of blood appeared on my face. I finally got them under control with toilet paper, although I had so much paper on my face that I walked around looking like a pinata.

Eventually, things seemed okay. But several hours later, when I was speaking to a college class, a student interrupted me to note, and I quote, "Your face? It's bleeding pretty bad."

My point is, I was wrong about your products. They are not interchangeable, and you are not soulless corporate scum.

Tina: Thank you.

Me: No problem, ma'am. We're just humorists here, doing our job.

Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is weingarten@washpost.com. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.