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During one of our e-mail back-and-forths, Sarah convinced me that every Clown Question usage does not require its own Bog post. And I convinced her (I think) that we’ve invested enough time into documenting Clown Questions that we can’t just let it go.

So we settled on This Week in Clown Questions, an occasional round-up of the Bryce Harper-inspired phrase’s continued vitality. Don’t judge.

Anthony Weiner

The former Congressman has been in the news as a potential candidate for office in New York. Via Politicker:

When Mr. Weiner was asked to comment on this speculation by the Wall Street Journal, he wrote in an e-mail, “It’s a clown story, bro.”

The cute comment is, of course, reference to Washington Nationals rookie outfielder Bryce Harper, who famously charged a reporter with asking a “clown question, bro.”


(Via @nextyeardc)

Martin Bashir

The MSNBC host introduced a video recap of recent political events by saying “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,” and then spliced in Harper’s comments, plus Harry Reid using Harper’s phrase. See above.

The Kansas City Star

This was technically last week, but the host paper of the All-Star game ran this feature, with this intro: “In honor of Bryce Harper’s response to a reporter (“That’s a clown question, bro), we asked the All-Stars some off-beat questions.”

Among the answers, Harper said at game time he “usually listen(s) to Motown....just to get mellow.”

Another question concerned whether anyone had ever asked the players a clown question.

“No, bro,” David Freese responded.

“Yeah, you,” Harper answered.

(Patrick Semansky/AP)

This bit of magic comes from New York Magazine, which noted that Bart Chilton, commissioner of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, “[Kicked] the rotting corpse” of the phrase. From the transcript of Chilton’s remarks:

Let’s not even talk about 2008 and the financial collapse and the real reason Dodd-Frank came along in the first place. Let’s talk about how MF Global (as some would suggest) got caught trying to steal. Let’s talk about JPMorgan’s losing streak. Let’s talk about Barclays’ balk. Do we need Dodd-Frank? That’s a clown question, bro.

Chilton also said that Harper “not only has a way with the bat but he seems to have a way with words, too.”

Northwestern University Econ Professor

This is the most obscure one; it comes via a reader, whose friend was in a money and banking class with Northwestern professor Eric Schulz, in which the specter of clown questions was raised.

I wrote to the professor for details, and he was kind enough to humor such a ridiculous request. Bear in mind that this was just a bit of silliness for his students, that he never expected it to go beyond his classroom, and that it would have a minimal impact on any student’s grade.

One of his colleagues, you see, will sometimes offer a minimal amount of credit for stumped students who will leave a text question blank, to discourage them from writing “lengthy and convoluted answers that can be funny but are often frustrating to read.” In that spirit, Schulz was offering a minimal amount of points on one exam question if students write, “That’s a clown question, bro,” rather than rambling nonsense.

Quoting from the professor’s e-mail:

From what little I know of him from watching ESPN, I like Bryce Harper and was greatly amused by his response. I think I liked it in part because I’m guessing that at least some of my students have had that phrase (or something similar but less polite) go through their minds when they find a harder question than they’d like on an exam. I actually briefly toyed with the idea of getting a t-shirt with that quote on it.

I want to stress that I expect excellence from NU students even in this case. If they write only “That’s a clown question” — ZERO points! I hope and expect that no one will actually use it, but it’s summer, and we’ll see.

I love all of it, personally.