Gene Weingarten

Washington, D.C.

 I am old and cranky. I write "Below the Beltway," a weekly humor column that is nationally syndicated. With my son Dan and David Clarke, I write the daily newspaper comic strip Barney & Clyde, about a friendship between a billionaire and a bum. I am working on a book about the events of Sunday, December 28, 1986, a date chosen at random by picking numbers out of a hat. Yes, it's an insane idea, and yes, I can use all the tips I can get.

Best of Gene

Chatological Humor chat

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything.

Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many people keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

12.28.86: One day

I chose the date at random, by drawing numbers out of a hat. I'm going to spend the next two years researching that date, and only that date, in America, and then present it in a wide-angle, panoramic fashion. I'd like your help. Many events leave a trail in the media or the public record, and I'm already following up on many of those. I know, for example, that hardboiled mystery writer John D. MacDonald died on that day, and the Jets beat the Chiefs. "Walk Like an Egyptian" topped the pop charts. And so forth. The public record is voluminous. But fame tends to be transient and shallow, casting what seems to be an arbitrary spotlight; there is also power in things that never get into the public eye -- stories of drama and consequence can be found in the lives of ordinary people. Sometimes, small things happen that will go unnoticed or unrecorded, but will prove pivotal to monumental events that follow. I want to find these things by tapping your memories, and/or testing your research skills. The book will be highly selective, but my Facebook page won't be; we hope it develops an engaging narrative of its own. If you think you have a story to tell, we'll look at it here. Or you can email me in complete privacy at oneday12.28.86@gmail.com. These could be anecdotes from your life or the lives of others you know. Nothing is too trivial, though it will be edited for quality and appropriateness. Are you a good enough storyteller to make yours interesting? Or, are you a researcher at heart? Talk to me. I'd be grateful for all sorts of promising leads. No money will change hands, I'm afraid, but I'll introduce you to all my swanky, bon vivant friends, as soon as I get some. What's in it for you? People who proved helpful will be acknowledged in the book. If you're really helpful, you and I could be working together in person. And, of course, if your own life finds its way into the book, hey, you'll be a superstar.
Honors & Awards:
  • 2008 & 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing – the only two-time winner in that category
Books by Gene Weingarten:  

I’m With Stupid

Buy it from Amazon

The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life. And Death

Buy it from Amazon

Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs

Buy it from Amazon

The Fiddler in the Subway

Buy it from Amazon

Me & Dog

Buy it from Amazon
Recent Articles

BELOW THE BELTWAY COLUMN

(Advance for Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Weingarten clients only)

By GENE WEINGARTEN

WASHINGTON -- I recently made a decision of life-altering proportions: I decided I will no longer bother to segregate knives, forks and spoons in my silverware drawer. I now dump all of them thither and yon among those partitions that -- hallelujah! -- no longer rule my life.

When I mentioned this on Twitter, one reader jokingly called me a "monster." She is right. I am a monster finally liberated from his chains of oppression -- King Kong running free and fierce, making women faint, eating cars, etc. Sure, Kong lived only a short while longer, but I'm not exactly in the summer of my years anyway, if you see what I mean.

I know that sorting utensils is not a particularly onerous or time-consuming task, but it is one of those ridiculous things we do in blind, sheeplike conformity merely because others do it and always have. There is not a moment lost in picking out the implements you need from a loose scrum of silverplate in a drawer.

This wasn't my first such rebellion. Years ago, I stopped making the bed because there is no point to it other than some Teutonic enslavement to order and precision -- an arbitrary rule that has been perversely institutionalized by our own military, which requires, at the risk of punishment, for no sane reason, a bed off which you can bounce a quarter. But this new thing felt different. I know of no one else who declines to sort silverware, and it got me thinking. What's next for me?

-- No more cutting toenails. Let 'em grow. Just keep buying longer shoes.

-- No more peeling anything. Bite into everything like an apple. Peach fuzz is tasty -- why not kiwi fuzz? Bananas are already crescent-shaped, like the human mouth. Come at it as God intended you to, from the side, like a harmonica, skin and all.

-- No more tedious mopping and sweeping. Teach the dog to roll over, again and again.

-- No more pairing your washed socks. This one is easy and obvious. Buy 20 pairs of identical white sweat socks and 20 pairs of identical black dress socks. Throw all your others away. Handle your sock drawer like my silverware drawer. Done.

-- No more tooth brushing. If Milk-Bone works for my dog, it should work for me.

-- Never wash out a coffee mug. (This is a tip from my colleague, cartoonist Tom Toles.) After a few months, you don't even need to buy coffee anymore. Pour in hot water and -- voilà! -- coffee.

-- Change your wardrobe so it is all earth shades: salmon, tans, umber, ocher, sienna, chestnut, khaki, russet, taupe, ecru, biscuit, camel, etc. This is not because you love these foo-foo colors. It is because you have stopped the idiot sorting of laundry by whites and colors, and over time they will all migrate to this bland but safe middle ground. Small loss.

-- No more taking out the garbage. Just keep punching it down. Theoretically, anything organic can be compressed indefinitely until it becomes a diamond. At that point, redeem it for millions.

-- Finally, do no housework at all. Let everything accumulate for years, so that the only way to get from, say, the living room to the dining room is by navigating the narrow trough you have left, walking heel-to-toe. Eventually, inform on yourself to the TV show "Hoarders." THEY WILL COME AND CLEAN YOUR HOUSE FOR YOU.

Gene Weingarten can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

BELOW THE BELTWAY COLUMN

(Advance for Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Weingarten clients only)

By GENE WEINGARTEN

WASHINGTON -- For the past six years, I have been working on a book. It is about to come out. So I think I am well positioned to offer some helpful "tips for authors."

1. You will come to hate your book. Accept this graciously as a natural consequence of having had to read it 5,000 times. Example: I am a guy who absolutely requires reading material when on the pot. The other day I looked around before going to the bathroom and all that was immediately available was my book. I let it lie and instead read the contents of my wallet.

Corollary: The time when your book will most disgust you will coincide with when you must go on a book tour and speak enthusiastically about it 10 times a day. Resist the impulse to tell the truth because your publisher will get very mad at you if you despondently say, for example, "Don't you have an author to interview who (BEG ITAL)doesn't(END ITAL) suck? Was Pynchon not available?"

2. As you are bringing the book in for a landing, resist the urge to assemble your 23 chapters into one long document, because that will make it possible to idly search for words and phrases that you think you might overuse. And that is when you will discover just what a shocking, tedious hack you are. For instance, the number of times I had written "slap-to-the-forehead revelation" (five) was a slap-to-the-forehead revelation to me. Not in a good way.

3. Don't use a tape recorder for interviews, especially if you are a neurotic like me because you will spend the entire interview nervously checking to see that it "is on," missing virtually everything your subject is saying and reducing your interviewing skills to that of a Pleistocene hominid.

4. Protect your working manuscript with multiple levels of security, even to a point that fails strict tests of sanity. For example, keep saving your latest versions, then emailing them to yourself, then saving them again to the cloud, and then having them also saved automatically to the cloud by a company you have paid to save it. Also: Install two surge protectors, connecting them serially so the first is protecting the second from surges.

5. For your author photo on the book jacket, get a real pro to do it. You will still look like an enormous hamster with jowls the size of regulation basketballs, but at least the lighting will be good.

6. If you have something awkward you feel is ethically necessary to have in your book, hide it in the "Acknowledgements." Nobody has ever read acknowledgements. In my new book, that is where I mention that I have plagiarized two lines from a friend and also that I am pretty sure the book has factual errors.

7. Trust no one. In my first book, "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," the publisher proudly informed me the cover was done and going to the printer. I asked to see the final version, so they overnighted it to me, sort of grudgingly. "Hypochondriac" was misspelled.

8. Your publisher will ask you to beg every famous or semi-famous friend you have to write a "blurb" for the book jacket: a pithy little quote effusively praising a book they almost certainly have only "skimmed." This is the most humiliating thing you will ever do, even if, like me, you once had to leave work and buy a new pair of pants because you did not know that there can be disturbing leakage consequences to eating too much peanut butter straight from the jar.

9. Resist the urge to read reader reviews online. For every good one there will be an idiot one that will infuriate you. I once got a negative one-star review solely because the book had arrived in the mail with a smudge on the cover. I also got a one-star review for a book of mine on old dogs because I wrote that eventually, old dogs die, and this made the reviewer "sad." My editor Tom the Butcher got a one-star review that read, in its entirety, "This book is just a bunch of words."

10. If at all possible, don't ever write a book.

Gene Weingarten can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

BELOW THE BELTWAY COLUMN

(Advance for Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Weingarten clients only)

By GENE WEINGARTEN

WASHINGTON -- My idiot editor, Tom the Butcher, recently suggested I am a hack -- specifically, that the "pokes" columns I write, retelling old jokes as poems, are easy, simplistic, and bad. He challenged me to a poke-off. We would tell the same two jokes. I informed him that he had, in essence, challenged Michael Jordan to one-on-one.

(BEG BOLD)On Top of Old Sparky, by Tom the Butcher(END BOLD)

The engineer was sentenced to fry

He'd crashed his train: Three souls did die.

His final meal? Goulash from his Nana?

No! He requested only ... one banana.

He chewed it as they hit the switch

He stayed alive, without a twitch!

Once more the executioner threw the hamma

But the felon merely munched his 'nana

The warden was getting heated

"Again!" he cried. "Death won't be cheated!

"This time you better fear

"For no banana will be near"

The third time proved no charm

The trainman was free from harm

"It ain't the fruit," said he, (BEG ITAL)Absurdum reductor(END ITAL)

"Fact is, I'm just a bad conductor."

(BEG BOLD)On Top of Old Sparky, by Gene Weingarten(END BOLD)

A killer trainman from Montana

Munching on a ripe banana,

Sat in an electric chair

And took the jolt without a care.

Thrice they threw the lethal current

Thrice his deaths seemed sure -- then weren't.

Thrice he lived, beyond refute,

While munching on the yellow fruit.

At the switch, a cop named Syd

Asked what that banana did!

"Not a thing," he did instruct her:

"I am just a bad conductor."

(BEG BOLD)The Audacity of Pope, by Gene Weingarten(END BOLD)

His Highness -- Francis, Pope of Rome,

Hailed an Uber, far from home.

He was feeling frisky, gabby

"Can I drive?" he asked the cabbie.

His confidence was undeserved

Behind the wheel, he screeched and swerved.

The officer who flagged them down

Then looked inside, and with a frown --

Called his sergeant, filled with fear

And said, "We have a problem here."

I've stopped a real important dude

I think we might be really screwed.

"Who's the guy? Please, dish the dope"

"Dunno! But his driver is the pope."

(BED BOLD)The Audacity of Pope, by Tom the Butcher(END BOLD)

The pope was feeling full of zeal

Displaced his chauffeur, grabbed the wheel,

Took off from hell, just like a bat

A cop descended, in seconds flat.

He quickly telephoned his sarge:

"We have a problem, it is large."

"I've stopped a big important person

This is bad. It might just worsen."

The sergeant nearly spit his Sanka

Who is it? Wait, not ... (BEG ITAL)Ivanka(END ITAL)?

"It isn't her, but I'll bet a fiver ...

That he's huge! The pope's his driver!"

Gene Weingarten can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

About
I am old and cranky. I write "Below the Beltway," a weekly humor column that is nationally syndicated. With my son Dan and David Clarke, I write the daily newspaper comic strip Barney & Clyde, about a friendship between a billionaire and a bum. I am working on a book about the events of Sunday, December 28, 1986, a date chosen at random by picking numbers out of a hat. Yes, it's an insane idea, and yes, I can use all the tips I can get.

Best of Gene

Chatological Humor chat

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything.

Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many people keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

12.28.86: One day

I chose the date at random, by drawing numbers out of a hat. I'm going to spend the next two years researching that date, and only that date, in America, and then present it in a wide-angle, panoramic fashion. I'd like your help. Many events leave a trail in the media or the public record, and I'm already following up on many of those. I know, for example, that hardboiled mystery writer John D. MacDonald died on that day, and the Jets beat the Chiefs. "Walk Like an Egyptian" topped the pop charts. And so forth. The public record is voluminous. But fame tends to be transient and shallow, casting what seems to be an arbitrary spotlight; there is also power in things that never get into the public eye -- stories of drama and consequence can be found in the lives of ordinary people. Sometimes, small things happen that will go unnoticed or unrecorded, but will prove pivotal to monumental events that follow. I want to find these things by tapping your memories, and/or testing your research skills. The book will be highly selective, but my Facebook page won't be; we hope it develops an engaging narrative of its own. If you think you have a story to tell, we'll look at it here. Or you can email me in complete privacy at oneday12.28.86@gmail.com. These could be anecdotes from your life or the lives of others you know. Nothing is too trivial, though it will be edited for quality and appropriateness. Are you a good enough storyteller to make yours interesting? Or, are you a researcher at heart? Talk to me. I'd be grateful for all sorts of promising leads. No money will change hands, I'm afraid, but I'll introduce you to all my swanky, bon vivant friends, as soon as I get some. What's in it for you? People who proved helpful will be acknowledged in the book. If you're really helpful, you and I could be working together in person. And, of course, if your own life finds its way into the book, hey, you'll be a superstar.
Books
  • I’m With Stupid
  • The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life. And Death
  • Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs
  • The Fiddler in the Subway
  • Me & Dog
Awards
  • 2008 & 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing – the only two-time winner in that category
Reviews
"Gene Weingarten is outrageously funny. I mean that literally: He is guaranteed to outrage some readers. But the smart ones will absolutely love him." – Dave Barry
Links