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humorous person essay

Should You Be Funny In Your College Essay + Examples

humorous person essay

What’s Covered:

Why are college essays important, should you be funny in your college essay, tips for adding humor to your college essays, essay examples, how to make sure your humor is effective.

College essays are an important part of your application profile. They humanize you and provide you with the opportunity to prove that you’re an interesting individual beyond your grades and test scores. 

Some ways students humanize themselves include reflecting on their values, clueing readers into their backstory, showing off their personalities, or any combination of these. 

One question that may come up with regards to showing off your personality is: can I be funny in my college essay?

Read along to hear our expert opinion on the subject and tips for writing a funny essay, the right way. You can also check out a few examples of essays that have successfully included humor to give you a good idea of what’s appropriate for your writing.

To put it simply, college essays are needed because top colleges have lots of qualified candidates and, to get accepted, you need to stand out. It is estimated that, at top schools, there are at least four academically-qualified applicants for every open spot. This means that students hoping to gain admission to top schools must supplement outstanding grades with other outstanding qualities.

Ways to make yourself stand out include extracurriculars, recommendations and interviews, and essays. At the nation’s top schools, reports tell us that these non-academic factors are weighted respectively as accounting for 30%, 10%, and 25% of your overall admissions chances. The fact that essays account for 25% of your admissions chances means that they could be your key to acceptance at your dream school.

If you are interested in the specific factors that determine how important essays are for individual candidates at individual schools, check out this post .

Essays are heavily weighted in the admissions process because they are the only place where admissions officers get to hear directly from you. An individual’s voice says a lot about them—how mature they are, how comfortable they are with their experiences, and even how likable they are. These are important factors for admissions officers who are trying to see how you would fit in on their campus!

The gist of our answer: if your personality is funny, feel free to be funny! As we’ve said, an important opportunity provided to you by the college essay is the opportunity to show your personality. Humor, if done correctly, can be an important part of that.

That said, if you are only attempting humor because you think it is what admissions officers want to hear or because you think it will help you stand out, abandon ship and find a way to shape your essay that is true to your personality. Try writing down how you view your personality or ask friends and family for adjectives that describe your personality, then show that personality through your voice. It will be more natural this way!

Some elements of personality that could define your voice, if humor isn’t for you:

  • Thoughtful/reflective
  • Extroverted/social
  • Charismatic
  • Clever/witty
  • Honest/authentic
  • Considerate
  • Practical/rational

Additionally, if you cannot follow some basic guidelines (listed below) for how to incorporate humor into your essay, you might want to change your course.

1. Be Appropriate

First things first: be appropriate. Humor is, of course, subjective, but make sure your subject matter would be considered appropriate by absolutely anyone reading it. Think about the most traditional person you know and make sure they would be okay with it. No jokes about sex, drugs, lying, crimes, or anything inappropriate—even if the joke is “obviously” against the inappropriate thing you are mentioning.

2. Don’t Be Overly Informal

You want your essay to position you as mature and intelligent, and the way you control language is a sign of maturity and intellect. That said, lots of humor—particularly the humor of young people and internet humor—are based on informality, intentional grammatical errors, and slang. These types of humor, while arguably funny, should be excluded from college essays!

As you write, remember that you know nothing about your admissions officer. Of course, you do not know their age, race, or gender, but you also don’t know their sense of humor. The last thing you want to do is make a joke with an intentional grammatical error and be perceived as unintelligent or make a joke with slang that confuses your reader and makes them think you don’t have a firm grasp of the English language.

3. Avoid Appearing Disrespectful or Inconsiderate

Humor often involves making fun of someone or something. It is very important that you do not make fun of the wrong things! In the last example, the student made fun of themself and their failed cooking experience. That is totally acceptable.

Things that you should not make fun of:

  • Other people (particularly those in positions of authority)
  • Political ideas
  • Religious ideas
  • Anything involving ethics, morals, or values

When you make fun of others, you risk sounding cold or unsympathetic. Admissions officers want to admit candidates who are mature and understand that they can never understand the struggles of others. That means you shouldn’t make a cutting joke about your old boss or an unintelligent politician who was running for your city mayor, even if they are the villain in your anecdote.

Similarly, avoid jokes about types of people. Avoid stereotypes in your jokes. 

In general, it is hard to write a humorous essay about a controversial subject. Controversial issues are typically issues that require deep thought and conversation, so if you intend to engage with them, you should consider a more reflective approach, or consider integrating reflection with your humor.

Here is an example of a student successfully poking fun at themself with their humor, while alluding to controversy:

My teenage rebellion started at age twelve. Though not yet technically a teenager, I dedicated myself to the cause: I wore tee shirts with bands on them that made my parents cringe, shopped exclusively at stores with eyebrow-pierced employees, and met every comforting idea the world offered me with hostility. Darkness was in my soul! Happiness was a construct meant for sheep! Optimism was for fools! My cynicism was a product of a world that gave birth to the War in Afghanistan around the same time it gave birth to me, that shot and killed my peers in school, that irreversibly melted ice caps and polluted oceans and destroyed forests. 

I was angry. I fought with my parents, my peers, and strangers. It was me versus the world. 

However, there’s a fundamental flaw in perpetual antagonism: it’s exhausting. My personal relationships suffered as my cynicism turned friends and family into bad guys in my eyes. As I kept up the fight, I found myself always tired, emotionally and physically. The tipping point came one morning standing at the bathroom sink before school.

This student engages with controversial subject matter, but the humorous parts are the parts where she makes fun of herself and her beliefs— “ Darkness was in my soul! Happiness was a construct meant for sheep! Optimism was for fools!” Additionally, the student follows up their humor with reflection: “ However, there’s a fundamental flaw in perpetual antagonism: it’s exhausting. My personal relationships suffered as my cynicism turned friends and family into bad guys in my eyes.”

This student is both funny and mature, witty and reflective, and, above all, a good writer with firm control of language.

4. Don’t Force It

We have already mentioned not to force humor, but we are mentioning it again because it is very important! 

Here is an example of a student whose forced humor detracts from the point of their essay:

To say I have always remained in my comfort zone is an understatement. Did I always order chicken fingers and fries at a restaurant? Yup! Sounds like me. Did I always create a color-coded itinerary just for a day trip? Guilty as charged. Did I always carry a first-aid kit at all times? Of course! I would make even an ambulance look unprepared. And yet here I was, choosing 1,000 miles of misery from Las Vegas to Seattle despite every bone in my body telling me not to.

The sunlight blinded my eyes and a wave of nausea swept over me. Was it too late to say I forgot my calculator? It was only ten minutes in, and I was certain that the trip was going to be a disaster. I simply hoped that our pre-drive prayer was not stuck in God’s voicemail box. 

As this student attempts to characterize themself as stuck in their ways (to eventually describe how they overcame this desire for comfort), their humor feels gimmicky. They describe their preparedness in a way that comes off as inauthentic. It’s funny to imagine them carrying around a first aid kit everywhere they go, but does the reader believe it? Then, when they write “ Was it too late to say I forgot my calculator? ” they create an image of themself as that goofy, overprepared kit in a sitcom. Sitcom characters don’t feel real and the point of a college essay is to make yourself seem like a real person to admissions officers. Don’t sacrifice your essay to humor.

5. Make Sure Your Humor Is Clear

Humor is subjective, so run your essay by people—lots and lots of people—to see if they are confused, offended, or distracted. Ask people to read your essay for content and see if they mention the humor (positively or negatively), but also specifically ask people what they think about the humor. Peer feedback is always important but becomes particularly useful when attempting a humorous essay.

Essay Example #1

Prompt: Tell us an interesting or amusing story about yourself from your high school years. (350 words)

Cooking is one of those activities at which people are either extremely talented or completely inept. Personally, I’ve found that I fall right in the middle, with neither prodigal nor abhorrent talents. After all, it’s just following instructions, right? Unfortunately, one disastrous night in my kitchen has me questioning that logic.

The task was simple enough: cook a turkey stir fry. In theory, it’s an extremely simple dish. However, almost immediately, things went awry. While I was cutting onions, I absentmindedly rubbed at my eyes and smeared my mascara. (Keep this in mind; it’ll come into play later.) I then proceeded to add the raw turkey to the vegetable pot. Now, as any good chef knows, this means that either the vegetables will burn or the turkey will be raw. I am admittedly not a good chef.

After a taste test, I decided to take a page out of the Spice Girls’ book and “spice up my life”, adding some red chili paste. This was my fatal mistake. The bottle spilled everywhere. Pot, counter, floor, I mean everywhere . While trying to clean up the mess, my hands ended up covered in sauce.

Foolishly, I decided to taste my ruined meal anyway. My tongue felt like it was on fire and I sprinted to the bathroom to rinse my mouth. I looked in the mirror and, noticing the raccoon eyes formed by my mascara, grabbed a tissue. What I had neglected to realize was that chili paste had transferred to the tissue—the tissue which I was using to wipe my eyes. I don’t know if you’ve ever put chili paste anywhere near your eyes, but here’s a word of advice: don’t. Seriously, don’t .

I fumbled blindly for the sink handle, mouth still on fire, eyes burning, presumably looking like a character out of a Tim Burton film. After I rinsed my face, I sat down and stared at my bowl of still-too-spicy and probably-somewhat-raw stir fry, wondering what ancient god had decided to take their anger out on me that night, and hoping I would never incur their wrath ever again.

What the Essay Did Well

This essay is an excellent example of how to successfully execute humor. The student’s informal tone helps to bridge the gap between them and the reader, making us feel like we are sitting across the table from them and laughing along. Speaking directly to the reader in sentences like, “ Keep this in mind; it’ll come into play later, ” and “ I don’t know if you’ve ever put chili paste anywhere near your eyes, but here’s a word of advice: don’t. Seriously, don’t,”  is a great tactic to downplay the formality of the essay.

The student’s humor comes through phrases like “ Now, as any good chef knows, this means that either the vegetables will burn or the turkey will be raw. I am admittedly not a good chef.” As this student plays on the common structure of “As any good (insert profession here) knows,” then subverts expectations, they make an easy-to-understand, casual but not flippant joke.

Similarly, the sentence “ I decided to take a page out of the Spice Girls’ book ,” reads in a light-hearted, funny tone. And, importantly, even if a reader had no idea who the Spice Girls were, they would recognize this as a pop-culture joke and would not be confused or lost in any way. The phrase “ raccoon eyes”  is another humorous inclusion—even if the reader doesn’t know what it’s like to rub their eyes while wearing mascara they can picture the rings around a raccoon and imagine the spectacle.

As you can see from this essay, humor works well when you engage universal and inoffensive concepts in ways that are casual enough to be funny, but still comprehensible.

Essay Example #2

Prompt: Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History… a full list of unmodified majors ready for your editor’s eye is available here. —Inspired by Josh Kaufman, AB’18

When I shared the video of me eating fried insects in Thailand, my friends were seriously offended. Some stopped talking to me, while the rest thought I had lost my mind and recommended me the names of a few psychologists. 

A major in Gastrophysics at UChicago is not for the faint hearted. You have to have a stomach for it! I do hope I am accepted to it as it is the only University in the U.S. with this unique major. My passion for trying unique food such as fish eye has made me want to understand the complexities of how it affects our digestive system. I understand that Gastrophysics started with a big pang of food, which quickly expanded to famish. Bite years are used to measure the amount of food ingested. I look forward to asking, “How many bite years can the stomach hold?” and “How do different enzymes react with the farticles?” 

Gastrophysics truly unravels the physics of food. At UChicago I will understand the intricacies of what time to eat, how to eat and how food will be digested. Do we need to take antiparticle acid if we feel acidity is becoming a matter of concern? At what angle should the mouth be, for the best possible tasting experience? When I tried crocodile meat, I found that at a 0 degree tilt, it tasted like fish and chicken at the same time. But the same tasted more like fish at a negative angle and like chicken at a positive angle. I want to unravel these mysteries in a class by Professor Daniel Holz in gravitational gastrophysics, understanding the unseen strong and weak forces at play which attract food to our stomachs. 

I find that Gastrophysics is also important for fastronomy. I want to learn the physics of fasting. How should we fast? Hubble bubble is a good chewing gum; an appetite suppressant in case you feel pangs of hunger. I have read how the UChicago Fastronauts are stepping up to test uncharted territories. Intermittent fasting is a new method being researched, and UChicago offers the opportunity for furthering this research. Which is better: fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8, or fasting for 24 hours twice a week? It is just one of the problems that UChicago offers a chance to solve. 

I can also study the new branch it offers that uses farticle physics. It is the science of tracking farticles and how they interact with each other and chemicals in the stomach space. It could give rise to supernovae explosions, turning people into gas giants. It would also teach about the best ways to expel gas and clean the system and prevent stomach space expansion. 

I want to take Fluid dynamics 101, another important course in Gastrophysics; teaching about the importance of water and other fluids in the body, and the most important question: what happens if you try to drink superfluids? 

I hope to do interdisciplinary courses with observational gastrophysicists and work with environmental science majors to track how much methane is given by the human and animal gastrointestinal tract in the atmosphere and how much it contributes to the global climate change. I believe, with the help of courses in date science, they have been able to keep a track of how much methane is entering each day, and they found that during Dec 24-Jan 3 period, a spike in the methane and ethane levels could be seen. Accordingly, algorithms are being programmed to predict the changes all year round. I would love to use my strong mathematical background to explore these algorithms. 

These courses are specially designed by the distinguished faculty of UChicago. Doing interdisciplinary research in collaboration with biological science students to determine what aliens may eat, with fart historians to know more about the intestinal structure of medieval Italians, Japanese, Chinese, Swedish and French people to better their lives is what I look forward to. The Paris study abroad program is an immersion course into fastronomy, where I will have the opportunity to test my self-control with all the amazing French food and desserts around! 

My stomach rumbles now, so I am going out to try out new food – hopefully it will be in Chicago a few months later. 

This is a fun essay! This student’s voice is present and their goofy personality is especially evident. Not only did they change the name of their major, but this student incorporated word play throughout the essay to showcase their imagination. Phrases like “ the big pang of food ”, “ bite years ”, “ fastronauts ”, and “ farticle physics ” keep the tone lighthearted and amusing.

Incorporating this style of humor takes a lot of creativity to be able to still convey your main idea while also earning a chuckle from your readers. While some jokes are a bit more low-brow—” farticles ” or “ fart historians ” for example—they are balanced out by some that are more clever and require a bit of thinking to get the A-ha moment (referencing the Hubble telescope as “ Hubble bubble chewing gum “). You might not feel comfortable including less sophisticated jokes in your essay at all, but if you do want to go down that path, having more intellectual sources of humor is important to provide balance.

Another positive of the essay is the continued thread of humor throughout. Sometimes humor is used as a tool in the introduction and abandoned in favor of practical information about the student. This essay manages to tell us about the student and their interests without sacrificing the laugh factor. Weaving humor throughout the essay like this makes the humor feel more genuine and helps us better understand this student’s personality.  

Essay Example #3

Prompt:   Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? (650 words)

Scalding hot water cascades over me, crashing to the ground in a familiar, soothing rhythm. Steam rises to the ceiling as dried sweat and soap suds swirl down the drain. The water hisses as it hits my skin, far above the safe temperature for a shower. The pressure is perfect on my tired muscles, easing the aches and bruises from a rough bout of sparring and the tension from a long, stressful day. The noise from my overactive mind dies away, fading into music, lyrics floating through my head. Black streaks stripe the inside of my left arm, remnants of the penned reminders of homework, money owed and forms due. 

It lacks the same dynamism and controlled intensity of sparring on the mat at taekwondo or the warm tenderness of a tight hug from my father, but it’s still a cocoon of safety as the water washes away the day’s burdens. As long as the hot water is running, the rest of the world ceases to exist, shrinking to me, myself and I. The shower curtain closes me off from the hectic world spinning around me. 

Much like the baths of Blanche DuBois, my hot showers are a means of cleansing and purifying (though I’m mostly just ridding myself of the germs from children at work sneezing on me). In the midst of a hot shower, there is no impending exam to study for, no newspaper deadline to meet, no paycheck to deposit. It is simply complete and utter peace, a safe haven. The steam clears my mind even as it clouds my mirror. 

Creativity thrives in the tub, breathing life into tales of dragons and warrior princesses that evolve only in my head, never making their way to paper but appeasing the childlike dreamer and wannabe author in me all the same. That one calculus problem that has seemed unsolvable since second period clicks into place as I realize the obvious solution. The perfect concluding sentence to my literary analysis essay writes itself (causing me to abruptly end my shower in a mad dash to the computer before I forget it entirely).  

Ever since I was old enough to start taking showers unaided, I began hogging all the hot water in the house, a source of great frustration to my parents. Many of my early showers were rudely cut short by an unholy banging on the bathroom door and an order to “stop wasting water and come eat dinner before it gets cold.” After a decade of trudging up the stairs every evening to put an end to my water-wasting, my parents finally gave in, leaving me to my (expensive) showers. I imagine someday, when paying the water bill is in my hands, my showers will be shorter, but today is not that day (nor, hopefully, will the next four years be that day). 

Showers are better than any ibuprofen, the perfect panacea for life’s daily ailments. Headaches magically disappear as long as the water runs, though they typically return in full force afterward. The runny nose and itchy eyes courtesy of summertime allergies recede. Showers alleviate even the stomachache from a guacamole-induced lack of self-control. 

Honestly though, the best part about a hot shower is neither its medicinal abilities nor its blissful temporary isolation or even the heavenly warmth seeped deep into my bones. The best part is that these little moments of pure, uninhibited contentedness are a daily occurrence. No matter how stressful the day, showers ensure I always have something to look forward to. They are small moments, true, but important nonetheless, because it is the little things in life that matter; the big moments are too rare, too fleeting to make anyone truly happy. Wherever I am in the world, whatever fate chooses to throw at me, I know I can always find my peace at the end of the day behind the shower curtain.

While the humor in this essay isn’t as direct as the others, the subtle inclusion of little phrases in parentheses throughout the essay bring some comedy without feeling overbearing. 

The contrast of elegant and posh Blanche DuBois and “ germs from children at work sneezing on me ” paints an ironic picture that you can’t help but laugh at. The ability to describe universal experiences also brings a level of humor to the essay. For example, the reader might laugh at the line, “ abruptly end my shower in a mad dash to the computer before I forget it entirely,”  because it brings to mind moments when they have done the same.

This student also achieves a humorous tone by poking fun at themselves. Admitting that they were “ hogging all the hot water, ” leading to “ (expensive) showers, ” as well as describing their stomachache as a “ guacamole-induced lack of self-control, ” keeps the tone casual and easy-going. Everybody has their flaws, and in this case long showers and guacamole are the downfall of this student.

While the tips and tricks we’ve given you will be extremely helpful when writing, it’s often not that simple. Feedback is ultimately any writer’s best source of improvement—especially when it comes to an element like humor which, naturally, can be hit-or-miss! 

To get your college essay edited for free, use our Peer Review Essay Tool . With this tool, other students can tell you if your humor is effective/appropriate and help you improve your essay so that you can have the best chances of admission to your dream schools.

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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humorous person essay

Definition and Examples of Humorous Essays

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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A humorous essay is a type of personal  or familiar essay that has the primary aim of amusing readers rather than informing or persuading them. Also called a comic essay or light essay .

Humorous essays often rely on narration and description as dominant rhetorical and  organizational strategies .

Notable writers of humorous essays in English include Dave Barry, Max Beerbohm, Robert Benchley, Ian Frazier, Garrison Keillor, Stephen Leacock, Fran Lebowitz, Dorothy Parker, David Sedaris, James Thurber, Mark Twain, and E.B. White—among countless others. (Many of these comic writers are represented in our collection of  Classic British and American Essays and Speeches .)


  • "What makes the humorous essay different from other forms of essay writing is . . . well . . . it's the humor. There must be something in it that prompts the readers to smile, chuckle, guffaw, or choke on their own laughter. In addition to organizing your material, you must search out the fun in your topic." (Gene Perret, Damn! That's Funny!: Writing Humor You Can Sell . Quill Driver Books, 2005)
  • "On the basis of a long view of the history of the humorous essay , one could, if reducing the form to its essentials, say that while it can be aphoristic , quick, and witty, it more often harks back to the 17th-century character 's slower, fuller descriptions of eccentricities and foibles—sometimes another's, sometimes the essayist 's, but usually both." (Ned Stuckey-French, "Humorous Essay." Encyclopedia of the Essay , ed. by Tracy Chevalier. Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997)
  • "Because of fewer constraints, humorous essays allow for genuine feelings of joy, anger, sorrow and delight to be expressed. In short, in Western literature the humorous essay is by and large the most ingenious type of literary essay. Every person who writes humorous essays, in addition to having a lively writing style , must first possess a unique understanding that comes from observing life." (Lin Yutang, "On Humour," 1932. Joseph C. Sample, "Contextualizing Lin Yutang's Essay 'On Humour': Introduction and Translation." Humour in Chinese Life and Letters , ed. by J.M. Davis and J. Chey. Hong Kong University Press, 2011)
  • Three Quick Tips for Composing a Humorous Essay 1. You need a story, not just jokes. If your goal is to write compelling nonfiction , the story must always come first—what is it you are meaning to show us, and why should the reader care? It is when the humor takes a backseat to the story being told that the humorous essay is most effective and the finest writing is done. 2. The humorous essay is no place to be mean or spiteful. You can probably skewer a politician or personal injury lawyer with abandon, but you should be gentle when mocking the common man. If you seem mean-spirited, if you take cheap shots, we aren't so willing to laugh. 3. The funniest people don't guffaw at their own jokes or wave big "look at how funny I am" banners over their heads. Nothing kills a joke more than the joke teller slamming a bony elbow into your ribs, winking, and shouting, 'Was that funny, or what?' Subtlety is your most effective tool. (Dinty W. Moore, Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction . Writer's Digest Books, 2010)
  • Finding a Title for a Humorous Essay "Whenever I've written, say, a humorous essay (or what I think passes as a humorous essay), and I can't come up with any title at all that seems to fit the piece, it usually means the piece hasn't really congealed as it should have. The more I unsuccessfully cast about for a title that speaks to the point of the piece, the more I realize that maybe, just maybe, the piece doesn't have a single, clear point. Maybe it's grown too diffuse, or it rambles around over too much ground. What did I think was so funny in the first place?" (Robert Masello, Robert's Rules of Writing . Writer's Digest Books, 2005)
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How to describe a funny person in English (Part 1)

How do you describe someone who's funny in English? Of course you can say something like:

She's funny.
He's hilarious.

But there lots of different ways that a person can be funny. They may tell funny stories, act silly, say odd things, tell jokes that they've heard, etc. So how do you explain exactly how someone is funny?

Talking about a normal funny person

First, let's learn how to talk about "normal" people who are funny: friends, family members, coworkers, and so on. Here are a few different kinds of funny people:

  • A goofy person does silly things, like funny dances and dressing in ridiculous costumes. They might make funny mistakes. You can also call this kind of person " a goofball " .
  • A witty person is funny for the opposite reason: they say things that are funny and also very smart. Witty people are also quick with their jokes.
  • A prankster is someone who plays practical jokes on people. Practical jokes are tricks that confuse or scare someone for a short time.
  • A self-deprecating person makes jokes that make themself look bad. They joke about their own flaws and problems.

You can also talk about what kind of sense of humor a person has.

  • Someone with a dry sense of humor  often says funny things with a serious, calm expression. They don't smile, laugh, or make silly faces.
  • Someone with a quirky sense of humor thinks of things that are funny and strange. They like strange, unpredictable jokes.
  • Having  a warped sense of humor  means that you laugh at things that many people are afraid of or offended by. You might think that jokes about death, illness, and tragedy are funny. It might seem like having "a warped sense of humor" is bad, but it's not a really negative expression.

Now learn how to talk about humor in a negative way with Part 2 .

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humorous person essay

Getting serious about funny: Psychologists see humor as a character strength

humorous person essay

Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Grinnell College

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Janet M. Gibson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Humor is observed in all cultures and at all ages . But only in recent decades has experimental psychology respected it as an essential, fundamental human behavior.

Historically , psychologists framed humor negatively , suggesting it demonstrated superiority, vulgarity, Freudian id conflict or a defense mechanism to hide one’s true feelings. In this view, an individual used humor to demean or disparage others, or to inflate one’s own self-worth. As such, it was treated as an undesirable behavior to be avoided. And psychologists tended to ignore it as worthy of study.

But research on humor has come into the sunlight of late, with humor now viewed as a character strength. Positive psychology , a field that examines what people do well, notes that humor can be used to make others feel good , to gain intimacy or to help buffer stress . Along with gratitude, hope and spirituality, a sense of humor belongs to the set of strengths positive psychologists call transcendence ; together they help us forge connections to the world and provide meaning to life. Appreciation of humor correlates with other strengths , too, such as wisdom and love of learning . And humor activities or exercises result in increased feelings of emotional well-being and optimism .

For all these reasons, humor is now welcomed into mainstream experimental psychology as a desirable behavior or skill researchers want to understand. How do we comprehend, appreciate and produce humor?

What it takes to get a joke

Understanding and creating humor require a sequence of mental operations. Cognitive psychologists favor a three-stage theory of humor . To be in on the joke you need to be able to:

Mentally represent the set up of the joke.

Detect an incongruity in its multiple interpretations.

Resolve the incongruity by inhibiting the literal, nonfunny interpretations and appreciating the meaning of the funny one.

An individual’s knowledge is organized in mental memory structures called schemas. When we see or think of something, it activates the relevant schema; Our body of knowledge on that particular topic immediately comes to mind.

For example, when we see cows in a Far Side cartoon , we activate our bovine schema (stage 1). But when we notice the cows are inside the car while human beings are in the pasture grazing, there are now two mental representations in our conscious mind: what our preexisting schema mentally represented about cows and what we imagined from the cartoon (stage 2). By inhibiting the real-world representation (stage 3), we find the idea of cows driving through a countryside of grazing people funny. “I know about cows” becomes “wait, cows should be the ones in the field, not people” becomes an appreciation of the humor in an implausible situation.

Funny is the subjective experience that comes from the resolution of at least two incongruous schemas. In verbal jokes, the second schema is often activated at the end, in a punchline.

That’s not funny

There are at least two reasons that we sometimes don’t get the joke. First, the punchline must create a different mental representation that conflicts with the one set up by the joke; timing and laugh tracks help signal the listener that a different representation of the punchline is possible. Second, you must be able to inhibit the initial mental representation.

humorous person essay

When jokes perpetuate a stereotype that we find offensive (as in ethnic, racist or sexist jokes), we may refuse to inhibit the offensive representation. Violence in cartoons is another example; In Roadrunner cartoons, when an anvil hits the coyote, animal lovers may be unable to inhibit the animal cruelty meaning instead of focusing on the funny meaning of yet another inevitable failure.

This incongruity model can explain why older adults do not comprehend jokes as frequently as younger adults. Due to declines tied to the aging process, older adults may not have the cognitive resources needed to create multiple representations, to simultaneously hold multiple ones in order to detect the incongruity, or to inhibit the first one that was activated. Getting the joke relies on working memory capacity and control functions. However, when older adults succeed in their efforts to do these things, they typically show greater appreciation of the joke than younger adults do and report greater life satisfaction than those who don’t see the humor .

humorous person essay

There may be other aspects to humor, though, where older adults hold the advantage. Wisdom is a form of reasoning that increases with age and is correlated with subjective well-being . Humor is linked with wisdom – a wise person knows how to use humor or when to laugh at oneself.

Additionally, intuition is a form of decision-making that may develop with the expertise and experience that come with aging. Like humor, intuition is enjoying a bit of a renaissance within psychology research now that it’s been reframed as a major form of reasoning . Intuition aids humor in schema formation and incongruity resolution, and we perceive and appreciate humor more through speedy first impressions rather than logical analysis.

Traveling through time

It’s a uniquely human ability to parse time, to reflect on our past, present and future, and to imagine details in these mental representations. As with humor, time perspective is fundamental to human experience . Our ability to enjoy humor is enmeshed with this mental capacity for time travel and subjective well-being.

People vary greatly in the ability to detail their mental representations of the past, present and future. For example, some people may have what psychologists call a negative past perspective – frequently thinking about bygone mistakes that don’t have anything to do with the present environment, even reliving them in vivid detail despite the present or future being positive.

Time perspective is related to feelings of well-being . People report a greater sense of well-being depending on the quality of the details of their past or present recollections. When study participants focused on “how” details, which tend to elicit vivid details, they were more satisfied with life than when they focused on “why,” which tend to elicit abstract ideas. For example, when remembering a failed relationship, those focusing on events that led to the breakup were more satisfied than those dwelling on abstract causal explanations concerning love and intimacy.

humorous person essay

One study found that people who use humor in positive ways held positive past time perspectives , and those using self-defeating humor held negative past time perspectives. This kind of study contributes to our understanding of how we think about and interpret social interactions. Such research also suggests that attempts to use humor in a positive way may improve the emotional tone of details in our thoughts and thereby our moods. Clinical psychologists are using humor as a treatment to increase subjective well-being.

In ongoing recent work, my students and I analyzed college students’ scores on a few common scales that psychologists use to assess humor, time perspective and the need for humor – a measure of how an individual produces or seeks humor in their daily lives. Our preliminary results suggest those high in humor character strength tend to concentrate on the positive aspects of their past, present and future. Those who seek humor in their lives appear in our study sample also to focus on the pleasant aspects of their current lives.

Though our investigation is still in the early phase, our data support a connection between the cognitive processes needed to mentally time-travel and to appreciate humor. Further research on time perspectives may help explain individual differences in detecting and resolving incongruities that result in funny feelings.

Learning to respect laughter

Experimental psychologists are rewriting the book on humor as we learn its value in our daily lives and its relationship to other important mental processes and character strengths. As the joke goes, how many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but it has to want to change.

Studying humor allows us to investigate theoretical processes involved in memory, reasoning, time perspective, wisdom, intuition and subjective well-being. And it’s a behavior of interest in and of itself as we work to describe, explain, control and predict humor across age, genders and cultures.

Whereas we may not agree on what’s funny and what isn’t, there’s more consensus than ever among experimental psychologists that humor is serious and relevant to the science of behavior. And that’s no laughing matter.

  • Positive psychology
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  • Cognitive psychology
  • Sense of humor
  • Time perspective

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10 of the Funniest Essayists of Our Time

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The witty social commentator David Rakoff will be missed—both by his readers and by his frank, funny contemporaries.


TV's Best Dance Numbers Ever Awesome Fictional Underdogs Google Maps of Authors' Homes

Like many of you, this week we were saddened to hear of the death of phenomenal and darkly comic essayist David Rakoff, who had been battling cancer for many years. To celebrate his life and the great literature he left us with, we've put together a list of some of the funniest modern essayists who, like Rakoff, are following in the giant footsteps of Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker, and James Thurber as America's great humorists. We've tried to limit ourselves to purely contemporary writers, but since we've lost several hilarious and essential voices all too recently, we've cheated just a bit.

This post also appears on Flavorpill , an Atlantic partner site.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to [email protected].

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9 Funny Essay Collections

Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else is comedian Maeve Higgins's wickedly funny essay collection. The 14 pieces in the collection such topics as Rent the Runway, teaching a comedy workshop in Iraq, the Muslim travel ban, and more, all containing incisive humor and deep humility. Higgins picks 10 of her favorite funny essay collections.

1. The Long-Winded Lady: Notes from The New Yorker by Maeve Brennan

Not strictly an essay collection, Brennan’s sketches of life in New York City in the '50s and '60s are full of pathos and wit. They are not very long, but that very brevity is key to their success. You know that scene in the movie Amélie where the heroine links arms with a blind man and gives him a whirlwind tour of hectic cityscape? That’s the breathless feeling you get reading Maeve Brennan, given an edge with her keenly dark sense of humor throughout.

2. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

Lucky for us, we have a number of Ephron’s essay collections, but this one is a favorite of mine because it’s so charming, honest and fun to read. Ephron does not tolerate despondency or morbidity, and I wonder what she would make of outlets publishing still-fresh tragedy-struck pieces written by hungry young writers today. In "Moving On," an essay about making a home and a life for herself and her two little boys after an excruciating divorce, Ephron stays focused and funny. She is clear-eyed but not without emotion, a balancing act hard to do on the page, but one she pulls off with style.

3. Swerve: Reckless Observations of a Postmodern Girl by Aisha Tyler

This raucous book full of backstage comedy gossip and frank advice about sex and dating was published in 2004, well ahead of other essay collections on similar themes that would later be hailed as "ground-breaking." Tyler’s star has risen since this collection, having co-hosted The Talk and starred in Criminal Minds for many years. These essays are still fresh and lovely to read today, and you can hear Tyler’s voice as you read, so it feels like sitting with your clever friend over drinks, staying up late the way you have to sometimes, and just letting it all come out in the wash.

4. Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit

This book got me good–reading it, I was shaking my head and laughing out loud, sometimes at the same time. Solnit’s succinct reporting on gender, blended with her own lived experience, is a winning combination. At times her writing is all too relatable and elicits the type of embittered laugh that comes with a deep recognition of how messed up misogyny is. This is also the laughter of kinship, the screech of "that happened to me too!" and "I never knew this was a thing ." So much fun, and you wind up feeling bolstered and ready to deal with the next mansplainer, who will, no doubt, be along in a minute.

5. Vacationland by John Hodgman

I never knew I’d care so much about Maine until I read this delightful, self-aware, and surprising collection by the very funny and subtly profound writer, known to many from his days on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Hodgman refuses to take himself seriously, which is important, because it helps us to join him as he explores his particular fate as a successful, white, middle-aged man in America today, and adore him all the more by the end of it.

6. You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

A dizzying, hilarious trip through pop culture, race, and gender from this young comic. Full disclosure: I am friends with Phoebe. That only makes me more sure of her talent, because any memoirist knows it’s almost impossible to accurately portray oneself in words; self- consciousness, vanity, lack of skill often prevent any possibility of actually translating a person into a book. But this is the real woman; full of life and intellect and fun.

7. I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

A classic for so many reasons, and a book that spawned a hundred imitators. The jokes are so strong, the stories so well-timed and the writing so sly and perfect, it’s impossible not to fall for the woman behind the mishaps of a life not working out as planned. I smile about the essay where Crosley gets locked out at least once a week, and I read this book ten years ago. Perfection.

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8. Calypso by David Sedaris

The latest offering from the master of the funny essay, Calypso will make you laugh and shake your head at the somehow completely relatable oddness of Sedaris and his family and his various preoccupations. Calypso also gave me pause—Sedaris has been writing for many years now, and this collection more than the previous ones reaches that bit deeper into the melancholy parts of life. All the better, because the truth in sadness verifies the truth in joy, and so you have in your hands an authentic book, a real journey, that will make you laugh until you cry and then laugh again. I recommend listening to as an audiobook if you can, Sedaris is a wonderful reader. 

humorous person essay

9. One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul

I knew Koul from her sparky and witty online presence—she is a culture writer for BuzzFeed living in Canada—and was enthralled by her book which flows beautifully. Her essays feature a few overriding themes: being a woman, being the child of immigrants, being brown, being online. All of these are facets of Koul’s experience in the world, and she navigates through with much humor and a sharpness that is quite thrilling to read. A generous and lovely book. Her depiction of her father and their relationship is nothing short of hilarious.

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The Classroom | Empowering Students in Their College Journey

How to Write a Humor Essay

How to Start an Introduction When Writing an Essay About Poetry

How to Start an Introduction When Writing an Essay About Poetry

When it comes to telling jokes, it’s often said that it’s all in the delivery. By writing a humor essay, you can get around that one hurdle, but there are others to avoid. A successful humor essay will entertain readers as much as a successful comedian will entertain audiences.

Pick a Topic That is Easily Accessible

It’s hard to laugh about something you don’t understand. The best humor essays are the ones that tackle subjects anyone can relate to. In that way, humor writing brings people together; in addition to laughing out loud, readers might be nodding their heads. Humor essayists say what other people think, but in new and surprising ways.

Keep it Short and Sweet

Shakespeare’s plays often were as funny as they were tragic, and he said it best when he wrote that “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Humor essays don’t necessarily have to be short, but the jokes in them should be. If you keep your writing pithy, you’ll probably keep your readers laughing.

Tell a Story

A humor essay isn’t a long uninterrupted stream of jokes. It’s a narrative, and it should follow a narrative arc, with a beginning, middle and end. While it won’t have the same rigid structure as a formal or academic essay, the reader needs to be able to follow your train of thought. Make sure that paragraphs are organized in a logical way, and that the reader is drawn into the essay from the opening lines and is given a sense of closure at the end.

Contrast Funny With Sad and Mundane

Good cooks know that sweet things taste even sweeter when you add a pinch of salt. Good architects know that straight lines appear even straighter when you add a curve. And good writers know that funny things seem even funnier when you add a dark edge. Not every phrase needs to be a one-liner, so don’t be afraid to allow some lines of a humor essay to be boring or tragic. If they’re placed skillfully, they’ll spark the humor -- not dampen it.

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  • News Writing Interviews: Dave Barry on Humor
  • Write to Done: The Secret of Writing Funny

Living in Canada, Andrew Aarons has been writing professionally since 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ottawa, where he served as a writer and editor for the university newspaper. Aarons is also a certified computer-support technician.

Funny student mentor texts for writing

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Review Plot Diagram with The Simpsons

Funny Essays to Use as Mentor Texts

  • By Amanda in Lesson Ideas , Reading Comprehension , Writing

Seriously – stories both you and your students will laugh out loud reading. Humor varies from person to person, so I have two very different essays in the hopes that you and your students will at least be able to connect to one.

To make sure this is actually useful for everyone, I’m only including essays that, at the time of posting this, are available for free online. And I’ll include a little bit about what I focus on with each to give you a jumping-off point.

To be honest, I’m posting this today as a bit of a reminder for myself that school can be fun and funny. Another pandemic year is underway. It won’t be easy, but maybe a little bit of humor can help us through it.

What to do with said hilarious short stories and essays? I tend to work with students who struggle with reading and writing. Most of my classes are remediation ELA where I have two goals: help them pass the state test and help them learn to love reading again. The humor helps get them through to the practice state test questions I have to give them. I know, I know. Teaching to the test. I hate it, too. But here we are and I know I’m not alone. The least I can do is give them engaging material. And maybe, even with the test questions after, they can rediscover how fun (and funny) stories can be.

humorous person essay

A Super-Classy Gentleman’s Guide to Being a Classy Fellow by Paul Feig

Recognize the name? He’s been directing and writing some of my favorites for decades: Freaks and Geeks , Bridesmaids , and the 2016 version of Ghostbusters . His essay reminds me of Freaks and Geeks , one of my favorite shows when I was in high school. It’s a personal essay about how he took a chance on one of the most popular girls at school and succeeded in landing his first kiss – but then swiftly did something mortifying that ruined any future kisses from said popular girl. Ouch. Click HERE to read his cringe-worthy essay.

  • short personal essay
  • well-written and relatable
  • low lexile but high engagement
  • he uses the word “boner” three times (know your audience and district if you use this)

What to do with it

State testing questions, of course. Booooo. Yup. Agreed. I only give half-a-dozen multiple choice questions that are heavily modeled after the PA Keystones test they’ll soon be taking.

Now for the fun part: have your students use this as a model for their own personal essays. Point out some of Feig’s style techniques and have your students practice similar paragraphs or entire essays. Maybe they don’t want to write about their most embarrassing love-life experiences. Understandable. But there’s a solid paragraph here (or three) where Feig is unsure about something and he sprinkles in questions he’s asking himself as he weighs his options. Give students a prompt about an important decision they had to make (or unimportant like what to eat for lunch) and challenge them to match his humor with their internal questions peppered in the paragraph(s).

humorous person essay

Big Boy by David Sedaris

Please note that I will NEVER talk about funny authors without including David Sedaris. So here I am, defiling my nice list of memoir-style narratives with an essay about a giant poop referred to as “big boy,” “the biggest piece of work I’ve ever seen,” “beast,” “monster,” and “man-made object.” In fact, I’m the lowly writer here using the term poop while Sedaris never does in his piece. He’s classy like that. Click HERE to read this fabulously classy piece.

  • relatable piece
  • extremely funny
  • super short
  • lots of figurative language
  • it’s an essay about poop
  • David reading is own work is always preferable since he has killer delivery, but I don’t see this with the same wording anywhere. Not really a con, more of a bummer.

What to do with it?

Definitely dive into all the figurative language he’s woven through the piece. Have the students read only the first few lines about the lovely Easter dinner he’s about to have and then guess what will come next based on the title and mood of the setting. Talk about how ironic the rest of the story is in comparison.

Similar to Feig he includes his thoughts which add to the humor in the piece. Have students describe a seemingly minor problem and then include dramatic thoughts and statements. The climax in this story is impressive given its topic. The reader is practically sweating along with Sedaris even though the actual situation is not life-or-death. Examples of times people get really panicky? In a dressing room with something too tight that may never come off your body without you Hulking out of it. Clothing malfunction like ripped pants or a well-placed stain while you’re at a wedding or some other formal affair. There just needs to be a situation where one person is having a secret melt-down in a very public setting while no one around them notices it.

Me, too! But I’m having the worst time finding anything appropriate and available, for free (not breaking copyright laws). So I’d love to hear suggestions if you have any.

I’ll keep updating this post as your suggestions come in and I’m hoping to eventually have some worksheets to go with these that are worthy of posting online.

Love bringing laughter into the classroom? Me, too! Check out these other posts on humorous lessons:

David Sedaris’s reading of his Santaland Diaries

Hilarious Ted Talks

Using Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the classroom

  • david sedaris , ela lesson , essay , funny , mentor writing , nonfiction , paul feig

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This is my ninth year teaching. I'm certified in secondary English and special education. I love creating engaging lessons that help to reach all students regardless of ability. I don't post my real picture because I like to keep my privacy.

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Comedic Essays: Funny writing from Clean Comic Shaun Eli

103 hilarious and serious essays. some of these are funny, and some are serious. if you can’t tell the difference then i’m not doing my job., to the editor of money magazine.

I was dismayed to discover that your list of the fifty best jobs didn’t include any in entertainment (and only one that was on the creative side– creative director). I’m a stand-up comedian and I wouldn’t trade my job for any other (not even for my high school job– working at an ice cream parlor with unlimited on-the-job eating). While there are aspects of my profession that an audience doesn’t see (marketing– working to get booked, for example) there’s nothing like getting paid to brighten people’s days.

Sure, not everybody can do my job (it takes talent as a writer and performer, plus years of practice) but neither can anybody just get into medical school, pass the bar exam or become an engineer.

Making a list of the best jobs but leaving out the creative ones is like having a list of the best places to live but excluding all the coastal states. But then I notice that “Magazine Editor” didn’t make the list either– maybe you’re just not that happy. Not a problem… I know just what you need… come to a show!


posted on 2/8/08

For every person about whom you think “He’s awful, why is he getting opportunities that I’m not getting?” there’s someone else saying the same thing about you.

Comics, if you’re gonna eat it* on stage, try not to do it when the waitresses are in the room.

This is especially true for the waitress you have a crush on.

This is possibly even more importantly true if one of the waitresses is dating the booker.

Try not to have a crush on the waitress dating the booker.

If you can’t help it, try even harder not to mention the crush to anyone.

Don’t assume that the writer of this piece has a crush on a waitress, or that any particular booker is dating someone working at the club.

Don’t even assume that comedy clubs HAVE waitresses.

* comedy slang for having a terrible show

How to Audition

posted on 1/30/08

People have been asking me about auditioning for Last Comic Standing, so here’s what I know.

I was the first NY comic to audition for Last Comic Standing II. And I was way not ready– very new in stand-up. While waiting to go on stage I thought of an addition to strengthen my opening joke, an addition I still use. And I promptly forgot about it when I nervously stepped on stage. The judges Bob Read and Ross Mark, who book The Tonight Show, were very nice to me; I didn’t realize how nice until I watched the show and saw how they treated some other auditioners. I made them laugh a few times which isn’t as easy as it sounds at 10 AM (7 AM on the L.A. time they were living on) in front of people who watch comics for a living. And as I sat next to them at the call-backs I saw them sit through many comics without laughing much at all.

They asked me if I were nervous because I was performing for only two people. I said “No, I’ve performed for audiences half this size” which got a laugh. Two, actually.

One thing I noticed at the LCS II call-back show is how tight most of the sets were. That is, instead of getting a story started, then set-up, set-up, punchline, the comics who did well had almost every single sentence get a laugh. A punchline would also set-up the next sentence and it would flow from there. So a three minute set would have well more than fifteen laugh lines. It was a great show to watch as well as educational and inspiring. And quite humbling for a new comic.

AND– they weren’t just looking for comics– they were casting a reality show– so the comics not only had to be funny, they had to reveal who they were. And that’s not easy to do in three minutes and still fit in fifteen to twenty punchlines.

First of all, realize that a comic may get only two or three sentences– if the first set-up is too long, or the first joke doesn’t hit– you may not get a chance to continue. So put the shortest, strongest jokes up front.

Secondly, have to have at least something that not only says “Laugh at this, it’s funny” and “I know what I’m doing and I’m ready for prime-time TV” but also says This is who you are and what you’re like and why you should be allowed to continue.

Thirdly, one does not want to end up on the blooper reel– where they show comics looking ridiculous. (well, some people want to be on TV so badly they don’t care, or they don’t realize they’re being made fun of– and if on a network TV show they show you for eight seconds and had to bleep you six times, or they followed your attempt at a joke with a shot of the judges’ blank stares, yes, they’re making fun of you).

So to avoid ending up on the blooper reel I have gone through my jokes one sentence at a time to eliminate anything that might not sound good out of context. Specifically one joke has a punchline that works well with the set-up but the punchline alone sounds creepy. Cross out that joke.

Then it’s Avoid any joke that is on a common theme. For example, I may have the greatest “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” joke (I don’t; but I do have a decent, original one that fits my persona) but I’m sure that as the two hundredth auditioner they will have heard jokes that start with “What happens in Vegas…” ten times already, and number eleven isn’t going to thrill them. Same with references to penises, breasts, TV commercials, the TV shows that the NY auditioners are/were on (“Law & Order” and “The Sopranos”), X is different from Y (NY/California, men/women, black people/white people, etc.), contrasting ethnic backgrounds especially if they rely on offensive ethnic stereotypes (I’m half black and half Jewish so I’m really good at raising my own bail money, kind of jokes, and yes, I realize that half of that comment is more offensive than the other half but that’s what first came to mind as I type this– I’m not that good at writing offensive jokes)…

Then I cut out any sentence that’s unnecessary. A bunch of blogs ago I questioned whether it’s better to have a three sentence joke that gets 80% laughter or a two sentence version that gets 60% laughter. And while I still don’t have the answer for audiences, for auditioning I go with two sentences and 60%.

Then I get on stage as much as I possibly can in the next week and a half to practice my two minute audition set plus my four minute call-back set.

Then I show up at the audition and I hope that I have the set of my life. Twice in a row.

Knock ’em dead, everybody that’s trying. I want all of us to rock. Good stand-up raises it up for everybody. And good stand-up on TV gets more people to come see our shows. And I want NY comics to dominate as we should– after all, NYC is the center of stand-up comedy.

A Few Good Men & a Few Others

posted on 1/5/08

My mother sent me the link to a study reporting that drinking low-fat or non-fat milk may lead to cancer.

Thanks, mom. I read the same newspapers you do, and then some. You know what causes cancer? Not dying of something else first. Sure, some things are known carcinogens: Smoking. Having a job wrapping asbestos around pipes. Frequent sex with (insert someone’s name here).

So. An early study claims ~ … Unless the study reported something like “We fed low-fat milk to forty subjects, and thirty seven of them burst into flames” I’ll think I’ll wait until the outcome is replicated in further studies.

I didn’t get a chance to read the study or to submit it to my panel of experts. But perhaps it’s what they were drinking milk instead of that’s the problem. Maybe they were drinking low-fat milk in place of wine. Or beer. Or Erbitux. And maybe, just maybe, the people who drink regular milk are mixing it with their Kahlua or Baileys and that, too, knocks down some cancer.

To whichever idioticalite at the Clinton campaign who thought it was a good idea to load six buses full of supporters on a narrow sidewalk right outside of Grand Central Terminal at 5 PM on a Friday: Get a clue. The sidewalk is only two people wide there– don’t pick a street leading to one of the busiest train stations in the country. Three blocks up or one block over would’ve worked much better. Or at least you could’ve had them line up single-file.

Hillary, you ought to know better. You claim to be a New Yorker– you’ve ‘lived’ here over a decade. And you’re FROM Chicago. I expect this behavior from someone who grew up in one of the forty six states without people. But you? I know, you don’t spend a lot of time walking by yourself around Manhattan. You’re driven by Secret Service agents and followed by your posse, or whatever non-rappers call hangers-on.

If you plan to run the country like you are running this part of your campaign then I’m voting for someone else. It’s the little things that piss people off.

I get it. It’s not your fault. You don’t dictate the logistics of loading buses to New Hampshire. You leave that to lower-ranked people twelve levels down from you.

Oh, you say, why would how some idiotical lower-level person in a campaign affect how she’d run the country as president? That lower-level person isn’t going to become Secretary of State or be appointed to the Supreme Court.

Well, baby Einstein, maybe not. But that lower-level person is going to be offered a job as a mid-level bureaucrat in the Clinton (Mrs.) Administration. And while you think that it’s the Supreme Court and the Cabinet that matter, think of where the decisions are made. There are over six hundred federal District Court judges who each try one case at a time. There are fewer Appeals Court judges and they seem to work in threes. And the nine justices of the Supreme Court? They hear cases together– it’s ONE court. So as a group which do you think has more power?

That lower-level person is going to clog something in the system. Something way more important than the sidewalk at rush-hour on a Friday.

A long time ago I volunteered to work on a presidential campaign. The weekend before Election Day they sent me to hand out campaign literature. My instructions? “Your corner is 86th and Lex. Get to work.”

Yes, baby E, you’d think that someone with a college degree doesn’t need to be told how to hand out flyers. You’d be wrong. Why? Because another guy was given the same intersection and he stood across the street from me at the top of a subway entrance. And what he did was to shove a flyer into people’s faces and say “Snarf Garftarf* for President.” After a few minutes I, the novice campaigner, took him aside and said “Look. This is New York. You shove a flyer in people’s faces, all you’re doing is annoying them. You want them to read this propaganda, not crumple it up and throw it at me when they get across the street. Here’s what you do. Engage them. Ask politely if they’re voting on Tuesday. And then ask for whom. If they say Snarf Garftarf, thank them, tell them they’ve made an excellent choice. If they say the other guy, ask them to read the flyer, maybe you’ll change their mind. If they say they haven’t made up their mind, THESE ARE YOUR PEOPLE. And if they say they’re not voting, ask why, and maybe you can convince them that they CAN make a difference.”

Although, it turns out, the most frequent reason people told me they weren’t going to vote? That they’re illegal. Not “Sorry, I’m not a citizen” or “I’m just visiting your country” or “I have a Green Card.” “I’m illegal.” Not only common at 86th & Lex, but readily admitted. I had no idea. Immigration should volunteer for a presidential campaign, they could probably knock the twelve million illegal immigrants down by a few million. Just here in NYC.

And it turns out, when you shove a piece of paper in people’s faces, nobody takes them. Ask them a polite question, they may stick around. We were the first group to run out of flyers. Which means that all the other teams were as ignorant as my co-hort across the street…

Which may explain why the Garftarf Administration didn’t accomplish much in all its years in office.

And now, with the jokes, comes the whining.

Today, for about the eightieth time this year, someone told me what to do.

Now, if the “You should” is followed by “get off my foot” or “not vote for Ron Paul” that’s good advice.

But if your “You should” is followed by your telling me how to manage my career, and you’re not an entertainment lawyer, or an intellectual property lawyer, or a manager of comedians, or an agent, or writer, or comedian, or club owner, or club manager, or comedy club waitress (comedians who are smart or at least paying attention learn that comedy club waitresses see a LOT of comedians and a LOT of audiences and overhear managers and owners, and know quite a bit about making or screwing up a career), or television executive, or comedy writer, or my mother, then please just shut up.

My mother has the right to tell me what to do. She’s earned it. It doesn’t mean I have to listen to her. But she can say whatever she wants.

Even if it’s “Get on ‘The Tonight Show’ and stop drinking so much low-fat milk, it’s no good for you.” (Nice call-back, huh?)

Because probably, just probably, though for some reason you THINK you know something about the entertainment business, well, you don’t.

That’s why you’re my dentist, not host of “The Tonight Show.”

Saying “You need a good agent” or “You should get on that TV show, what’s it called, ‘Last Comedy Standup'” or “Why don’t you call ‘The Tonight Show’ or HBO and ask if they’ll put you on TV” or “You should create a funny sit-com” clearly demonstrates that you DON’T know how this business works.

I don’t know what compels people to think they know how to write a TV show just because they spend seven hours a day on the couch (or DESPITE the fact that they spend seven hours a day on the couch), or that they know how comedians get ‘discovered’ (hint: we don’t GET discovered. We WORK, and WORK MORE, work HARD, and ACHIEVE success– we don’t just show up once in a while and hope someone ‘finds’ us–- just like any other career- have you ever heard of an oncologist getting ‘discovered?’) but really, doctor, I don’t say things like “You know what you should do? You should figure out what cures cancer and patent it and sell it.” (hint– you want to know what cures cancer? Anti-low-fat milk pills– invent some of those)

Okay, first of all, EVERY comic wants to be on “The Tonight Show”– even Jay Leno is trying to figure out a way to stay on the show past when his contract expires. You don’t just call up Bob and Ross (they’re the guys who book the comics for the show– and if you didn’t know this then maybe, just maybe, you’re not in a position to give career advice to a comedian) and say “Hey guys, I’m ready, what nights are free?” After at least ten years, IF you’re a comedy GENIUS (in the category of comedy genius to get on the show after ONLY around ten years of hard, hard work-– Ellen DeGeneres, Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Wright; sorry, probably not me but ask me when I’m ten years in) MAYBE, just MAYBE, you get a SHOT AT IT.

And you don’t just write a sit-com. Nobody in TV takes a sit-com idea from a new guy. What you do is, you write a spec script for a TV show (that means a script for an existing show, on speculation, because nobody’s paying you for it and nobody will ever buy it). Then you get someone (agent, manager, hot chick that producer wants to bang, blackmailer that has video of said producer and hot chick caught in the act, and the ‘hot chick’ is really a man) to show it to someone at A DIFFERENT show. He says “Gee, it doesn’t totally suck.” It proves maybe, just maybe, you can write for someone else’s characters. Eventually you get a job writing for a show. You write. You get stuff on the air. You prove you can continue to produce under pressure. To write under deadline. To Not Suck.

Then, maybe then, someone will look at your new sit-com idea.

And if it beats the one-in-a-thousand odds, it gets picked up.

Yeah, roughly a thousand-to-one. That’s why the word ‘maybe’ appears fourteen times in this essay.

Or, if you’re really, really talented, and really lucky, you go the Aaron Sorkin route. You work your ass off writing during the day while tending bar at a Broadway theatre at night. Your third produced play gets to Broadway. It’s a hit. You write the screenplay. THAT’S a hit too (“A Few Good Men” as if you didn’t know).

Oh, it might help if mommy or daddy’s a top entertainment lawyer or otherwise already in the entertainment business.

Not a dentist.

But please, unless you ARE Aaron Sorkin, or Jerry Seinfeld, or Jay Leno, or one of their agents, attorneys or managers, how about you finish looking at my teeth or whatever you’re supposed to be doing, and let me manage my own career. It’s going rather well, I must say.

It must be since I flew to the dentist in a new glass cockpit Cirrus SR22 Turbo GTS.

My dentist drives a Saab.

And if you ARE Aaron Sorkin, I’m not going to ask you to read my screenplay (that would be crass) but if you don’t buy me the beer you’ve owed me since 1988 then I’m going to remind you that I stole three bases in one game against your team when we were kids.

* His name wasn’t Snarf Garftarf, but wouldn’t that be a cool name for a president? I’m keeping his name secret (but a family member of his is mentioned in this article and I’m pretty sure nobody named Erbitux is running for president this year)


How NOT to get booked

posted on 1/1/08

As I look back on last year, and having finally managed to clean off my desk, I wanted to let people who feel not-as-good-about-themselves-as-they-ought-to, to have a reason to think that they’re doing most things right. Because a lot of your competition isn’t.

I produce a comedy show- Ivy Standup sm – it’s not “The Tonight Show” but it’s a pro show at one of NYC’s A clubs as well as a few select places outside NYC.

I get frequent requests from comics to appear in the show.

And for the most part they make my decision pretty easy.

If you’ve ever written a book and looked for a literary agent you know that their slush pile is so big that they’re simply looking for a reason to say no. Spelling errors, wrong genre, not following their submission guidelines… all make it easier for them to toss you aside and get closer to the bottom of the pile with no guilt.

All of us comics want to think you have to be smart to be a comedian. We want to think that. And while I’m sure that some very good comedians are bad spellers it’s certainly not what we want to see. Especially if the show you’re asking to be in is the Ivy League show.

And especially since if you’re emailing us– you have a computer that has a built-in spell-check. USE IT!

I’m not sure how well the grammar-check feature works since I stopped using it a long time ago but if you’re not sure of the difference between to, too and two, you might try it. Or ask someone to proof-read for you.

Secondly, if you send me a video (or a link to a video on the web) please, Please, PLEASE make sure I can watch it without throwing up. I got one video that was so hard to watch… well, let me give you some background. I’m a licensed pilot. Instrument-rated. I’ve trained for a commercial pilot’s license. I’ve done aerobatics. Steep turns. Side slips. Power-on stalls. Spins. Flown upside-down until the instructor said “Enough. Right the plane.”

All this to say I don’t easily get motion-sick.

The best way to describe this one video? It had to have been shot by an epileptic, having a seizure, while drunk, in a tornado, during an earthquake, while sitting on top of a bowl of jell-o.

While being beaten with a Louisville Slugger.

And tickled at the same time.

Seriously, I couldn’t watch it because I was getting motion-sick.

I got another video that started with a wide shot of the stage before zooming in, so I knew it was a big room. I couldn’t see how many people were in the room, and by the sound I figured there weren’t many people there. The comic didn’t get many laughs, and barely any applause. Which is okay– I was considering hiring the comic, not the audience.

But the tape he sent me wasn’t just of him. He included the end of the performer before him, and a bit of the intro of the person following him.

And they got great applause. Which he didn’t. It’s one thing to send in a tape with a quiet audience. It’s another thing to send in a tape that shows that the audience just wasn’t that into you.

If you don’t have a quality video to send, one that is a good representation of how good you are, and is watchable, just wait to send something.

It’s much better than sending something that just sucks.

SUCKS gets remembered. Your career can wait. And my show just isn’t that important. It’s not going to make your career. And if it could? Would you send a crappy tape to “The Tonight Show?”

Yes, we too know how hard it is to get a quality tape. Shows with good sound recording are few and far between– if the audience isn’t miked then it could sound like nobody’s laughing. So you have to work hard to get into a show with good recording.

Pay your friends to fill the club, beg, promise to wash someone’s car. Whatever it takes to get on a show that will get you a good tape.

One in a club, not shot in your basement.

If your mother yells that dinner’s ready, we know it’s not in a club, and that you still live with your mother.

And if a waitress drops a tray of drinks during your set, or a drunk interrupts, or the emcee makes fun of you in his introduction, or the mike cuts out, or you screw up a couple of jokes, or something else goes wrong so that the tape isn’t great?

Pay other friends, wash a herd of cattle, hire a videographer yourself, whatever it takes.

Just don’t send a tape that makes you look like an idiot.

And if you have a good tape and the booker still says no? Don’t write back to say “I’m funnier than you are.” Even if you’re sure you are.

Because I’m not giving up my spot in the show. It’s MY SHOW. Funnier than I am? That’s a given. Otherwise I’ll simply give myself a longer set. I LIKE being on stage. I can fill the time; I have plenty of material.

The question is: Are you funnier than other people in the show? Because if not, why would I bump them for you?

I already know they’re reliable, they’re funny, I’ve worked with them before. They show up. They don’t question my judgment. They can probably spell.

And to be clear, even for those who’ve sent me awful tapes I’ve tried to be constructive and positive, despite it going against my nature (I’m a native New Yorker). So when I write back to say “Thanks for submitting. I can’t use you right now– but feel free to write back in another year– and to be clear, I HAVE put people in the show long after their first query” please don’t argue.

Because while I do give try to give people another shot, I don’t give arguers another shot. Nobody wants to work with a pain-in-the-drain.

A story– a long time ago I tried out for a sports team. It was the U.S. National Dragon Boat team. Yeah, not exactly the highest sport in the U.S. but it was a team representing our country in the World Championship. And in China, where the sport originated, it IS a big sport. It’s like football to them. In fact it is the second most popular sport in the world, China being a fifth of the world’s population. It’s also the oldest continually raced sport around, at almost 2500 years old.

I was living in NY. The practices were in Philadelphia. Five days a week. I came to the team late, and everybody else trying out had dragon-boated before– almost all were on the team the year before, and were active, competitive kayakers or canoeists. I was a rower, quite good but rowing is a different range of motion from dragon-boating.

One day the coach took me aside. Told me he didn’t think I was going to make the team. That he wouldn’t ordinarily say anything, but as I was commuting 2+ hours a day, each way, just the commute alone almost a full-time job, he felt it his obligation to let me know. But that I was welcome to try again the next year, and to stop by if I were in Philadelphia again.

The next night I showed up at practice. He asked why. I said “Pete, I appreciate what you told me last night. It was the right thing to do. And with that knowledge you know that I can’t complain if I don’t make the team. But it’s still my choice to keep trying, and that’s what I’m gonna do, until the selection process is finished and you’ve chosen the team.”

And he understood.

And when it came time to select the team, and he had us race against each other, I won every race, and made the team.

I didn’t just win my races, I trounced people.

I’m sure that if I’d said anything the night he suggested I go home and not come back, other than “Thanks for talking to me,” I probably wouldn’t have gotten the chance to even race for my spot. But I appreciated what he told me, and I didn’t argue.

We made the finals in Hong Kong, beating every other Western boat. Even though we sank in the heats and semi-finals and some of us caught stomach bugs because Hong Kong Harbor is filthy.

To be clear, do not ever swim in Hong Kong Harbor.

If your plane crashes in Hong Kong Harbor and you manage to escape from the wreckage, you might not be one of the lucky ones.

Just saying.

The point is, don’t argue. Just get so good that you’re chosen for the team. TROUNCE everyone else and nobody can question whether you belong there.

Dan Naturman has been in several of my shows. He’s really, really funny, and he’s good to work with. People still ask me if he’ll be in the next show. If he weren’t a nice guy I’d still put him in the show, because he’s a great comic and my job is to put on the best show I can. Within reason. But most others? If they were jerks I’d never have them back. I’d find someone else for their spots.

Dan’s good enough to be a prick and still get booked.

You’re probably not.

To be clear– I like Dan on and off the stage. Don’t misquote me. And he regularly trounces. That’s his job. We all try. He succeeds.

But for you to get booked– have a good tape. AND be nice. And if you’re trying out for a clean, smart show, try to have a tape that’s at least somewhat clean. Not one full of Monica Lewinsky jokes. That’s not only not what I’m looking for, it’s a decade out of date. If I tell you I want “Smart and clean– what’s right for people entertaining clients” and your set opens with “Where my pot smokers at?” I will probably continue watching, but I may not watch the full ten minutes.

I’d rather spend the next nine minutes trying to catch up to Dan.

If you want us to bring Ivy Standup sm to your city, here’s a good way to do it– ASK.

Overheard Today in the Post Office

Posted on 12/24/2007

Clerk:  I hope Santa’s bringing you something nice this year. Adult Patron:  Santa won’t be visiting my house any time soon. Clerk:  Why not?  Are you Jewish or Moslem? Adult Patron:  No, I’m an asshole.

“Go To The Mirror, Boy!”

Posted on 11/29/2007

Greetings from Lost Angeles, land of 3 AM traffic jams, metered on-ramps and billboards advertising breast augmentation operations ($2999, if you’re interested; I assume that means for both).  Yes, I know, doctors prefer to call it a “procedure” but technically speaking I think the correct word is “installation.”

Just like when you’re hanging art on the wall.

It took over an hour on the freeway before I spotted a woman driving an SUV who was NOT speaking on a cell phone.  Then I saw her bumper-sticker: “Support Deaf Education.”  I guess that explains it.  Here they don’t just number the highways, they’re very specific that THEIR highways in California are the ONLY highways.  In NYC I often drive on 87.  Here it’s THE 405.

Unless you’re Russian, in which case it’s just 405.

Or you’re Paris Hilton, in which case it’s “Oh, like, I’m not really good in math but I want to go over there.”

Had an uneventful flight, courtesy of just enough frequent flier miles to sit in Business Class.  Where I get a reminder of just how snobby I might be about some things.  Right after take-off they offered drinks (at noon, otherwise known as 9 AM California time), including Champagne.  I love Champagne, and asked what brand it was.  The flight attendant said she’d check but in the meantime she handed me a glass.

It tasted like a penny dissolved in kerosene.  There are a lot of great American wines but nobody’s caught up to the French when it comes to sparkling wine. Say what you want about their lack of military prowess, but they know how to make beverages.  And when you come right down to it, which is more important, anyway?  Yeah, English-speaking countries did bail them out of two world wars, but if it weren’t for the French 230 years ago we’d still be calling soccer “football” and naming our children Nigel.  And doesn’t the world already have enough Nigels?

This time I remembered to bring some CDs to listen to in the car so I’m not limited to news radio or that nutty Dr. Laura.  Whose doctorate, by the way, is not in psychology.  I’m pretty sure it’s in animal husbandry.  My rental Corolla is a cute white car but the sound system doesn’t do justice to the opera I brought.  The Who’s “Tommy” in case you didn’t catch the “Go To The Mirror, Boy!” reference as the title of this blog.  Anyway I think it’s very Californian of me to notice how the car stereo sounds before I say anything about the weather.

My headlining gig was cancelled (nothing to do with me) but the producer said he’d try to find me something else since he heard good things about me. I wonder whom he asked since I never provided him with any references.  Somebody’s due a bottle of Champagne (the French kind, not what American serves in Business Class) but I don’t know who.  Anyway I have a bunch of other performances scheduled and the weather’s nice here despite the ongoing fear of returning wildfires.  Wind gusts of 18 miles per hour are major news here but maybe it’s nothing to do with fires, just warnings about bad hair days.

Monsters at my Door, a tale of 10/31

If you’re too young to stand up or old enough to drive to the store on your own to buy candy, I don’t mind that you’re with your family at my door.  I even encourage it.  But you shouldn’t be trick-or-treating.  If you’re carrying a 1 year old I know that it’s not your child eating the candy.  If you tell me that I’m wrong then I’m calling the Administration for Children’s Services.

If someone comes to your door looking scary I suggest you make sure they’re in costume.  Otherwise you risk offending a very scary-looking person.

And her husband?  Even scarier.

A kid came to my door tonight in full Home Depot gear.  And by that I don’t mean dressed as a sales associate.  Clearly he was a NASCAR driver.  I understand why NASCAR vehicles have advertising on them.  But your children?  Fine with me. I’m a Home Depot stockholder.  They’re not my kids.  Thank your sponsor for the tiny dividends.

A few years ago I came back from France just before Halloween.  I bought a lot of my favorite chocolate when I was there (Lindt Madagascar– milk chocolate with bits of cocoa beans, like a very, very good Nestles Crunch bar).  That wasn’t what I was giving out, not at $2 a bar for a product unavailable in the U.S.

At 9:45 PM on Halloween I was about to turn off my outside light– the universal signal for “It’s late, go home, you’re too old to be trick-or-treating anyway”– just as the doorbell rang.  I had about ten bars of Halloween candy left, so I figured I’d get rid of most of it and be done with Halloween for this year.

I opened the door and there were 30 kids outside.

The smart thing to do would’ve been to say “Sorry, I have only ten bars left, send the littlest kids forward…” but I didn’t think of it.  And the Lindt was on my dining room table right near the front door.  So 20 kids got really, really good candy.

The next year five thousand eight hundred kids came to my door.

From every country but France and Madagascar.

They all got Nestles Crunch bars.

I remember being annoyed at people who weren’t home on Halloween.  One day a year is all anybody asked.  We didn’t care if they were away on Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July or my birthday.  Just when we rang the bell on 10/31.

So I vowed to be home every Halloween.

Even if Home Depot and Grandparents are asking for candy.  Even if a one year old gets taken away by ACS.

Nowadays kids seem to have Halloween all figured out.  When I was a kid you got together with a few friends and went door-to-door.  These days kids are much more efficient.  They come to the door and the first kid to get candy rushes to the next house.  So that by the time you’re finished giving out candy most of the kids are gone.

Eliminating the biggest impediment to gathering as much candy as possible– waiting for the people to answer the door.  Now when the kid gets to the door it’s already open.

Saving the kids time.  And yielding more candy for each kid over the course of a limited evening.  While the homeowner pretty much can’t leave the doorway because so many kids are coming.

I blame the Bush administration.

Their “The First MBA President” idea, combined with trickle-down operations management, means more kids at my door each year.

Kid, if you can’t interrupt your cell phone conversation to say “Trick or treat” then you’re WAY too important to be going door-to-door for candy.

By the way, it’s really hard to prepare a whole chicken when the doorbell keeps ringing and I’m by myself.  I think my parents are right– it’s time I got married.

To someone who likes answering the door.  Or washing my hands.

Or at least visits France frequently and brings home good chocolate just for me.

And if that doesn’t happen… if your 14 year old daughter comes to my door dressed as Marilyn Monroe, please send her back when she’s 18.  If I’m still single: she can have the Lindt.

As long as she’s not carrying a 1 year old.

From The Joey Reynolds Show

Due to the good graces of way too many people to name I appear from time to time on the nationally-syndicated Joey Reynolds radio show.

Two months ago it was Joey’s birthday and many of his friends stopped in during the show, which is live starting at midnight (it goes national at 1 AM).

During a commercial break The Amazing Kreskin walked into the studio. Think that guys like Kreskin travel with an entourage? Not when they’re 70.

People there knew him and someone asked how he got home from a recent gig. His response? Something like “It was awful, I got lost in Jersey and it took me hours to get home.”

Not so amazing, huh Kreskin? You claim to find lost objects and people but you can’t seem to find your own house?

Then later, in what passes for the green room at a radio station, Kreskin put down his bag, walked past the food, then said “Where’s my bag? I just put it down three minutes ago…”

The Amazing Kreskin, the great mentalist, mind-reader extraordinaire… couldn’t even read his OWN mind. But he did look around and find his bag. I’d found the roast beef and rye bread, which to me was a far more important feat. His biography hypes his power to find hidden objects. I guess his bag wasn’t hidden– it was in plain sight so maybe that didn’t count.

But Kreskin was a very nice guy.

Or did he simply plant that idea in my mind? I guess we’ll never know.

 If Only Senator Bathroom BJ Had Read THE CONSTITUTION

Because Article 1, Section 6 clearly states:

“The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

The senator claims he was on the way to Washington, DC when he was detained by the police.  Except that if he knew his rights he could have pointed out that they weren’t allowed to detain him.

One of the few senators who is not a lawyer, Senator Craig none-the-less claims to be a defender of the Second Amendment right to bear arms… but apparently he couldn’t be bothered reading all those words that appear in the Constitution prior to the Second Amendment.

To quote Nelson Muntz of The Simpsons… Ha HA!

The Answers to Your Questions

I’ve gotten a lot of mail lately and don’t have time to answer it all individually.  Here are the answers– if you asked then you know what the question was.

Yes, even if your wife watches it still counts as gay.

Of course she says they’re real– she’d look like an idiot if she told you she paid for them and they’re still uneven.

Of course not.  If I were trying to kill him, he’d be dead.

Of course not.  If I were trying to kill her, she’d be dead.

I won’t tell anyone.  Why would I admit I know you?

No I won’t give you her phone number.  Didn’t you just spend ten minutes telling me how crazy she was?

I don’t have a sister. No, it must’ve been someone else you saw in an orange dress on Broadway last night. I look horrible in orange.

No, I don’t think I need to thank President Bush for all the material he’s given me.  It’s been more than offset by record budget deficits, increased pollution, high energy prices caused by the lack of any viable energy policy…

No, I don’t think I need to thank the Clintons for all the material they’ve given me.  It’s been more than offset by the repeal of the equal time rule, a huge decline in respect for the office of the president, the time I’ve spent stuck in traffic at Westchester County Airport when the Clintons flew in and out, high energy prices caused by the lack of any viable energy policy…

Proud to be an American?

Posted July 4, 2007

Someone recently asked if I were proud to be an American.

I don’t think that pride is the right word.   I am glad to be an American– there aren’t too many other countries that afford anywhere near the freedom and opportunity available here.

But Pride?   What have I done that has created those freedoms and opportunities?  I didn’t help draft the Constitution.   I didn’t create the Industrial Revolution.   I didn’t even help win World War II*.   America’s Greatest Generation?   Nope, I grew up in the Me Decade. Or was it the Al Franken Decade?   I forget; it was so long ago.

What HAVE I done?  Let’s see- I vote, I pay all my taxes without complaining, I don’t litter or steal or kick puppies and it’s been a long time since I killed someone.  Even though a lot of people have deserved it lately.  I’ve also been part of the capitalist system, making funds flow more efficiently so we can have factories and power plants and buildings and stores that sell really nice-smelling soap.  And money for your retirement– you might have more of that too, partially because of what I’ve done.

Occasionally I also make someone laugh.  Now if you’ll excuse me there’s someone I have to go kill.  He cheated on his taxes and kicked a puppy.

I’m so glad to live here.

*My father did and I am proud of him.

Dirty Words on TV

“All the President’s Men” was on channel 31 tonight.  In the space of less than five minutes Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee used two different four-letter curse words.

After the initial surprise of hearing the F word and the S word on over-the-air television, my next thought was:

A movie as important as “All the President’s Men” should never be censored.

As they say, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, even on-line

A recent on-line dating exchange:

Her (initial contact): Funny and Jewish all rolled into one man..lol wow

Me: Hi.  Thanks for writing. I don’t think we’re a match, but I wish you the best of luck in your search. -S

Her: Presumptuous aren’t you ?? I don’t think we’re a match —I didn’t ask you that.  Why would you think that?

Me: Well, I thought that most of the time when people write to someone on a dating site, they’re looking for a date. I think that it’s polite to say no thank you.  Most people don’t bother writing back, choosing instead to let the other person simply twist in the wind and wonder.  I’m not like that. I came here looking for someone to love, not seeking an argument.

Her: I wasn’t looking at you for a possible match….but just curious why you say we aren’t.

Me (unsent): Because you don’t handle rejection all that well.

Ah, the Beauty of a Drunken Beauty

Last night I had two shows at Ha! Comedy Club in NYC.  The first show was well-attended for a Sunday early show.

The emcee did a passable job warming up the audience though he had a bit of trouble trying to have a conversation with a European who didn’t understand his questions (comics– if this happens to you, here’s my suggestion: Cut and run. Say thank you and move onto someone else; don’t try to keep communicating with someone who doesn’t understand you).  Danny McDermott was up next and did well with a short set, but towards the end a drunk woman in the back kept interrupting him.

I was the next comic up, and it was clear that the woman was getting drunker and drunker because not only was she interrupting more, but was getting increasingly difficult to understand.

Some clubs will rapidly throw out audience members who disturb the show.  Ha! isn’t one of those clubs.

After a few interruptions I asked her her name.  She laughed.  I said “Your name is Ha?  Then you’re in the right club.”

At one point I said “I can’t understand a word she’s saying… and something tells me I’m better off.”  All my lines to quiet her down got laughs from the rest of the audience but didn’t do much to get her to stop talking. The audience finally told her to shut up and while it took me almost a minute to finish a fifteen second closing joke, it was worth it.

On my way out of the showroom she stood up and hugged me, telling me how funny I was and how much she’s enjoying the show.  I noticed the guy at her table, ignoring her.

A few minutes later she came outside.  She was beyond breath-taking.  She said it was her one year anniversary, and she was angry at her boyfriend because he kept telling her to shut up, but she wanted to talk to the comics because that’s how it’s supposed to be.  As politely as I could I told her no, that’s not how it works.  That the emcee may ask questions at the start of the show, but after that it’s our turn to talk.  But that didn’t stop her from her touchy-feely state. The other comics were staring at her, but to me she smelled like betrayal.

Clearly she wanted attention of the male kind.  But I’m not the kind of comic who’ll have sex with an audience member in the bathroom so she can get back at her boyfriend.  Or for any other reason, for that matter.

Besides, Ha! has a secret r… oops.

I’m looking for Ms. Right.  Not Ms. Right Now.

She went outside to smoke a cigarette.  The emcee and I were standing outside the showroom when she came back.  She continued talking to us, telling us how much she loved us and how funny we were.  She was also having trouble standing up.  At one point I asked her to which side she was most likely to fall so one of us could be ready to catch her…

I didn’t want her attention but I felt it was my duty to the other comics to keep her out of the showroom for as long as possible.  Which worked until she decided to return to the showroom and headed for the wrong room.

We steered her back to the waiting room and kept her occupied until it was time for her to leave.

She was so annoying that a gay comic commented that “She makes me even GAYER, if that’s possible.”

After the show one comic gave her his business card.  I pointed out that she was the drunken one who kept interrupting the show (with the bright lights in your face on stage, it’s often difficult to recognize someone from the audience after the show).  He said he knew.  When I suggested that she probably wasn’t the kind of person he wanted coming to more of his shows, he disagreed, saying that she might not always be drunk, and she’s the kind of woman who may bring a dozen friends to the next show.  Comics– what’s your take on this?

The second show was almost sold-out, the audience was warmed-up and happy when I took the stage, and I can’t even begin to explain to non-comics how great it is to tell an opening joke and have sustained laughter for ten or fifteen seconds and have that energy continue all the way through a fifteen minute set.  The kind of show where you know that you won’t get through half your material because they’re laughing so much, and because every spontaneous riff you throw in gets laughs, and you feel like you can do no wrong.

Ah, the joys of being a performer.  And in general the pride from doing a good job dealing with a difficult situation.  I can’t wait to go back.  Even if she’s there again with eleven equally-drunk friends.  Even a difficult audience is better than no audience at all.

Random, Rainy-Day Thoughts

The Ivies vs. The Sopranos… Last night was our Ivy League Comedy Showcase sm at Gotham, probably the nicest club in the city. I had a great time hosting the show, as I always have.

Then tonight I did a ten minute set at a club that’s in the basement of a chain restaurant a few blocks north of Times Square, in front of a bunch of Soprano mobster-wannabees.  Who wouldn’t shut up for anybody, not even their friend in the show whom they came to see.

Both shows were fun in their own ways.  At the Ivy show, I said “I just heard on the way here that the head of undergraduate admissions at M.I.T. had to resign because she lied on her resume– claimed to have gone to medical school when she didn’t even go to college.  And I’ve been thinking for the last hour that there has to be a joke that’s perfect for this audience.  And I thought, and thought, and thought… then realized: HEY, M.I.T. is not IN the Ivy League!”

At tonight’s show I had to fight for the audience’s attention.  But the way to do that, in circumstances like this, is to engage the biggest trouble-makers.  The only way they’d stop talking to each other is if the comic talks to them.  I really don’t like making the show about them, it’s like rewarding bad behavior, but for the sake of the rest of the audience– if the only way to make the show fun for everybody is to joke with the noisy folks, that’s what to do.  So I did. When the mobster-lite is from Harrisburg, PA, it’s easy.

Virginia Tech jokes: The killer sent his video manifesto to NBC News, which aired it.  That’s typical. This crazy murderer gets a TV credit, and I’m stuck handing out flyers in Times Square in the rain.*

Whenever there’s a tragedy like this people take advantage of the situation to advance their own political agendas… no, I’m not talking about comedians.  The pro-gun folks say that if more people had guns someone would have returned fire and fewer people would have been killed.  A nd the anti-gun folks say that if we made guns harder to get, this would never have happened. I don’t know which side is right.  But I do know that if everybody had a gun, I would’ve shot at least four people just on the drive in tonight.

* I don’t really hand out flyers in Times Square.

The Differences Between Democrats and Republicans

Okay, it’s considered a really overdone topic in comedy– the differences between men and women, or between New York and Los Angeles.  So how about… the differences between Democrats and Republicans?

I used to say that while they may share the same goals they differ in approach.  And that the difference between a Democrat and a Republican is that when an expert proposes a solution to a social problem that involves spending money (such as “I can improve reading scores by 20% or cut poverty in half; it’ll cost a billion dollars”) the Democrat says “Wonderful.  Here’s a billion dollars, best of luck to you!”

The Republican says “Prove to me that it works, WITHOUT spending any money, then you can have the billion dollars.”

Here’s another difference: When the Democrat asks a bureaucrat to take care of something and it doesn’t get done on a timely basis, the Democrat says “Wow, I didn’t realize how busy they were– so busy that they couldn’t get to my thing as quickly as I would have hoped.”

The Republican says “Those lazy bureaucrats should be fired– clearly they’re just sitting around doing nothing instead of getting to my thing when they should have.”

Random stuff

You can’t spell “Slaughter” without “laugh.”

I got spam email today– the subject was “World Wide Lootery” which I thought contained a rather ironic spelling error.

Last week at a business lunch one of my guests was trying to hide his Blackberry below the table, so while everyone else was chatting he was busy emailing in secret.  Or so he thought until I said something.

He said it was important– it was an email from his wife.  Their son’s teacher called, said he had trouble focusing and paying attention.

Clearly due to the great example his father must set.

Notes from Saturday Night’s Party

A Polish-American friend of mine invited me to her birthday party.  She said she invited 20 Americans and 80 Polish people.

I was the American who showed up. A ll around me, conversations in Polish that didn’t switch to English when I approached, speaking English.

One of my best friends in college was Polish, so I tried the only Polish I knew. Because he taught all of us Polish drinking songs.

Somehow, entering a conversation by saying what apparently translates to “The streets will be rivers with the blood of our enemies, and at the end of the rivers of blood, the navies of our enemies will be washed away” didn’t endear me to them.

The party had entertainment.  I discovered that Polish drag queens aren’t that convincing as women.  Say what you want about America– we may not make the best cars, or the best beer, but our drag queens are second to none!  Take that, you overly masculine Polish she-men!

I started a conversation (in English, this time) with an attractive woman.  What does she do for a living?  Tax accountant.  Perfectly respectable profession.  Until… she told me, completely seriously, that after tax season she’s moving to Kenya because she’s sick of the city.  I don’t know what’s wrong with rural Rockland County, but apparently the idea of retiring in her thirties to survive for $4000/year on her savings is attractive to her.  I don’t know what she’ll do if Kenya gets more modern and the cost of living rises… but that’s not my problem. If she likes kissing giraffes (she said she did) that’s between her and Mrs. Giraffe.

The next woman I met is a fashion designer.  With no designs on moving to Africa. We spoke about fashion models.  She said that clothes look good on tall, thin women.  I said that doesn’t prove anything.  Any clothing will look good on Tyra Banks.  If she wants to prove what a great designer she is, design something that looks good on Rosie O’Donnell.

Won’t Get Fooled Again

I saw a television commercial for Chevrolet.  The ad’s theme song was “American Pie.”  For the six of you who don’t know the song, it’s about the death of Buddy Holly.  And for the four of you who don’t know who Buddy Holly was, he was one of the pioneers of rock music in the fifties, until he died in a plane crash.  He was a great inspiration for a lot of rock groups who followed, including The Beatles (in fact they chose the name “The Beatles” because Buddy Holly’s group was called “Buddy Holly and the Crickets”).

I understand that “American Pie” mentions Chevrolet in it (“Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry…”).  But the song is not about cars.  It’s about the death of an American icon.

Like General Motors?


The Republican Club at NYU is running a game called something like “Spot the Illegal Immigrant.”  Participants compete to be the first one to spot a student wearing a sticker that says “Illegal Immigrant.”

Protesters are saying that the game is racist.

Exactly which race is illegal immigrant?  Because I’m pretty sure I’ve met illegal immigrants from six continents.

Illegal immigrants come from all ethnic groups.

Except one.

Last week the British military announced that Prince Harry’s unit would be going to Iraq.

This week the Prime Minister announced that Britain would begin to withdraw forces from Iraq, reducing its deployment.


I saw an ad on the internet for a service for shy people that said “Shy? Send your marriage proposals via email…”

Ignoring for a moment the use of the PLURAL in the ad…

Well, I guess it SHOULD be plural– why get turned down by one woman for proposing by email, when you can spam MILLIONS and hope that maybe one person clicks the wrong box?

How do you email an engagement ring?

I totally understand the honeymoon– with a little Photoshop you can easily paste your face into a porn site.

Women are Funny. Vanity Fair isn’t Funny… nor fair.

The January issue of Vanity Fair had an article entitled “Why Women Aren’t Funny.”

The article was, of course, nonsense.

The March issue published a number of letters in response, including mine.  Since the editors of Vanity Fair severely edited my letter, leaving merely an almost incomprehensible few sentences and even editing out my middle name, for those who are interested here is the original letter:

As possibly the only comedian ever to do a statistical analysis on gender differences in comedy I wish to refute some statements made in “Why Women Aren’t Funny.”  I strongly disagree with the claim that most funny women are either homosexual, large or Jewish despite the fact that one of my best friends in comedy happens to be all three.  Most female comedians in America are heterosexual, normal-sized Christians.

Your columnist asserted that there are more terrible female comedians than male comedians despite the preponderance of male comedians in the industry.  Isn’t it likely that these female comedians just don’t appeal to him so he labels them not funny?  If they’re working comics they must be making somebody laugh or they would soon be unemployed.  How often does Mr. Hitchens go to comedy clubs or open-mikes?  Because my experience has been that most of the really awful amateur comedians tend to be men.  When taking the stage, even if they don’t have great punch lines, women generally at least have a point to make.  And in my opinion most of the really bad amateurs are men who go on misogynistic tirades with nothing funny to say.

My gender analysis, done earlier this year, revealed that approximately a third of amateur comedians are female.  A smaller percentage of professional comics are women, although mathematically one can’t directly compare the two populations at one point in time because of the several years it takes to go from beginner to professional.  Women do appear more likely to take a class when starting in comedy, whereas men are more likely to just write some jokes and show up on open-mike night.  And while almost all women who attend open-mike nights seem to want to be comedians, some percentage of males who show up are just in need of attention, or medication.

Perhaps one reason that women comprise less than half of all working comics is the same reason there aren’t that many women in investment-banking– it’s a hard business, with a lot of hours and a great deal of self-sacrifice.  It’s quite difficult to start a family and be on the road forty weeks a year.  And anyway, as a male-dominated industry it’s a long, hard fight for women until the numbers start to even out over time.

What will help the numbers even out?  If people would stop publishing articles claiming that women aren’t funny.  It’s clearly not true.  What can your readers do?  They can go to comedy clubs to see female comics.  Comedy is a business; it runs on money.  Your money is your vote.  Go out and vote.

Shaun Eli Breidbart

Now I’m Customer Service and They’re the Customer

Dell called me yesterday about the computer I ordered for my father, which I’d already picked up at UPS earlier in the day.

Someone who may actually have been speaking English called to ask if the computer had arrived.  I said yes.  She then told me that I’d be receiving an email survey about the customer service she had just provided me.  I explained that SHE called ME, and that in fact I was the one helping her (I didn’t bother to ask why Dell didn’t check with UPS instead of me).  But that I didn’t particularly care to send HER a survey.

She didn’t understand.  But then she asked if there was anything ELSE she could help me with.  At which point I asked her what she had already helped me with.

She didn’t understand that either.

Sure hope the folks designing and assembling the computers are a bit smarter.

Um, not Exactly My Dream Girlfriend

“I play a push-up game with my boyfriend. We take half a deck of cards, flip them over one by one, and whatever number shows up, he does that many push-ups and I do half…”

Champion marathoner Melissa White, quoted in “Runner’s World” magazine.

I’ve played a push-up game or two with a girlfriend, and it never involved half a deck of cards. And I’ll bet it was a lot more fun for both of us.

By the way, shouldn’t the name of the magazine be “Runners’ World” instead?   I don’t think the world belongs to only one runner.

The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People

I got this book as a gift.  The cover says there are over 15 million copies in print. That’s more than 10% of the entire work force!  Do you think that 10% of the work force is highly successful?  Has the success of the work force improved much since this book was first published?

Have you been to the Gap or Home Depot lately?

I think his next book will be titled “The Seven Million Dollars of Highly Successful Self-Help Book Authors.”  By the way, the Self-Help section in my local Barnes & Noble is in the basement.  That’ll do wonders for your self-esteem.

And if you really want my critique of this book– it’s based on ‘research’ done by the author.  NOT research of highly-successful people.  No, that’d make sense. It’s based on research of OTHER self-help type books written over the past two hundred years.  Most of which were themselves not based on any research.

In college we called this “Mushing all the small bits of left-overs together and throwing it in the microwave because you’re hungry and drunk and there’s nothing else to eat.”

My violent new years resolutions

If you think that saying “My bad” after doing something stupid is an automatic excuse, I will punch you in the face then say “My too.”

If you drive recklessly while talking on a cell phone I will snatch the cell phone out of your hand and throw it in the river.

If you’re at the front of an elevator and think that it’s polite and chivalrous to step half aside and partially block the door while waiting for others to exit first, I will shove you into traffic.  Or at least out of the elevator.  Just get out of the elevator.  And don’t stand there with your hand on the door acting like you’re helping.  There’s an electric eye– the doors won’t close on anybody. It’s not 1976 anymore.

Global warming is maybe two degrees a century.  Not a lot in terms of temperature change, just a lot in terms of its impact on the environment.  If you blame much warmer than usual weather, like a sixty degree day in NYC in January, on global warming, I will shove you into a melting glacier.

If you didn’t order dessert that means you don’t get to eat dessert.  Don’t think it gives you a license to stick your fork in mine.  You had your chance to order when I did.

One more thing: “If life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”  WAKE UP!  You don’t get lemonade from lemons.  You get lemon juice.  You need sugar to make lemonade. And if you had the sugar, you probably wouldn’t be complaining about the lemons, now, would you?

Welcome to Brooklyn

Posted on 12/08/2006

In some ways it’s a rite of passage for a comedian, especially a white comedian, to play at an urban club.  As you probably know if you’ve ever watched “Showtime at the Apollo,” some audiences don’t go to be entertained.  They go to boo the performers off stage.  Maybe it’s empowering; I don’t know as I’ve never been tempted, while sitting in the audience, to make the show about me and start booing.

Comedians, at least those who have enough sense to research and ask questions, know that the best way to approach this kind of audience is to get them laughing so soon that they want to pay attention instead of taking over the show.  And every comedian with any experience knows that if there’s an elephant in the room you have to address it.  I’ve just never before been the elephant.

Wednesday night was my first spot at an urban club.  I was the first comedian up after the emcee who conversed with the audience, told some jokes, and mentioned, not joking, about a recent NYPD shooting in which white officers fired 50 rounds at black men in a car, killing one of them on the morning of his wedding.

And then he introduced me by saying “Are y’all ready for some white people?” (‘some’ being a generous term; I was the only one)

I opened by saying that I didn’t mind being the whitest guy in the room, I just hated being the oldest guy in the room.  Then mentioned that the MC talked about “…the cops who shot fifty times, and then all of you turned to look at the white guy…”

“I didn’t shoot anybody fifty times, I didn’t shoot anybody forty times, I didn’t shoot anybody. The only thing I’ve EVER shot in my life was a Diet Coke can, and Diet Coke cans are WHITE.”

The only white guy in the room made people laugh and all was good in the world.  Or at least in that one room in Brooklyn.

Maybe I should stop making fun of their country

Posted on 7/3/2006

My web host allows me to see which countries have provided my site with the most visitors.  Of course the U.S. is on top by far.  Followed by Germany. More German visitors than from Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa COMBINED!

Germany.  So now I have something in common with David Hasselhoff, good beer, people who like to drive really fast and this year’s World Cup.

A lot of Germans speak very good English, further proof we won the war.  Now if only we could go to war with the food service industry, so the busboy would understand me when I said “No, I’m NOT finished with that.”

I’m also popular in the Czech Republic, Poland, Holland and Japan, other countries I’ve never visited.  And I’m popular with people in the U.S. military, and more popular in Malaysia than in Sweden.  More in Fiji than in Switzerland, and I’ve been to Switzerland.  If you go to Switzerland, yes, eat the chocolate.  Skip their wine.  France is nearby, drink their wine instead. I’ve never performed in either country, but I made people laugh on an Air France flight a few years ago (in French) and I’ve had fun performing a few sentences in French in American comedy clubs with Swiss people in the audience.

Even though they hadn’t brought any chocolate.

Fat Jokes and Sex Shops

I installed some software that tracks how people found my website (www.BrainChampagne.com). It tells me the keywords that people may have used in a search engine that brought them to my site.

Of course many people come to the site seeking free comedy videos, or advice on how to tell a joke (I wrote a column), or jokes on selling (I spoke about marketing comedy and some info appears on the website).

Quite a large number of people are seeking fat jokes.

Two people (yes, two) were seeking sex shops in Raritan, NJ.  No, I don’t have a link on my site– but one page does include the words Sex, Shop and Raritan (in unrelated posts).

Two people searched for Florida Gun Safety Comedy.

And two people this month typed in Standup Comedian Starbucks.  I guess when you can’t sleep, you can search.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Posted on 6/20/2006

As the woman walking in front of me on the sidewalk rummaged through her purse, a ten dollar bill flew out and landed in front of me.  I picked it up and caught up to her.  “Excuse me, miss…”

She turned around angrily.  “Can’t you see I’m on the phone!” she shouted.  I shrugged.  There was no evidence of a phone–nothing in her hand, no wire running to her head.  She brushed her hair back to reveal a wireless earpiece.

“See!” she scowled at me before turning away and returning to her phone call.

I kept the money.

Diary of a mad joke-writer

Posted on 3/31/2006

I wrote the perfect joke last night. Could not get to sleep. Around 3 AM I thought of it. Eight words. Just eight words. That’s it. Silly yet deep on so many levels.

I’m not normally a one-liner comic. Yes, I write jokes, and I wish my humor were more story-like, more revealing of myself. But I’m decent at writing jokes, so that’s what I do. Usually set-up, set-up, punch, or set-up, set-up, punch, punch, punch.

Now the comics reading this think they know where it’s going. Jokes that are funny at 3 AM usually dissolve in the daylight. But not this one. Eight words. Followed by a tag that went even deeper and yet politicized the joke.

This morning I woke up and I was still laughing. Tired, but laughing. Remembering that I have a show tonight, and a show on Saturday night. I couldn’t wait to tell this joke on stage.

All day I thought about this joke. By 3 PM, only twelve hours after this perfect joke was born, I had a third tag– another punch line that not only capitalized on the eight words, and not only built on the next tag, but also added to the joke AND made fun of it all in just another eleven words.

Word-efficiency! I’d have them on the floor in twenty five seconds.

Now you all see where this is going.

There were sixty people in the room, sixty people who had paid to hear jokes.

I wanted to open with this joke, to shake the building until the bottles fell off the bar.

But I was seventh in the line-up. Seventh, after the two drink minimum would have broken through everyone’s blood-brain barrier. And how could I follow the perfect joke? Everything else I say would pale in comparison.

So I thought maybe open with something tried and true. No sense knocking their socks off if they couldn’t feel their feet. And I did. An opening joke about a cab driver, The Bronx and arson. I know it works.

It did. All three tags. The three-liner. Another three-liner that builds upon the previous. Then the next tag, one sentence that makes them laugh, then groan. That suckers them in so I can point out the futility, the silliness, the irony of their groans. For another laugh. I’m such a whore.

Then the perfect eight words. The joke I’ve been thinking about for sixteen and one half hours.

Followed by the perfect silence.

It was so quiet I could hear the subway. The Montreal subway, three hundred and twenty five miles away.

And then the next tag.

That woke them up.

And the next?

I felt exonerated.

Remember The Rule: Do not open or close with a new joke, no matter how funny you think it is. Because YOU are not the judge, nor the jury. You are the prosecutor. Your job is simply to present the evidence. THEY will render the verdict.

There is a reason people state these rules. Because we never know what’s funny. I thought those eight words were perfect.

And in a way, they were. They were the perfect set-up to the two tags that followed.

I’ve had set-ups that got bigger laughs than the punch line. I’ve learned to live with that, even feel joy– hey, if they laugh, who cares what I thought when I wrote the joke? If they don’t laugh, it’s not a punch line. But if they laugh at the set-up, IT is a punch line.

So it’s only fair that once in a while, what I thought was the perfect punch line is only a good set-up. Not ONLY a good set-up. A good set-up for two very good punch lines.

Hey, if you set out to build a car that runs on dirt, and you end up building a car that runs on oranges, don’t fret. Plant oranges.

Copyright 2006 by Shaun Eli.  All rights reserved.  Including the rights to a car that runs on oranges, if you build it.


Wow.  Got on stage on Saturday night before a packed crowd.  So packed that they had to bring in more tables to seat everyone.

I went up fourth.  As I’ve mentioned, I prefer to go up early, before the two drink minimum gets through the blood-brain barrier.  Fourth is good.

I opened my set the same way I did the night before.  Went into the eight word line, but this time thinking of it as the set-up to the two tags that follow (actually three tags now– I thought of another on the way to the club).

Worked just fine.  I’m happy.

What’s the joke?  Come to a show.  You’ll know which one it is.

See you at the clubs,

Women are Funny

Posted on 3/25/2006

Over the last month four different female comedians have spoken with me about the troubles in being a female comedian. One said that comedy was rough for women because club owners, bookers and producers often hit on the comedians, making it difficult for them to rebuff these advances and still get booked on shows. I, occasionally billed as a feminist male comedian, do notice the difficulties women go through in this business. It is harder for women to get booked than it is for men.

In the early eighties when I started going to NYC comedy clubs regularly as a fan, bookers were less likely to hire female comedians. They said that audiences didn’t like women comics, that all they did was talk about their periods and complain about men. Some club owners were even quoted as saying that women simply weren’t funny enough. It was very rare to see more than one woman in the line-up, even if the show had a dozen comedians.

And unfortunately, when people see a small amount of truth in something, they may believe the whole thing. The small amount of truth being that in fact there was a percentage of working female comics who did talk about their periods and complain about men. Sure, male comics talked about their girlfriends but they were more likely to say “MY girlfriend stinks” whereas the females were saying “ALL men stink” and for an audience there’s a difference between the two statements. I’m not her boyfriend but I am a man, and I’m therefore being insulted for my gender.

Some generalizations may have had a bit of truth twenty years ago, but no longer.

It’s been my observation lately that at amateur shows and open-mikes in NYC around thirty five percent of the comedians are female (this is more than a guess– I’ve been counting). The percentage of professional female working comics is probably much lower. But before the statisticians start calling, I do need to point out that you can’t compare the two– you’d have to look at the proportion of female amateur comics several years ago vs. working comics now (and not just in NYC) because it takes years to go from starting out to making money. And maybe only one percent ever make it to the professional level.

It takes a long time for things to change. Right now one NYC comedy club, Laugh Lounge, is owned and booked by a woman, and the person who first auditions comedians at The Comic Strip is also a woman. Many other clubs have women who book/produce shows. And if you look at who is booked at some rooms, the proportion of women seems to be on the rise. There’s no Title IX in comedy, but there are women who are doing all they can to help other women succeed. Change is happening. Not terribly fast, but faster than it would happen without the women in comedy who are there helping other women. But there is a group of people who can help women comedians even more than the bookers and other comedians can. It’s you. How can you help? Keep reading.

Some people say that one reason that men are more successful in the business world is that while women tend to seek consensus, men are more likely to try to win people over to their point of view. Genetics? Upbringing? Sexism? A combination of all three? We don’t know. I will say this about comedians– search for comedians on the web and you will discover a lot more male comedians than female comedians, and the men’s sites are more likely to have content that draws you in– as an example, look at my site (www.BrainChampagne.com) or Steve Hofstetter’s (www.SteveHofstetter.com). Of course there are exceptions– Laurie Kilmartin’s website (www.Kilmartin.com) is a good example of a woman’s comedy website with a lot of content. But only 15% of the comedians choosing to list themselves on ComedySoapbox.com are women, and an equally small proportion of the comedians who regularly post blogs, one of the site’s most popular features, are women. Marketing is very important in comedy– the more we promote, the more people we get to shows. And it’s putting people in seats that gets us booked.

I’ve learned that the comedy business is half about being funny and the other half is about people. The business really runs on favors. You gave me a spot last year when I asked for one, so I’ll tell my agent about you. You introduced me to this booker, so come open for me on the road. You gave me a ride home when I was sick and it was raining, now I have a TV show so come audition for it. Successful comedians have learned to be nice to other comedians– more than half their help as they start in the business will come from other comics.

Want to know the reason that comedy clubs put on theme shows such as Latino comics or gay comics? Because they attract an audience. Vote with your feet– if you see that NYC’s Gotham Comedy Club is putting on an all-women show, go to it. If the room is full the owners will notice and put on more of these shows. They’ll probably also put more female comics into the regular line-up. If you go to The Comic Strip because Judy Gold or Veronica Mosey or Karen Bergreen is playing, mention how much of a fan you are within earshot of the person at the door. Amateur comedians are told that one step in getting noticed is when the waitresses at comedy clubs start talking about them– they see a hundred comedians a week and what they say carries some weight. More importantly, if you, a paying customer, let it be known why you went to a show, you will be heard. It’s not exactly as scientific as the Nielsen ratings, but it works.

Why aren’t female comedians getting their share of TV shows? Where’s Laurie Kilmartin’s sitcom, or Jessica Kirson’s? I don’t know. I don’t think TV executives are geniuses, and surely they prefer going with what has already worked instead of risking something new, but if the few female-centered shows were drawing in huge ratings, the networks would notice. There seem to be a lot of television shows about young women– they’re all on UPN or WB. How are they doing? Obviously well enough that we’re getting more of them. It actually took Fox to put on a number of TV shows about black families (after very few of them on network… “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons” and “The Cosby Show” come to mind) and now there are a lot of them. And black people are what, fifteen percent of the country? Women, you’re are more than half, and I’m pretty sure you all own televisions.

Why aren’t there any women hosting late-night talk shows, traditionally a job given to a stand-up comedian? I don’t know. Joan Rivers had a shot at The Tonight Show but she blew it. Frankly I really liked her on Monday nights but I don’t know if I could have watched her five nights a week because she was, to me, more of a character than a person I wanted to invite into my home on a regular basis. I would quickly get sick of having so much of her. I would have said the same thing about Rodney Dangerfield, by the way. But perhaps this is still the result of sexism. Possibly women in comedy have to be more character-driven in order to get to the top, and then at the top they’re locked into their character. Roseanne and Ellen got sitcoms, but Jay Leno got the comedian’s biggest prize. I think he does a fabulastic job and I’m thrilled he buys some of my jokes, but when Johnny Carson retired part of me wanted Rita Rudner to get the job.

A long time ago people said that women would never be TV stars, until Lucille Ball proved them wrong. In the eighties people said that the traditional sitcom was dead because it had been done to death, until “The Cosby Show” showed that the problem was not the sitcom format but simply that we needed better sitcoms. For a long time people said that standup comedy as a TV show or movie theme wouldn’t work, until Jerry Seinfeld proved them wrong. Some people even say that Kevin Costner will never be in a movie without baseball. Eventually he may prove them wrong too. There will consistently be number one sitcoms starring women. Maybe even, shockingly, with me, a feminist male, as the head writer of one of them. What will make these shows number one? When you all watch them. That’s what made Oprah the Queen of daytime TV. Viewers. It’s as simple as that.

And before you go completely batty, remember that while the winners of all three seasons of “Last Comic Standing” were men, not one has a TV show. Pamela Anderson has had how many?

You want more female comics to succeed? Get yourself to their shows. There are thousands of comedy clubs in big cities, in little cities and even occasional professional comedy shows in small towns, all over the United States. Comedy is a business; it runs on money. Your money is your vote. Go out and vote.

Feminist Male Comedian sm

Note: This was written for publication last year and never run.

The Stupidity of Being Dishonest

Written 2/17/2006

Yesterday someone I don’t know contacted me through the feedback form on my website. She said that she was taking a friend out and asked if I could mail her eight free tickets, and mentioned a particular date.

A date when I do not have a show scheduled (and my website lists my schedule).

There are some shows I do where I can occasionally ask the club to comp people’s cover charge, so I wrote a nice email to the address she gave on the feedback form.

I said that I didn’t have a show that night, but that I appreciated her interest. I explained that most of the clubs at which I perform don’t have actual tickets but simply add the cover charge to the bill at the end of the show. And that I would be happy to let her know the next time I could get the club to waive the cover charge for her entire party.

The email bounced. She filled out the contact form but didn’t give me her correct email address (she gave me her mailing address for the tickets, but lied about her email address).

So she’s not going to receive my offer of free tickets, because though I emailed her, at this point I don’t think it’s worth my while to type out a letter, print it out, fill out an envelope, put a stamp on it, and mail it to her. Even if I did, I doubt she’d bother to write back to tell me whether she’s actually coming, so why would I go through all that trouble for someone who might not even show up?

No, an actual letter is too much work. I’d rather just blog about it.

Cheney should have served in the military

Written on 2/13/2006

Because in the military they teach you an important rule: You’re not supposed to shoot your friends.

What a bizarre country. The Secret Service uses a vast amount of resources to protect our leaders, but then they give people shotguns and say “Feel free to stand near the vice president and shoot at quail. Try not to hit any people.” And this confused some of the older Secret Service personnel because two vice presidents ago was a guy named Quayle.

Do you get the feeling that if it had been the other way around, that if Vice President Cheney’s friend had been the one doing the shooting and had accidentally hit the vice president that he’d have been sent off to Guantanamo Bay and never be heard from again?

In other news, the author of “Jaws” died over the weekend. Ironically, he was eaten by an alligator.

In Today’s News– from the front page of the Bloomberg Professional Service

Created on 1/12/2006

Since registration dates are getting earlier and earlier each year, couples in NYC are advised to register their future children for private pre-schools and summer camps prior to having sex during ovulation

Wal-mart is being sued in Pennsylvania for requiring its employees to work for free through breaks and after their shifts end. “You have a friend in Pennsylvania…” you just can’t see him because he’s in the stock room on his lunch hour.

I suggest starting the trial at 9 AM and not stopping for anything until the jury has reached a verdict.

The U.S. Trade Deficit has started shrinking as exports reached a record. Apparently now foreigners have enough money to start shopping at our country’s new Going Out Of Business Sale.

California regulators have approved a $2.5 billion subsidy program for solar energy. It’s a trick. Good luck getting the sun to sign off on it.

“Supreme Court nominee Alito Seeks to Assure Democratic Lawmakers of Views on Presidential Powers”– does this remind anybody of every movie and TV show where someone makes a deal with Satan but somehow Satan cheats and wins? No matter what Alito says, once he’s confirmed he’s in for life, which could be a very long time unless he accepts a ride home from Senator Kennedy, a pretzel from President Bush or signs a $50 million deal with Comedy Central.

Home Depot says that the S.E.C. has made an informal request for information on the company’s dealings with vendors. I hope they’re more successful than I’ve been with all my requests for information from anyone from Home Depot. I’m still waiting for a response to my question about the generator I’m thinking of buying for Y2K.

“Cape Cod Indians Worry Abramoff Links May Hurt Casino Chances, U.S. Aid”– Listen, we all feel bad for how this country has treated, and continues to treat, Native Americans. But hey, aid OR casinos, okay? One or the other. You don’t need both.

“Toyota, Bullish on U.S., Doubles 2006 Sales Growth Target Set Last Week”– apparently their executives stopped by a Chevy dealership yesterday and revised all their sales goals upward. When they finished laughing.

“Federated to Sell Lord & Taylor to Focus on Macy’s”– The company has hired JPMorgan Chase and Goldman, Sachs to advise them on the sale. Maybe this is why sales are down– when a retailer needs two investment banks to tell them how to sell, something is clearly wrong.

Wine with Food? How about Wine with Movies?

Posted on 1/7/06

Millions of words have been written about which wines go with which foods. To the best of my knowledge up until now no one has written about which wines go with which movies. This occurred to me as I was fetching a wine to drink as I screened “The Godfather” for about the fifth or sixth time.

Many people might suggest a Chianti or Barolo but I think a strong red zinfandel such as a Martinelli or Hartford would be a better choice. The taste seems to follow the sepia tones of the film, and more than one Italian-American has told me that red zin reminds him of the wine his father used to make at home. Besides, zin would go better with the cannoli.

For “When Harry Met Sally” I’d suggest an over-oaked chardonnay.

“American Graffiti”– a blanc de blancs Champagne.

“The Producers”– an inexpensive ice wine (Selaks from New Zealand, for example, where they pick the grapes then place them in a freezer instead of the more traditional method of letting them freeze on the vine).

“The Taking of Pelham One Two Three”– cough medicine.

“Casablanca” anyone?

Goodbye, old cell phone

Posted on 12/1/2005

I won’t miss your easily broken antenna, your scratched screen or that fact that your charger plug is loose and I sometimes have to jiggle the phone to get it to recharge. I will miss your choice of ring tones. I hope the battered spouse who receives this now-donated phone gets through to 911 when she or he needs to. I know I always did.

My new phone comes with 35 ring tones, each one annoying. But it has a camera that has already helped me fight a parking ticket I received because apparently not all ticket agents have the same definition of “Sunday” as the rest of the city.

I’ll miss some of the numbers I didn’t bother copying to my new phone. Such as the woman I dated two or three times who kept saying she wanted to see me again, but apparently she defines “see me again” the same way at least one ticket agent defines “Sunday.” I don’t know when it is, but it never got scheduled whenever I asked.

I won’t miss the woman I dated for three months who still had to schedule our Friday and Saturday night dates around all her internet secret first dates that she thought I didn’t know about. Won’t miss her even though she was quite lovely-looking, always smiling, a genuinely happy person, the only one with all three of her numbers (home, cell and work) in my phone.

I’ll miss the woman I dated for five months, dated until I gently asked her what the cause of her twitching was. I thought it might be a form of Tourette’s Syndrome, but I’ll never know because she denied twitching (“What hump?” for those of you who remember the movie “Young Frankenstein”) and then broke up with me. Her loss; her shy cat was beginning to like me, an accomplishment previous boyfriends had never achieved.

I’ll miss the fact that I could call my parents by pressing one button and saying “Folks.” Now I have to flip the phone open and push two keys. Way too much effort to say hi to the people who brought me into this world and raised me with values I appreciate and want to instill in my future children. Especially because every time I call them they tell me how much they love me and how much something in their house needs fixing and when can I come over and do it? Not tomorrow? Saturday, then? I’ll always suggest Sunday.

I’ll miss having a booker’s cell number programmed directly into my phone and being able to call her anytime I wanted to confirm shows. I’m sure she’s not missing it.

I’ll miss seeing my ex-girlfriend Jen’s phone number in the phone, even though I didn’t call her after we broke up (for those of you saying “They’re ALL named Jennifer” this was Jen #3). I have fond memories of my time with Jen #3–I was dating her when I started stand-up comedy, and if you’ve heard my joke about dating a doctor, that’s Jen. Actually I did contact her recently– she’s married and eight months pregnant. She’s possibly only the second long-term girlfriend I’ve had who didn’t almost immediately after our breakup marry a doctor. But that’s maybe not exactly an exception to the rule because SHE’S a doctor; perhaps the rule is that ONE of them has to be a doctor. She’ll make a great mom. She’s so good with babies and children. And yes, she’s a pediatrician, just as the joke goes.

I won’t miss the most recent ex-girlfriend, the one who broke my heart by not falling in love with me even though I thought we were perfect together, right down to the compatibility of our stuffed animals and that we both referred to her liquid soap dispenser as the soap house and to my bedroom as the sleeping pod. I won’t miss her because her number is in my new phone, which I got just before we broke up. Oh, her photos are there, too, and they come up when she calls me. A photo of her when she calls from home, and a photo of her holding her cell phone camera, taking a picture of me, when she calls from her cell phone.

I’d give up the cell phone entirely to have her back and in love with me, but since that’s not going to happen, buy some stock in Verizon. I’ll be putting new numbers in the phone and making a lot of calls.

The On-line Dating Dictionary– some help for on-line daters

“I work hard and play hard” means I work too many hours then get really, really drunk and throw up on your new shoes.

“I want to experience all that NYC has to offer” means “I’ve lived here for ten years and still the only things I can think of to do are to see movies and go to dinner with my friends.”

Fat means fat… Zaftig means fat… Medium means fat… In Shape means fat (spherical is a shape)… Firm and toned means fat and will beat you up for saying it… Thin means fat (people lie)… A few extra pounds– “in the right places” means… the right place is ELSEWHERE! Be glad it’s nowhere near you!

“I like going to new restaurants” means “I like going to the newest, most expensive restaurants. And just being able to pay is not enough– you have to be able to get a reservation at the newest restaurant two minutes after I call and tell you about it.”

“My glass is half-full” means “I think I’m an optimist but since I can’t think of any examples I’ll just use an old cliche.”

ANYTHING IN ALL CAPS- I WILL SHOUT AT YOU through our entire first (and last) date.

Consultant- lost my job.

Self-employed- lost my job years ago.

Entrepreneur- lost my job two years ago but I found a thesaurus.

Enterpernuer- lost my job two years ago, found a thesaurus but didn’t look at it all that carefully.

“I’m intelligant”- maybe, but you’re not intelligent.

“My friends and family are very important to me” means “Daddy pays my rent so I answer the phone when he calls.”

“Communication is key” so after one date if you stop returning my phone calls, eventually I’ll figure out you may not want to talk to me anymore.

I love to travel” (woman) if I won’t sleep with you in NYC, I won’t sleep with you in Paris either. But I encourage you to fly me there just to make sure.

“I love to travel” (man)- If my team is doing well, I’ll disappear every away-game weekend to watch them play, and, win or lose, I’ll forget to call you when I’m away.

“I enjoy all that life has to offer” (woman)- remember, “life” includes your American Express Gold Card and Tiffany’s.

“I enjoy all that life has to offer” (man)- I expect you to offer me everything I can think of, and I’ve watched a lot of porn.

“Please be able to laugh at yourself” because this Sunday at brunch with my friends, we will all be laughing at you, and I don’t want you to dump my egg-white omelette/beer in my lap if you happen to be nearby and overhear.

“Loyalty is very important to me”- my last three lovers cheated on me.

“I am just as happy to sit at home and watch a movie as I am going out.” (Woman)- No, really, she’s not.

“I am just as happy to sit at home and watch a movie as I am going out.” (Man)- Don’t expect me to buy you dinner past the third date- I expect you to cook me dinner if I bring a DVD over.

“I’m as comfortable in a sexy black cocktail dress as I am in jeans and a t-shirt” or “I’m as comfortable in a tuxedo as I am in jeans and a t-shirt” Because I’ve put on weight and my jeans no longer fit.

“I’m down to earth”- I’m shorter than most of my friends.

“I’m not good at writing about myself but this is what my friends say about me”- I have no idea who I am so I copied a bunch of ideas from other people’s profiles.

The Name is Shaun

Posted on 11/04/2005

Often people ask me “Is Shaun a Jewish name?” or “How can you be Jewish and be named Shaun?”

Let me clear up the uncertainty. Shaun is very much a Jewish name. Prominent in the Bible were Shaun Macabee who saved the Jewish people from massacre when a tiny bit of oil burned for eight days (the holiday Shanukah celebrates this). There was also King Shaun, famous for such inspirations of brilliance as suggesting cutting a baby in half (nowadays, of course, with extended and convoluted families we cut babies into eighths, like pizza). And, in the Talmud, Rebbe Shaun of Letichev is very prominent, known for such wise sayings as “Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is better than doing nothing at all” and “”Instead of adding so much salt when you’re cooking, why don’t you leave it on the table and let the individual diners salt the meal according to their own tastes?”

Shauns are famous for more modern accomplishments as well. Shaun Graham Bell invented the telephone; later his grandson Shaun Walker Bell invented the cell phone, after an unsuccessful career as an oil man and an attempt to invent the smell phone.

Shaun Einstein, of course, was responsible for the famous saying “Nice work, Einstein!”

And then there was the Japanese engineer Shaun Ota, who invented a toy that later became a car. Of course he named it after himself. Yes, the ToyOta.

Copyright 2005 by Shaun Eli Breidbart. All rights reserved, except feel free to name your son Shaun. Everyone else is doing it.

News of the Day

Posted on 10/27/2005

The NYC Transit Authority is looking for ways to spend an unanticipated billion dollar surplus. How about… soap?

Or maybe a joint marketing promotion with Gillette– buy a Metrocard, get a coupon for a stick of deodorant.

arriet Miers withdrew her name for nomination to the Supreme Court. I find it hard to understand how the extreme right wing that got Bush elected won’t believe their extreme right wing president when he says Trust me, I’ve known her for years and she’s as right-wing as the rest of us.

Perhaps someone found a bad review of brownies she made for the Klan’s bake sale? Because that wasn’t she, it was Trent Lott.

Is it possible that someone found evidence that Harriet Miers is not a virgin?

Tropical storm Beta is now forming in the Caribbean. Beta? Are we TESTING storms now?

News stories show Floridians lining up for food and water… but they’re not Floridians, that’s just the end of the long line of Louisianans still standing in line.

Buying a Job

Posted on 10/25/2005

The Laugh Factory in L.A. recently auctioned off (proceeds go to Katrina victims) the opening spot in an upcoming Jon Lovitz stand-up comedy show. The winning bid was over $7,000. My smaller bid was apparently not enough.

Bidding for stage time? Why would a comedian do that? Please let me explain why I bid.

$2750 for a ten minute spot at The Laugh Factory

Bush’s four year term in The White House

At that rate, it would cost you $576,576,000* to buy a four-year term in the White House. Here are some advantages of buying the time on stage vs. buying the presidency:

1. I can finance the $2750 myself, with no help needed from Exxon, Philip Morris or the gun lobby.

2. The tape of my spot will surely have fewer gaffs than any ten minutes of Bush in front of a camera.

3. I can say whatever I want without worrying about offending those who claim to support me. I can contradict myself, change my mind, even insult myself.

4. The money goes to help Katrina victims, unlike any money actually being spent by the Bush administration.

5. I can leave early, and they won’t put Cheney on stage.

*Calculation based on 24 hours. The president isn’t any more productive when he’s awake, so why not include the time he’s sleeping?

ARE They on The Job?

Posted on 10/19/2005

On September 26th I wrote about a problem I had with the NYPD, and how they finally responded that they were doing something about it. I’d tried to report a crime, volunteering information as a witness, and I was pushed off from precinct to precinct as nobody wanted to take ownership of investigating this crime. This because precinct commanders are rated on how well they decrease crime in their territories, so they do what they can to prevent people from actually filing a police report.

Two days after my blog I got a letter from the precinct commander. The letter apologized for taking six months to get back to me but giving me the good news that an arrest was made and that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office was prosecuting the case.

Good news if it were true. But it’s not. I called the D.A. on the case. He said that while he’d like to continue, they haven’t been able to locate the perpetrator, and without being able to bring him in, they don’t bother issuing an arrest warrant (apparently they, or indictments, expire).

When I finished college, returned to NY and was living in The Bronx I was called for jury duty. A simple case– two cops saw a guy with a gun and arrested him. This was pretty easy because in 1989 in The Bronx about one in three people walked around with an illegal handgun. The defendant was a twice-convicted felon who contradicted himself on the stand. An easy verdict, I thought.

We couldn’t reach a verdict. Why not? Because the other jurors didn’t believe anything the cops said. Why would they lie, I asked.

“Because that’s what cops do,” they explained. “You naive child of the suburbs, babies cry, old people die and cops lie. That’s what they do. They don’t need a reason. They just do. Like alcoholics drink, cops lie.”

Eventually we convicted the guy, but it took a whole day of deliberations (more on this in a future blog).

My father is a retired law enforcement officer, a veteran, and someone I look up to as a model of integrity.

But tomorrow, when I start another round of jury duty, I won’t be thinking about my father’s honesty. Foremost on my mind might be how the NYPD is telling me what they think I want to hear, with reckless disregard for the truth.

Inspector, the next time your officers lose a case in court, keep in mind, you might also be to blame.

Attention Commuters

I could swear I heard this announcement in Grand Central Terminal this morning:

“Please be advised that the Constitutional rights of anyone carrying a backpack or other large item are subject to violation at any time.”

The NYPD is on the case

In February I was a witness to a non-violent crime. When I called the relevant precinct to make a statement and to give them further information on the crime they told me it wasn’t in their area, and to call a different precinct. Six phone calls later, all to find out which precinct covered that address (no exaggeration, seven phone calls in total) I was steered back to the first place I called. This is, of course, after the responding officers told the victims that what happened wasn’t illegal (it was clearly a premeditated fraud, and the District Attorney’s office looked into it but apparently never issued an arrest warrant for the perp).

It’s well-known in NYC that precinct commanders are judged by the amount of crime in their precincts and they will do anything they can to get that number down, even if it means implying that their officers try to avoid taking police reports. I’m sure that they’re great and brave when it comes to risking their lives to catch violent criminals, but if it’s just a property crime, well, too bad. Someone ripped the mirror off your car? Sorry, that’s a matter between you and your insurance company. Your druggie son stole your jewelry? Well, we’re not family counseling, we’re cops.

I sent an e-mail to the NYPD suggesting that they do something to stop their officers from deterring people from reporting crimes and that they post legible precinct maps on the city’s website (there’s one on the internet but it’s not detailed enough to be useful around the precinct borders). I also mentioned the crime and suggested that someone call me for further information.

Well guess what? Today (September 26th) I got a call from an officer at the precinct that covers the location. Seven months later, he’s getting back to me. He said that he’s new in that precinct, and to call him directly if I have any future problems in his precinct.

I’m glad the FDNY works on a different time-table.

From now on, whenever anyone says iPod, you have to say “You pod?”

Why do motorcyclists rev their engines at stoplights?

Because twisting a small penis doesn’t make the same loud noise.

Why do Harley riders rev their engines at stoplights?

To keep them from stalling.

Our MBA President

I just want to remind everyone that when George Bush ran for president the American people were promised that this first “MBA President” would apply business techniques to government, making it operate more efficiently.

The deficit, the war in Iraq and the feeble response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrate that while our “MBA President” may have mastered the principles of financial leverage by running up record deficits, he is a miserable failure at strategic planning.

I Was Wrong

All this time I thought that big business should not be running the country, that the government should be separate from industry. That the logging industry should not control our forests, that oil company executives should not be writing our energy policy.

I was wrong. We need the government completely run by corporations. For example, we should have Costco, McDonald’s and FedEx running FEMA– they would have had all the stranded flood victims fed and evacuated in about a day.

Too bad President Bush cut the government’s $40 Costco membership fee from this year’s budget, or we’d have had a lot more drinking water to ship…

It’s been reported that the government was asked for funding to repair the New Orleans levees but the president cut their funding to an amount insufficient to prevent last week’s disaster. That’s typical government thinking– someone asks for money, they give him less, and it’s not enough to solve the problem. When it’s a social program, typically the democrats ask for money, the republicans don’t give them enough, then when the program doesn’t succeed due to lack of funding, the republicans say “See, it doesn’t work.”

In this case I presume that either party would do what they can to cut the budget, and preventing this disaster was one of the items cut. But we’re the richest country in the world– we can afford to fix everything, but apparently tax cuts for the rich were more important than the lives of 100,000 poor people in Louisiana.

If you went to a plastic surgeon and were told that the procedure has a one in a thousand chance of complications, you’d probably go ahead with the surgery. Unless the doctor said that “by procedure I mean each time I press the Suck button on the liposuction machine, and I do that five hundred times during an operation,” because with such terrible odds you’d be nuts to go ahead with the procedure.

The levees breaking was maybe a one in a thousand chance. But I wonder how many other long-shot emergency items have also been cut. Are there more Katrina/New Orleans levees waiting to happen? And what are we doing about it?

As hard as it is for a black person to catch a cab in the city, it’s clear that it’s even harder to hail a helicopter.

Posted on 09/01/2005

President Bush has praised the newly-proposed Iraqi Constitution. You know he hasn’t read it…. He hasn’t even read OUR Constitution.

Volunteers are flocking to hurricane-damaged areas to help out. Hey, they HAVE people! Plenty of people, people with nothing to do. They need people with some SKILLS, like utility workers, not more unskilled people they have to house and feed. Turn your truck around, Gus, and go back home. The two hundred bucks you would have spent on gas to drive to New Orleans? Give it to charity, let them buy food for the hurricane victims, and use THEIR expertise to get it to Biloxi and New Orleans.

Dolce & Gabbana announced that they plan to begin selling low-rise jeans for men. Low-rise MEN’S jeans? This would be horrible… if any men actually shopped at Dolce & Gabbana.

Posted on 08/24/2005

President Bush is meeting Chinese President Hu. President Hu? This has Bad International Incident written all over it.

Last week Madonna was injured falling off a horse. Usually it’s the other way around.

The president of Turkmenistan has outlawed all lip-synching, even at private parties. Let’s call this what it is– the first step toward a total international ban on karaoke. My friend Phil, stationed in Ashgabat, probably doesn’t realize how lucky he is.

After calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Chavez, Pat Robertson is now saying he was misinterpreted… even though he clearly talked about assassination. Perhaps somebody showed him a copy of the Ten Commandments, so he’s trading in “Thou Shalt Not Kill” for “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness.” I have no comment on the Commandment “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Oil.”

I am tired of people writing editorials and letters to newspapers saying that if politicians are for the war in Iraq why aren’t their children in the military? This is not a relevant question:

Their children, once they reach 18, are free to make up their own minds. Not only is it not their parent’s decision, but it’s also wrong to assume that the children of pro Iraq war politicians are also for the war.

Furthermore, the children of politicians may be able to make other, equally important, contributions to society. I don’t think too many people would take someone who could be a brilliant cancer researcher and say “Hey, grab this rifle– you may not be a better shot than the next guy, but hey, screw the cancer research and start shooting.”

Yes, I realize I’m defending the president’s drunken daughters. But now that they’re adults, they’re free to opt to spend the rest of their lives getting drunk instead of defending our country. As long as they don’t get so drunk that they throw up on the Japanese Prime Minister’s daughters.

Hey, at least they don’t have their own reality show. I guess it’s because their daddy already does.

New Scientific Study on Business Productivity

A new study conducted by the Wharton School of Business in conjunction with the Pew Research Institute and the Marist Poll determined that the personal computer has increased American productivity by 34%… but that American workers now spend 47% of their work day playing on the internet.

Disagree? Where the hell are you sitting right now? And where were you sitting the first time you found www.BrainChampagne.com?

Please bookmark www.BrainChampagne.com and read it every morning on company time.

NBC’s Newest Show

Since the finale of their show “I Want To Be A Hilton” didn’t get the ratings they expected, the network has announced a follow-up contest show: “I Want To Beat The Crap Out Of A Hilton With A Louisville Slugger.”


Four Cops Stopped Me

Posted on 08/01/2005

They stopped me from getting on my train. They took me aside and said that they wanted to look in my backpack.

I said no. My backpack contained no contraband, only my date book, cell phone, some magazines, some confidential business papers, and a copy of the Constitution. Really. It’s in my backpack. Hey, some people carry the whole Bible. Oh, and about a half-dozen empty soda cans. I’m a caffeine addict, an environmentalist, and thrifty. Nobody needed to know that.

When “Seinfeld” first went on the air, my roommate and I wrote a spec. script for the show. The producer wrote back, saying no thanks, but explained that they didn’t know what they were looking for, because they were new at this and had no idea what they were doing. It was a nice letter, nicer now in hindsight because apparently, knowledge or not, they did just fine.

I wrote another script. You’ll see why this is relevant in a few hundred words.

I asked the police officer if she would prevent me from getting on my train if I refused to consent to a search. She said yes. I told her “Then I guess I’m taking the next train.”

Which I did, though I used a different entrance to the platform so they wouldn’t entirely keep me from getting home. Which I would have done with my regular train, but I didn’t have enough time.

As you know if you’ve read my earlier blog I think these random searches are a stupid, and unconstitutional, idea. Stupid because you can say no, which means that anybody carrying something illegal can just leave (okay, they caught one idiot carrying M-80 fireworks, but so far that’s it). It’s not a great use of thousands of police and civilian hours. And because a terrorist could choose to blow himself/herself up right there, killing civilians AND the police officers. Or, as I did, simply take another train. And unconstitutional because the Constitution says “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” By my way of thinking, the right to stop anybody, at any time, claiming the “right” to search their belongings, is unreasonable. My time is a valuable resource, and I don’t need the police looking through papers of mine which might be confidential, through property of mine which might be embarrassing, because they think that random stops deter terrorism. What if I were a journalist, an attorney, an investment banker or a doctor, carrying papers that were not for the police to examine? It might not be only MY rights which were being violated.

I called my parents to tell them that I was thinking of notifying the ACLU that I was stopped, and that I was volunteering should the ACLU, of which I am not a member, decide to sue to stop these random searches.

Both parents were against it. My mother said that the government had new powers, powers to which she is opposed, but you can’t fight them. My father also thought I shouldn’t fight.

My father’s family lost everything in the Great Depression, and his father died when he was young. My father fought in World War II (on our side). My mother came here from Russia, her parents fleeing totalitarianism. They abandoned everything they had when they came here, and were dirt poor back when there was no Welfare and Brooklyn still had plenty of dirt. My mother had to walk miles to college when she didn’t have the nickel for the trolley (really). Yet somehow she and her sister managed to get through college and a master’s degree program– because back then, City College was truly free.

Mom told me that even after living in the U.S. for decades, when her father saw a police officer he walked the other way. Because for his entire life in Russia, nothing good ever came out of a possible confrontation with a police officer. Keep in mind he was a Jew in a small town in Russia, where for sport the Cossacks would get drunk and beat up Jews for no reason. My family was smart– they got into the alcohol business so they had some control– if you’re drinking, the last person you want to beat up is the guy who makes the booze. But still it wasn’t a great life for them. Of course once they got here, like so many other immigrants, they had to start over.

Neither of my parents had it easy. Yet somehow they not only got through it, they raised three sons who, between all of us, have seven Ivy League degrees (one of which is mine).

When I told my parents that I intended to volunteer to fight the searches—— Well, this was the first time I’d ever heard either of them actually sound scared of anything. My parents. Two of the toughest people I’ve ever known, and my circle of acquaintances has included Olympic gold medal rowers, U.S. Marines, a pediatric oncologist, Israeli commandos, black belts in karate.

My own parents, scared of OUR OWN GOVERNMENT.

In AMERICA. The land of the free and the home of the brave.

Which made me realize I’m doing the right thing by volunteering to fight this. Because, as someone once said, and has often been quoted, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

Okay, now to explain the Seinfeld reference. I wrote a second spec. script. A couple of months later I watched as they aired MY SCRIPT. The same two plots, virtually the same story, some of even the same types of sentences and ideas. Yet I hadn’t even heard from them, and you can be sure that someone else was listed as the writer. I was LIVID. STEAMING. READY TO EXPLODE, for the five minutes it took me to realize that I hadn’t yet sent them my second script.

Yes. A co-incidence. Wow.

So, let’s say I wasn’t Shaun. I was darker-skinned, named Abdul or Mohammed, carrying a copy of the Koran. And they’d stopped me.

Do you think I’d have thought I was chosen randomly? Of course not.

So, not only do these random searches waste time, frighten people, waste resources that could be put to better use, but they also risk convincing people that they are the victims of stereotyping, of discrimination, of the violation of their equal rights. That too is a risk we should not be taking. Because people come to this country to ESCAPE that, not to experience it. We’re supposed to be the best country in the world, the one in which everyone wants to live, the shining example for the rest of the world to follow. Not just the richest. The most just. The one with the lady in the harbor, welcoming your “…tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” She’s been here more than a hundred years, yet we haven’t even had the decency to give her a full name. I suggest Janette Liberté. But that’s another story.

As an aside: I am for the legalization of marijuana. Also for the legalization of marajuana and the legalization of marihuana. Any drug that has three different spellings is fine with me.

Someone else once said, of nazi Germany, “When they came for the communists, I didn’t speak up because I was not a communist. When they came for the Jews, I didn’t speak up because I was not a Jew. When they came for the Catholics, I didn’t speak up because I was not a Catholic. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak up.”

I have to speak up. We have to draw the line somewhere. Better now than later.

I had no drugs in my bag. I do not use marijuana, by any spelling. But I feel that cannabis (this saves me from favoring a particular spelling) is probably less dangerous than alcohol, has been shown to have few if any harmful side-effects (okay, if you overeat because you smoked some then you may risk heart disease) and yet it’s illegal while alcohol and regular cigarettes, which kill hundreds of thousands of Americans a year, are legal.

Gee, I wonder who’s making those campaign donations. Hello?

So, since I’m against arresting people for possession of, or use of (as long as they’re not driving), cannabis, I think that these random searches inhibit people’s ability to buy, transport, sell and use the drug. Another reason to oppose these searches.

If enough people say no, maybe we can make a difference. Maybe instead of searching randomly they’ll put their brains to use to find a better way to stop terrorists. Because, guess what? The terrorists know they’re searching backpacks on NYC public transit. Heard of Philadelphia mass transit? Heard of the local supermarket? Heard of hiding a bomb under your shirt, instead of in a backpack? So have the terrorists. If you try to stop them somewhere, they’ll figure out where else to go. Stop looking backwards for train bombers, and think progressively, and figure out where they’re going NEXT. Like you should have, schmucks running our country, before September 11th. Because, as I said in a letter to the New York Times that was published three years ago, “Terrorists had previously tried to destroy the World Trade Center. The White House had received warnings of hijackings. A 1994 Tom Clancy novel depicted a terrorist crashing a 747 into the Capitol Building during a joint meeting of Congress. Just about everybody who had ever played Microsoft’s Flight Simulator game before Sept. 11 had crashed an imaginary airplane into a virtual World Trade Center.” I wrote this letter after Condoleeza Rice, then our National Security Advisor, said “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center.”

Hey, wake up and smell your job description.

To quote the leader of our country, “Either you’re with us, or you’re against us.”

How Stupid Are We? How Stupid Do We Think They Are?

Posted on 07/22/2005

On my birthday yesterday I learned that the NYPD plans to begin random searches of backpacks in subways.

“Those who are ready to sacrifice freedom for security ultimately will lose both” – Abraham Lincoln

But let’s even forget about the fact that the country is starting to feel a bit like a police state– random searches, secret uncontestable search warrants issued by secret judicial panels, people being labelled “enemy combatants” so they don’t have to be given their Constitutional rights (when the phrase “enemy combatant” does not appear in the Constitution). Let’s even forget that with all our airline security, while we’ve caught a lot of guys named Gus who forgot that they were carrying guns, we haven’t caught anyone with any actual intent to hijack a plane. And the highest-profile reported case of actually catching a suspected terrorist in this country turned out to be a guy who bragged to his friends that he was selling weapons, but since he had no access to weapons and didn’t know anybody evil to sell weapons to, the FBI conveniently pretended to be a weapons supplier and also found an FBI phony weapons buyer so they could actually arrest a guy with no access to either side of his transaction. Essentially they made him an arms dealer so they could arrest him for being an arms dealer.

Enough on that. Let’s look at the idea of random backpack searches. They say they’ll be random and there won’t be racial profiling. Sure, because Middle-Eastern isn’t a race. Do you think they’ll randomly open an eighty year old white woman’s big purse? How hard do you think it is to slip a small time bomb into Phillis’s purse when she’s not looking?

The NYC subway system has millions of riders a day. They’ll be able to stop only a few thousand people. So if you’re a suicide bomber, the odds are with you. Oh, and if they do stop one, do you think he’ll open his bag and let the cop find the bomb? No, he’ll blow himself up (along with the cop, and everyone behind him in line at the turnstiles). It will rain blood and metrocards. Mission accomplished.

So let’s search everyone, so the subway will be eight dollars a ride (cops are expensive) and it takes as long to get on the D train as it does to get through security at JFK. Don’t even think of taking nail clippers to work. Oh, you work in a nail salon, Kara? Not anymore.

Sure, let’s search every subway rider. So the suicide bombers give up on the subway… and instead blow up everyone in Gristedes, the movie theater, on the sidewalk. Maybe we’ll have door-to-door suicide bombers.

At least until winter, when they can hide the bombs under their winter coats.

Or recruit women. Do you really think Officer Subway is going to ask the pregnant woman to lift up her abaya to show that she’s really pregnant? Will they make Fat Tony prove he’s not really Mini-Tony?

Will pretty French tourists stop bringing sexy underwear on vacation because they don’t want to be embarrassed in public by Officer Subway pawing through their suitcase? Because if that happens, I’m buying an airline ticket to Europe.

Just for the record, I’m okay with some unobtrusive way to search, such as a machine that can sniff explosives. But anything that wastes my time, and invades my privacy, I have a problem with.

And I heard on the radio yesterday that in the past four years there have been 1600 accidental incursions of the giant flight restrictions around Washington, DC. That’s 1600 incursions and not one attempt on anyone’s life.

Think about that. 1600 pilots who screwed up. Which means that probably there have been hundreds of thousands of flights that had to divert around that airspace. Do you realize what a monumental waste of time and fuel that must be? Can’t we find a better way to protect our leaders than shutting down the airspace all around them?

Please stop talking about “Thinking outside the box” if THERE IS NO BOX.

Don’t tell me to “Do the math” unless there is actual math to be done.

It’s not “A win-win situation for both parties” unless there are four winners.

And please don’t say yourself or myself unless you or I are both the subject and object of the sentence. In other words, you can look at yourself. I can look at myself. But I cannot look at yourself unless you and I are the same person. And I’m pretty sure we’re not. Because when I do look at myself, I see me, not you.

If you have a problem with that, get back inside the box.

Suing the Landlord

Posted on 7/13/05

So I had to sue my landlord. Back in the winter they were doing reconstruction on the apartment upstairs. The standard way to gut an apartment is to bust out a window, park a dumpster in the alley below, and throw all the debris out the window into the dumpster.

And, if you’re not an idiot, when it’s four degrees outside you remember to cover up the gaping hole when you leave on Friday evening.

If you’re an idiot, the pipes freeze and the apartment below gets flooded. Under NY State law, it’s pretty clear that the landlord is responsible for the flood. I sent a nice letter asking for compensation and he said I’d have to sue him. So I did.

Since only a few months earlier we’d had a fire (Note– an unsupervised three year old, curtains and a cigarette lighter… any two of the three, no problem. All three, a big problem) I didn’t have much left to damage. I sued for around $1050. The night before the Small Claims Court date, the lawyer for the landlord’s insurance company called me. To ask questions. I pointed out that in Small Claims Court he’s not entitled to discovery (the asking of questions) but anyway explained why he was going to lose. He pretty much understood that I knew what I was talking about. And I found out that his office was an hour commute from the courthouse. So I suggested that he simply send me a check for $1050 rather than bill an equivalent amount to his client and still lose. He said he couldn’t do that.

When I asked if it was because he had to show up in court in case I didn’t, he pretty much said yes. I asked him the address of the courthouse. He said 34 Fifth Avenue. I asked him to read me my address. He said 17 Fifth Avenue. I said “Do you really expect me NOT to cross the street for a thousand dollars?”

He showed up in court. I met him outside, said “Hey, I crossed the street, do you want to give me $1050?” He said no. We went into court, where the judge asked if we could go outside and try to settle. So we tried.

He asked what I wanted. I said every darn penny I lost due to his client’s client’s contractor’s negligence. We quibbled over the value of one picture frame, and settled on $1025. He pulled out a standard contract that said something like “Plaintiff waives all claims from the beginning of time until (fill in today’s date).”

I said that sounded rather drastic– could we say July 4, 1776? Because I might have some rights under the Magna Carta that I’m not yet prepared to waive.”

He crossed out “From the beginning of time” and wrote in “July 4, 1776.”

So if the Magna Carta has no Statute of Limitations…

She No Longer Loves Bad Boys

Posted on 06/30/2005

Last Thursday was my girlfriend’s birthday, and she had a party. I was walking to her apartment carrying four dozen roses. In the water bottle pockets of my backpack I had two bottles of Champagne sticking out very noticeably.

As I passed by Columbus Circle I saw a woman wearing an “I Love Bad Boys” t-shirt. She looked at the roses, then at the Champagne, then at me. Then back at the roses, and the Champagne.

Bad boys just don’t know how to treat women” I said to her.

“It’s your anniversary.” She said to me.


“Then what is it?”

“It’s Thursday” I told her. “Happy Thursday.”

Kiss Your House Goodbye

Posted on 06/23/2005

Eminent domain is the Constitutionally-allowed power of state and local governments to seize private property for a public purpose, as long as they pay for it. Mostly it’s been used for a public good– they tear down some houses to put up a school or firehouse, or they take a piece of farmland to put in a highway or some railroad tracks. This has been done for hundreds of years and without the power of eminent domain we’d probably not have very many roads or firehouses.

The Supreme Court just ruled that the power of Eminent Domain allows state and local governments to seize private property and give or sell it to other private enterprises merely because the newer enterprise promises to add value to the property. In other words, they can tear down a slum and put up fancy housing because that will lead to economic development and higher tax revenue. Oh, they have to pay the people who own the slum properties, but they pay the market value for a slum, not what the land is going to be worth once the slum is replaced by fancy housing.

Of course with the slum gone the price of the least expensive housing goes up, and the poor people who have been forced out of their homes are screwed. Well, you should’ve lived in a communist country, you poor suckers, because here in America you live where you can afford to live, and if that means the street, well, you should be thankful it’s not a busy street.

The Supreme Court vote was 5-4, and I find myself agreeing with the conservative minority that there ought to be stricter limits to eminent domain. Otherwise, the state can seize a K-Mart and sell the land to Target, because Target promises higher tax revenues. That is, until Wal-Mart comes along. Where does it end? Ask Bill Gates, or Exxon, or maybe China.

I’d complain more, but I don’t have the time– I have to get in touch with my town to force my neighbor out of his house– I’m sure that my assessed value would go up, and thus tax revenues to the town, if I got rid of my neighbor and put up a huge house with a lovely indoor swimming pool. I’m thinking a movie theatre and bowling alley, too. Or those mini racing cars.

My neighbor’s in his sixties, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind moving in with his daughter. I’d let him come back and use the pool, but if word got out about the pool then somebody richer might come along and force me out of my house.

think I would get to keep my gun. Thank God for the Second Amendment. You can have my house when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands.


Posted on 06/13/2005

I’m a first-generation American. I vote and pay my taxes proudly and I think this is the greatest country in the world. But still we stink.

Let me explain. A few nights ago I was watching Fear Factor. One of the bug-eating episodes, not one of the bugs-crawling-all-over-you episodes.

Yes, we are entertained by watching people eat disgusting creatures in search of a $50,000 prize.

There are five billion people on our planet, and a lot of them go hungry. Some of them will die of starvation. But here in America we are paying people to eat stuff they don’t want to eat, just so others can be entertained.

Maybe we should pay them $40,000 and spend the other $10,000 on helping people grow more food. Or perhaps for every hour of Fear Factor people watch, they should be required to spend five minutes watching people go hungry. And don’t even get me started on all the mass murder going on in Darfur that we’re not doing anything about. It may not be on the same scale as the Holocaust, but this time we know all about it and we have the military means to stop it. And by stopping it, perhaps discouraging future mass murderers. Instead we’re sending the message that we’ll let them get away with it. Oh, unless they really piss us off. Our country’s leaders claim to be men of God. They sure aren’t men of men.

Now that I’ve brought down the room, go see a comedy show and get cheery again. Or at least scroll down and read some of my funny blogs. But I had to speak my mind. With my job comes some responsibility to speak out.

Oh, you think I owe you some jokes? Okay.

Some sad news. The founder of Wine Spectator magazine has passed away. Or, as the magazine is reporting it… “His Bordeaux is continuing to age, but he isn’t.”

Scientists are saying that the surface of the earth has been getting brighter, but they’re not sure why. I can tell you one thing: it’s not the people.

For more comedy, please visit the Expired Comedy section of this website.

I’m having a great day

Posted on 06/01/2005

We found out who Deep Throat was, and all day I’ve been glued to CNN, watching Nixon resign, over and over and over and over….

I Think I Lost This Round

Posted on 05/30/2005

Every few weeks my neighbors have a garage sale. To try to sell the same useless crap that nobody bought at the previous garage sales. Nobody buys anything. But still every sale fills up our quiet street with cars and clogs the neighborhood as my neighbors sit hopefully in their driveway all day.

So a couple of weeks ago I went over and asked what they wanted for EVERYTHING. Not much, so I bought it all to finally put an end to this nonsense, and on bulk garbage day I put it ALL out for the garbagemen.

But my neighbors beat the garbagemen to my curb, and they took all the stuff back, and now today they’re having another garage sale.

Anybody have any ideas that don’t involve a gallon of gasoline and some matches?

Today’s Mail

Posted on 05/02/2005

In today’s mail I got an invitation for an AARP credit card. A surprise. I’m sure they’d give me one even though I’m only 43.

The bigger shock was an invitation to celebrate Anne Frank’s 75th birthday. A party which will include a live musical performance by Cyndi Lauper. The woman who made her career by hopping around on stage in bright colors, screeching and singing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

I quote from her song: Some boys take a beautiful girl And hide her away from the rest of the world I want to be the one to walk in the sun Oh girls they want to have fun

This is in such poor taste I’m at a loss for words.

Driving While InTalks-icated

Posted on 05/01/2005

Sooner or later… two people are going to be talking to each other on their cell phones while driving, and crash… into each other.

Confucius say: He who crosses street while talking to girlfriend on cell phone get run over by woman driving SUV while talking to her nanny on cell phone.

My waitressing fantasy

WRITTEN BY Marianne Sierk and used with permission (Shaun’s comments follow)

Originally Posted on Comedy Soapbox 04/22/2005 at 09:35 PM

“I’m working at a restaurant on Lake Ontario this summer for some cccyash for my move to LA that feels like it will never happen. Tonight it was raining and yucky out so I only had 4 tables and am home already, writing to you, faceless Blog. In any case – I had a revelation as I was starring at the lake waiting for my last table to wash down their fish fry with our finest white zinfendel (Go Rochester!) and I imagined how I’d like to die – at least for tonight. I’d take as many orders for dinner as I can – then I’d pretend to put them in the computer – but I’d really be ordering Filet Mignon’s for everyone. Right before the first load of misordered steaks comes in – I’d rip off my bow tie and scream, “Surf’s up!” I’d run off the pier that’s connected to said restaurant and jump in the choppy lake waters. I’d be found with my tux shirt still on, apron afixed to my new polysesters, $14 CASH still secure within my pockets. Maybe my wine key would be lost, but I’d be CLUTCHING my lighter. (I don’t smoke, but birthday candles don’t light themselves….) I’d just let myself drift as far out as I can – and then eventually give up whatever struggle would come naturally and let the polluted Lake Ontario water fill my asthma ridden lungs – a huge smile embedded on my face. Two hotty italian busboys would gallantly throw down their Windex bottles and buspans and scream…..”NOOOO!” and jump in to try to save me – but it’s too late! It’s always too late. I’m a strong swimmer, but no match for the great tides of a Great Lake. Someone get me out of this city. The End. (in so many ways)PS – I swear this isn’t a cry for help – just a fantasy!”

Comments are below

The Response, Posted on 04/22/2005 at 10:45 PM by Shaun Eli

Same fantasy, minus the death. You win the $205 million lottery. Order steak for everyone.

Then run away, in your Ferrari, driven by comedian and excellent driver Shaun Eli. Okay, Brad Pitt.

When the police chase you, you drop a note out the window that says “Just Kidding. Bring this to the restaurant.” And with the note are fifteen hundred dollar bills. And an address in Malibu for them to mail the speeding ticket.

You and Mr. Pitt leave the car at a local airport, where pilot Shaun Eli is waiting with a plane to fly you two lovebirds to California, after a stop in Vegas where Mr. Pitt can beg you to marry him (you politely turn him down, explaining that he’s just a toy).

You spend a night (actually it’s from 9 AM to 11:30 PM but in Vegas there is no time) in a cheap hotel under assumed names. Then you kiss him goodbye, find a waiting pair of Ducati motorcycles, with expert motorcyclist Shaun Eli waiting to escort you to your new home in Malibu, where real estate agent and skilled interior decorator* Shaun Eli is ready to show you around and help you furnish your new home.

Fabulastic chef Shaun Eli goes shopping and returns to prepare you a wonderful dinner while you relax in a bubble bath. He then leaves you with two bottles of Champagne, and a wonderful dessert, as a ragged Brad Pitt enters the house for one final goodbye fling.

*Shaun Eli is not a licensed California real estate agent and his decorating skills are subject to some debate.

At What Point Do We Not Mention Race?

Posted on 04/22/2005

I went to pick up my date at her apartment. At 119th near Lenox. For those of you not familiar with Manhattan, this is in Harlem (Lenox is also known as Malcolm X Blvd and as I’m sure you can imagine, there’s no big push to name streets in white neighborhoods after Malcolm X, although there ought to be a push to rename all the Jefferson Davis streets and schools after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks or at least Chuck Berry).

My date didn’t answer the buzzer, and she wasn’t answering her phone. But she never answers her phone and her buzzer doesn’t work that well. Someone came out of her building, and I asked him if he knew if Evie were home.

Her building is a five story brownstone with only two apartments per floor.

He said he didn’t know who she was.

I said “She looks around thirty, she has long, dark, wavy hair, she’s thin and pretty, she’s a schoolteacher, moved in around five months ago.”

He had no idea who she was.

“She rides a bicycle a lot.”

“Oh, you mean the white girl! Why didn’t you say so? No, I don’t think she’s home.”

Okay, why DIDN’T I say so?

Think about this

Posted on 04/21/2005

A new study reported that most traffic lights in the U.S. have not had their timing changed in over a decade. That’s right, before those shopping malls were built, and back when that housing complex was still farmland. Back when fewer cars travelled, and came from and went to different parts of your town.

The reason for the lack of change? State and local traffic engineers don’t have the resources to study traffic patterns and re-time the lights. They say for only FOUR DOLLARS PER CAR they could re-time most of the traffic lights in America, saving us millions of hours in travelling time, millions of gallons of gasoline, and wear and tear on our cars (including the tires and brake linings that wear down every time we have to slow down to stop at another red light). And of course cut down on pollution, that thing we used to care about back before the oil companies took their first four year lease on America with an option to renew.

So the next time you’re stuck in traffic, listening to some politician on the radio bragging about how he’s going to lower your taxes, think about what more he intends to cut from the budget. The money has to come from somewhere. It’s already come from your time, your gas, your brakes, your tires, your lungs…

Comedy: A non-polluting, self-renewing national resource sm

There is no “I” in “Team”

Posted on 04/14/2005

But… HALF of T E A M is M E.

Google this! (warning: if you are easily offended please scroll down past this entry)

Somebody told me that no matter what phrases you Google, you will get some number of hits. I wasn’t sure. So…

I took the most random and unrelated of phrases and here’s what I found:

“Kansas City” + penis + buddha + “Home Depot” gave 651 hits.

arthritis + shoes + cunnilingus + oregon gave 146 hits.

But substitute fellatio for cunnilingus and you more than double the number of hits. Change it to fetus or calculus and it goes up further still. Algebra does even better, more than 2000 hits.

eraser + logical + river + telephone + cashew gives 83 hits.

welder + nostril + basketball + labor gives 77 hits.

Note that I was totally sober when I tried this experiment.

So you can imagine how my mind works after a few drinks.

My stand-up comedy is clean. Apparently my blogs are not always.

Mister can you buy me beer?

Posted on 04/11/2005

When I was seventeen I worked in a supermarket. I had a beard and looked older. Once when I was leaving, two sixteen year olds stopped me and asked if I could buy them some beer (the drinking age in NY at the time was eighteen). I told them I couldn’t, because I wasn’t old enough. They didn’t believe me. Of course I probably could have bought beer anywhere EXCEPT that store, since they knew how old I was.

Last night I was sitting at the bar at a comedy show, next to an eighteen year old. She asked me to buy her a beer. I told her I’d be glad to, in about three years. The bartender knows me, and obviously knew that this woman was too young to buy alcohol, so had I bought a beer and given it to her, we both would have been thrown out. Not that I would have anyway.

I couldn’t buy her a beer in any state; that’s illegal. But I’m pretty sure it’d be okay if I bought her a gun.

And if a woman with a gun asks me to buy her a beer, well, I don’t think I’d say no.

And probably the reason that having a beer is such a big deal for her is simply that it’s forbidden. In many European countries kids are given small amounts of alcohol to taste as they grow up. It’s not something forbidden to lust for. And they don’t have the same problem with drunken teenagers and young adults as we do. Certainly they don’t have as many people trying 21 shots on their 21st birthday and dying from their first exposure to alcohol.

Raising the drinking age is credited with cutting down on drunken driving, but in fact all the exposure to the issue, and stricter law enforcement, is probably responsible for much of that.

Perhaps we should lower the drinking age to sixteen, but give kids a choice– a license to drink OR a license to drive. That way every group of friends would have a designated driver, and they could switch off every few months.

Trapped in an Elevator

Posted on 04/07/2005

This week the NYPD undertook a massive search for a missing Chinese restaurant deliveryman. When his bicycle was found chained up outside an apartment building, they searched the building and found that he had been trapped in an elevator… for three days. An elevator with an emergency call button AND A CAMERA.

In the meantime the police arrested a man because he had a blood-colored stain on his shirt. It turned out to be exactly what he claimed it was: barbecue sauce from a dinner he’d eaten three days earlier.

Anybody who lives in an apartment building and doesn’t change his food-stained shirt for three days probably deserves a little jail time.

Don’t you agree?

Mitch Hedberg

Posted on 03/31/2005

Mitch headlined one of the first shows I ever did, at Stand-Up New York. I’d seen many of his TV appearances but had never before seen him live.

They announced that he was trying out material for his appearance the next night on “Late Show with David Letterman.” He read much of his material from his notes, and if anybody tells you that you can’t be that funny working from notes, they are W R O N G.

Mitch Rocked.

Then he did most of that material on TV the next night.

Until at one point they cut to a shot of his shoes while he was in the middle of a joke. This caught his attention, he made some off-hand comment about the irrelevance of showing his feet, he lost his rhythm and what I thought was his strongest joke, didn’t work well.

Mitch taught me a lot from this experience.

I learned that you can be really funny trying new material from a notebook, if you’re really, really funny. And I learned never to look at the monitor when you’re on television.

I hope some day I can benefit from both these things.

The world lost a great comedian this week. Someone who was different, who didn’t see the world sideways so much as inside-out. Someone who could make us laugh not only from a surprise or an unusual observation, but simply from a brilliant manipulation of the English language.

Three comedian websites I monitor (SheckyMagazine.com, ComedySoapbox.com and The Standups Asylum group on MSN) have had more comments on Mitch Hedberg this week than on just about any other topic, ever.

Mitch, you are already missed.

A Dubious Honor

I have been named one of Westchester’s Most Eligible Bachelors.

More interestingly, if you type NYC Arabian Comedian into Google, my website (www.BrainChampagne.com) comes up first.

I’m not Arabian.

Not even close.

Sell your Google stock.

Business School Admissions and Business Ethics

The New York Times reported on Monday that some business school applicants were able to hack an admissions website to find out whether they’d been admitted, prior to the release of the information.

Harvard, MIT and Carnegie Mellon found out who the students were and denied them admission on the basis of the students’ lack of ethics (Harvard said the students were free to re-apply next year, but I’d bet they won’t get in then either).

As one of the first business school students to take a business ethics class (this was in the early eighties), I applaud the universities’ decisions.

Some students have protested, claiming that hacking into a website to find out early what they would eventually have found out anyway is no big deal, likening it to taking a pencil home from the office.

I’d say it’s more like stealing a pencil during a job interview. Would you hire someone who did that?

If the students believe that what they did was not wrong, they should be amenable to having the schools publish their names, so we can decide for ourselves whether we ever want to hire these people.

Tourists from another planet

Posted on 03/16/2005

Those of us who live in NY are used to seeing all sorts of strange behavior.

Sometimes we can figure it out. Sometimes we can’t.

Last week I saw tourists, who spoke with American accents, taking a photograph of a Starbucks. Where could these people be from that they’ve never seen one before?

I’d bet that there were probably four or five Starbucks coffee shops inside the plane they flew on to get to NYC.

Unless they flew to NYC in a time machine from the 1950s. Or, with any luck, from not too far in the future.

A Typical NYC Conversation.. .

Posted on 03/15/2005

Street Vendor: Three for ten dollars. They’re ten dollars EACH in a store.

Tourist: How do I know they’re not stolen?

Street Vendor: Of COURSE they’re stolen.

Score One More for Feminism

Posted on 03/12/2005

Say what you want about Prince Charles’ fiancee, but after they’re married I expect that very few little girls will be saying that they want to be princesses when they grow up!

Comedians in the Talmud

“Rav Beroka of Bei Hozae was often in the market of Bei Lapat. There he would meet Elijah. Once he said to Elijah: ‘Is there anyone in this market who has earned eternal life?’ Elijah said to him: ‘No.’ They were standing there when two men came along. Elijah said to him: ‘These men have earned eternal life.’ Rav Beroka went to them and said: ‘What do you do?’ They replied: ‘We are jesters, and make the sad to laugh.'”

– – – The Talmud (a collection of ancient writings on Jewish law)

Hospital Suggestion

I was visiting my friend Sara who teaches and does research at a medical school– I met her outside the hospital entrance, where a large number of patients, many with IVs attached, were smoking.

If the hospitals are going to let the patients go outside and smoke, wouldn’t it be much more convenient, and HEALTHIER, if they just put nicotine into their IV solutions?

Jewish Geography

Someone accused me of anti-Semitism because I used the phrase “Jewish Geography” to refer to asking if someone knew someone else because he was from the same town.

So I quote you from Genesis 29:4–

“And Jacob said unto them: ‘My brethren, whence are ye?’ And they said: ‘Of Haran are we.’ And he said unto them: ‘Know ye Laban the son of Nahor?’ And they said: ‘We know him.’ “

Final Score: Commandments 10, Justices 9

Posted on 03/09/2005

The Supreme Court is hearing a case about whether it’s legal for governments to post the Ten Commandments.

All nine Supreme Court justices are either Christian or Jewish. Two religions which believe in the Ten Commandments as a central tenet.

Therefore I believe that all nine justices ought to recuse themselves from this case.

Censorship vs. Simple Bad Taste

Posted on 03/08/2005

According to today’s New York Times, a recent issue of the New York Press (a free weekly newspaper) had a front-page satirical article on the “Upcoming Death of the Pope.” After a public outcry over the article, the editor resigned.

I find the subject to be in bad taste (although I didn’t read the article and admit that the content might be funny, despite the subject matter).

But– also according the the New York Times, Representative (and mayoral candidate) Anthony D. Weiner said that “Everyone has a right to free speech, but I hope New Yorkers exercise their right to take as many of these rags as they can and put them in the trash.”

Actually there is NO such right. That is censorship. I haven’t looked at the inside cover of the NY Press lately but I hope they are smart enough to say that ONE copy per customer is free, which would make taking more than one paper and discarding it stealing. That is NOT one’s right.

I find the subject of the NY Press article in bad taste. I find Mr. Weiner’s comment beyond bad taste; it’s offensive and a violation of the our right to create and read articles written in bad taste.

Given a choice between the two, I would take the NY Press over Mr. Weiner.

Posted on 03/05/2005

Medical researchers at Harvard University have announced plans to start testing the psychedelic drug Ecstasy on humans.

And you thought it was hard to get into Harvard before!

Actually the study is to see if the drug could help relieve the suffering of terminally-ill cancer patients. White House officials are against the study because they say it could legitimize a dangerous drug. It could lead to the use of other dangerous drugs, such as alcohol, morphine and maybe even that very popular drug that CAUSES cancer, tobacco.

And the president’s biggest fear, the one that has led him to cut funding for medical and scientific research? That someone might eventually develop truth serum.

Posted on 03/03/2005

Mayor Bloomberg said that New York City’s economy received a $254 million boost from tourists coming to see The Gates, which, for those of you who haven’t seen this, is pretty much a bunch of orange curtains hanging from scaffolding in Central Park.

1.5 million visitors, including 300,000 from other countries, came to NYC specifically to see The Gates. Hotel occupancy was up more than 10% and some restaurants near the park reported double their normal business.

Top Broadway shows? The World Series? Wall Street? The center of fashion? The headquarters of the United Nations? Great restaurants? Top comedy clubs? The country’s greatest museums? Hit television shows? Symphony orchestras? Greenwich Village rock music clubs? Foreign art films you may not be able to see anywhere else? The Bronx Zoo? Nope, people come to see curtains. I guess that’s what we should expect in a country where NYC is the third most popular tourist destination, after…

Orlando and Las Vegas.

But we ARE glad you came. New York is the world’s most international city, and it wouldn’t be, without you. Please come back, with or without something specific to see. Just please walk faster or stay to the right on the sidewalks. We live here, we’re usually in a hurry, and sometimes we’re in a hurry to do something to make the city a nicer place for you to visit.

I said sometimes.

Changing the Presidents

Posted on 02/22/2005

A congressman wants to take President Ulysses S. Grant off the fifty dollar bill and replace his portrait with that of President Reagan. General Grant, who won the Civil War, saved the Union and gave birth to the question “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?” The answer to which, by the way, is “General AND MRS. Grant,” for all of you who got it wrong.

I have a better idea– leave Grant on the fifty, but reissue the thirty year Treasury bond and put Reagan’s picture on that. After all, nobody ever did more to run up government debt than Reagan (not yet, anyway, Bush still has four more years).

A stunningly beautiful woman kissed me tonight

Posted on 02/17/2005

A stunningly beautiful woman kissed me tonight. As part of our acting class. She kissed me passionately… then slapped me across the face.

Posted on 02/14/2005

Paris Hilton says she trademarked the phrase “That’s hot.” As if she’s the first one ever to say it. As if she had any legal chance of actually enforcing her rights if someone else used it in an advertisement.

So here’s the phrase I am trademarking: “Paris Hilton is the best example of why the inheritance tax rate ought to be 100% ™”

What goes around, comes around

Posted on 02/10/2005

Back in college, one of my classmates showed up one day in a bright yellow track suit. Really bright yellow.

She looked like a giant banana.

I wanted to tell her. But I didn’t.

I might have been the only one who remained silent.

I think hearing this so much made an impression on her. I saw her six days a week for a whole year but never again saw the yellow track suit. Not once. I doubt she was happy about it.

Cut to: Several years later. I meet a woman who completely wins me over. Charming. Smart. Beautiful. Funny. Willing to go out with me. A woman possessing all five of those important qualities is rare.

On our first date I told her where I went to college and she told me the name of her new best friend, who also went there.

The giant banana. Of course.

I knew that the moment she got home she’d call the giant banana and ask about me. And I knew that what she wouldn’t be told was that I was a giant jerk for calling her a giant banana. Because I didn’t. What didn’t go around couldn’t come around.

Cut to: Several weeks later. Thought that the five-qualities woman might be my soul-mate. She didn’t see it that way, and was not in the right place in her life for me. We parted ways.

Cut to: Now. She’s semi-famous. Married. Still lovely, and still very funny. I’m really happy for her success. She earned and deserves it.

Flashback: A few weeks ago. A bunch of comedians are in line to sign up for an audition. It’s cold and many of us have been waiting for a couple of hours to get our audition date, which is supposed to be randomly chosen when we get to the front of the line.

One comedian arrives late, starts talking to his friends in front of us when the line starts to move.

I ask him, politely, to go to the back of the line. He refuses, says it doesn’t matter because the dates are randomly chosen. Though we didn’t think they’d run out of audition spots, anything’s possible, and I explain that our feet are cold and we all want to get inside a few seconds earlier.

He doesn’t move. Until I turn to my friend and say “This isn’t very smart of him. A bunch of us are not only comedians but we also book shows, and we remember stuff like this.”

At which point he walks toward the back of the line.

Cut to: A minute or two later. We get to the front. They changed their policy. For this time only, they are assigning dates in chronological order. So it did matter where in line one stood.

And we will remember him.

My toughest show ever

Posted on 02/06/2005

I really like to open a show. It’s a challenge, taking a cold audience and getting them laughing. My style of comedy stands up to the challenge, I think, because I believe in lots of punchlines (in other words, quantity perhaps over quality), starting right from when I take the stage. No long set-ups, just grab the mike and start hitting hard. Plus, sometimes this has the advantage of avoiding the problem of following someone who just isn’t that good, or someone who abuses the audience and loses them (doesn’t happen often, but it happens).

Tonight I performed my third set at the Tribeca Arts Festival. I was the only stand-up comic (second time that’s happened there). I followed some musicians and poets.

There were around fifteen people in the audience (this was Super Bowl Sunday). Some of them had heard my stuff the first two times I appeared there. While I did vary my sets the first two times, the opening this time had nothing new, although the order was moved around some.

Nothing. For the first minute, barely a chuckle. After three or four minutes of material that usually does really well (and did so the prior two weeks), I got some laughter. But not much. I switched to crowd work (asking the audience questions, coming up with humorous responses) to get the audience on my side. They’d been paying attention, just not laughing.

The crowd work helped a little, then I did some more material and some real laughs finally ensued. Eventually. But it was a hard slog. I didn’t lose them. They were listening, but I could have been giving a lesson on how to gut fish to the seafood department for all the love I felt.

After I left the stage I figured it out. The person who preceded me was a poet. When I saw her two weeks ago, she had told a long story about a young girl forced into an arranged marriage who was repeatedly raped and tortured by her husband, and the horrible life she led.

I think this is the summit of A Tough Act To Follow.

Epilogue to My Toughest Show Ever, or Thank You, Kind Stranger

Posted on 2/7/05

Last night I posted a blog about the tough show I had just come from, when I was the only comedian and I went on immediately following a poet who speaks about the rape, torture and abuse of a young girl. It took a long time for the audience to warm up to comedy, and it was a difficult few minutes on stage getting to that point (and I use the term ‘stage’ loosely since there was no stage and no microphone).

This afternoon I was shopping and a guy leaving the store said hello to me. I said hi in that non-committal way that means Okay, hi to you, but I have no idea who you are and probably you have mistaken me for someone else.

He said “You were very funny in the show last night.” So he was talking to me. A major coincidence with so few people at the show on Super Bowl Sunday, in a metropolitan area with fifteen million people.

I said thanks, and mentioned that I didn’t get a lot of laughs. He confirmed that the person right before me told a gruesome story and brought down the whole audience and it took them a long time to get over what she said. I had the unfortunate luck of immediately following her. I suppose this means she is a very talented story-teller, which of course did me no good.

Kind stranger, your attendance at my next show is on me– if by a second coincidence you’ve come across this blog, email me and I’ll see that you get comped at my next show. And if somebody else thinks he can trick me into giving away free tickets, you’ll have to tell me the name of the store, what I was buying, and don’t forget that I know what the guy looks like– I just saw him in the shoe department of Bloomingda,, ha, you didn’t think I was really going to tell you where, did you?

Thanks again, kind stranger.

Two sides to every story

Posted on 01/21/2005

A bunch of us were friends with Phil Vosh in college. Phil and I were teammates for four years and housemates for two. Many other friends of ours also lived in the house.

A couple of years ago I received a letter. The return address was Celeste Vosh in the same city where Phil lived.

Before opening the envelope I assumed it was a wedding announcement. As far as I knew, Phil had no siblings. His parents don’t live in the same city and his mother’s name is not Celeste.

It turns out it was an invitation to a surprise party.

I called. Celeste is Phil’s sister. One of two. When I discussed not knowing that Phil had sisters with the rest of the crowd, only Buzz, Phil’s best friend, knew about them. The rest of us had no idea.

e all found it bizarre that Phil had never mentioned anything to us about his sisters. We all knew about everyone else’s siblings. We questioned Phil’s sanity.

Then I figured something out. The other side of the story. The reason we never knew that Phil had two sisters? Because we never asked. It wasn’t Phil. It was us.

By the way, if you’re thinking about having a surprise party for a Marine Reserves Lieutenant Colonel who works for the State Department, speaks three languages fluently and has two Ivy League degrees, don’t expect to really surprise him.

Great New Way to Lose Weight

Posted on 01/15/2005

It seems to me that the less one eats, the faster one loses weight. So here’s the diet I’m trying– NOTHING. For the past six days I’ve eaten nothing and had nothing to drink. And so far the only thing unusual is that my house is suffering from an infestation of midget giraffes riding flying motorcycles.

And there’s something wrong with my computer– the keys on the keyboard are really hard to push down. It’s getting really hard to type anyth

kg klglukrlkn

qiwu sgfr,sf,dasfr;l,/. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Why I can’t date date vegetarians

Posted on 1/14/05

I respect the ethics of vegetarians who say that it’s immoral to use eleven pounds of edible grain to create one pound of edible meat when people are starving all over the world, even though meat-eating is not the cause of starvation and an entire world gone vegetarian would not cure starvation. The reason people go hungry is not a worldwide food shortage, it’s a worldwide compassion shortage. We could feed the whole world for less than we spend on coffee, but we’d rather have the coffee. Why? Because we’re selfish. People die but unless we see them, we fail to act. Millions of people starve each year, way more than die from tsunamis. But flood destruction makes for better video so for that we write the checks.

But back to the vegetarians. Here’s why I have trouble dating them.

First date she tells me that she just doesn’t like the taste of meat, but isn’t uncomfortable when other people eat it. So I order a steak and get dirty looks through the whole meal.

Second date. Before I even glance at the menu she says “They have two pasta dishes I like—why don’t we each get one and we can share.” Saves the dirty looks but I have to eat fusilli with string beans, asparagus and chick peas in a pink mouchure sauce.

Third date she suggests the restaurant. It’s vegan and the word “tofu” appears on the menu eighty seven times. I like tofu, given something nice to flavor it. By itself it tastes like styrofoam. But they can’t serve styrofoam since it’s environmentally unsound, so they serve plain tofu, in eighty seven different shapes. I ask for a diet coke and all six waitresses, pale and unhealthy-looking, give me dirty looks like I ordered a broiled baby in kitten sauce with a side order of smallpox.

Before the fourth date even rolls around I’m on PETA’s mailing list and my barbecue grill is missing. And that’s the last straw.

P.S. The word “vegan” is not in MS Word’s spell-check.

My name got popular

Posted on 01/12/2005

While Shaun (or Sean or Shawn) is a popular name in Ireland, even among Irish-Americans it hasn’t been a common name in the U.S. (they prefer Patrick, Kevin and Timothy, for some reason, and not Shaun).

Growing up, until age 25 I probably had met only three or four Shauns in my life. Sean Connery was James Bond, and that was pretty good. But then there also was Shaun Cassidy, and he’s no James Bond.

round fifteen years ago I started to notice other Shauns. I’d be in a store and I’d hear “Shaun! Put that down!” in a very stern voice. I’d turn around and see an angry mother yelling at her five year old son. It was a weird experience, since before then I’d almost never heard my name apply to anybody but me.

Growing up I knew people with names like Phyllis and Harvey, and they didn’t like their names because these were old-people names, names that had been popular sixty or seventy years earlier, so most people with those names were senior citizens. Like all our Jennifers will be in forty years.

But now all those Shauns are grown up, and it seems to be a pretty cool name. The only drawback is that I read about a lot of Shauns getting arrested (Sean Combs and the over-the-Carnegie-Deli shooting a few years ago come to mind; there have been tons of others).

But all in all, other Shauns, welcome to the club. It’s a fun club, even if we can’t all agree on the spelling.

While trolling through my computer I found this piece I had written years ago

Posted 1/5/05


Post Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing

(prepared in accordance with Grossly Arbitrary Accounting Principles) (amounts in $ millions)

For entertainment use only.  No shareholders were harmed in the making of this parody.

Clean out your closets, re-live your childhood

Posted on 11/28/2004

I’ve been fortunate that even when I lived in a small apartment in NYC I had enough closet space (or perhaps not nearly enough clothing). So I’ve saved a lot of stuff.

On Thanksgiving I decided to clean out some of the boxes of papers. Wow! Certainly I don’t need gas credit card bills from fifteen years ago. That gets recycled. I found copies of my high school comedy newspaper (it was actually the Computer Club newsletter but writing jokes was much more fun than writing about computers). I wonder if there’s any material in there that’s actually usable on stage! I’ll have to have a look. Some of the stuff I tell is material I wrote fifteen years ago and it does well, although some stuff I wrote when I was younger is hack and I don’t use it (of course– the definition of hack is stuff that so many people think of that nobody should be telling it because it’s too obvious).

I found a letter from a girl I liked in college taking a whole page to thank me for UPSing her one of my cheesecakes. She loved the food, didn’t love me. Last I heard she’s been divorced around eleven times.

I found stacks of letters from two girls I had corresponded with in high school. I really don’t want their letters, but I’d like to see the letters that I’d written them. At the time I thought I was a pretty funny writer. I guess I should ask them if they want their letters. One is someone I still keep in touch with from time to time. She lives in upstate NY with a nice husband and a house full of kids. The other one has a unique enough name that I’m sure I can Google her and find her. She’s probably some famous mathematician or something (I have always been attracted to smart women).

I found a NYC subway map from the 1970s. One of the barely comprehensible ones with the thick parallel lines that came about after the totally incomprehensible ones with overlapping lines. I’d always wanted one for decoration. Unfortunately this one is ripped along the folds. Anybody remember the QB train? When was the last time you heard someone refer to the BMT? I’m getting old.

What I’m Thankful For

Posted on 11/26/2004

I’m thankful that I have a healthy and loving family. I’m thankful that I live in a great country in which two different stores are selling DVD players for $18 this weekend! I’m thankful that I’m happy about this even though I already have a DVD player and am not looking for another one.

I’m thankful that people laugh when I stand in front of the bright lights and tell jokes.

I’m thankful that my website host allows me to see which ISPs are used by people who visit the site (no, I can’t see any information on the individuals, just a list of ISPs). I’m thankful that I apparently have some fans in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates even though I’ve never been to any of those countries.

I’m thankful that earlier this year I won a semi-bogus award for economic forecasting, and am thankful that some people took it seriously enough for it to be picked up by the national press. And I’m even more thankful that John Dorfman, the fund manager and journalist who ran the contest, was nice enough to allow me to put a plug in for my comedy career when he wrote the press release.

I’m thankful that most of the other comedians I’ve met and worked with have been helpful, friendly and kind.

Using hands-free cellular phones while driving

Posted on 11/25/2004

A family member sent me an article on a study of hands-free cellular phone use by drivers (the study said that it’s dangerous whether or not you hold the phone). Here was my response:

I do not use a cell phone when I drive, and keep in mind that I’m an instrument-rated pilot who has specific training in just such multi-tasking: communicating detailed concepts while navigating and maintaining safe operation of complicated electronic and mechanical equipment. And yes, I, with all this training, knowledge and experience, do not use a cell phone when I drive. That should tell you something.

On Tuesday a client called me while he was driving. I suggested he call me back when he was parked. He said he was using a hands-free earpiece. I replied that this was just one more thing to break when he crashed.

To those of you who say that it’s just like having a conversation with a passenger, well, it’s NOT. When you’re with a passenger in the car and something unexpected happens- a sudden lane-change, the guy in front of you slamming on his brakes, a ball rolling into the road, or whatever– the conversation naturally stops. But if you’re on the phone and you stop talking because something unexpected occurs, the OPPOSITE happens. Your pause causes the person on the other end to START talking, to fill in the silence. Sometimes followed by your crash. Your brain can process only so much information at the same time.

Yes, I have an opinion on this matter.

Free food has more Calories

Posted on 11/24/2004

Because you eat twice as much of it.

I’m with stupid

Posted on 11/23/2004

If your friend is wearing an “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt, and you’re standing next to him on the side to which the arrow is pointing, you ARE stupid.

Posted on 11/21/2004

Putting a ribbon on your car does not make one a patriot.

If you want to be patriotic, give blood, sign your organ donor card and pay your taxes without complaining.

ABC apologized

Posted on 11/19/2004

ABC issued an apology for showing a woman’s bare back (this means above the waist, not her backside) in a commercial run during a football game.

An ABC spokesman said that it was a wardrobe malfunction– the woman’s burkha accidentally opened.

In the future they will ensure not to show any part of a woman, except her eyes.

Friendly vs. Nice

Posted on 11/17/2004

There is a difference between being friendly and being nice. A parable should exemplify.

A man was walking along a riverbank on his way to an important meeting when he saw a child drowning in the river. He asked the child what happened. The child said that he wanted to go swimming but the only nearby pool was not open. He explained that he got caught in a strong current and couldn’t swim well enough. The man spoke with the child, complimented him on his choice in clothing and said he would inform the child’s parents where he was. The friendly man then rushed to his appointment.

Shortly thereafter another man was walking along the riverbank and spotted the drowning child. The boy explained that though his parents told him not to go swimming in the river, he disobeyed them. The man rescued the child, then scolded him for disobeying his parents and for risking not only his life but also the life of the man who rescued him. He then suggested that the child take a swimming class. He told the child that the class would make swimming more enjoyable and would teach him not only how to swim better, but also to learn his limits so he will know when and where to swim, and when and where not to swim.

The first man was friendly. The second man was nice.

People are either friendly or nice. Some are neither. A few are both, but a third of those end up in a tower with a rifle, and when they are caught their neighbors are surprised, and tell TV reporters “He was so friendly and nice I never thought he’d end up shooting people.”

So now you know.

– – – S H A U N   E L I,

Nice, not necessarily friendly, and a former Water Safety Instructor

(By the way, if you see someone drowning, your LAST choice should be to jump in. First look for something to throw, like a rope or something that floats. And if you jump in fully-dressed, you will likely drown.)

Tips on water safety from the American Red Cross:  http://www.redcross.org/services/hss/tips/healthtips/safetywater.html

TV gone bad

Posted on 11/15/2004

I recognize that television programs are for entertainment, not information. But last night’s “Crossing Jordan” went so far past the line of ridiculous that I have to comment.

In the show, they know in advance a commuter plane is about to crash because the pilots stopped responding to radio calls and an Air Force plane flew past, looked inside and saw everyone passed out.

Okay so far.

But they are able to predict within a mile or two where the plane will crash (and they go there and watch the plane crash– not exactly the safest thing to do). This is nuts. While they may know exactly how much fuel is in the plane, they can not be sure exactly how much wind they encountered along the way, exact rates of climb, fuel burn, etc. Figuring out how the auto-pilot was set would allow them to guess along what line the plane would crash, but not where on that line.

And then, when the plane does crash, it blows up. Not exactly consistent with running out of fuel before descending and crashing.

The medical examiners are trying to identify burned bodies. So when they find cell phones among the bodies (turned on, by the way), what do they do? Use them to identify the bodies? No, they pile them on a table!

Oh, the representative from the National Transportation Safety Board doesn’t know the difference between a Cockpit Voice Recorder (which records sounds) and the Black Box (which records flight data). But of course he can arrive at the crash site in minutes. Wonder what plane he flies!

I can accept some straying from reality on a TV show, but there have to be limits.

Italian Food

Posted on 11/09/2004

A friend and I went out for Italian food this past Saturday.

It’s been our observation and experience that if the restaurant has a lot of old people eating there, we don’t end up liking the food. We refer to it as “Old people’s Italian food.”

But we’re getting older. We were wondering– when we’re old, will we be eating the same food we prefer now, and the younger people will refer to THAT as old people’s Italian food (and eat the kind of food we don’t like)? Or will our tastes change, so that old people’s Italian food will always be old people’s Italian food?

Posted on 10/29/2004

While they’re not disclosing the cause of his illness, one theory is gallstones.

Ironic, isn’t it? If the leader of the Palestinians is brought down by tiny little rocks…

The last debate

Posted on 10/14/2004

I finally figured out what the look on the president’s face reminded me of…

The smug look of a kid who knows that no matter how badly he plays, he is certain he’ll get picked for the team because his father is the principal.

Bush’s Bulge in the First Debate

Posted on 10/13/2004

It was actually a tape recorder playing a loop tape reminding the president “Don’t mention the draft. Don’t mention the draft. Don’t mention the draft.”

Since he wasn’t wired in the second debate, he forgot, and mentioned it.

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The 10 Wittiest Essays By Mark Twain

humorous person essay

An American author and humorist, Mark Twain is known for his witty works, which include books, essays, short stories, speeches, and more. While not every single piece of written work was infused with humor, many were, ranging from deadpan humor to laugh-out-loud funny. We’ve put together a list, in no particular order, of ten witty pieces that will give you a peek inside the wittiness of this celebrated author.

Mark Twain

The Awful German Language

As anyone who has ever learned or attempted to learn a second language knows, it is difficult and can be very frustrating at times. Twain explores this in the witty essay ‘ The Awful German Language ,’ which was first published in Appendix D in A Tramp Abroad. He describes the language as ‘perplexing’ with its ten different parts of speech, one sound meaning several different things, super long words, which he believes have their own ‘perspective,’ and so on. After breaking down the language, Twain goes on to describe how he would ‘reform it.’ When it comes to these long compound words, for example, he would ‘require the speaker to deliver them in sections, with intermissions for refreshments.’

How to Tell a Story

Advice to youth.

‘Always obey your parents…,’ is first piece of ‘advice’ Twain gives in his satirical essay ‘ Advice To Youth ,’ written in 1882; however, he immediately follows it with ‘…when they are present.’ He also discusses respecting superiors, but if they offend in any way, then the youth may ‘simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick.’ Other pieces of ‘advice’ from Twain include ‘be very careful about lying’ and ‘never handle firearms carelessly.’ He writes of books and how ‘Robertson’s Sermons, Baxter’s Saints’ Rest… ‘ are some of the books that the youth should read ‘exclusively.’ Twain was making a social commentary about the people of his time, but it is a fun read.

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High wheel bicycles

Taming the Bicycle

‘ Taming the Bicycle ‘ is a funny account of Twain learning to ride an old high wheel bike. This piece, while never published during his lifetime as he was never happy with it, is laugh-out-loud funny. Taking lessons from ‘the Expert,’ Twain has much difficulty learning to stay on the bike. Indeed, ‘He [the Expert] said that dismounting was perhaps the hardest thing to learn… But he was in error there.’ Hilarity ensues as Twain falls, repeatedly, on his teacher as he has trouble staying the bike for any amount of time. Eventually, Twain does learn how to get on the bike and dismount properly; he even writes ‘Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live.’

Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences

Professionals once described Fenimore Cooper’s The Deerslayer and The Pathfinder as ‘artistic creations’ and Cooper himself as ‘the greatest artist in the domain of romantic fictions.’ In ‘ Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences ,’ Mark Twain clearly thought otherwise. In this critical essay, Twain states that Cooper violated 18 of the ‘rules governing literary art’ and proceeds to explain each one. Some of the funnier moments or rules broken include ‘1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. But the Deerslayer tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in the air’ and ’12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.’ This piece is biting and funny at the same time.

At the Funeral

While funerals are serious, Mark Twain manages to make the subject funny in ‘ At the Funeral ,’ a short essay in which the humorous writer gives his take on proper etiquette when attending such an event. For example, the attendee must not ‘criticise the person in whose honor the entertainment is given’ and definitely ‘make no remarks about his equipment.’ Also, the attendee should only ‘be moved…according to the degree of your intimacy’ with the people hosting the funeral or the deceased. And lastly, as only Twain would point out, ‘Do not bring your dog.’

On Theft and Conscience

‘On Theft and Conscience’ is an except taken from a speech Twain gave in 1902 and is printed in Mark Twain’s Helpful Hints for Good Living: A Handbook for the Damned Human Race . He recalled the first time he ‘removed’ (stole) a watermelon from a wagon; once he looked at it, he realized it was not yet ripe. He had a bit of remorse, so he returned the watermelon to the owner. This is Mark Twain after all; therefore, he told the owner ‘to reform.’ The owner, in turn, gave Twain a ripe melon, and Twain ‘forgave’ the owner.

Replica of the Mark Twain Cabin, Jackass Hill, Calaveras County, CA

The Jumping Frog

In 1865, Mark Twain wrote ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,’ a witty short story about a gambler named Jim Smiley as told by the bartender, Sam Wheeler. A French writer, while liking the story and thinking it was funny, didn’t understand why it would cause anyone to laugh and translated the story into French in order prove his point. Twain caught wind of it and translated it back into English but using the grammatical structure and syntax of the French language. As he points out, ‘the Frenchman has riddled the grammar. I think it is the worst I ever saw…’ He published everything as ‘ The Jumping Frog : In English. Then in French. Then Clawed Back into a Civilized Language Once More By Patient, Unremunerated Toil.’

A Presidential Candidate

A satirical essay written in 1879, ‘A Presidential Candidate’ makes fun of the campaign process and explores the ideal candidate or in Twain’s words ‘a candidate who cannot be injured by investigation of his past history…’ If the candidate did, indeed, expose all his ‘wickedness’ then his opponents could not use his past against him. A truly witty piece, some of the secrets revealed include the candidate burying his deceased aunt under his grapevines because ‘the vine needed fertilizing, my aunt had to be buried, and I dedicated her to this high purpose’ and his dislike for ‘the poor man.’

Advice to Little Girls

While it is a funny short story, ‘ Advice to Little Girls ‘ also has deeper meaning: girls should think for themselves. For example, one piece of ‘advice’ Twain shares is ‘If you mother tells you to do a thing, it is wrong to reply that you won’t.’ He writes that little girls should act as they will do what they’re told but that ‘afterward act quietly in the matter according to the dictates of your best judgment.’ This piece also has recommendations on how take chewing gum from little brothers, how to treat friends who have better toys, plus several more little gems.

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Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.


110 Humor Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

Top Humor Topic Ideas and Essay Examples

– Sense Of Humor: What Does It Do? Satire is much more particular as it relies on an accurate understanding of the intended audience.

– The impact of humor and fun in the workplace on employee morale and performance It is well-known that laughter has many benefits. However, laughter isn’t always a good thing for your […].

– The effects of humor and persuasion Humor can still be used to persuade. Comedy/Amusement

– The Cask of Amontillado Horror Story – Allan Poe Edgar Allan Poe makes use of humor and horror to tell “The Cask of Amontillado”.

– Humor’s Nature: What Makes People Smile? Literary works are academically a constructive and creative way to condemn evils such corruption, impunity and gender violence.

– World Literature: Humor and Comedy Here is the absurd comedy of Okonkwo’s father’s description of his family’s poverty.

Humor in Lysistrata, She Stoops to Conquer: Still funny today The satire of Lysistrata is a farcical comedy that delights modern audiences. It focuses on national wars and peace.

Humor at Work This paper’s findings are both theoretically and practically important.

Attardo: “Humor and laughter” The field has been lacking a synthesis of laughter and humor since then.

– Racial Humors, Stereotypes, and “Rush Hour 2”, The influence of globalization made it possible for different cultures to come into contact. This led to massive migrations across every country and clashes of customs and religions

– African-American Humor: A Reflection on Change This article aims to demonstrate that the African-American population has used humor to diminish stereotypes and get them closer to realizing equal rights […]

Humor at Work: How Important is It? The HRM function is responsible with motivating workers. Humor can help create a friendly environment.

– Japanese Literature – Humor and parody This paper explores the use of humor and parody within the following works of Edo-Tokugawa periods.

– Humor in Zadie’s Novels Zadie’s style serves as a guideline to help readers understand situations that might be ethically or otherwise problematic.

Humor Therapy for Mental Illness Patients Therefore, researchers focused on humor in therapy as it has the potential for positive patient outcomes.

– Humor, Technology and the Young Frankenstein Movie One of the most heated debates was about the role of scientists in today’s age. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, which addresses this question.

Humor: Different tastes Humor is part of our human nature. […]

– Harpagon The Achievement of Humor, “The Miser” Moliere The audience can find humor in whatever happens to him throughout the play because he has become distant from all other characters.

– Strategies for Humor and Australian Art Post 1970 Humor regarding emotions and needs is a powerful tool for constructing a society that accepts these emotions.

– Humor of Multifunctional Nature: Cultural Traditions and Comedy Works The Colbert Report was a catalyst for patriotism and self-awareness in 2008, especially when it came to the elections. It was intended to make people laugh and compensate for the […] lack of truth.

– Mark Twain’s Humor according to Critics In the 1860s, he moved with his family to Nook farm in Hartford, Connecticut. Then, they moved to Fredonia, New York, and Keokuk in Iowa.

– The Racial Humors in America: Jokes with Racial or Ethnic Contents Connotations Peter Russell’s performance began in 1989 and has covered the most important areas of Indian childhood, racial stereotypes and race relations.

– Humor and Asian Cinema: The Functions Of Humor In Japanese Films Humor in cinema can help to bring out the most important themes and add some unique details.

– Culture-Based Humor, Stereotypes and Comedians’ Relationship with the Audience Without being able to analyze one’s reactions, it is impossible to determine which kind of comedy would be the most entertaining for someone.

– Ethics, Persuasion and Humor: The Social Functions of Humor in Society In this instance, the mental state is defined as the person’s attitude. Humor is an effective way to persuade others.

Drew Hayden Taylor’s Aboriginal Humor. This essay will examine the traditional theories of aboriginal humor. It informs about the […]

Humor in the Workplace: Reducing employee tension and communication The cartoon helps reduce tension at work by giving the employer an opportunity to offer advice to the worker. Management understands that employees have the freedom to learn […].

Humor as Therapy at Humormatters.com It can be searched for using the Google keyword “Sultanoff” as well as listed on the Pepperdine University website under the section dedicated o the researcher and a faculty member.

– Humor as a Method of Conflict Management: Facilitating & Regulating Communication Humor can help to create a relaxed environment, which is sometimes necessary in a workplace.

Humor can be a tool to achieve positive results at work Managers should be able to establish good relationships with multi-ethnic teams that include members from different ethnicities.

Humor is the best strategy for stress relief This paper will discuss how humor can be used to manage stress. It is not enough to understand the causes of stress.

Film Noir, Black Humor and Film Noir in “The Missing Gun” Black humor and noir elements can be seen as features that help to create an image and atmosphere in a movie. These elements are combined in “The Missing Gun” to show an […].

Simple & Easy Humor Essay Titles – The Theme. The Message. The Humor. The Setting of The Flaw in Our Stars. John Green’s Novel. – The Theme of Humor, The Taming of the Shrew (William Shakespeare) – The Crying Lot of 49 by Thomas Pynchon & White Noise By Don DeLillo – Humor and Uses – Transforming Moments: Humor and Laughter In Palliative Health Care Adams’ Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Humor and Absurdity – Humor through the Characters by Creating False Realities In the Taming Of The Shrew – The Humor, Satire and Writings of Mark Twain – Comedy as a Humorous Tool in Movie Zombieland Voltaire’s Principles of Satire and Humor In Candide – Tone, Irony and Humor in The Hammon And The Beans – Oscar Wilde’s The Imitance of Being Earnest: How Humor and Irony are Used – The Importance Of Humor In Literature For Beginning Readers – Humor and Language Techniques in Monbiot’s Article Modeest Proposal for Youth Scourge The Possible Correlations between Self-Defeating Humor and Humor Sigmund Freud and Woody Allen discuss the use of humor – The Importance Humor In Tragic Hamlet. A Play by William Shakespeare Emma Jameson: Humor and Culture in Relationship – Oscar Wilde’s The Importance and the Earnest: How Humor Works – How to Find Humor in a Parody. Humor’s Positive and Negative Implications – The Cooperative principle of Pragmatics: An Analyse of Verbal Humor among Friends – The use of literary devices to create humor for Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer night’s Dream, A Play about Humor – What is the Triumph of Humor over Human Adversity? – Humor Production: The Differences and Similarities between Academic and Popular Sources – To improve the students’ speaking skills, use humor in the teaching-learning process

Humorous Topics for Essays – The Truth Behind Comedy. A Study Of Comedians. Jane Austen’s Subtle Humor about Pride and Prejudice – The Humor of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America to Make Beneficiious Nation of Kazakhstan – The Cynical Perspectives and Dark Humor Of Voltaire in Candide And Zadig – Therapeutic Uses Of Humor – Women and Comedy: Sexual Humor And Female Empowerment Using dark humor and journals – Mark Twain’s Humorous Writings – Humor is essential in creating effective advertising for marketers – The Cellular and Immune Effects Of Humor Humor in Flight: What Roles Does It Play? – Chaucer8217s Canterbury Tales: Humor and Satire Shakespeare’s Humor: Richard Iii. – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest: Powerful Humor – Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Life and Dark Humor in Satirical Fictions – The Difference between British and American Humor – George Orwell’s Animal Farm demonstrates the use of humor to describe historical events Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Humor – How to use humor to face the harsh realities of everyday life as a prisoner during the Holocaust – William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – Humor – The development of a sense of humor in childhood Hwee Hwee Ta – Humor through Contradictions within Foreign Body Components Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: Wit and Humor – Humor theories by Jim Holt – 21 Jump Street: The Humor of Chris Miller and Phil Lord

Questions about Humor – What Does it Mean to be “Bad”? – What is Humor? – What is the opposite of humor? – What is the best synonym for humor? – What is the closest synonym for the word humor? How African American Humor and Our View of Comedy Have Changed – Chaucer uses humor to make social criticism. – How does Dorothy Parker use humor to explore gender differences? Humor: How does it affect our society? – What is Humor? – Emily Dickinson uses humor and irony in her poetry – How can humor benefit workplace relations and improve employee performance? – How can humor create different emotions within comedy? How can humor be an important part for health? Humor can make a greater impression than Stern speeches. – How can Japan’s open-mindedness, responsibility and sense of humor make it a better country? Russel Peters uses race-based humor? – What are the unique characteristics of Jewish Humor and Humorology? Humor-Based Positive psychology Interventions for Whom? – How do personality traits and sense of humor affect your ability to make decisions? Is there a relationship between Humor Styles & Subjective Well-Being that is different across cultures and ages? How does humor affect brand imaging, interpersonal? – How does Humor influence perceptions of veracity? – Is Humor a Qualify for a Person? What is the importance of humor? – How did social change and its humor idioms in the Twentieth Century occur? – What are the Different Styles Of Humor?


Emerson McKinney is a 31-year-old mother and blogger who focuses on education. Emerson has a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from the University of South Carolina. She is currently a stay-at-home mom and blogger who writes about her experiences as a mother and educator. Emerson is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post.

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Rafal Reyzer

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Humorous Writing (A Guide to Adding Humor to Writing)

Author: Rafal Reyzer

Want to keep readers coming back? Tickle their funny bone with humorous writing.

Whether it’s a novel, a short story , or a blog post, a dash of humor can be a game-changer. But crafting comedy isn’t one-size-fits-all. From witty one-liners to playful satire, the spectrum of humor is vast. Remember, what has one person in stitches might leave another scratching their head. So, know your audience, and then dive into these techniques to pepper your prose with chuckles.

Various Forms of Humorous Writing

There are several types of humor you can use to make your piece more entertaining and jovial. Sarcasm, wit, irony, and satire are all effective ways to make your readers laugh or at least smile. However, it’s important to use each type of humor at the right moment, so your punchline lands perfectly.

Many often view sarcasm as the lowest form of witticism because it relies on mean-spiritedness and mockery. It can be funny if used in moderation, but too much sarcasm will make your writing seem unprofessional and petty.

example of using sarcasm for humorous writing

Wit is similar to sarcasm, except that it uses intelligence and cleverness instead of condescension and mockery. It employs puns , wordplay, and double meanings to lead the reader down an amusing path.

Irony occurs when what happens contradicts what was expected. This discrepancy between expectation and reality can create some hilarious situations. This is like when a character in your story concocted a scheme that hilariously backfires on him.

Last but not least, we have satire, which makes fun of people or ideas by using exaggeration, ridicule, or parody. When done right, satire pokes holes in some hot arguments and brings attention to societal issues . Controversial politicians and other celebrities are often subjected to satire by comedians.

Use Them Wisely!

All four forms of funny business we discussed can enhance your writing if used carefully. Keep in mind though that overdoing any of these methods may result in wasted time, so choose your chuckles wisely! Try using irony or sarcasm in situations where it would be unexpected but still make sense within the story’s context. Or play around with word choice by making absurd comparisons or substitutions (like referring to a very tall and lanky character as “beanpole”). If done well, humorous writing can enhance your readers’ experience. Just don’t overdo it or force the jokes to the point that it doesn’t appear natural in the piece itself. Often, a little goes a long way!

how to write humorously

How to Write Humorously

Humor is a great way to hook readers, and have them coming back for more. Our inherent desire to laugh motivates us to share funny YouTube videos and respond to text messages with iconic smiley faces. Many people choose to get their daily news with a touch of comedy from outlets like “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report” or “ The Onion “. This is to show that we would rather laugh than sit and wallow in sadness. Humorous writing is not limited to comic strips, as it also benefits any form of conversational or narrative compositions, such as short stories, articles, books, and essays. By the way, don’t forget to proofread your work for spelling and grammar mistakes.

Elements of Hum or in Writing

Who doesn’t enjoy some dark humor from time to time? Have you noticed that even in movies of the horror genre , filmmakers try to inject a little humor now and then? This is known as comedic relief and it makes movies more enjoyable. But before you start cracking jokes, there are a few elements you should know about using humor in your writing:

One of the most important elements of humor is timing and delivering the punchline at the right moment. Knowing when to deliver a joke is crucial, and if you do it too soon or too late, the effect will be lost.

2. Relevance

Another important element of humor in writing is relevance. Your jokes should be relevant to the topic at hand. Otherwise, they’ll just seem out of place and forced.

3. Comical Value

Finally, make sure that your jokes land. There’s nothing worse than an attempted bit of wit that falls flat. If you keep these elements in mind, you’re well on your way to adding some hilarity to your writing. So go forth and entertain us all. If you want to add humor to your writing, timing is everything! Make sure your jokes are relevant and land – otherwise, you’ll just end up looking like a fool.

humorous writing - woman laughing while watching something on her laptop

Why Incorporate a Bit of Humor Into Your Next Piece?

Humor is a great way to make your writing more interesting and vivacious. It can also help lighten the mood or make a serious subject more relatable. The goal of adding some humor to your writing project is not about becoming the next Woody Allen or David Sedaris (unless that’s your dream). The objective is to improve your writing by using all the tools available to you, including comedy.

1. Brainstorm Ideas with Friends or Fellow Writers

This can help give you a fresh perspective on what might be funny. Experiment with different types of humor until you find one that works well with your voice and style. Brainstorming can help you generate more ideas, reduce writing anxiety, and focus your attention on the most relevant content when writing. This is essential before outlining the major points needed to create well-organized short stories and writing in general.

brainstorm ideas with friends

2. Pay Attention to Timing and Delivery

Jokes that are too long or arrive at the wrong moment will fall flat. Work on perfecting your delivery so that readers laugh when they’re supposed to. Polishing your timing and delivery is crucial for maximizing the impact of your joke. This will help you achieve the desired result, which is to make the readers laugh. Psychologist and bestselling author Dean Buonomano points out in his book Your Brain is a Time Machine that our mind not only tracks the passage of time but can also stretch or compress our sense of that passage in various ways. So why not give humor a try in your next piece? It might just take your writing from good to great.

FAQs on Humorous Writing

1. how do you write a funny poem.

There is no one way to write a funny poem, but you can try these tips:

  • Thinking of a topic that will be entertaining to read about.
  • Using rhyme and other poetic devices to add levity and interest.
  • Keeping the overall tone lighthearted.

Following these guidelines can help you create a poem that will bring smiles (or even laughter) to your readers’ faces.

2. How do you come up with a funny story?

Every funny story is different, but here are a few things to take heed of to help you come up with a hilarious tale.

  • Try to think of a situation that would be universally relatable and entertaining.
  • Add in some elements of exaggeration or absurdity to make the story even more humorous.
  • Don’t forget the punchline! A good joke will leave your audience laughing out loud. So, make sure yours is solid.

If you like to master humorous writing, following these tips and techniques can help get you started. Just remember not to overdo it. A bit of humor goes a long way! And be sure to keep your audience in mind so that you don’t end up offending anyone with your jokes. With a light touch and the right approach, humorous writing can be a great asset to any piece. Next up, you may want to explore a guide on how to start a business plan writing service .

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Frequently asked questions

Can i use humor in my application essay.

You can use humor in a college essay , but carefully consider its purpose and use it wisely. An effective use of humor involves unexpected, keen observations of the everyday, or speaks to a deeper theme. Humor shouldn’t be the main focus of the essay, but rather a tool to improve your storytelling.

Get a second opinion from a teacher, counselor, or essay coach on whether your essay’s humor is appropriate.

Frequently asked questions: College admissions essays

When writing your Common App essay , choose a prompt that sparks your interest and that you can connect to a unique personal story.

No matter which prompt you choose, admissions officers are more interested in your ability to demonstrate personal development , insight, or motivation for a certain area of study.

The Common App essay is your primary writing sample within the Common Application, a college application portal accepted by more than 900 schools. All your prospective schools that accept the Common App will read this essay to understand your character, background, and value as a potential student.

Since this essay is read by many colleges, avoid mentioning any college names or programs; instead, save tailored answers for the supplementary school-specific essays within the Common App.

Most importantly, your essay should be about you , not another person or thing. An insightful college admissions essay requires deep self-reflection, authenticity, and a balance between confidence and vulnerability.

Your essay shouldn’t be a résumé of your experiences but instead should tell a story that demonstrates your most important values and qualities.

When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding your message and content. Then, check for flow, tone, style , and clarity. Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors .

If your college essay goes over the word count limit , cut any sentences with tangents or irrelevant details. Delete unnecessary words that clutter your essay.

If you’re struggling to reach the word count for your college essay, add vivid personal stories or share your feelings and insight to give your essay more depth and authenticity.

If you’ve got to write your college essay fast , don’t panic. First, set yourself deadlines: you should spend about 10% of your remaining time on brainstorming, 10% on outlining, 40% writing, 30% revising, and 10% taking breaks in between stages.

Second, brainstorm stories and values based on your essay prompt.

Third, outline your essay based on the montage or narrative essay structure .

Fourth, write specific, personal, and unique stories that would be hard for other students to replicate.

Fifth, revise your essay and make sure it’s clearly written.

Last, if possible, get feedback from an essay coach . Scribbr essay editors can help you revise your essay in 12 hours or less.

Avoid swearing in a college essay , since admissions officers’ opinions of profanity will vary. In some cases, it might be okay to use a vulgar word, such as in dialogue or quotes that make an important point in your essay. However, it’s safest to try to make the same point without swearing.

If you have bad grades on your transcript, you may want to use your college admissions essay to explain the challenging circumstances that led to them. Make sure to avoid dwelling on the negative aspects and highlight how you overcame the situation or learned an important lesson.

However, some college applications offer an additional information section where you can explain your bad grades, allowing you to choose another meaningful topic for your college essay.

Here’s a brief list of college essay topics that may be considered cliché:

  • Extracurriculars, especially sports
  • Role models
  • Dealing with a personal tragedy or death in the family
  • Struggling with new life situations (immigrant stories, moving homes, parents’ divorce)
  • Becoming a better person after community service, traveling, or summer camp
  • Overcoming a difficult class
  • Using a common object as an extended metaphor

It’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic. However, it’s possible to make a common topic compelling with interesting story arcs, uncommon connections, and an advanced writing style.

Yes. The college application essay is less formal than other academic writing —though of course it’s not mandatory to use contractions in your essay.

In a college essay , you can be creative with your language . When writing about the past, you can use the present tense to make the reader feel as if they were there in the moment with you. But make sure to maintain consistency and when in doubt, default to the correct verb tense according to the time you’re writing about.

The college admissions essay gives admissions officers a different perspective on you beyond your academic achievements, test scores, and extracurriculars. It’s your chance to stand out from other applicants with similar academic profiles by telling a unique, personal, and specific story.

Use a standard font such as Times New Roman or Arial to avoid distracting the reader from your college essay’s content.

A college application essay is less formal than most academic writing . Instead of citing sources formally with in-text citations and a reference list, you can cite them informally in your text.

For example, “In her research paper on genetics, Quinn Roberts explores …”

There is no set number of paragraphs in a college admissions essay . College admissions essays can diverge from the traditional five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in English class. Just make sure to stay under the specified word count .

Most topics are acceptable for college essays if you can use them to demonstrate personal growth or a lesson learned. However, there are a few difficult topics for college essays that should be avoided. Avoid topics that are:

  • Overly personal (e.g. graphic details of illness or injury, romantic or sexual relationships)
  • Not personal enough (e.g. broad solutions to world problems, inspiring people or things)
  • Too negative (e.g. an in-depth look at your flaws, put-downs of others, criticizing the need for a college essay)
  • Too boring (e.g. a resume of your academic achievements and extracurriculars)
  • Inappropriate for a college essay (e.g. illegal activities, offensive humor, false accounts of yourself, bragging about privilege)

To write an effective diversity essay , include vulnerable, authentic stories about your unique identity, background, or perspective. Provide insight into how your lived experience has influenced your outlook, activities, and goals. If relevant, you should also mention how your background has led you to apply for this university and why you’re a good fit.

Many universities believe a student body composed of different perspectives, beliefs, identities, and backgrounds will enhance the campus learning and community experience.

Admissions officers are interested in hearing about how your unique background, identity, beliefs, culture, or characteristics will enrich the campus community, which is why they assign a diversity essay .

In addition to your main college essay , some schools and scholarships may ask for a supplementary essay focused on an aspect of your identity or background. This is sometimes called a diversity essay .

Though admissions officers are interested in hearing your story, they’re also interested in how you tell it. An exceptionally written essay will differentiate you from other applicants, meaning that admissions officers will spend more time reading it.

You can use literary devices to catch your reader’s attention and enrich your storytelling; however, focus on using just a few devices well, rather than trying to use as many as possible.

To decide on a good college essay topic , spend time thoughtfully answering brainstorming questions. If you still have trouble identifying topics, try the following two strategies:

  • Identify your qualities → Brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities
  • Identify memorable stories → Connect your qualities to these stories

You can also ask family, friends, or mentors to help you brainstorm topics, give feedback on your potential essay topics, or recall key stories that showcase your qualities.

Yes—admissions officers don’t expect everyone to have a totally unique college essay topic . But you must differentiate your essay from others by having a surprising story arc, an interesting insight, and/or an advanced writing style .

There are no foolproof college essay topics —whatever your topic, the key is to write about it effectively. However, a good topic

  • Is meaningful, specific, and personal to you
  • Focuses on you and your experiences
  • Reveals something beyond your test scores, grades, and extracurriculars
  • Is creative and original

Unlike a five-paragraph essay, your admissions essay should not end by summarizing the points you’ve already made. It’s better to be creative and aim for a strong final impression.

You should also avoid stating the obvious (for example, saying that you hope to be accepted).

There are a few strategies you can use for a memorable ending to your college essay :

  • Return to the beginning with a “full circle” structure
  • Reveal the main point or insight in your story
  • Look to the future
  • End on an action

The best technique will depend on your topic choice, essay outline, and writing style. You can write several endings using different techniques to see which works best.

College deadlines vary depending on the schools you’re applying to and your application plan:

  • For early action applications and the first round of early decision applications, the deadline is on November 1 or 15. Decisions are released by mid-December.
  • For the second round of early decision applications, the deadline is January 1 or 15. Decisions are released in January or February.
  • Regular decision deadlines usually fall between late November and mid-March, and decisions are released in March or April.
  • Rolling admission deadlines run from July to April, and decisions are released around four to eight weeks after submission.

Depending on your prospective schools’ requirements, you may need to submit scores for the SAT or ACT as part of your college application .

Some schools now no longer require students to submit test scores; however, you should still take the SAT or ACT and aim to get a high score to strengthen your application package.

Aim to take the SAT or ACT in the spring of your junior year to give yourself enough time to retake it in the fall of your senior year if necessary.

Apply early for federal student aid and application fee waivers. You can also look for scholarships from schools, corporations, and charitable foundations.

To maximize your options, you should aim to apply to about eight schools:

  • Two reach schools that might be difficult to get into
  • Four match schools that you have a good chance of getting into
  • Two safety schools that you feel confident you’ll get into

The college admissions essay accounts for roughly 25% of the weight of your application .

At highly selective schools, there are four qualified candidates for every spot. While your academic achievements are important, your college admissions essay can help you stand out from other applicants with similar profiles.

In general, for your college application you will need to submit all of the following:

  • Your personal information
  • List of extracurriculars and awards
  • College application essays
  • Transcripts
  • Standardized test scores
  • Recommendation letters.

Different colleges may have specific requirements, so make sure you check exactly what’s expected in the application guidance.

You should start thinking about your college applications the summer before your junior year to give you sufficient time for college visits, taking standardized tests, applying for financial aid , writing essays, and collecting application material.

Yes, but make sure your essay directly addresses the prompt, respects the word count , and demonstrates the organization’s values.

If you plan ahead, you can save time by writing one scholarship essay for multiple prompts with similar questions. In a scholarship tracker spreadsheet, you can group or color-code overlapping essay prompts; then, write a single essay for multiple scholarships. Sometimes, you can even reuse or adapt your main college essay .

You can start applying for scholarships as early as your junior year. Continue applying throughout your senior year.

Invest time in applying for various scholarships , especially local ones with small dollar amounts, which are likely easier to win and more reflective of your background and interests. It will be easier for you to write an authentic and compelling essay if the scholarship topic is meaningful to you.

You can find scholarships through your school counselor, community network, or an internet search.

A scholarship essay requires you to demonstrate your values and qualities while answering the prompt’s specific question.

After researching the scholarship organization, identify a personal experience that embodies its values and exemplifies how you will be a successful student.

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.

Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.

In most cases, quoting other people isn’t a good way to start your college essay . Admissions officers want to hear your thoughts about yourself, and quotes often don’t achieve that. Unless a quote truly adds something important to your essay that it otherwise wouldn’t have, you probably shouldn’t include it.

Cliché openers in a college essay introduction are usually general and applicable to many students and situations. Most successful introductions are specific: they only work for the unique essay that follows.

The key to a strong college essay introduction is not to give too much away. Try to start with a surprising statement or image that raises questions and compels the reader to find out more.

The introduction of your college essay is the first thing admissions officers will read and therefore your most important opportunity to stand out. An excellent introduction will keep admissions officers reading, allowing you to tell them what you want them to know.

You can speed up this process by shortening and smoothing your writing with a paraphrasing tool . After that, you can use the summarizer to shorten it even more.

If you’re struggling to reach the word count for your college essay, add vivid personal stories or share your feelings and insight to give your essay more depth and authenticity.

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.

You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.

If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.

In your application essay , admissions officers are looking for particular features : they want to see context on your background, positive traits that you could bring to campus, and examples of you demonstrating those qualities.

Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.

You don’t need a title for your college admissions essay , but you can include one if you think it adds something important.

Your college essay’s format should be as simple as possible:

  • Use a standard, readable font
  • Use 1.5 or double spacing
  • If attaching a file, save it as a PDF
  • Stick to the word count
  • Avoid unusual formatting and unnecessary decorative touches

There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay , but these are two common structures that work:

  • A montage structure, a series of vignettes with a common theme.
  • A narrative structure, a single story that shows your personal growth or how you overcame a challenge.

Avoid the five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in high school.

Campus visits are always helpful, but if you can’t make it in person, the college website will have plenty of information for you to explore. You should look through the course catalog and even reach out to current faculty with any questions about the school.

Colleges set a “Why this college?” essay because they want to see that you’ve done your research. You must prove that you know what makes the school unique and can connect that to your own personal goals and academic interests.

Depending on your writing, you may go through several rounds of revision . Make sure to put aside your essay for a little while after each editing stage to return with a fresh perspective.

Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your language, tone, and content . Ask for their help at least one to two months before the submission deadline, as many other students will also want their help.

Friends and family are a good resource to check for authenticity. It’s best to seek help from family members with a strong writing or English educational background, or from older siblings and cousins who have been through the college admissions process.

If possible, get help from an essay coach or editor ; they’ll have specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and be able to give objective expert feedback.

When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding message, flow, tone, style , and clarity. Then, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

Include specific, personal details and use your authentic voice to shed a new perspective on a common human experience.

Through specific stories, you can weave your achievements and qualities into your essay so that it doesn’t seem like you’re bragging from a resume.

When writing about yourself , including difficult experiences or failures can be a great way to show vulnerability and authenticity, but be careful not to overshare, and focus on showing how you matured from the experience.

First, spend time reflecting on your core values and character . You can start with these questions:

  • What are three words your friends or family would use to describe you, and why would they choose them?
  • Whom do you admire most and why?
  • What are you most proud of? Ashamed of?

However, you should do a comprehensive brainstorming session to fully understand your values. Also consider how your values and goals match your prospective university’s program and culture. Then, brainstorm stories that illustrate the fit between the two.

In a college application essay , you can occasionally bend grammatical rules if doing so adds value to the storytelling process and the essay maintains clarity.

However, use standard language rules if your stylistic choices would otherwise distract the reader from your overall narrative or could be easily interpreted as unintentional errors.

Write concisely and use the active voice to maintain a quick pace throughout your essay and make sure it’s the right length . Avoid adding definitions unless they provide necessary explanation.

Use first-person “I” statements to speak from your perspective . Use appropriate word choices that show off your vocabulary but don’t sound like you used a thesaurus. Avoid using idioms or cliché expressions by rewriting them in a creative, original way.

If you’re an international student applying to a US college and you’re comfortable using American idioms or cultural references , you can. But instead of potentially using them incorrectly, don’t be afraid to write in detail about yourself within your own culture.

Provide context for any words, customs, or places that an American admissions officer might be unfamiliar with.

College application essays are less formal than other kinds of academic writing . Use a conversational yet respectful tone , as if speaking with a teacher or mentor. Be vulnerable about your feelings, thoughts, and experiences to connect with the reader.

Aim to write in your authentic voice , with a style that sounds natural and genuine. You can be creative with your word choice, but don’t use elaborate vocabulary to impress admissions officers.

Admissions officers use college admissions essays to evaluate your character, writing skills , and ability to self-reflect . The essay is your chance to show what you will add to the academic community.

The college essay may be the deciding factor in your application , especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.

Some colleges also require supplemental essays about specific topics, such as why you chose that specific college . Scholarship essays are often required to obtain financial aid .

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The Death of Alexey Navalny, Putin’s Most Formidable Opponent

By Masha Gessen

A blackandwhite portrait of Alexey Navalny.

Alexey Navalny spent at least a decade standing up to the Kremlin when it seemed impossible. He was jailed and released. He was poisoned, and survived. He was warned to stay away from Russia and didn’t. He was arrested in front of dozens of cameras, with millions of people watching. In prison, he was defiant and consistently funny. For three years, his jailers put him in solitary confinement, cut off his access to and arrested his lawyers, piled on sentence after sentence, sent him all the way across the world’s largest country to serve out his time in the Arctic, and still, when he appeared on video in court, he laughed at his jailers. Year after year, he faced down the might of one of the world’s cruellest states and the vengeance of one of the world’s cruellest men. His promise was that he would outlive them and lead what he called the Beautiful Russia of the Future. On Friday, they killed him. He was forty-seven years old.

Hours after the news of his death broke, his widow, Yulia Navalnaya, addressed the Munich Security Conference. “I don’t know whether to believe the news, the terrible news, which we are only getting from state-controlled sources in Russia,” she said, from the conference’s main stage. “As you all know, for many years we’ve been unable to believe Putin and his government. They always lie. But, if it is true, I want Putin and everyone around him, his friends and his government, to know that they will be held responsible for what they have done to our country, to my family, and to my husband. The day of reckoning will come very soon.”

In Russia, Vladimir Putin was visiting an industrial park in Chelyabinsk, in the Urals. He took questions from staff and students, who were seated a safe distance from the Russian President on what appeared to be the plant floor. Putin seemed to be in an unusually good mood. He bantered and flirted with the audience. He boasted that Western sanctions in response to the war in Ukraine had boosted industrial production inside Russia. He hadn’t seemed so jovial in public in years.

In exactly a month, Russia will hold a ritual that it calls an election. With no actual alternative to Putin, who has total control of the media and the so-called electoral institutions, the current Russian President will be crowned for another six-year term, extending his time in power to thirty-one years. Navalny tried to run against Putin six years ago, but the rigged system stopped him. His very name was banished from the airwaves. Still, even when the system shut him out, and, later, when it put him in prison, Navalny remained Putin’s most formidable opponent.

Putin could only envy Navalny’s ability to mobilize Russians. In July, 2013, as the political crackdown that accompanied the beginning of Putin’s third official Presidential term intensified, a court in the provincial city of Kirov sentenced Navalny to five years behind bars on trumped-up embezzlement charges. That evening, thousands of people risked arrest by taking to the streets in Moscow in a rare spontaneous protest. The following morning, Navalny was summarily released from prison, in violation of established legal procedure. Putin had long been terrified of mass protests. Now he had to be equally afraid of Navalny, a man whose very existence seemed to make people capable of overcoming their own fears.

It’s tempting to see Navalny’s apparent murder, as some American analysts have, as a sign of weakness on the part of Putin. But a dictator’s ability to annihilate what he fears is a measure of his hold on power, as is his ability to choose the time to strike. Putin appears to be feeling optimistic about his own future. As he sees it, Donald Trump is poised to become the next President of the U.S. and to give Putin free rein in Ukraine and beyond . Even before the U.S. Presidential election, American aid to Ukraine is stalled, and Ukraine’s Army is starved for troops and nearing a supply crisis. Last week, Putin got to lecture millions of Americans by granting an interview to Tucker Carlson . At the end of the interview, Carlson asked Putin if he would release Evan Gershkovich , a Wall Street Journal reporter held on espionage charges in Russia. Putin proposed that Gershkovich could be traded for “a person, who out of patriotic sentiments liquidated a bandit in one of the European capitals.” It was a reference to Vadim Krasikov, probably the only Russian assassin who has been caught and convicted in the West; he is held in Germany. A week after the interview aired, Russia has shown the world what can happen to a person in a Russian prison. It’s also significant that Navalny was killed on the first day of the Munich conference. In 2007, Putin chose the conference as his stage for declaring what would become his war against the West. Now, with this war in full swing, Putin has been excluded from the conference, but the actions of his regime—the murders committed by his regime—dominate the proceedings.

Russian prison authorities have said that Navalny felt ill after returning from his daily walk, lost consciousness, and could not be revived. They have ascribed his death to a pulmonary embolism. Anna Karetnikova, a prisoners’-rights activist and a former member of the civilian-oversight body of Russia’s prison system, has said that prison authorities routinely use embolism as a catchall term. Sergey Nemalevich, a journalist with the Russian Service of Radio Liberty, noticed that the ostensible timing of the death didn’t seem to jibe with Navalny’s recent description of his schedule in solitary confinement: he had said that his daily walk took place at six-thirty in the morning, but prison authorities claimed that, on the day of his death, he returned to his cell in the afternoon. Nemalevich suggested that Navalny was dead long before an ambulance—which authorities said took a mere seven minutes to travel twenty-two miles to the prison—was called to declare him dead.

Navalny, who was educated as a lawyer, became active in politics in the early two-thousands and emerged as a public figure around 2010. His early politics were ethno-nationalist, at times overtly xenophobic, and libertarian. He advocated for gun rights and a crackdown on migrants. But he found his agenda and his political voice in documenting corruption. He built a movement based on the premise that citizens, even in Russia, could and should exercise control over the way that government money is spent. In the ensuing years, he evolved from an ethno-nationalist to a civic nationalist, from a libertarian to a social democrat. He learned new languages, read incessantly, and incorporated new ideas into his program. He focussed, increasingly, not only on political power but on social welfare. During the past three years, he used the pulpit provided by an endless series of court hearings to air his political views. In a courtroom speech on February 20, 2021, he outlined a vision for a country with a better health-care system and a more equitable distribution of wealth. He proposed changing the slogan of his political movement from “Russia will be free” to “Russia will be happy.” He continued to assert this hopeful agenda, even as he grew more and more gaunt and even as he was forced to appear in court on a video screen, separated from his audience by glass, a grate, and thousands of miles.

Navalny’s public voice was full of irony without being cynical. He saw the targets of his investigations as ridiculous men with large yachts, small egos, and staggeringly bad taste. He took their abuses seriously by cutting them down to size. This was half of his charisma. The other half was his love story. More than anything else in the world, it seemed, he wanted to impress Yulia. Confined to a cube in a courtroom, he put his hands in the shape of a heart, gesturing at her. He sent love notes from prison, which were posted to social-media for him. On her birthday last July, he posted,

You know, Yulia, I’ve made several attempts at writing the story of our meeting. But every time after I write a couple of sentences, I stopped in terror and couldn’t keep going. I am terrified that it could have not happened. I mean, it was a coincidence. I could have looked in the other direction, you could have turned away. The one second that determined the course of my life, could have turned out differently. Everything would have been different. I probably would have been the saddest person on earth. How awesome is it that we looked at each other back then and that now I can shake my head, drive away these thoughts, rub my forehead, and say, “Phew, what a weird nightmare.”

This seemed the only thing that could have scared him. Reading his wildly popular social-media accounts felt like watching a romantic comedy, but one that starred a superhero.

A year after the Kremlin’s attempt to put Navalny away failed, Putin took a hostage: Alexey’s brother Oleg was jailed on trumped-up charges. It was an old reliable tactic. The henchmen assumed that, with Oleg behind bars, Alexey would cease his political activities to keep his brother safe. But the brothers made a pact to keep going. Alexey built a sprawling organization that expanded far beyond documenting corruption. He ran for mayor of Moscow. He built a network of political offices that could have enabled a Presidential race if such a thing as elections actually existed. He grew frustrated that journalists weren’t following his leads or undertaking investigations of their own, and so he founded his own media: YouTube shows and Telegram channels that publicized the results of his group’s investigations. Navalny’s work spawned an entire generation of independent Russian investigative media, many of which continue working in exile, documenting not only criminal assets but also war crimes and the activities of Russia’s assassins at home and abroad.

The state harassed Navalny, placed him under house arrest, pushed the organization out of its offices, jailed some of its activists and forced the rest into exile, declared them “extremists,” and started going after people who had donated even a small amount of money to the group. Then, in August, 2020, the F.S.B. poisoned Navalny with Novichok , a chemical weapon. He was meant to die on a plane. But the pilot made an emergency landing, doctors administered essential first aid, and Yulia took over the superhero role, pressuring the authorities to let her take Alexey to Germany for treatment.

After weeks in a coma, Navalny emerged and teamed up with another investigator, Christo Grozev, a Bulgarian journalist then working with Bellingcat. Grozev got the receipts: the flight manifests that showed that Navalny had been trailed by a group of F.S.B. agents, some of whom also happened to be chemists. Navalny supplied the performative flair. He called his would-be murderers on the phone and managed to get a guileless confession out of one, complete with the detail of where the poison had been placed: in the crotch area of Navalny’s boxer shorts. The scene would later be incorporated into the film “ Navalny ,” which won an Oscar for Best Documentary, but, before that, Navalny put it in his own made-for-YouTube movie, titled “I Called My Killer. He Confessed.” It was released on December 21, 2020.

A month later, Navalny flew back to Moscow . His friends had tried to talk him out of it. He wouldn’t hear of staying in exile and becoming politically irrelevant. He imagined himself as Russia’s Nelson Mandela: he would outlive Putin’s reign and become President. Perhaps he believed that the men he was fighting were capable of embarrassment and wouldn’t dare to kill him after he’d proved that they had tried to. He and I had argued, over the years, about the fundamental nature of Putin and his regime: he said that they were “crooks and thieves”; I said that they were murderers and terrorists. After he came out of his coma, I asked him if he had finally been convinced that they were murderers. No, he said. They kill to protect their wealth. Fundamentally, they are just greedy.

He thought too highly of them. They are, in fact, murderers.

All over Russia on Friday, people were laying flowers in memory of Navalny. In the few cities where memorials exist to past victims of Russian totalitarianism, these monuments became the destinations. Police were breaking up gatherings, throwing out flowers, and detaining journalists. ♦

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Elon Musk’s Shadow Rule

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In the Shadow of the Holocaust

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Opinion: We know how voters feel about Trump and Biden. But how do the experts rank their presidencies?

Wax figures of nine American presidents.

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Presidents Day occurs at a crucial moment this year, with the presidency on the cusp of crisis as we inexorably shuffle toward a rematch between the incumbent and his predecessor. It’s the sort of contest we haven’t seen since the 19th century, and judging by public opinion of President Biden and former President Trump, most Americans would have preferred to keep it that way.

But the third installment of our Presidential Greatness Project , a poll of presidential experts released this weekend, shows that scholars don’t share American voters’ roughly equal distaste for both candidates.

Biden, in fact, makes his debut in our rankings at No. 14, putting him in the top third of American presidents. Trump, meanwhile, maintains the position he held six years ago: dead last, trailing such historically calamitous chief executives as James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson. In that and other respects, Trump’s radical departure from political, institutional and legal norms has affected knowledgeable assessments not just of him but also of Biden and several other presidents.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump greets supporters as he arrives at a campaign stop in Londonderry, N.H., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Opinion: Panicking over polls showing Donald Trump ahead of President Biden? Please stop

Like Biden, Obama and Reagan had rough reelection polls. Too many journalists treat polls as predictive, but political professionals use them to inform campaigns.

Jan. 24, 2024

The overall survey results reveal stability as well as change in the way scholars assess our nation’s most important and controversial political office. Great presidents have traditionally been viewed as those who presided over moments of national transformation, led the country through major crises and expanded the institution of the presidency. Military victories, economic growth, assassinations and scandals also affect expert assessments of presidential performance.

The presidents at the top of our rankings, and others like ours, reflect this. Hallowed leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and George Washington consistently lead the list.

Our latest rankings also show that the experts’ assessments are driven not only by traditional notions of greatness but also by the evolving values of our time.

Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Las Vegas.

Op-Ed: Worst. President. Ever.

President Trump’s final grade will be in the hands of scholars. It doesn’t look good.

Jan. 13, 2021

One example is the continuing decline in esteem for two important presidents, Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson. Their reputations have consistently suffered in recent years as modern politics lead scholars to assess their early 19th and 20th century presidencies ever more harshly, especially their unacceptable treatment of marginalized people.

More acutely, this survey has seen a pronounced partisan dynamic emerge, arguably in response to the Trump presidency and the Trumpification of presidential politics.

Proponents of the Biden presidency have strong arguments in their arsenal, but his high placement within the top 15 suggests a powerful anti-Trump factor at work. So far, Biden’s record does not include the military victories or institutional expansion that have typically driven higher rankings, and a family scandal such as the one involving his son Hunter normally diminishes a president’s ranking.

Biden’s most important achievements may be that he rescued the presidency from Trump, resumed a more traditional style of presidential leadership and is gearing up to keep the office out of his predecessor’s hands this fall.

Trump’s position at the bottom of our rankings, meanwhile, puts him behind not only Buchanan and Johnson but also such lowlights as Franklin Pierce, Warren Harding and William Henry Harrison, who died a mere 31 days after taking office.

Trump’s impact goes well beyond his own ranking and Biden’s. Every contemporary Democratic president has moved up in the ranks — Barack Obama (No. 7), Bill Clinton (No. 12) and even Jimmy Carter (No. 22).

Yes, these presidents had great accomplishments such as expanding healthcare access and working to end conflict in the Middle East, and they have two Nobel Prizes among them. But given their shortcomings and failures, their rise seems to be less about reassessments of their administrations than it is a bonus for being neither Trump nor a member of his party.

Indeed, every modern Republican president has dropped in the survey, including the transformational Ronald Reagan (No. 16) and George H.W. Bush (No. 19), who led the nation’s last decisive military victory.

Academics do lean left, but that hasn’t changed since our previous surveys. What these results suggest is not just an added emphasis on a president’s political affiliation, but also the emergence of a president’s fealty to political and institutional norms as a criterion for what makes a president “great” to the scholars who study them.

As for the Americans casting a ballot for the next president, they are in the historically rare position of knowing how both candidates have performed in the job. Whether they will consider each president’s commitment to the norms of presidential leadership, and come to rate them as differently as our experts, remains to be seen.

Justin Vaughn is an associate professor of political science at Coastal Carolina University. Brandon Rottinghaus is a professor of political science at the University of Houston.

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Democrats Have a Better Option Than Biden

It requires them to embrace an old-fashioned approach to winning a campaign..

Produced by ‘The Ezra Klein Show’

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A full transcript of this audio essay is available here:

Ezra Klein: My heart breaks a bit for Joe Biden. This is a man who has been running for president since he was young. He wins the presidency, finally, unexpectedly, when he’s old. And that age brought him wisdom. It brought an openness that hadn’t always been there in him. He’s governed as a throwback to a time before “I alone can fix it,” a time when presidents were party leaders, coalition builders.

Biden has held together a Democratic Party that could easily have splintered. Think back to the 2020 campaign, when he beat Bernie Sanders, when he beat Elizabeth Warren, when his victory was seen as, was in reality, the moderate wing triumphing over the progressive wing, the establishment over the insurgents.

But instead of making them bend the knee, instead of acting as a victor, Biden acted as a leader. He partnered with Bernie Sanders. He built the unity task forces. He integrated Warren’s and Sanders’s ideas and staff into not just his campaign but also his administration.

I had a conversation recently with Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the House progressive caucus, and I asked her why the Democratic Party hadn’t ruptured the way Republicans did. She pointed me back to that moment. Biden, she said, made this “huge attempt to pull the Democratic Party back together before the 2020 election in a way I’ve really never seen before.”

And it worked. Democrats had 50 votes in the Senate. Fifty votes that stretched from Bernie Sanders on the left all the way to Joe Manchin on the right. Biden and Chuck Schumer, they often could not lose even one of those votes, and at crucial moments, they didn’t.

With that almost-impossible-to-hold-together coalition, the Biden administration and congressional Democrats passed a series of bills — the bipartisan infrastructure deal, the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act — that will make this a decade of infrastructure and invention. A decade of building, of decarbonizing, of researching. They expanded the Affordable Care Act, and it worked — more than 21 million people signed up for the A.C.A. last year, a record. They did what Democrats have promised to do forever and took at least the first steps toward letting Medicare negotiate drug prices.

And the Biden team, they said they were going to run the economy hot, that at long last, they were going to prioritize full employment, and they did. And then inflation shot up. Not just here but in Europe, in Canada, pretty much everywhere. The pandemic had twisted global supply chains and then the economy had reopened, and people desperate to live again took their pandemic savings and spent. And the Biden team, in partnership with Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve, got the rate of inflation back down, and we are still beneath 4 percent unemployment.

And I don’t want to just skip over that accomplishment. Most economists said that could not be done. The overwhelming consensus was we were headed for a recession, that the so-called soft landing was a fantasy. It got mocked as “immaculate disinflation.” But that is what happened. We didn’t have a recession. We are still seeing strong wage gains for the poorest Americans. Inequality is down. Growth is quick. America is far stronger economically right now than Europe, than Canada, than China. You want to be us.

And yet Biden’s poll numbers are dismal. His approval rating lingers in the high 30s. Most polls show him losing to Donald Trump in 2024. Then comes the special counsel report, which finds no criminal wrongdoing in his treatment of classified information, which is — remember — the question the special counsel was appointed to investigate. But the counsel takes a drive-by on Biden’s cognitive fitness. Says a jury would think him a “well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.” Says Biden doesn’t remember when his son Beau died.

And Biden, enraged, does what people have been asking him to do this whole time. He takes the age issue head on. And he gives a news conference full of fury.

And then, when he is about to leave, he comes back to take one more question — this one on Israel and Gaza, where he says that America is no longer lock step behind Benjamin Netanyahu’s invasion, and then describing the effort he put in getting President Sisi to open the Egyptian border for aid, he slips. He calls Sisi the president of Mexico. Makes the kind of slip anyone can make, but a kind of slip he is making too often now, a kind of slip that means more when he makes it than when someone else does.

Since the beginning of Biden’s administration, I have been asking people who work with him: How does he seem? How read in is he? What’s he like in the meetings? Maybe it’s not a great sign that I felt the need to do that, that a lot of reporters have been doing that, but still. And I am convinced, watching him, listening to the testimony of those who meet with him — not all people who like him — I am convinced he is able to do the job of the presidency. He is sharp in meetings; he makes sound judgments. I cannot point you to a moment where Biden faltered in his presidency because his age had slowed him.

But here’s the thing. I can now point you to moments when he is faltering in his campaign for the presidency because his age is slowing him. This distinction between the job of the presidency and the job of running for the presidency keeps getting muddied, including by Biden himself.

This is the question Democrats keep wanting to answer, the question the Biden administration keeps pretending only to hear: Can Biden do the job of president? But that is not the question of the 2024 campaign. The insistence that Biden is capable of being president is being used to shut down discussion of whether he’s capable of running for president.

I’ve had my own journey on this. I’ve written a number of columns about how Biden keeps proving pundits wrong, about how he’s proved me wrong. He won in 2020 despite plenty of naysayers. The Democrats won in 2022, defying predictions. I had, in 2022, been planning to write a column after the midterms saying there should be a primary because Democrats need to see how strong of a campaigner Biden still was. The test needed to be run. But when they overperformed, that drained all interest among the major possible candidates in running. That test wasn’t going to happen. But still, I thought, Biden might surprise again. I’d grown wary of underestimating him.

We had to wait till this year — till now, really — to see Biden even begin to show what he’d be like on the campaign trail. And what I think we’re seeing is that he is not up for this. He is not the campaigner he was, even five years ago. That’s not insider reporting on my part. Go watch a speech he gave in Pennsylvania, kicking off his campaign in 2019. And then go watch the speech he gave last month, in Valley Forge, kicking off his election campaign. No comparison here. Both speeches are on YouTube, and you can see it. The way he moves, the energy in his voice. The Democrats denying decline are only fooling themselves.

But even given that, I was stunned when his team declined a Super Bowl interview. Biden is not up by 12 points. He can’t coast to victory here. He is losing. He is behind in most polls. He is behind, despite everything people already know about Donald Trump. He needs to make up ground. If he does not make up ground, Trump wins.

The Super Bowl is one of the biggest audiences you will ever have. And you just skip it? You just say no?

The Biden team’s argument, to be fair, is this: Who wants to see the president during the Super Bowl, anyway? And even if they did the interview, CBS would just choose three or four minutes of a 15-minute interview to air. What if CBS chooses a clip that makes Biden look bad?

That’s all true. But that’s all true in the context of a team that does not believe that the more people see Biden, the more they will like him. There’s a reason other presidents do the Super Bowl interview. There’s a reason Biden himself did it in 2021 and 2022, that Trump said he’d gladly take Biden’s place this year.

I was talking to James Carville, who’s one of the chief strategists behind Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, and he put this really well to me. He said to me that a campaign has certain assets, but the most desirable asset is the candidate. And the Biden campaign does not deploy Biden like he is a desirable asset.

Biden has done fewer interviews than any recent president, and it’s not close. By this point in their presidencies, Barack Obama had given more than 400 interviews and Trump had given more than 300. Biden has given fewer than 100. And a bunch of them are softball interviews — he’ll go on Conan O’Brien’s podcast, or Jay Shetty’s mindfulness podcast. The Biden team says this is a strategy, that they need apolitical voters, the ones who are not listening to political media. But one, this strategy isn’t working — Biden is down, not up. And two, no one really buys this argument. I don’t buy this argument. This isn’t a strategy chosen from a full universe of options. This is a strategic adaptation to Biden’s perceived limits as a candidate. And what’s worse, it may be a wise one.

I want to say this clearly: I like Biden. I think he’s been a good president. I think he is a good president. I don’t like having this conversation. And I know a lot of liberals, a lot of Democrats are going to be furious at me for this show.

But to say this is a media invention, that people are worried about Biden’s age because the media keeps telling them to be worried about Biden’s age? If you have really convinced yourself of that, in your heart of hearts, I almost don’t know what to tell you. In poll after poll, 70 percent to 80 percent of voters are worried about his age. This is not a thing people need the media to see. It is right in front of them, and it is also shaping how Biden and his campaign are acting.

Democrats keep telling themselves, when they look at the polls, that voters will come back to Biden when the campaign starts in earnest and they begin seeing more of Trump, when they have to take what he is and what it would mean for him to return seriously.

But that is going to go both ways. When the campaign begins in earnest, they will also see much more of Joe Biden. People who barely pay attention to him now, they will be watching his speeches. They will see him on the news constantly. Will they actually like what they see? Will it comfort them?

That was why that news conference mattered. That news conference had a point. It had a purpose. The purpose was to reassure voters of Biden’s cognitive fitness, particularly his memory. And Biden couldn’t do that, not for one night, not for fewer than 15 minutes. And these kinds of gaffes have become commonplace for him. He recently said he’d been speaking to the former French president Francois Mitterrand when he meant Emmanuel Macron. He said he’d been talking to the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl when he meant Angela Merkel.

None of these matter much on their own. The human mind just does this. But it does it more as you get older. And they do matter collectively. Voters believe Biden is too old for the job he seeks. He needs to persuade them otherwise, and he is failing at that task — arguably the central task of his re-election campaign.

And that can become a self-fulfilling cycle. His staff knows that news conference was a disaster. So how will they respond? What will they do now? They will hold him back from aggressive campaigning even more, from unscripted situations. They will try to make doubly sure that it doesn’t happen again. But they need a candidate — Democrats need a candidate — who can aggressively campaign, because again — and I cannot emphasize this enough — they are currently losing.

Part of my job is talking to the kinds of Democrats who run and win campaigns constantly. All of them are worried about this. None of them say that this is an invention or not a real issue. And this is key: It’s not the age itself they are worried about. The age of 81 doesn’t mean anything. It’s the impression Biden is giving of age. Of slowness. Of frailty.

The presidency is a performance. You are not just making decisions, you are also acting out the things people want to believe about their president — that the president is in command, strong, energetic, compassionate, thoughtful, that they don’t need to worry about all that is happening in the world, because the president has it all under control.

Whether it is true that Biden has it all under control, it is not true that he seems like he does. Some political strategists I know think that’s why his poll numbers are low. That even when good things happen, people don’t really think he did them. One was telling me that what worries him most about Biden is how stable his approval rating is — it doesn’t really go up or down. Inflation has gone down a lot in recent months. People feel a lot better about the economy. You can see that in consumer sentiment data. But Biden’s approval rating, it has not gone up. His performance on Ukraine did not make it go up. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act did not make it go up. To this strategist, it looked like a lot of Americans just don’t give Biden credit for things even when he deserves them. And Biden isn’t now a capable or aggressive enough campaigner to win that credit for himself.

The arguments I see even some smart Democrats making so they don’t have to look at this directly are self-defeating. The one I hear most often is that Trump is also old. He’s 77. He also mixes up names — he recently called Nancy Pelosi Nikki Haley. He sometimes speaks in gibberish. And it’s all true. But that is a reason to nominate a candidate who can exploit the fact that Trump is old and confused. The point is not to give Trump an even match. The point is to beat Trump.

Another argument I see is that this is ageism. This is an unfair thing to point out about Biden. It is age discrimination and, I have actually seen people make this argument, age discrimination is illegal in the workplace. But it is not illegal in the electorate. If the voters are ageist and Biden loses because of it, there is no recourse. You cannot sue the voters for age discrimination.

And then there’s the argument you’ve heard on my podcast. An argument I’ve made before. Biden doesn’t look like a strong candidate, but Democrats keep on winning. Biden won in 2020. Democrats won in 2022. They’ve been winning special elections in 2023. They just won George Santos’s seat in New York. There’s an anti-MAGA majority in this country and they will come out to stop Trump. And I think that might be true. I still think Biden might win against Trump, even with all I’ve said. It’s just that there’s a very good chance he might lose. Maybe even better than even odds. And Trump is dangerous. I want better odds than that.

I think one reason Democrats react so defensively to critiques of Biden is they’ve come to a kind of fatalism. They believe it is too late to do anything else. And if it is too late to do anything else, then to talk about Biden’s age is to contribute to Donald Trump’s victory.

But that’s absurd.

It is February. Fatalism this far before the election is ridiculous. Yeah, it’s too late to throw this to primaries. But it’s not too late to do something.

So then what? Step one, unfortunately, is convincing Biden that he should not run again. That he does not want to risk being Ruth Bader Ginsburg — a heroic, brilliant public servant who caused the outcome she feared most because she didn’t retire early enough. That in stepping aside he would be able to finish out his term as a strong and focused president, and people would see the honor in what he did, in putting his country over his ambitions.

The people whom Biden listens to — Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, Mike Donilon, Ron Klain, Nancy Pelosi, Anita Dunn — they need to get him to see this. Biden may come to see it himself.

I take nothing away from how hard that is, how much Biden wants to finish the job he has started, keep doing the good he believes he can do. Retirement can be, often is, a trauma. But losing to Donald Trump would be far worse.

Let’s say that happens: Biden steps aside. Then what? Well, then Democrats do something that used to be common in politics but hasn’t been in decades. They pick their nominee at the convention. This is how parties chose their nominees for most of American history. From roughly 1831 to 1968, this is how it worked. In a way, this is still how it works.

I’m going to do a whole episode on how an open convention works, so this is going to be a quick version. The way we pick nominees now is still built around conventions. When someone wins a primary or a caucus, what he actually wins is delegate slots. How that works is different in different states. Then they go to the convention to choose the actual nominee.

The whole convention structure is still there. We still use it. It is still the delegates voting at the convention. What’s different now than in the past is that most delegates arrive at the convention committed to a candidate. But without getting too into the weeds of state delegate rules here, if their candidate drops out, if Biden drops out, they can be released to vote for who they want.

The last open convention Democrats had was 1968, a disaster of a convention where the Democratic Party split between pro- and anti-Vietnam War factions, where there was violence in the streets, where Democrats lost the election.

But that’s not how most conventions have gone. It was a convention that picked Abraham Lincoln over William Seward. It was a convention that chose F.D.R. over Al Smith. I’ve been reading Ed Achorn’s book “The Lincoln Miracle: Inside the Republican Convention That Changed History.” My favorite line in it comes from Senator Charles Sumner, who sends a welcome note to the delegates, “whose duty it will be to organize victory.”

Whose duty it will be to organize victory — I love that. That’s what a convention is supposed to do. It’s what a political party is supposed to do: organize victory. Because victory doesn’t just happen. It has to be organized.

Everybody I have talked about this, literally everybody, has brought up the same fear. Call it the Kamala Harris problem. In theory, she should be the favorite. But she polls slightly worse than Biden. Democrats don’t trust that she would be a stronger candidate. But they worry that if she wasn’t chosen it would rip the party apart. I think this is wrong on two levels.

First, I think Harris is underrated now. I’ve thought this for a while. I’ve said this before, that I think she’s going to have a good 2024. Is she a political juggernaut, a generational political talent? Probably not. But she’s a capable politician, which is one reason Biden chose her as his running mate in the first place. She has not thrived as vice president. The D.C. narrative on her has turned extremely negative. But when Kamala Harris ran campaigns as Kamala Harris, this wasn’t how she was seen. And Harris, in private settings — she’s enormously magnetic and compelling.

Her challenge would be translating that into a public persona, which is — and let’s be blunt about this — a hard thing to do when you’ve grown up in a world that has always been quick to find your faults. A world that is afraid of women being angry, of Black people being angry. A world where, for most of your life, it was demanded of you that you be cautious and careful and measured and never make a mistake. And then you get on the public stage and people say, oh, you’re too cautious and too careful and too measured. It’s a very, very, very hard bind to get out of. But maybe she can do it.

Still, it is the party’s job to organize victory. If Harris cannot convince delegates that she has the best shot at victory, she should not and probably would not be chosen. And I don’t think that would rip the party apart. There is a ton of talent in the Democratic Party right now: Gretchen Whitmer, Wes Moore, Jared Polis, Gavin Newsom, Raphael Warnock, Josh Shapiro, Cory Booker, Ro Khanna, Pete Buttigieg, Gina Raimondo, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Chris Murphy, Andy Beshear, J.B. Pritzker — the list goes on.

Some of them would make a run at the nomination. They would give speeches at the convention, and people would actually pay attention. The whole country would be watching the Democratic convention, and probably quite a bit happening in the run-up to it, and seeing what this murderer’s row of political talent could actually do. And then some ticket would be chosen based on how those people did.

Could it go badly? Sure. But that doesn’t mean it will go badly. It could make the Democrats into the most exciting political show on earth. And over there on the other side will be Trump getting nominated and a who’s who of MAGA types slavering over his leadership. The best of the Democratic Party against the worst of the Republican Party. A party that actually listened to the voters against a party that denies the outcome of the elections. A party that did something different over a party that has again nominated a threat to democracy who has never — not once — won the popular vote in a general election.

That seems like an OK contrast to me.

Yes, the Democratic Party has been winning elections recently. But it is winning those elections in part because it takes candidate recruitment seriously. That was true in 2020. Biden wasn’t the candidate that set the base’s heart aflutter, but he seemed like the candidate with the best shot at winning. So Democrats did the strategic thing and picked him. And they won. In 2022, Democrats carefully chose candidates who fit their districts, who fit their states while Republicans chose MAGA-soaked extremists. And that is why those Democrats won.

The lesson here is not that Democrats don’t need to think hard about who they run in elections. It’s that they do need to think hard about who they run in elections. And they have been. They need to be strategic, not sentimental. And they have been. Because the alternative is Donald Trump. And Donald Trump is dangerous. And right now, Donald Trump is ahead.

I have this nightmare that Trump wins in 2024. And then in 2025 and 2026, out come the campaign tell-all books, and they’re full of emails and WhatsApp messages between Biden staffers and Democratic leaders, where they’re all saying to each other, this is a disaster, he’s not going to win this, I can’t bear to watch this speech, we’re going to lose. But they didn’t say any of it publicly, they didn’t do anything, because it was too dangerous for their careers, or too uncomfortable given their loyalty to Biden.

I’ve said on the show before that we live in a strange era with the parties. We’ve gone from the cliché being that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line, to the reality being that Democrats fall in line and Republicans fall apart. I’ve mostly meant that as a critique of Republican chaos, but too much order can be its own kind of pathology. A party that is too quick to fall in line, that cannot break line, is a party that will be too slow, maybe unable, to solve hard problems.

So yes, I think Biden, as painful as this is, should find his way to stepping down as a hero. That the party should help him find his way to that, to being the thing he said he would be in 2020, the bridge to the next generation of Democrats. And then I think Democrats should meet in August at the convention to do what political parties have done there before: organize victory.

I recognize there’s going to be a lot of questions and comments and pushback to this piece. So we’re going to do an “Ask Me Anything” episode next week — on this, on 2024 broadly. We’ve set up a voice mail box, if you want to leave a message that could get played on the show. Please keep them under a minute. We’re not going to use ones that are very long. The number for that is 212-556-7300. Or you can email us, both text and a voice note, at [email protected].

You can listen to our whole conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” on the NYT Audio app , Apple , Spotify , Google or wherever you get your podcasts . View a list of book recommendations from our guests here .

An image of President Joe Biden

This audio essay for “The Ezra Klein Show” was fact-checked by Michelle Harris. Our senior engineer is Jeff Geld. Our senior editor is Claire Gordon. The show’s production team also includes Annie Galvin, Rollin Hu and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser.

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  13. The 10 Wittiest Essays By Mark Twain

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  14. 110 Humor Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

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  15. Humorous Writing (A Guide to Adding Humor to Writing)

    1. Sarcasm Many often view sarcasm as the lowest form of witticism because it relies on mean-spiritedness and mockery. It can be funny if used in moderation, but too much sarcasm will make your writing seem unprofessional and petty. 2. Wit

  16. 15 personality traits of people with a great sense of humor

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  17. 20 Markets That Publish Humor Writing

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  18. Describe A Funny Person

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  19. Personal Essay About Being Humorous

    Personal Essay About Being Humorous. Throughout my time at school, I have always prided myself on being funny. Although I pride myself on being funny, I do my best to not be the class clown. I enjoy making jokes with my friends. Earlier this year we wrote some things down about some of our friends. Henry Carmichael put me as one of his friends ...

  20. Humorous Person

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  21. PDF Humor, Comedy, and Consumer Behavior

    humor is not a cure-all, though some forms of comedy help consumers struggling with some mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders). Finally, humor's effects on social outcomes, such as being liked or loved, depend on both the situation and the person's sense of humor. FRAMEWORK Our article offers a revised perspective by ...

  22. Can I use humor in my application essay?

    You can use humor in a college essay, but carefully consider its purpose and use it wisely. An effective use of humor involves unexpected, keen observations of the everyday, or speaks to a deeper theme. Humor shouldn't be the main focus of the essay, but rather a tool to improve your storytelling. Get a second opinion from a teacher ...

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  24. humorous person essay

    An essay written in the third person refers to characters as "he," "she," "it" or "they" and never references the author using words like "I" or "we." Third person narration typically makes an essay sound more professional and less casual.... When a person has a good sense of humor, it means he knows how to downplay awkward or worrisome situations by making others laugh ...

  25. Experts rank Biden among the best presidents. Trump? Not so much

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  26. Marilynne Robinson Considers Biden a Gift of God

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  27. Google to pause Gemini AI model's image generation

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  28. Opinion

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