ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Jun 19, 2012

Join us every Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. ET to laugh, cry, and dish about the moments that amused you, shocked you, or caused you to yell things that frightened the other people on the subway.

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Connect on Twitter: @PostLive | @petridishes

Happy Tuesday!

Has anyone else seen Rock of Ages? If the 80s were like that, I'm glad I missed most of them. 

To the questions!

Looks so, so stupid. And i was a yoot in the 80s (high school-college) so in theory I am just the demographic they would be aiming at!

What's funny is I think most of our nostalgia for that not-so-long-departed era has boiled down into an insistence that as many people be forced to cover Journey as possible.

The chances that you will post this comment range from zero to nada, but you should have the guts to admit that your column mocking Romney was based on wrong facts. Politico has done the reporting: It would nice to see somebody at the Post admit error, but I won't be holding my breath for a correction.


I read it and watched the full video. See, I'm posting it!

You're right, the way MSNBC edited it, it did seem like isolated Romney patter, not Romney Making A Larger Point About Private Industry. It's calculated wonder, not the unabashed awe and joy at discovering the WaWa touchscreen that most of us feel at some point in our lives. I sympathize with the unabashed awe, and when it turns out that it was simply stop 349 on Romney's long love affair with private industry, you lose the glory of a presidential candidate as impressed by the magical screens as you are. 

This merits a longer answer about why we fixate on the lines we do, context be darned, and what the responsibility of people trying to write humor is in terms of making certain you get the full flavor of context for lines that, isolated, are funny, and I don't want to hold up the chat too much longer than I've already held it up, but if we wind up light on the questions I can circle back. 

In context, he's clearly setting up WaWa as a counterpoint with the government, not just marveling at WaWa. Private industry innovates and gives you touch screens, and the government hires humans to do the same things touch screens do, but much more slowly and less efficiently, and leave the premises at 5. 

Is Romney really less of an automaton since he's been taught to say things like this about his sons, “I love them like they're my own. And they are!"?

I'd put that in the Awkward Grandpa category, but some might beg to differ. It is worth noting that you could program a robot to sound exactly like almost anyone's grandpa, because at that age everyone has a fixed set of observations and quips that keep recirculating. 

Except mine, of course! Hi, if you're reading this.

OK Alex - how do you and other WashPo writers ignore the numbskulls who spew such mindless vitriol in the comments sections? How can people not read your columns and - get - that it's humor? Sheesh people. Lighten up, you crabby, self-absorbed, humorless dopes! Or is that too vitriolic?

See, this is the other counterpoint to the "BUT... CONTEXT!" question. 

Humor is not a get-out-of-jail free card, and I realize that, but to anyone commenting that "This is the worst and most biased news story I have ever read," keep in mind that it, well, isn't a news story.

As a general rule I assume that if there are more than 40 comments they are not piling on to say something nice. 

as it's a legal situation, but it's also hilarious:

Oh, wow. This whole saga has been great. 

I have no questions. Sorry. The universe makes perfect sense to me, and all is right with the world.

What are you doing in Idaho?

I knew the rebellious youth of my day was over when I heard an elevator music version of "Psycho Killer."

Ha! I've heard that on electric violin, which is -- worse? Better? Probably better. 

Sometimes they play hip music in elevators, though. It's airports where they really get you.

The other chat that's going on right now is about medical myths, like "don't go swimming for an hour after you eat." Were you ever told not to cross your eyes because they'd get stuck that way?

I was told not to cross my eyes or dot my tees, because then my thank-you letters would be incomprehensible, and then the person telling me this* laughed long and hard.

*A composite character. 

I was ages 5 - 15 during the 80s. I remember a lot of brightly colored plastic, Bennetton and Aqua Net. Mostly, though, I remember the TV. Cable spread like wildfire in that decade, and we also saw the last of the truly good "family sitcoms." I also think fondly on my older siblings introducing me to the wonder that was MTV. To this day, I wish we had more music videos on...

There's always the Internet...

I don't remember the 80s much. I think I spent most of it crying and losing control of my bowels, which Rock of Ages assures me was a common pastime. 

It was a silly, turn-off-your-brain movie with some good music and attractive actors (but I would have been happier if Tom Cruise weren't in it).

Are you kidding me? I loved Tom Cruise! He was acting like someone had told him that the 80s Jukebox Musical elements were just trappings and really this was his Oscar shot. Read this! I concur -- more weird Tom Cruise! That performance was like an onion -- full of layers, made your eyes water, and you wouldn't expect to find one prominently featured in a movie like this.


Is it the point of such a movie to be "not stupid"? I sort of thought it was to be able to listen to songs in a movie theater with a way better sound system than you had when you actually listened to them. I mean, seriously, the lives of some people are tragic, but in a sad/pathetic way, not a whom the gods would destroy way.

My only complaint was that it felt like it had too many acts. Just when I thought it was over, there was a whole multi-song stripper montage.

I am allergic to the crazy that is Tom Cruise so will not be seeing Rock of Ages. However, I graduated from high school in the 1980s (anyone from Oakton High School, class of 1987 in the chat?) and I was not listening to Journey and such bands; it was all Duran Duran, Madness, Cyndi Lauper, Boy George, etc.

Oakton? Represent?

1. I was recently at a kid friendly event, and they insisted on playing 80s music, but the kids couldn't dance to it. They should have played disco or Elton John. 2. "God Bless the USA" is one of the feel-good anthems that came out after 9-11, but I remember when America didn't feel so proud of itself. I recall singing: And it's one, two, three, What are we fighting for ? Don't ask me, I don't give a damn, Next stop is Vietnam; And it's five, six, seven, Open up the pearly gates, Well there ain't no time to wonder why, Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

I remember "God Bless the USA" playing on Oldies 100 every morning for -- weeks, at least, if not months, after 9/11. I'm glad Justin Bieber wasn't in the picture then.

Fate-eating Miami zombies and LeBron James. Is there a connection?

There is a connection! The first official comment from Mr. Poppo, the face-eating attack victim, to the press, was "Go Heat!" 

They'd better win. 

We could of had it sooner. The 70's belonged to rabbit ears. Now you get tv on a dish. That's amazing. If you touch the screen it does nothing at all. I don't get it.

I do have a vague, dim recollection of vague, dim pictures and that strange phase when Tom Brokaw's skin was green and his body undulated. I have since learned that it was a problem with the set. 

When a chatter posts "That's five minutes of my life I'll never get back!", I think that I now owe you about an hour of my life. How can I pay up?

Wasn't there a Justin Timberlake movie based on this premise?

If you really want to give me an hour of your life, read Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow by Jerome K. Jerome. It's a party! And it won't take more than an hour!

My goal is to acquire a new vice every 10 years to keep my life interesting. I've got a milestone coming up, can you suggest a new vice for me? Something not too expensive.

Ooh, I'm going to open this one to the chat. 

We talking harmless vices like mumbling to yourself on the bus or farting in elevators? Or Deadlies like Sloth and Wrath? 

Zippers. Ignored by fashion designers. US Navy bought them for flit suits. Now it's still working. Thanks to space programs we have Velcro.

I shudder to think of the even more innovative clothing closures that we are missing out on now that spaceflight has begun its slide into the private sector and hard research is taking cuts.

George de Mestral was inducted into the national inventors hall of fame for his invention.[5] He once offered some advice to Velcro executives: "If any of your employees ask for a two-week holiday to go hunting, say yes." Ask for two weeks off.


(Is this from Wikipedia?)

I don't hunt. I bargain hunt, but the wild bargain always eludes me and instead I wind up at J. Crew. Somehow I always wind up at J. Crew. It's like the mall version of the Cloud City carbon-freezing facility. 

Because I was young and beautiful :)

Can't argue with that!

yeah, like those numbskulls denigrating Wawa and its sandwiches, probably having never even been to a Wawa. If they had, they know it is a temple of wonder. As for Mitt, whatever.


We need to start a club of People Who Unironically Love WaWa. (PWULWW?) We could get together once a year for sandwiches. 

So you spent most of the 80s crying and losing control of your bowels? The sad part is that odds are most of us still have a decade some time in the future which we will spend most of either crying or losing control of our bowels. Something to look forward to, huh?

Once a man, twice a child, as the Sphinx from the Oedipus story, a close family friend, is always telling me. 

By Jerome is hilarious, and the Michael Palin adaptation is even better, if only for the canned peaches. The Passing the Third Floor Back, however, is less funny.

I've never seen the Michael Palin adaptation! Loved Three Men in a Boat, though. Three Men on the Bummel had its charm as well!

No, I thought the part and the acting was good. I just detest the man and hated supporting a movie which put money in his pocket.

Oh, well, that, yes. 

I suggest swearing. I've recently decided to start swearing more and I'm finding it very satisfying.

I didn't swear for years. Well, no. I swore, but I swore like a sailor -- from the 17th century. I would wander around saying "Odds Boddikins!" and "Gadzooks!" and "Dagnabbit!" and "Zounds!" Less "Zounds" than "Gadzooks." To anyone who had to interact with me during that phase, I apologize. 

There's something strangely satisfying about all those old polysyllabic curses that I sometimes miss, but the standard articles have their charm too. They have a meaty Anglo-Saxon feel to them. 

Do research on 1920's. They had vices galore. They had vices we haven't even thought of yet.

You mean... thingy?

This may be a question more for Gene Weingarten, but I know the Alexandra Petri readers are just as much up on farting history and Gene's readers. I saw the play "Freud's Last Session" which was excellent and based upon my limited knowledge of the writing of Freud and of C.S. Lewis, seemed to accurate portray their attitudes. There was a part in the play where Freud describes the funniest comedian he saw was one who has his entire act around farting. Does anyone know if this was a true comedian or did the play invent him? Imagine that, farting was funny before our day.

I am not the fart expert that Gene is and defer to his expertise (and to yours, folks!) I have Freud's Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious and a cursory hunt has not unearthed any references to this fellow, but he might not have made the book for reasons other than that he was fictional.

I love that book! The man was a genius.

Huzzah! I'm so glad folks appreciate him!

Make sure you have a couple of them going at all times. Hemingway said you need to have multiple vices so when you get sick you can drop one of them, and feel much better. I suppose that means that to truly be a vice they have to be at least a little bad for you. As for good ones to take up... I had a fling with a lot of drugs, but they don't interest me any more, and my life is definitely better with out them, so I couldn't really recommend anything along those lines (alcohol doesn't count). I'm curious to see the chatters' suggestions here.

As am I! One of my vices right now is Intending to Jog, but it doesn't deliver much punch. I've started counterbalancing it with Intending to Start Smoking so that the net effect of both resolutions on my health is neutral.

I did. They don't take much care, and they refuse to chase sticks.

Ha! +10!

I think 'farting in elevators' is really one of the 'Deadlies' ... and it's wrong on (possibly) so many different levels ...



If an employee ask for two weeks off to go hunting, give it to the employee. Especially if the employee is holding a rifle.

This, too. 

If he asks you to join him because he's just obtained some most dangerous game, pass, though.

My friends and I spent at least a year trying to decode the "hidden" meanings within "99 Luftballons"

Is there a hidden meaning? Besides, you know, "This song is in German" over and over again?

Patton Oswalt has written that the dividing line between generations is that people who remember the 80s remember before MTV and after, before cable and after, before you could get pretty much anything you wanted whenever you wanted it and after. That makes sense to me.

That does make sense. For the 90s, I think it's the dial-up divide. 

made it into Diana Rigg's hilarious "No Turn Unstoned," a collection of scathing reviews of live theater plays and performances.

And a great title, too! Several of my favorite reviews are from Algonquin Groupers. George S. Kaufman said, "There was laughter at the back of the theatre, leading to the belief that someone was telling jokes back there."

Then there's Dorothy Parker, saying that Katherine Hepburn "ran the gamut of emotions from A to B."

Or the one where she says she walked into the theater a comparatively young woman and staggered out hours later, bent and broken with pain and suffering. 

Bad reviews are so fun to write. 

Douglas Adams once classed those as the pinnacles of human civilization,, and fully justifying our place in the Universe.

But what about WaWa?

It seems that the people who are copping to remember the 80s are all people who would be in their 40s or 50s. Is that the demographic your editors are hoping you'll get?

I'm happy with anyone who's kind enough to read!

According to my fanpage (what an awful way to begin a sentence), the demographic clusters who seem to find me of interest are females 18-34, males 25-34, and then we taper off as you move up the age spectrum. But perhaps not so much as you might initially expect!

I think of a vice as something that makes an old lady frown if they see you doing it. That rules out macrame. I've taken up drinking, then smoking. I had high hopes for the Big Gulp ban, but it looks like that isn't going through. I would take up gambling, but Maryland won't put in table games. Lately I have been walking out in my underwear to drop trash into my outside trashcan, but I've been hoping to save dishabille for when I get older.

Yes, it adds spice to one's declining years! 

I'm a big fan of mailing postcards that imply the mailer's life is in shambles. Also, a hobby I would like to pursue but have had little luck with as yet is giving fake tours. It seems as though it could be pretty easy, once you broke in. 

So back when the US was trying to win the Space Race, aiming to be the first on the moon, etc., etc., they commissined, and spent a great deal of money on, a space pen. One that could write in all atmospheres, upside down, in freezing temps, ink wouldn't run, etc. Cost a fortune, but they got one. What did the Soviets do? Used a pencil. Heh.

Oldie but a goodie.

How did you find the weather in Egypt? I just went outside and - there it was. It's still there.

I love all the comics. I love Beetle Bailey. I love Mark Trail. But I can't stand Mutts. I can't. It's -- it's the comic version of those people who are unhealthily obsessed with their pets. It's exactly what those people imagine that their pets are saying all the time. 

I don't care about putting Romney in context, but for heaven's sake get it right: it's Wawa, not WaWa. Also, someone recently linked to an older piece from the Post archives on Wawa vs. Sheetz, written I think by Hank Steuver, which was great. If it was you, thanks. If it wasn't you, then find the article; it's worth the time. Hail Wawa, Hail Sheetz.

Was out in the '80s. Rather than singing it our high school chorus had a walkout.

Whoever said earlier that it was post-9/11, this poster is correct! It was on the Lee Greenwood album "You've Got a Good Love Comin'" in 1984.

What was your objection to it? Weird syncopation? Too much standing up? 

Gadzooks, it was one thing to let people with vaginas into the Michigan legislature but do they then have to go around saying the word "vagina". Zounds.

Och begob! Crinkum crankum!

Apparently, the same lady ousted for saying it  did a reading of the Vagina Monologues on the steps Monday night. Which is hilarious! Although I'm not sure it will help matters. It's one of those classic "Hooray! says everyone who doesn't have to be there the day after" moments. 

Cuss, don't swear. That's something you have to do in court.

Subtle but meaningful distinction.

Well, there was a very long comparison article, a year or so ago, in the Post, that compared WaWa to another super convenience store. I felt horribly deprvied, being a native of Houston for 20 some years. We don't have such things down here in Texas, but we do have BucEees! While BucEees has no fancy push button samwhich machines, they do have 75 flavors of beef jerky. And their mascot is a beaver! But, that guy who was asking you to set the record straight at the top of your chat - was he repsonding to your column? If so, he really needs to take his finger off of the knee jerk button - if anything, you were joining the good Governor in your Wonder at WaWas.

I want to go to BucEes! 75 flavors! That's too many for some of them not to be really strange!

I went to a work training a few weeks ago and a woman in it exclaimed twice, "GREAT SCOTT!!!" and no one else in the room found it as funny as I did (or really, funny at all!), and I also decided I wanted to bring back some of those old exclamations. Zounds is a good one, I didn't even think of gadzooks! What about leaping lizards?

Jumping Jehosaphat's a great one!

I can never remember Great Caesar's Ghost when the opportune moment comes. 

For a while I thought "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Tinseltown" was two separate expressions. Together, it's a good one, but "Joseph in Tinseltown" just sounds confused. 

Fart humor seems to have a long history in Germany & Austria as the dominant Funny Thing. Apparently the portrayal of Mozart's potty humor in "Amadeus" was accurate, judging from his letters to & from his family.

And don't forget Martin Luther, who liked to fling his **** at the devil. Some translators say ink. It seems pretty clear that it's not ink. 

When may the WaWa lovers get together? I will be there holding a cat and reading Obama fund raising emails, just to warn you in advance.

(Audible laughter)

This is going to be great, whenever it happens. How long have you been holding the cat?

A great vice. Very easy to quit. I quit every night when I go to bed.


Not quite related, but Wodehouse has a great quote: "Mr Howard Saxby, literary agent, was knitting a sock. He knitted a good deal, he would tell you if you asked him, to keep himself from smoking, adding that he also smoked a good deal to keep himself from knitting."

My wife says I have perfected the snart, which is a snore and fart at the same time. Wish I could patent it.

Please do!

Go to law school.


makes me want to replay the Capitol Steps' magnificent "God Bless My SUV": "And I'm proud to be an American/That gets just 5 MPG..."

That's what America means! 

Jogging releases endorphins. Sex releases endorphins. Even alcohol attacks organs which releases endorphins. As Freud will tell you, we all seek what will release endorphins, even if it means farting in an elevator. (Wait, I don't think that last one releases endorphins.)

True. As a sidenote, "Release the endorphins!" sounds like something you would shout if you were a woefully incompetent supervillain.

Well, we spent at least a month wondering why "Captain Kirk" and "ninety-nine" were the only words in of my friends grew this amazing "tomato" plant (that's what he told his mom it was), and minutes quickly morphed into months. Maybe that's really why I loved the 80s.

As long as you didn't inhale.

The 80s are a blur to me. I vaguely remember people wearing plant pots on their heads and dancing on the ceiling, and then the 90s finally came.

Were you with the last poster?

I believe the man to whom Dr. Freud would have been referring was one Joseph Pujol, aka "Le Pétomane", the renowned flatulist of the late 19th century:étomane

This is one of three comments saying that his name was Pujol and that he was a renowned flatulist. 

This is -- this is incredible. How did I go my life without knowing this?

There was indeed a famous vaudevillian in fin-de-siecle France who entertained with the sound of his flatulence. His name was Joseph Pujol, stage name Le Petomane. I don't know whether this was exactly who was identified in the Freud play, but it is at least plausible. Special bonus: there is a children's book about this gentleman, titled The Fartiste. Great for birthdays, bar mitzvahs, etc.

The Fartiste!

Next year's Oscar winner! Or at least the Razzy. 

Was that her review of A.A. Milne's portentous melodrama? That one's a scream. "What a man, he must have had woodpecker blood!"

I think yes!

Why the Journey hatred? I'm proud that my 11-year-old daughter's favorite song is one of theirs. She's also a huge RHCP fan. Diverse!

No hatred! I've just done too much karaoke!

Astronauts who snore on Earth don't snore in space. RIP Kate Hepburn

Er, my sentiments exactly. 

They have Shmuffins. Which I find hilarious.

Although it does sound awfully Mutts-y.

I remember being about 4 years old and LOVING that "Take these broken wings" song. I'm so embarrassed for 4 year old me.

I think being embarrassed for 4 year-old yourself is a condition of being a human being.

He was named Pujols. Really. A Frenchman, of course. The late Great Leonard Rossiter did a famous TV special about him.

This is by far the greatest thing I have learned all month.

Nietzsche on Wagner: "The creatures moving on his stage are not thinking and speaking human beings, but tadpoles or slugs, considerably more stupid than trained fleas at a fair."


I was a Hot Mess. My hobby supported an entire Peruvian village and I dressed in Levis Red Tags and rumpled button down shirts, had a great tan and read loads of great literature. Granted, there are some blurry months, but hey, who doesn't have those?

Is there an 80s version of the old quip that if you remember the sixties, you weren't there?

For your grape lovers, grappa, made from the waste in making wine, which is the skin, seeds, and stems of grapes, is made into grappa. Grappa has a higher alcohol content than does wine. You can wasted more on the waste than the actual wine.

This sounds like an intriguing new vice possibility...

Heck, I'm a child of the '50s, so I knew the rebellious youth of my day was over once Little Richard's "Good golly Miss Molly, Sure can ball" transcended into a classic lyric!

I do love it when that happens. I wonder what later generations will do to That Ceelo Song.

You have a fan page?

Just a little one. 

I should probably skedaddle. I have centuries of fart history to catch up on! Have a great Tuesday, keep reading the Compost, and feel free but unobligated to follow me on Twitter!

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost, a lighter take on the news and issues of the day, and she contributes to the Post editorial page. Her work has appeared in venues such as The Huffington Post, The Week,,, Collegehumor, and The Harvard Crimson. She has appeared on Jeopardy!, Showbiz Tonight and Canadian radio, and she has performed at Boston's Comedy Studio and Comedy Connection. She would love to be on your TV show, radio show, Daily Show, HBO special, or to be an honored guest (or regular guest) at your Bar Mitzvah. She is the author of two books (unpublished, but contact her!), two screenplays, three plays, one musical, and one memoir (Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.)
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