ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

May 06, 2014

Join us next Tuesday 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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Sorry I'm late! There was a new log-in that left me momentarily stymied! Mea so culpa!

This week's theme, preparatory to the weekend's O. Henry Punoff, is going to be puns. Lay 'em on me -- sausage you can come up with, your best and your wurst!

I was riding the Metro. I saw a woman who looks nothing like you. I asked "Are you Alexandra Petri?" She replied "No". Was that you?


My on-line 19th-century novels reading group selected the undeservedly little-known Jerome K. Jerome's "Three Men in a Boat (to Say Nothing About the Dog)" for this month's read, and lo and behold, the Washington Post tells me that the great Synetic Theater is making a play out of it.

I know! I saw the advertisement, and I couldn't believe it! How on earth are they going to do that without the language -- literally saying nothing of the dog?

I learned something useful yesterday. Waving the French flag during Cinco de Mayo does not always go over well.

I'm only semi-for that. Poll me, and you'll find I'm against it.

(Oh, this is going to be awful, I can feel my enthusiasm flagging already.)

I love Star Wars Day. My favorite was the war between Joan Rivers and Kim Kardashina.

I liked the one between Betelgeuse and Sirius, myself.

I could not get a date to the Nerd Prom. Then I realized, that must mean I am Super Nerd! Right? Right?

Yes! Only true nerds can't get a date to nerd prom and spend it studying instead. Be square, minus four A's, see how your dating odds increase.

What else would you call it, a shovel? O. Wilde wrote: "It is a sad truth, but we have lost the faculty of giving lovely names to things. The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for."

You could call it a hoe, but you'd be wrong.

The thing about calling spades spades is it tends to neuter the language. "In the absence of a conscience, behavior must be controlled by fear, threats and punishment, or by separation from society. This comes at tremendous social cost, and evidently is ineffective, given the overcrowded prisons and rising fines. It seems that laws are really only needed when conscience has failed. We might say that the more laws a society needs, the less emotionally intelligent." If we propmote useful stupidity we'll need more laws and need more reports nobody reads.

And another pair o' practice SAT's, to instill fear in the kids.

(I assume People In Chat has flatlined at this point.)

It is a banner day...

I don't want you to accuse me of having half-mast any of this.

I ran aound too much after being told to take it easy. I was busted for resisting a rest.

(I've also heard this one said of toddlers!)

It looks like you made a nap judgment.


You know that is a pretty controversial subject. Students in California have been suspended for wearing american flags on Cinco de Mayo. The principal claimed that wearing an American flag was insensitive and could lead to hostility.

Oh no, actually?

This reminds me of the incompetent California magician who tried to turn his t-shirt into a flag to be more insensitive. After all the incantations were finished, he pulled aside the curtain to reveal... nothing. "Ha!" the principal said. "Still a T!"

was in the WaPo. In Mother Goose and Grimm, Ralph was eating and a thought came to him and he said "I love breakfast epiphanies!"

Oh, that's glorious!

I know Oscar Wilde said only dull people are brilliant at breakfast, but that's great.

On a punnier note, I always wanted to write a ghost-writer character named Truman Kaput.

Are you joining in the boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel? Will you pledge that you are not going to book a suite there?

I won't boycott the Beverly Hills Hotel! I can't even afford to sleep on a boy cot at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

But seriously, that is what I like to call a first-world boycott. You do you, Mia, but -- if only I could afford to not book a suite there. Then again, I've been definitely not booking a suite there for years. Maybe I've been boycotting the Beverly Hills Hotel my whole life without knowing it.

Gallagher once complained about the "I (heart) my dog" bumper stickers. He then pulled out "I (spade) my dog" and "I (club) my wife"


Trying now, I can see why he didn't Diamond his anything. Has anybody got one? 

We take things literally.


I don't know why that leads to this, but:

Can the Math portion of the SAT identify Keyser Soze? Well, Verbal Kint.

I think I have some good flag puns, but I've been vexillating between which ones to use.

*bows before you*

The person who loves America salutes the Stars and Stripes.

The person who loves sheltering from the elements with the star of "Yentl"  salutes the Streisand's Tarps.

I keep getting the wrong people when I try to video chat. I make skypos.


I fail at Face Time, myself. I get Face-stymied.

*groans* this hurts me more than it hurts you

/ cos(gerine)?

It's a great fruit!

Why did everyone agree to go to the beach?

Because we signed and co-signed the proposal to see some tan gents.

Better to use a spade than a club. But, suit yourself. Doesn't mean Jack to me....

This reminds me of a bad review of King Lear, which in the interests of time I am going to erroneously attribute to Dorothy Parker but I don't think was hers, where the reviewer said the actor played the King as though he were expecting someone else to play the Ace.

You can't conquer anyone if you don't bring a flag. Sorry, I just saw the great Eddie Izzard at the Warner.

Oh, lucky you! How was he? Cake or death?

(whispers, for the sake of keeping this dead horse alive) Ed 'e is 'ard to get cheap tickets to.

You need a heart to love him, a diamond to marry him, a club to beat him, and a spade to bury him.

I never thought of it like that! But suit yourself!

I'm trying to remember who came up with the "Immanuel Kant, but Genghis Khan" jokes. There aren't a lot, but a few I remember are "Oscar was Wilde but Thornton was Wilder" and "Dame May was Whitty but John Greenleaf was Whittier."

Ooh, these are tough! Maybe we can expand it a little:

Do you know where Shelley Winters?

Don't try to Pat Sajak.

My career advice for the day: If you like to restore classic cars, and you paint your bring purple, don't then choose to go into bank robbery. You're welcome. Also, to the guy who robbed a bank and then waited to catch a bus, Rethink your career options. Fortunately, you may have time to do so,

That's sage advice, based on thyme and offering a great dill to ponder.

Monday is the root of all evil. Also, when guys come to the office wearing ties that border on fluorescence, I've asked if these are "the ties that blind."

HA! "The ties that blind." That's great.

There's still many a bow tie I can't get pasta.

Speaking of running up the flagpole: I haven't seen a good flagpole sitter in years, Who decided that watching people sit on flagpoles no longer is good entertainment?

Justice Scalia, I think.


Suite revenge?

Four stars!

It wasn't. It wasn't even Robert Benchley. It was somebody who's not that well known today. Whose name I cannot remember.

His fame precedes him, so when he shows up no one will know who he is.

What do you think of the occasional Sunday Pearls Before Swine puns? Sometimes I love them; sometimes the best part is where rat threatens Pastis with bodily harm.

"It's a fine, fine line," as the man said nervously to the lion-keeper at the zoo.

If you run the Polish flag up a flag pole, is that pole a Pole flag pole?

Oh no, we're veering into Pole jokes!

We should wrap up soon.

I hope I remember this correctly. It's been a while. Isaac Asimov wrote a short story where two scientists were discussing the origin of humor. They agreed that they couldn't think of anyone who ever created a joke, except for puns, and people groan at puns, not laugh. They figured out that jokes were of alien origin, part of an experiment and now that they knew what was happening the experiment was over.

"A pun," they say, "is the lowest form of humor -- if you didn't think of it first."

Or -- "A short quip, followed by a long groan."

Every so often a really beautiful one comes along that makes it all worth it, though, like the time Oscar Wilde said he could speak on any subject and someone shouted, "TALK ABOUT THE QUEEN" and he retorted "The Queen is not a subject."

"A half-century of research into slips of the tongue suggests that Freud's attempt to provide them with unconscious motivations was at best unnecessary. We screw up in speaking because speaking is incredibly hard." Congress publishing unnecessary reports for much of the same reasons.

It is, indeed, difficult. As Samuel Johnson said of a painful and long violin solo that someone told him was difficult, "Difficult? I wish it were IMPOSSIBLE."

“Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you.” ―Langston Hughes Source/Notes: The Collected Works of Langston Hughes: Essays on art, race, politics, and world affairs (2002 edition), University of Missouri Press - ISBN: 9780826213945 Joker is the most important card!

Is it, though? I think that card gets tossed pretty quickly out of the deck as a general rule.

Speaking of which, I should toss myself out on the deck and run wildly off in all directions! Thank you for your patience, as that one doctor said to the other. Here's one to groan on! And feel free to join me on Twitter and keep reading the Compost!

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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