Chatological Humor update

Dec 12, 2017

You asked for it and you got it. Gene will now be holding weekly mini-chats, where he takes your questions about what's happening in the country -- and anything else you want to discuss.

Gene will still have regular monthly chats, for a fuller chat and poll experience. The next one is Tuesday Dec. 19 at noon.

Good afternoon.  

So, now it's Ryan Lizza.   The pace is dizzying.   We're losing track of who the latest alleged scumball is.   It seems like yesterday that I wrote a column on this subject -- well, it sort of WAS yesterday.  Gina and I talked about this, and I was going to file our conversation as a column, but there was no way of knowing what facts would intervene between deadline and publication, meaning, for example, that if Santa Claus WAS accused of harassment (see below)  I'd look like an idiot. 

So you get it here!  Today.  The top 3/4 of an unpublished (and unpunished) column:

After news broke late last month that Matt “Milquetoast” Lauer was fired for blatant, raging sexually harassing misconduct, I tweeted “Who is next?  Santa?” 


Bam.  Two hours later … Santa, in the incarnation of Garrison Keillor, the avuncular spinner of corny tales, famously fond of buttermilk biscuits and his mom.  


The barrage of open accusations and firings is long overdue, and I think it is healthful that all over the country there are guys doing that comical finger-in-the collar sweat-take with a nervous side glance.  Most no doubt deserve a comeuppance.  Some might not.  And some, presumably, aren’t entirely sure, which Is how I recently came to be speaking with my good friend and co-author Gina Barreca, the feminist scholar. 


Gene: Do I owe you any sort of … apology? 


Gina: Yes.  


Gene: Whoa.  Really?

Gina:  Yes.

Gene:  Well, I apologize. Deeply. 


Gina: You don’t even want to know what it is for?  


Gene:  Actually, no.  I am putting what you say in a column and we have probably disclosed enough.  I was a beast and I am sorry.   Thanks!   I’ll be going now. 


Gina: At a book event in Bethesda, MD., where I was not present, you “interviewed” me.  You represented me with a mop.   


Gene: That’s not so bad!


Gina: You attached two quite large balloons to it.    


Gene: Oh.  Right.


Gina You were so proud of this theatrical device that you then brought it to a lecture we both gave at the Smithsonian, in front of a thousand people. 


Gene:  Well, it was funny! 


Gina:   It was, so I will let you slide.  But that has to be my call, capisce?  Besides, you were already punished for this.  Do you remember how?


Gene:  No. 


Gina Why is my memory so much better than yours?

Gene: Because you are a woman, and this is about "relationships."  

Gina: Because I belong to the gender that has interior lives. Anyway, your first talk, in Bethesda, turned out to be on the day of the Million Mom March.

Gene:  Right!  The looks I got on the Metro when I was riding home were priceless!  They still wither me, in my mind's eye. 


Gene:  Yes.  If looks were bullets, I would have been riddled into swiss cheese, like Sonny Corleone.  Okay, well, I actually had something else in mind.  Do you recall my doing, um, something to you on national TV, with millions of people watching?


Gina:  Yes!   It was the moment we first met in person.  You honked my boob.   It was an accident due to your incompetent efforts to embrace me when we kissed on the air.   Neither of us quite realized it had happened until one of your fans made a screen grab – note the felicitousness of the term – and sent it to you , where your coworkers kindly blew it up to the size of a mural, which you displayed in your home office for YEARS afterwards.  


Gene:  I am sorry. 


Gina:  You don’t need to be.  It was inadvertent.   Women are not frivolous on this subject.   When we complain, we have good reason.    


Gene:  Okay. 

Gina:  But it is our call.  Capisce? 

Gene: Yes'm. 


Okay, that's it!  We start here at noon sharp.  


Have you ever drunk 12 Diet Cokes in one day? Doesn't Trump know that he can't buy fluids, only rent them?

I have not.  In fact, I don't drink diet sodas.   Because I am fat.  But lately I have learned it is because I am Wise. 

Do we get to know today what exciting thing kept you from chatting last week, or do we have to wait for the movie?

Good question.  I spent a week without the Internet, or Newspapers, or TV or radio or ANY source of current events.  Four consecutive weekdays.  They were hell.  Just finished writing the column. 

I noticed when Flynn was walked into the Federal Courthouse to enter his plea, one if his attorneys guided him to the door by placing his hand on the small of Flynn's back. Is if a protective impulse rather than a purely sexist one?

Dunno but I like this wrinkle. 

Was discussing this with a colleague just yesterday.  We decided that for better or worse -- almost certainly better - - the rules have changed.    On the day of The Post Hunt,  if a person asks for a photo with me, I will happily do it but will not automatically cup a shoulder in my hand, which is essentially a reflex to me,  whether the photographee is either male or female.  Now I will put my arm out there and ask the question directly or with a look, and if there is a no or something  ambiguous or no answer at all, I return the hand to my side.  It seems silly, but it's for a good cause, and I am there.   

Went to the gym. On the way in, I passed an SUV with an NRA license plate having the following vanity plate: 2GL[NRALogo]CKS where the NRA logo represented the letter O. On the way out,I again passed the SUV and left the following note on the driver's window: 2 Glocks 1 Flaming A*****e [the word was spelled out] No balls Question: Was I too easy on the guy?

Wait.  You did or did not slash his tires?  


(NOTE: This is a joke, @newsbusters.  Satire.  I am not advocating vandalism.  I abhor vandalism. The above was an example of strategic irony.)

Gene, your conversation with Gina touches on some of the difficulties that abound in our current sexual harassment environment -- it all depends. Well, okay, it doesn't ALL depend. You take your willy out and wiggle it in front of someone, or you force your tongue down their throat ... yeah, sure. But what if Gina wasn't as reasonable or understanding? I think there are many women who would have been offended at the mop and about the blowup of the honk -- and perhaps not said anything out of confusion or fear. Yet if Gina were such a person, she could speak up today and cost you your job potentially. I mean, you honked her boob and -- rather than be upset about it -- celebrated it with a poster-sized image of said honk that she had to see regularly, reminding her of her embarrassment!! No, I don't subscribe to that point of view. But it's scary to think that another context and another personality might have cost you heavily. Is it luck? Knowing your audience? Or something else?

I agree with everything you just wrote!  I really think the rules have changed.  I know I am not a bad guy, but intent matters less now, and I think that is a good thing.  I don't think it is a mistake to be extra careful. 

Should Al have resigned?

Well, I think that he had to.  Tactically.   His co-senators removed the element of choice. 

Look, the rules HAVE changed.  I think he probably had to go.  I don't think he's a bad guy.  

I think it also matters who the person is.  Al Franken is robustly pro-woman, legislatively.   Farenthold is not.  

is totally not a rapist. Discuss.

I never doubted Juanita Broadrick's story.  Still don't doubt her.  I wish her Twitter presence (I follow her) was somewhat less bitterly opinionated, but who am I to judge? 

One of Dave Barry's books has been banned by the Texas prison system. (The compilation is banned, but not the originals.) Are you disappointed that none of your books is on the banned list?

I am outraged!   Especially since the Gene-Gina book (I'm With Stupid) contains the three-tampon joke! 

Extra-ordinary or extrordnary? The second always sounds a bit put-on to me?

Either is better than the Brit version:  Ex-TRAWWD-n'ree. 

...for the chat. Gene - My wife of 25 years moved out and moved in with the guy she's been having an affair with. She says she's not sure if loves him and is not sure if she wants to try to save our marriage. But she's lied to me during this episode in an effort to be gentle I think. I desperately want to save the marriage and was completely blindsided by this. My fear is she's going to walk away without even trying. Is there anything I can do to convince her to try to fix us? (We have 2 college kids)


Okay, I am not the guy to go to here for a judicious and wise response.   Is there anyone out there  who has some wisdom to dispense?  

Also I am sorry. 

Truism: Anything written about a child or a pet is about 75% less interesting/funny to the reading public than it seems to the writer. I love you, but please stop. Really.

I totally understand your point and it is why every effing column I write is not about mykids or pets.  I believe you are writing about this column and my only defense, a feeble one, is that I think it is really good.   I could be wrong! 

I realize that if he never works again. Matt Lauer can probably afford to live lavishly for the rest of his life and support his kids and estranged wife in the style to which they've become accustomed. But where do less-flush harassers find subsequent gainful employment? I'm certainly not defending them, but just wondering.

It's an interesting question!  

I mean, okay, these guys mostly seem to deserve what they get -- most of this behavior is indefensible in any era -- but you could argue that the rules changed on them unfairly.   I don't make that argument. 

So you shame and banish all the guys with good voting and some creepy behavior, leaving you with the shameless guys with bad voting and very creepy behavior. This will not end well.

Totally understood. 

Bannon railed last night at the Roy Moore campaign rally about outsiders who come down to tell Alabamians how to vote.


Just this minute got a text message from a friend who rides horses:

did you see the video of roy moore on the horse?
he rides like crap.
he looks TERRIBLE.
like he's flopping all over the saddle and his hands are flying around everywhere
it's embarrassing. not as embarrassing as pedophilia, i suppose, but nonetheless
if you're gonna try to ride to the polls to look like a cowboy, maybe make sure you don't totally suck at riding first?

OP here. Thank you for sharing my ramble and follow up, accompanied by your positive words - "the magic of writing" has been on my mind ever since. It's real. And I've been writing more, which couldn't come at a better time. And also especially thanks because I learned something new about my hero Fred Rogers (!). Can't stop giggling which sure helps in our world (along with positive feedback). Thank you for these chats - this year especially it's the discussion that helps one carry on. May Dog in Its wisdom protect and guide you all your days. Thanks, Gene.

This is a reference to a well-written post in the last chat, and an even better-written followup post summarizing the first post in a brilliant bit of concision and philosophy. I am publishing it because it is the opposite of something that once happened to me, when my tenth-grade English teacher, trying to be helpful, advised me not to become a writer.  Twenty years later he submitted a manuscript to Tropic magazine at the Miami Herald, which I edited. I rejected it.  BECAUSE IT WAS BAD. 

What are Molly & family doing in China for a few years? Is she still a practicing vet? Will you go see them?

This is in reference to this column.   My son-in-law, Julien Kreuze, whom I still love somehow, works for the State Department.  Foreign service.  He's on assignment.  

And yes.  Molly is still a veterinarian.  

A while ago, you wrote about a hypothetical pillar of the community, who was revealed after dying as having reprehensible urges that were never acted out. I'm wondering if Roy Moore presents a situation something like this - he clearly had reprehensible urges in his 30's, but there don't seem to be any reports of him acting on them for the last 30 or 40 years, What do you think? (Don't get me wrong, I think his actions as a scofflaw judge make him unfit for public office, regardless.)

Right.  This was a hypothetical I raised to explore the question of whether mind-only sins are sins at all.  But there is a huge distinction.  While it is possible that Moore's creepy ephebophilia has been held in check for 40 years -- and I would credit him for that, if true -- he ain't no pillar of nothing.  He blithely broke laws and betrayed his position as judge whenever he wanted, based on his nutcake religious zealotry.   So it's not really parallel.  

I love this story, about the guy who had to say something nice about Moore. 

...that all men will be seen as harassers, etc. I am so glad times have changed (I am female, 45, and have been physically sexually grabbed on more than one occasion); but I am also afraid that men will all be tarred with the same brush, and that, perhaps, the pendulum has swung too far. (My fellow women are now seeking me out to stone me).

I suspect you are already dead.  

I know what you mean, but something valuable is happening. 

I had a similar experience many years, although we had not been married long and had no kids. Wife moved in with guy, then shortly afterward dumped him and went off radar. I went to therapy, which helped. Year a half later, wife came back, said she wanted to try again. We went to therapy together. After a few months I came to the conclusion I was better off on my own, and that was the end of that. My advice: rely on friends, learn to be yourself, don't humiliate yourself trying to get wife to change her mind. After some time, it will become clear to you what your future should be.

Thank you hugely.  This seems short and wise. 

That's always been we Dems' problem: Purity is always more important than winning.


Gene, as a progressive I am glad that we are finally having a national moment of reckoning over the injustice that women have been dealing with forever. But taking away a person's life's work based on a single accusation doesn't seem like justice either. Do you think it is necessary for there to be "victims" of this reckoning if it means more women will in the future be spared harrassment or worse?

I do.  But that is a dreadful reckoning.  Here's the situation, I think:  The harsh punishments will REALLY grab attention.  I'm not sure anything short of that would have worked.  Women have put up with crap for too long.  

To the mid 50's woman who wrote a long, thoughtful post about Franken: I will answer it next week when I have time to give it the same consideration that went into your post.   

Thank you for the reminder of Caligula naming a horse as consul. I haven't thought of that since Heckuva-Job-Brownie was named head of FEMA.


Advice for the poster trying to save his marriage...start with yourself, spend time figuring out what aspects under your control led to the rift your wife used to look elsewhere. Do not worry about what she's thinking/doing and only concern yourself with you. Get help to sort through all the emotions pulsing through you and let her be. She took the decision out of your hands by moving out. Only worry about what you can do and act accordingly.

Thank you. 

Just finished reading about Trump's tweet to Gillibrand this morning (saying she "would do anything" for campaign donations). Once again, I'm appalled and infuriated. Infuriated that this unqualified shyster is in the White House, infuriated that a significant segment of the population is stupid enough to put him in there, and infuriated that the spineless , gutless Republican Congressmen who put party over country won't do anything about him unless Trump's base abandons him, which will never happen because they are morons. I'm certain that even if Mueller found clear and convincing proof that Trump was directly and personally involved with Russia, Congress still won't do anything. This country's only hope is that the Democrats take the majority in both the House and the Senate next November, and that likely won't happen. My husband and I had already planned to leave the country next fall, but whether we returned was up in the air. I can honestly say that I won't live in the U.S. ever again until something changes. I've had it, and I'm out. Thanks for letting me vent.

You are welcome.  Today or tomorrow at the latest, @newsbusters will grump and fuss and fulminate about my giving you a forum to vent.   They will wonder snidely why I never give Trump supporters a chance to vent.  They will have no idea how idiotic they sound. 

I do think the high profile people have to go. I do think now is a very bad time for ambiguous behavior. But the thing is, if every instance of sexual harassment, at every level top to bottom was disciplined (they don’t even have to be fired, but real discipline in accordance with the scale of the behavior) the scale of the problem would greatly reduce almost instantly. It’s not really new rules, just actual enforcement and new awareness.

I think that the interpretive / enforcement changes have been so great that's it's essentially new rules.   On my very first day at a big job dozens of years ago, an art director jokingly referred to bikini bottoms as "c--- caps." Everyone laughed, including women.  I actually remember being appalled, BUT I didn't object in anyw ay.  It didn't really occur to me that anything fireable or even disciplinable had happened.  I didn't understand that the ladies had laughed because they thought they had to. 

New rules.  Good new rules. 

In your situation if Gina had complained and you were fired, would you consider that just. Is it acceptable that people (men) with no ill intent are going to lose their livelihoods and reputations?

Well, Gina would never had complained.  It's hard to really assess this, given that fact.  

We were buds.   We were equals.  As she told me last week, it basically was impossible for me to harass her because we had equal power.  I mean, short of assaulting her or something. 

I suspect that if she's moved out, she is out or almost out of the marriage already. It's shattering but possibly better than what I experienced, which is: spouse stayed physically in marriage but kept one foot in the lover's house for years, all the while telling himself that he was "working on" our marriage. Go to therapy and work on figuring out what you want out of life and imagining trying to find it without her; that will help you figure out whether she's worth pursuing. Good luck, and I'm really sorry. It is shattering.

Thank you. 

...who wrote in a few (months?) ago to say how she had gotten her 12yo son your "Hypochondriac" book, and how much her son loved it. Thanks to her, I knew exactly what I should get my son for *his* 12y birthday. I have to report, same results--it was HYSTERICAL to hear him tell me, "See, there's this guy named Gene, and he's in a meeting, and he makes a joke...." (all the while knowing who you are, but hearing him describe you and the joke was the best ever). He loves the book, thanks. So when you see your royalties go up by .50 you know why :-))

Awwww.  You should know this book is 9 years old and out of print.  It is an antique.  It's probably worth a huge amount of money, Gutenberg bible type. 

I like your shepherd costume. However, the way it is drawn I feel compelled to inquire about your bra size.

40 B 

You're lucky Gina saw the incidents in a kindly light. If not. . . you might have been the next to go and I don't think I could survive it. Your Christmas present has come early.

I hope y'all understood that Gina and I are close friends.  She ain't dropping no dime on me, and I have never done anything actually disrespectful of her.  We love each other, in a pure and decent and nice sense. 

Lady here. Is it wrong that I want to know what the men are accused of, and don't feel comfortable learning they've been fired without any details? I certainly don't want to know the identity of the accusers, but I'd like to hear their version of the events that allegedly warrant the outcomes. I'm still not certain what Keillor did, and now Lizza. I have concerns.

I do too.  But you know?  In most cases the guys are not mounting (haha) defenses.  They know what they did. 

It's Gina's call whether she wants you to apologize for the mop and mural, but wow, man. I wouldn't be nearly as magnanimous. While I'm ecstatic that Lauer, Weinstein, et al., are getting their comeuppance at long last, I'm becoming more and more demoralized about the tsunami of stories about micro-harassments like these that just chip away at my respect for men like you. You're not dead to me or anything--that would be a wild over-reaction--but I just don't like you as well anymore. Sigh. So why did she think you owed her an apology if not for those two egregiously insulting actions?

We'll have to ask Gina, and I probably will for our next chat! 

boy. That opener. I rack my brains and I can only think of behavior by me toward women that was out of line when I was age 14 (tweaking bra-strap kind of thing), and I'm in my 50s now. But it's also true that my wife remembers lots of things that happened in our three-decade relationship that I don't (that includes good things I've said and done, as well as opposite). So I wonder if there are apologies I owe. I know I've never asked anybody for favors in exchange for favors. I know I've never propositioned - or hinted at propositioning - anyone since I began dating my wife. I have not intentionally touched anybody in a sexual, even flirty, sort of way in that time. And I am certain that I never created an opportunity for a Franken USO flight photo. But, I dunno. Did I ever look at someone too long? Did I ever discuss one worker with another inappropriately? Yeah. Probably. So I am blanket-ly sorry. But I don't know how else to address, other than not to participate or condone. And to not let my sons participate or condone, I guess.

I seriously think a lot of men have gone through thinking like this.  I have.  

I ultimately decided I had never done anything that requires an "I'm sorry" for sexism, but I might have for racism.  Many many years ago, I told a racist joke to a black woman who was babysitting my children. It was a silly joke making fun of stereotypes, or so I thought, but I think it didn't land that way, and it really bothers me.  I liked and respected her a lot, and I think this was a bad mistake, and if I could apologize meaningfully today I would.  I would never have thought back to this, had the  #MeToo movement had not happened. 

I have a sad sneaking suspicion that at least *some* Roy Moore supporters may actually admire his having hit on teenaged girls when he was in his 30s.

Haha!  Hm.  We dasn't suggest this. 

about your being friends with Gina based on longterm evidence. But there are some who might be deluded about such a friendship and presume on it, and blammo. Deservedly, but blammo.

Yep, I understand.   I guess what needs to be acknowledged here is that Gina and I are colleagues.  We work together on creating a humor thing. It's about emotional depth.   You really really know your collaborator  well.   You might hate him or her, but there are no secrets. 

We are good friends. 

Okay, we are done!  Thanks all.  Kind of emotional, today! 

In This Chat
Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

Gene's latest columns, chats and more.
Recent Chats
  • Next: