Chatological Humor update

Mar 20, 2018

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.

Unusual poll this week. Very rarely -- more rarely than you would think, given what I do -- The Washington Post kills something I have submitted. They did it last week, with a Barney & Clyde strip, a pretty controversial one. It was a decision with which I strongly disagreed. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE COMIC.

One great thing about working for this newspaper is that its corporate culture is one of character and integrity, which means that when I asked for permission to poll you about this, they said fine. So here you go! Make sure you see the comic first before taking the poll.

Greetings update readers.  

Apropos of everything, there was another school shooting today, in Maryland. 

I blame everything on the Rothschilds. 


Here is your picture for today. 


Okay, let's go. 



Too cute! How can you not love dogs? (I am biased.) When I was in vet school at Virginia Tech, I had a Scottie that was so gentle and calm, I took him with our vet student service group to the local nursing home. A couple of the residents always liked to see "Fala", and one lady insisted on trimming some hair from his busy eyebrows to keep as a souvenir.

I am a tough guy.   Do not shed a tear over almost anything.  That photo got my face wet.    Dogs are wonderful people.   Look how happy they are.   Oboy, I get to lick a little face!

I want him to resign. That kind of statement, if made by a white person about a black person, would elicit howls for a resignation. That a DC City Council member is that pig-ignorant is inexcusable.

I'm not sure about this.  If he is honestly just incredibly stupid, that doesn't seem to be a disqualifier for public office.

Does Theodore B. Olson think he is one of the few people in America that can keep the stench of Trump off him if he joins with Trump? How many people have had their reputations ruined by going into this administration? So far, I'm only counting James Mattis and Nikki Haley as somehow still keeping their reputations, but still, this is only Tuesday morning.

I have mixed feelings when people of accomplishment and apparent integrity join this administration.   There is always the possibility they are patriots, attempting to stave off disaster. 

Two things happened in the last week that I am frothing at the mouth over. First, I was second in line in a left turn lane with a dedicated arrow. The arrow turns green. nothing. I give a courtesy toot. nothing. I blow the horn. The woman starts and then starts fumbling for the turn signal to put it on before she finally starts easing into the intersection. By the time I got to the intersection the light was yellow and three cars ran the red behind me. Second, I was returning from Annapolis on Sunday when I came up on a driver doing 55 in the left hand lane. The chaos caused by this was unbelievable. Cars started making dangerous maneuvers to get around this guy. Why is it not pounded into people when they learn how to drive that they should stay in the right hand lane except to pass? Rant over. Frothing under control. Thank you.

Something must be done about this.  Call your congressperson! 

What reason(s) were you given, Gene? Probably one or two of the ones offered in the poll. Maybe another would be, "Stop consistently representing gun advocates as irresponsible," but I don't read Barney & Clyde enough (sorry) to know whether that's valid. In any case, the strip should have been printed. Then you and everybody at WaPo could proceed directly to the bomb shelter. Kudos to your bosses for allowing you to explore this in your chat.

I really agree with your last line, especially.   I do think that if you are taking a paycheck from your employer, you have an obligation not to badmouth them or disclose possibly embarrassing internal matters.  I cannot imagine many employers who would have said okay to that, and I am really proud of them. 

The reasons given were basically the first four choices in the poll.   There was probably a fifth reason, which is not one I disrespect:  Barney & Clyde is only a marginally sucessful comic strip in term of subscribers, and we can't really afford to lose any.   In an odd way, I think the Wapo Writers Group made a bad decision, but that it was trying to protect ... me.   I have no animosity about this, even though I think it was wrong. 

I voted "the Post was wrong to kill this strip", because I assume the Post only kills comics if they feel they are inappropriate or insensitive. If they spike comics merely because they aren't funny, then they should have killed it with extreme prejudice. It was a terribly unfunny- we're talking Blondie or Marmaduke level-unfunny. I had to read it more than once and I'm still not sure I understand your joke. Is it that she's supposed to be obviously much younger than 21? (Sorry, I'm not a regular reader, so I don't know if she's supposed to be a child or a grown woman.) Is it that the character supposed to be like Danae in Non Sequitur- cynically precocious? My takeaway was bafflement and not even a hint of a chuckle. I mean, Crankshaft never makes me laugh either, but at least I understand the joke the author thinks he's making.

You need a basic familiarity with the strip.  Cynthia Pillsbury is a cynical 11-year-old girl.   Note her height.   

As my wife said : I am deeply grateful we and the dogs are on the same team.


I am not the only non-dog-lover who is really fed up with the insistence that dogs be welcome everywhere ("bring your dog to work" day, dogs in restaurants, etc.). I dislike dogs, I am allergic to them, and I can't help wondering how these canine-idolators would react if cat-lovers or parrot-lovers were equally insistent.

I am just publishing this, Ebenezer. 

I'm very glad things weren't more serious in the shooting in MD. I'm worried, though, that many will see the circumstances and use it as evidence that arming those in schools is the way to go. Thoughts?

It does sound as though this school's resource officer was a hero.  Or at least someone who did his/her job well.  You know, it benefits all of us to recognize truth.   If this was a case where an armed officer in the school really prevented a greater tragedy, we should know that, to be better informed. 

This was true in the latter days of the doomed Nixon administration, but I'm old enough to have been an adult back then, and believe me, as much as there was to loathe about Tricky Dicky, Trump will never rise to Nixon's level of ability.

Nixon is actually another example of a president difficult to assess.  He tarnished the office terribly, but was a competent man.  See next post. 

My middle school son is learning about WWI. He came home the other day telling us what a great man Woodrow Wilson was. How he won the Nobel Prize and helped save Europe from itself. My husband and I asked if he learned anything else about Wilson and he said no. So, we told our son that Wilson was a racist and had him read some stories about Wilson's vile behavior. Our son was were we. Why don't schools teach the whole truth? Isn't this contributing to the racism in our country? Schools are teaching half-truths. Seems like the longer we bury our sins, the harder it will be to solve them. FWIW, I'm white, my son and husband are black. I am more horrified by the lack of full disclosure than my husband. He said it is what he expects. Such a sad commentary.

yeah, I basically agree.  He is being fed propaganda, but the real question is, what is the alternative, for middle school?  As I've said before, Wilson was one of the most complicated presidents to assess, like LBJ.   He really vaulted the United States onto the world stage.   He literally died for pressing an issue he thought was vital for world peace.   He was intellectually brave.   He also was a virulent racist who set the civil rights movement back a generation.   How do you explain this to 12 year olds? 

I do think you try.   I think it is important you try. 

I don't even like dogs -- and that picture brought tears to my eyes.

it's how HAPPY they are, I think.   They get to lick kids.   It hits us because of how cynical and selfish humans are, particularly now.  You know.  These animals are pure light. 

If Mueller has the opposite personality from Trump, does that mean Russia has a tape of Mueller watching vice cops steam-cleaning urine out of a mattress that Obama never slept on?


To kill that comic. But, you might be more in the wrong for submitting it. Not funny. Not clever. All in all, it fails in every way. You can do way better than that.

Apparently, I can't.  I consider it excellent. 

 If you were still doing the Post Hunt, I would assume that this was a fake article put in the paper with some sort of clues on where to go or what to do. Since you're not, I'm utterly baffled. How is this article in one of the world's greatest newspapers, and not in a student newspaper?

I went back and forth on this story.   It is unbelievably trivial, but I did find myself reading to the end, and the writer did convince me that it was a real trend, not a manufactured trend.  I loved that ketchup is the most popular condiment six days a week, but not Thursdays, where it is honey mustard. 

As an editor, I would have run this story.   But I would have asked the writer to answer a key question: What the hell ARE chicken fingers?

So I was arguing with a gun nut and new acquaintance about impulse control and access to weapons and neither of us was getting anywhere except super irritated with each other and then I realized Dolly Parton at Glastonbury was on tv right in front of us and we both stopped arguing and watched Dolly and basically I lost all interest in conflict and just want to rest in the arms of the angels from here on out.

This might be the answer to the problem!

I recently came across your Below the Beltway from January 7, 2001. I remember reading it when it was first published and it stuck with me. This jewel is probably the best insight into Donald Trump the person that I have ever read. You referred to him as a bounder. No word ever written so concisely characterizes him. Ever thought about having the Post republish this? PS your description of Tony Robbins garbled motivational-speak now has an academic term: pseudo-profound bullshit. Deepak Chopra is apparently a grand master at this.


If you had asked me yesterday if I ever interviewed Trump, I'd have sworn no on a stack of bibles. 

"People are complicated." Well, except maybe for Hitler.

Hitler was actually complicated.  He loved dogs.  He was (I believe) a deeply self-loathing gay man.    He knew or strongly suspected he was part Jew.  Complicated. 

Except that state legislator in Alabama, who's concerned that too many school teachers are ladies, and he doesn't think it's wise for them to be armed.

I didn't know about that, but I am not surprised.  


I'd rather sit next to dogs, cats, or parrots rather than Ebenezer there. Think he just won a point for Team Dog.

We must all glare at him now. 

This chat (with the exception of the dog photo) is trending towards the heavy side, so answer a much lighter question: Does Warren Zevon deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Oh, definitely .    

The problem with dogs, and pets in general, isn't the animal, it's the owner. My wife takes a daily walk around noon. Twice in the last week, a good-sized (retriever) dog, off the leash, runs up and puts his/her paws on my wife's chest. The dog probably just wants to play, but my wife doesn't like it. When she tells the owner the dog should be on a leash, the response is invariably, "oh, it's just being friendly," with the implication that my wife is being cranky. Pet lovers, you may love your pet - doesn't mean everybody else does. Dog owners - use leashes. In most places today, it's the law. I've been a dog owner for most of my life, and mine were never off leashes unless they were in a confined area.

Agreed.  Murphy would sooner die than harm a child.  I know that, Murphy knows that, but the terrified child in the street does not.   It's one of my biggest regrets; I want to be able to SHOW some children that dogs are not something to be scared of, but you can't do that if they are already cringing. 

Few things disgust me as much as the thought of having a dog lick me. (Yes, it's me again.)

have you spoken to Jacob Marley lately?  Please give him my best. 

Chicken fingers are an affectation; instead of calling them chicken strips, we pretend to be British, ala fish fingers, not fish sticks. Gotta admit, it sounds more like boarding school.

But wait.  What ARE they?  Are they made from breast, thigh, wings?  WHAT?   I suspect they are made of interstitial chicken-like meat, beaks, feet, etc. 

I call shenanigans on this series of statements. First off, hahahahaha tough guy. But more to the point, you have written some version of "tearing up" or "okay I'm crying now" MULTIPLE TIMES this year so far. I am now going to go back and count to prove my point, because this irrelevant self ego-soothing you're doing is the hill I'm choosing to die on apparently.

I strongly urge you to do this, and I will not publish your findings.  I AM A TOUGH GUY. 

Are you a Twain fan? I used to worship his work; now I'm less sure. His home in Hartford is purported to be a great museum, and they're currently having an exhibit about his relationship with animals, and how it influenced his work. Thinking it's still worth a visit.

Yes, I am a Twain fan.  I am a little more impressed with some of his lighter, smaller works -- "The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg" for example -- than the giant classics. 

Twice in the last few days, a WaPo News headline has canted in a way I find troubling. Today (Monday) the headline is in part ...”lawyer who sees FBI conspiracy.” People of a certain bent will read this headline as evidence. I realize headlines have to be short and pithy and enticing, but why not “lawyer who spouts FBI conspiracy”? We have no idea what he sees or believes. A few days ago, a similar headline stated (approximately) that “trump states Mueller must be fired.” The passive voice creates a sound byte phrase that sounds like a fact, but it’s really “Trump wants Mueller fired.” No one reads whole articles any more, so factual headlines matter... or do they?

Actually, I disagree with you!  I don't think either of these headlines is wrong, and I think the alternatives would be oddly opinionated.  

What I DO hate are certain sports headlines, such as "Miller not concerned with team's recent losing streak."   Bull.  Of course he is concerned.  He SAYS he is not concerned. 

I voted that the Post was right to kill the comic. I chose "unfair" but a better reason is "inaccurate." You are making the point that it's possible to buy a gun with no age verification. That is true at a gun show (in most states), but NOT at a gun shop, which is what the comic depicts. I say this with no snark: if you are going to write about a topic with which you are unfamiliar, especially one so politically charged, you ought to consider running it by someone with more knowledge (and it could be someone on either side of the issue). The comic could have made a very salient political point, but it was undermined by an inaccuracy that anyone knowledgeable on the issue could have spotted. In sum: it's clearly David Clark's fault.



Still, point taken. 

I once worked in an office with a woman who always wore what she called “essential oils." Think clove or cinnamon. Let’s just say she splashed them on lavishly. One day, the scent was so heavy that someone in the office called building management to do something about the odor. I deny all responsibility. Hilarity ensued. At least on my part.

I like how you constructed this narrative.   You used the most difficult and valuable tool of the writer: Making something happen in the reader's head with words you DON'T explicitly use.  

If you had multiple stamp choices, and one of the options were a stamp with Trump on it, would you reconsider your not-caring-about-what's-on-my-stamps position? I sure would.


Inasmuch as I believe no recipient even notices what the stamp looks like, I don't think it would matter to me. 

We finally found the perfect second dog a couple of weeks ago. Well, nearly perfect. We are waiting for our first dog to teach her to give us kisses like he does.

Is he okay on belly rubs?   One of my fave stories from my Old Dogs book was about a former greyhound racing dog who was adopted by a loving person after he washed out of racing career.  His name was "Need Fo Speed," but he didn't know that name because it was just bull and no one ever called him anything.  He had no name.  He also had never received a belly rub and was utterly confused by it.  Their best day together was the day he finally connected with it and said, basically, "this is great.  keep doing it."

Chicken fingers (and strips) are tenderloin.

You are full of chicken fingers. 

Doesn't phrasing it like that imply that there actually IS one to see?


"I suspect they are made of interstitial chicken-like meat, beaks, feet, etc." Yep! All the leftover bits are bleached and formed into breaded blobs. They are poultry's version of a hot dog.

I do assume this is right. 

Twain is also excellent for moments in his memoirs. For instance in Roughing It he drops a watermelon on a friend's head as a gag, then runs away because the guy gets so mad. A year or so later he's in a snowstorm while crossing the Continental Divide and runs into the same guy coming the opposite direction in a snowstorm. They embrace like brothers.


This is more of an anecdote than a joke, but the story and the way the comedian told it is just hysterical

Agreed.   It has one of the finest three-word descriptions ever, worthy Nick Kroll's "my butt baby was crowning."

I don't think there is any reason not to publish that strip. It is making a point (which I agree with). Nothing wrong or offensive about that. (But it isn't funny, either.)

Noted.  But you are wrong.  The switcheroo between panel three and panel four is funny. 

By the way, this was edited by me, but written by Horace LaBadie.   Who is really good. 

I truly don't understand why that comic was pulled. It's hardly controversial; you have to read in your own irony. If you're pro-gun, it would read as a perfectly valid, legal exchange; perhaps not funny, but nothing offensive about it. Not nearly as "offensive" as the recent New Yorker cartoon.  What was the newspaper's concern? "Too soon"? That's the reason nothing ever gets done regarding assault weapon sales. It's always "too soon" until it's too late.

I love that New Yorker cartoon!   

I didn't go to Georgetown, but read the chicken fingers story with a smile and a bit of nostalgia. Who doesn't return to their college town without making sure they stop by that one place that serves that one food item they can't quite find anywhere else? I have at least 4 of those stops every time I go back.

In my case, it is the White Castle on Fordham Road in the Bronx, near NYU.   I so miss fresh White Castle.  The frozen crap you can buy at the supermarket is a cruel tease. 

You have to be dead to be on a stamp. Just saying; that might affect how you feel about Trump stamps.

THIS IS A JOKE I now love the idea of Trump stamps THIS IS A JOKE.

And I think that's the problem. You have such a fierce and strong position on the issue you are effectively blinkered. Your editors were saving you from yourself. I largely agree with you on the gun issue, and I found your comic powerfully unfunny, perhaps even borderline offensive with how blithely it portrays the issue. I think the Post was right to kill the comic, not because of the message you were trying to convey, but because the manner in which you were trying to convey the message.

Okay!   I am happy to publish this erroneous observation. 

Gene, is it "all of a sudden" or "all the sudden?" I've noticed more and more people saying the latter, sometimes adding an "of." Perhaps it's a regional thing - I've noticed my tween daughter, who grew up here (I did not) and other locals say the latter, whereas I had never heard it phrased that way until relatively recently. I will take your answer as the definitive truth - thank you!

This so saddens me. 


It is the former. 

How much is an appropriate amount of time to wait after my puppy tries to eat his poop before I let him lick my face? Serious question. I have put toothpaste on my finger and pushed it in his mouth to speed up the process...even though toothpaste just helps with the smell. Don't think there are any disinfecting properties in there.

Seventeen minutes. 

I am a HUGE dog lover so understand where this is coming from but the poster who mentioned it is the owners not the dogs that are the problem hit it perfect. I do not thing you NEED to have your dog with you at meals and social meetings at coffee shops, etc. Only actual support animals (not self designated ones) should be in places like that. There are too many people who seem to think their dogs are their children. They are not. They are your pets. And they are superior to children.

They are superior to 77 percent of children.   Not my grandchild Max, but most of your children. 

So that fact that several of us have told you not only that we care about what stamps we use, but that we do notice what stamps are used, you just refuse to believe that? Much like Trump and facts, I would say.


From Wikipedia -- and Wikipedia is never wrong! "Chicken fingers, also known as chicken tenders, chicken goujons, chicken strips or chicken fillets, are chicken meat prepared from the pectoralis minor muscles of the animal. These strips of white meat are located on either side of the breastbone, under the breast meat, sometimes just pulverized chicken flesh." Me again -- nuggets are the ones made from questionable pieces. Oh, and here's something odd: "Chicken fingers are prepared by coating chicken meat in a breading mixture and then deep frying them, in a manner similar to the preparation of schnitzel."

For some reason, this made me laugh outloud.  They are schnitzel! 

Count me as a (second?) non-dog-lover. I don't hate your dog or wish anything bad to happen to it, but I don't want to pet it or be sniffed or licked by it, and I don't find it particularly interesting. (I don't mean your dog specifically, Gene. I mean anybody's dog.) You're not alone, OP!

This is going to sound harsh, but I don't mean it that way.  I respect your opinion, and you.   But you can always tell someone who doesn't get dogs if they call a dog "it."

Gene, The White Castle on Fordham Road in the Bronx is, not surprisingly, near Fordham University, not NYU (which is about 180 blocks south in Manhattan).

haha.  you are a youth.   a child.   a naif.  a diaper-wearing poopiepants. 


When I went to NYU it was in the Bronx.  About 12 blocks from the White Castle. 

"Doesn't phrasing it like that imply that there actually IS one to see?" Think of it this way: "Lawyer sees FBI conspiracies around every corner."

Right.  Good explanation. 

So, I'm not as Scroogie as the OP - I do think dogs are pretty great - but I am also allergic to dogs, so I resent my inability to avoid them in places where they shouldn't be (imo), such as on planes, in offices, at retail stores, etc. I can choose not to go to a person's home, for example, if I know they are a pet owner, in order to avoid 24 hours of illness, but I can't skip the grocery store or flying places for work.

Yeah, I didn't mean to belittle this.  I see the problem. 

I think that this OPED in the NYT made a pretty darn good case last week that the days of grownups coming in to save us from the administration are over.

Yeah, I liked this piece. 

I always read Barney and Clyde. While the comic may not have been haha funny, the irony is unmistakable. She looks like a child in the strip. When issues are so painful (any deaths due to gun violence, but especially children), sometimes the best way to talk about things is through comics, or graphic novels. (Think "Maus" by Art Spiegelman-- WW2 and the holocaust).

Thank you for comparing this to Maus!

Her. I've had enough badly behaved dogs foisted on me in my 64 years that I'm not going to change my opinion. People who say "oh you just haven't met my darling doggie yet" would never dream of saying to a diabetic that you just haven't met the right sugar yet.

I hereby offer to have you meet Murphy. 

His actions and effects were not complicated though, which is the problem with Wilson and LBJ. Both did good and bad things. Hitler did only bad things. (Also, liking dogs is not the same as having any redeeming personal qualities whatsoever.)

Fair point, but I think it's not quite right.   Hitler did some arguably (VERY arguably) "good" things.   He restored national pride.  He invigorated the economy.  He created a cult of personality that did wonders for morale.  

Yes, he was possibly the most awful monster in all of human history.   But I don't think he was "simple."

In the Illinois primary, Democrats are working hard to push out an incumbent D because he opposes abortion rights. If this keeps up, what are the chances that the Democrats once again nominate George McGovern, and Donald "Richard Nixon" Trump begins his next 4 years?

More likely, for sure.   What I do like is that primary challengers to him seem to be coalescing.  This country needs him gone. 

being so superior that they should be allowed everywhere that people are, but that other animals are not.

I don't believe that at all!  I believe all animals should be everywhere at all times.   Especially parrots. 

I think you are being pretty condescending on your view of the humor in this cartoon. It appears that (almost) all who commented on it have agreed that it wasn't funny. You are too close to the cartoon to render a dispassionate judgement. While I don't follow you that closely anymore, I don't remember you being that unaware back in your Tropic days...

F.U.!!! I have always been this unaware. 

Me? I went to college in the midwest, where the dining hall served pierogi on Thursdays. Lightly pan fried with onions. Nothing better.

WAAAY better.   

Is it the Phillies who have the Racing Pierogis?   I always root for them, even against the Presidents. 

The first panel as originally written established that it was a gun show. And Cynthia's last line used to be better, too.

This is sour grapes from Horace LaBadie, who we will now ignore for the remainder of this chat, which, as it happens, ends right now. 

Thanks, all.   We meet next week.  

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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.

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