Chatological Humor update

Apr 17, 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.

Take today's Trump poll.
Poll if you lean left.
Poll if you lean right.

Good afternoon. 

We are going to right to the questions, but I just had a slap-to-the-forehead insight I thought I'd share.   Other than the two candidates themselves, who is most reponsible for the election of Donald Trump?   One answer might be Vlad Putin.  Another popular one would be James Comey.   I'd like to offer a third:

Anthony Weiner. 

Weiner was responsible for bucketloads of slime being flung in Hillary Clinton's direction in the last months of the campaign, owing to his continuing tawdriness that became associated with Huma Abedin, Clinton's closest aide and friend, and by extension, to the candidate herself.  It was relentless. 

But more important, it was the search of Weiner's laptop that discovered the allegedly classified emails that caused Comey to issue his horrifying letter in the closing week of the campaign, which many believe caused the biggest damage to Clinton.    No Weiner, no letter, no Trump. 

Take the poll.  We start at noon sharp. 

What you expect will happen? Or what you *hope* will happen? A girl's gotta dream, ya know :)

I think he will serve out his term and not run again.  He don't need this crap, and would probably know he'll lose.  A New Yorker write disagrees.  We'll get to that in a minute. 

This is mostly nothing, right? It makes Hannity look like a dope, but that has already been well established. No one who likes Hannity will suddenly change their mind because of this. The only thing I can see with this is the hypocrisy that someone online pointed out - if it came out that Obama's lawyer was being investigated, and it was revealed that Rachel Maddow was also a client, Hannity and Fox News would go NUTS. Absolutely bonkers. But that's nothing new either, and I admit I'm getting fatigued from the "Well, if X had happened to YOUR side, blah blah blah" from both the left and the right.

My initial feeling was exactly yours, that it amounts to nothing, absent any information that Cohen was cleaning up a Hannity mess.  We don't have that. 

However, there is another issue.   Hannity has reported very sympathetically about Cohen -- completely OUTRAGED about the seizure of his computers, etc.   He had an ethical obligation to disclose that he had a business relationship with the guy.   I believe if a Wapo columnist did that, he would be reprimanded, possibly suspended, and possibly even fired.  

With the sad passing of Harry Anderson, I think back to the sitcom Dave's World, and I wonder: The Shadoe Stevens character was Dave's editor? So that's based on you? How did that ever happen?

It's because we bear such an uncanny physical resemblance. 

I think that "Night Court" is one of the most underappreciated work place comedies. It was an appropriate next generation "Barney Miller". What did Dave Barry think of Harry's performance in "Dave's World"?

Dave LOVED his portrayal in "Dave's World."  He is actually grieving today.  

I agree with you on Night Court.   A fabulous ensemble comedy.  Crisp writing, great subject matter, and an absolutely fabulous cast: Markie Post, John Larroquette, Marsha Warfield, and Anderson.    Larroquette, who played the prosecutor, was so good he won four consecutive Emmys for best supporting actor, something that still stands as a record. 

Sensing that he could lose in a re-election, Trump will declare that he only intended to be President for 1 term, and that now that the country is "great again" . . . . (sorry had to go vomit there), he will say he did all he set out to accomplish and chose to go back to his preferred role as businessman. I could totally see him doing this - if a R wins the next election he will take credit and if a D wins, he will say it was because he wasn't running.

I think I agree totally with this.  

Trump doesn't seem to be having a good time, you know?  

Since this is the best aptonym ever, I presume it has been previously discussed. On the off chance it has not, I submit for your review

It's not the best ever, but it's good.  The best ever might be this guy, though there are so many that are spectacular. 

Who's the villain of the Bug Bunny vs Elmer Fudd cartoons? Hot take: it's Bugs. Sure, Elmer is trying to kill/murder a sentient being, but Bugs' acts of self-defense go way beyond the call of duty. And his position is especially tenuous when you consider their episodes with Daffy, wherein Bugs defends himself by orchestrating the "killing" of another sentient being in his stead.

This is like saying the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto were the villains for fighting back. 

OKAY THAT WAS A JOKE UTILIZING THE TOOL OF ABSURDITY, JUXTAPOSING A CARTOON WITH THE HOLOCAUST.  I WAS NOT SERIOUSLY MAKING THAT COMPARISON.  But you know.  Elmer had the shotgun and was homicidal.  Bugs was not a rabbit.  He talked and schemed.  He was a person. 

Calling the President a tin POT dictator?

I think you think that "tin pot dictator" is a misuse.  It's not.  It's a term.   

However, I think Comey has lost a lot of credibility, for serious.   He took the bucks and seems to have written a kind of crappy, shallow book 

No weiner means Hillary would be president...I get it!

I did, didn't I?

I can't read any headlines about Scott Pruitt needing a $43,000 soundproof booth to discuss EPA regulations without thinking of this:  

I knew what you were linking to even before it popped up on the screen.   

Now THIS was a hugely underrated show.   

Well, the last chat inspired me and i swore off googling. Turns out I'm better at solving them on my own than I imagined. For some reason the acrostics take about the same amount of time as before, but the crosswords take longer. Thought it would be the opposite. I was only cheating myself!!

Cheating becomes an addiction.  You rely on it even where you don't need to.  

I lived in the South for awhile and began saying things like UM-brell-a, instead of um-BRELL-a. Is there a fixed geographical line over which syllable stress changes? Is it more likely that stress will be on the first syllable in the South, in order to get it over with? Was Gene Prime out 4/10 due to an FBI raid? Thank you in advance.

In reverse order:

1. No

2. I dunno

3.  One of the strangest Southern regionalisms I know is not a matter of pronunciation but word usage: "ink pen."    Apparently, this rather strange redundancy arose when Irish people began settling in the South in the 18th and 19th centuries.  They tended to pronounce "pen" as "pin," and so the redundancy was created to differentiate the two. 

If the polls stay where they are, I can see I'm in the minority in the "aunt/ant" question but I would just like to submit that: A. I am an AUN-T; B. I am not an ant; C. As a woman who's already only 5'1", I'd rather not be associated with a minuscule insect; and D. Words like "cause", "pause", "caught", and so on already tell us how to pronounce the "au" so I am *mystified* as to why people insist on saying "ant", which is itself already another word! Why add confusion to our already confusing language where words actually do sound the same (e.g. heir/air; plain/plane)? --I hope I've made my point, and everyone is shamed by their egregious failure to pronounce this word correctly.

This is from last week, but a worthy discussion.

As you know, dictionaries certify both pronunciations as correct, but I do (vaguely) see your point.  But to me, there is another factor involved, and it is dispositive, and it argues against you. 

How do you feel about pronouncing things the French way?   Do you say EN-dive or ON-deeve?   Do you pronounce it FOY-er or Fo-YAY?    Using the French sounds wildly pretentious, no?  

Well  AWNT rhymes with TANTE.   It conjures up all of that pretension.  I reject it. 

This is just coming to you now, Gene? You're 100% right, but I think you are realizing this approximately 17 months after everyone else I know who follows politics.

I have not actually heard this articulated, and demand to see proof, at which point I will ignore it.   

Is this guy EPA Secretary or Maxwell Smart? I mean, bulletproof cars, a Cone of Silence?? Whad'ya want to bet he's working on a phone in his shoe?

I am thinking you didn't read the post about this very subject. 

Let's not forget Selma Diamond, who died and was replaced by Marsha Warfield. Selma's gravelly voice and "seen it all before" attitude were hilarious.

No memory of her, but Warfield carried through that persona quite well.  

Have you heard yet from Dave Barry regarding the death of harry Anderson, who played a fictionalized version of Barry on the sit-com "Dave's World"? Did Dave know Harry very well? Any funny stories?

Haven't talked to Dave yet about this, but what I do remember is that Dave thought Anderson was 1) incredibly nice and gracious, and  2) incredibly professional.  One-take Harry. 

I don't agree that the Post would necessarily or even probably fire an opinion columnist who failed to disclose a business relationship. The Post never fired the reporters (not opinion writers) who falsely reported that the Russians had hacked the power grid. Other media outlets had to report on this error and note that the reporters hadn't even bothered to check with the public utility in question before publishing the story. If huge factual mistakes in reporting along with huge errors in verifying one's stories are tolerated, I can't see anybody being fired for failing to disclose a business relationship, especially an opinion writer. Sorry, that's my two cents on the issue, and I'm sure you disagree.

You are completely wrong about this.  It is a ridiculous comparison.  

A mistake is ... you know, a mistake.   It happens.  If it is based on completely irresponsible reporting, you punish it, but mostly it is not. 

If you fail to disclose a financial / intimate relationship with someone you are writing positively about... that's a class A misdemeanor or, more likely, a felony.   I have some stature and I believe my contract would be terminated if I did that as egregiously as Hannity.   The Post takes this stuff very seriously. 

 Kevlar seat covers??!?!?? Is Scott Pruitt afraid that someone is going to shoot him in the byootocks? I guess it's evidence that Scott Pruitt will go to any lengths to cover his ass.

Vern nice line. 

Last week I asked you about Meuller Investigation vs. Watergate and you mentioned how there were certain things that were considered big moments. While the raid on Trump's lawyer wasn't specifically done by Meuller's camp, I couldn't help but think of your response last week as I watched the coverage. Do you think history will prove that to be a critical point in the (presumed) fall of Trump?

Well, the developments of yesterday suggests the damage, whatever it may be, could be limited.  If a judge decides to have a separate hearing officer review the files and decide which might be protected by attorney-client privilege, Trump (and Cohen) could slide on this. 

Why oh WHY do Chinese restaurants insist on putting peas in fried rice? I HATE PEAS!!!

Peas bother me.  Carrots bother me more. 

She was a legendary comedy writer, and one of the few (maybe even the only) women writer on Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows" (along with Carl Reiner, Howie Morris, the Simon brothers, a young Woody Allen, doubtless others I'm forgetting off the top of my head, for lack of time to look it up).

Uh, you are merely forgetting .... Imogene Coca.  

So, Hannity is saying 'I might have given Cohen $10 to establish attorney-client privilege" and everyone is comparing it to a scene in Breaking Bad, where Saul Goodman tells the the meth cookers to stick a dollar in his pocket. Hannity is getting his legal knowledge from Breaking Bad.

Do we all remember the pun surrounding Saul Goodman,, and why he took that name?   Brilliant screenwriting. 

S'all good, man. 

Gene, you recently said you attended NYU in the Bronx. My mother attended NYU (Manhattan) some years ahead of you, and she says the university had only an engineering school in the Bronx. I doubt you went to the engineering school but am confused by all this. Can you clear it up?

It had two schools.  Engineering and Arts and Science.  Oh, and a small one in Public Policy.  You can guess which I was in. 

I remember another show he did called "The John Larroquette Show", where he played a recovering alcoholic who managed a bus depot. I will never forget the scene where someone brought a bottle of wine to his apartment, of course he couldn't drink any, but he poured them a glass. Not in a wine glass, but a full size drinking glass that he filled to the top. I think I laughed a little too hard at that because...yeah.

It's the opposite of the classic Michael Dukakis story, showing what a fud he was.   Dukakis was visited in his home by two Teamsters, to discuss business.  He asked if they wanted a beer, and they said yes, and he returned with exactly that, one beer.   He split it into two glasses. 

You walk a very fine and snobby line there, my friend. Given how often you deride and sneer at people who pronounce & spell like 'rubes' (I can give examples, but you know what I'm talking about), to also sneer at things you find too toity and pretentious is a bit precarious, innit? Or are you intentionally finding spurious reasons to sneer at everyone who doesn't agree exactly with you at all times because you know it riles us up?

It's all of these things. 

But I am right about AWNT.

Still confident about the (8-7, 5 games behind the Sox) Yankees?

Oh, yes.  Absolutely.  I have a column coming out about this.  I wrote it on opening day, so, um, I was a little MORE confident. 

The person who is complaining that WAPO didn't fire the reporters for making a mistake has apparently forgotten that Janet Cooke was fired for making stuff up.

Yes.  The entire issue is whether what happened was deliberate. 

So ... what's your take on the Nats?

I'm a bit shocked so far.   Shroder thinks last night's comeback win might be a turning point.  Might be.   

That's the original phrase.

That's my point. 

"How do you know the Clintons didn't kill Vince Foster?" "Anthony Wiener is still alive."

That's good.  Takes a few seconds. 

My roommate in college was from Puerto Rico so I hung out with a lot of the Puerto Rican kids. They taught me Spanish and I became the go-to person for English slang and pronunciation. One day, one of the girls came to me to ask me what the difference was in pronouncing Sheet, Sheet and Sheet. I said "what?" She said, Sheet, like you put on a bed, Sheet like you look at someone else's paper in class and Sheet like you go to the bathroom.

i like that. 

Selma Diamond wrote for Caesar's Hour, not for Your Show of Shows. Lucille Kallen wrote for both. Imogene Coca was a brilliant comic actor, but not a writer.

Ah, good. 

School of Pharmacology? ;)

Ha.  Yes, I was in a class of one. 

how much was tuition at NYU-bronx when you attended? could people really work their way through school? (re)signed, a millennial

I'm remember something like 5k a semester, plus room and board.  But remember this is 1969.  It's now one of the most expensive schools on the planet. 

Did you ever get to the bottom of the people blocked from your Twitter that you hadn't actually blocked?

No, but several people told me it had also happened to them.  


Curious as to your thoughts/response to this column in the Post: 

I don't have any problem with this column, though I disagree with some of it.   She's making a reasoned argument, and not doing it obnoxiously. 

I would observe only this: Being conservative and being liberal are ideologies, and they are not necessarily ideologies of equal ethics, validity, humanitarianism, etc.   It's not a zero-sum game.  The fact that the media tends to be left-leaning doesn't necessarily mean that we need to get the numbers equal in order to be "fair."  But I do see how this can make conservatives feel beleaguered, and I can see how that can be destructive. 

A New Yorker writer contends that what will sink Trump -- and sooner rather than later -- is the exposure of Trump's extensive international ties with known criminals. Thoughts?

This is what I was referring to earlier. 

I just have no idea what to make of this.  Do we think that Mueller is even looking into any of these dealings?  

If you're going to blame Weiner, you also have to blame Clinton for continuing her long-time association with Abedin. After all, how did the emails get on Weiner's laptop? If Clinton had dumped Abedin, she might have been able to close the book and move on.

I began with the assumption that the two people most responsible for Trump's win were Trump and Clinton. 

It's not "awnt," it's "ahnt."

I've heard both.  But that's even closer to "tante."

Here's what I think: I think Trump is going to quit, not for an obvious reason (Russia, Mueller, et al), but because he has a greater fear, which is that his "I'm a successful businessman" shtick will be exposed as pure fantasy. I think this will hurt him in a much, much deeper, even existential way than any kind of criminal accusation, or even criminal indictment, could. I thought of this reading Adam Davidson's New Yorker piece this weekend: in it, he described Trump, Inc. in a way I never considered before, but made sense: as a handful of pathetic people trying desperately to maintain the fiction that they operate a powerful multinational corporation. I think Trump, at his core, fears the exposure of this more than he fears anything else. So my prediction: Trump's greatest fear is being exposed as not a liar, or a fraud, but a farce; and he will quit before he is exposed as the man behind the curtain.

Yeah, he has always seemed obsessed by any suggestion he is less rich than he claims to be. 

Thank you. 

does this pseudoword drive you as crazy as it does me?

Not particularly.  It serves a purpose.   I suppose you could argue that "protege" is a more elegant and less cutesy.   But mentee doesn't bug me nearly as much, for example, as "preventative."    Preventive. 

Can you imagine having Comey over for a dinner party?

I have an instinctive dislike for him, and it doubled with the book, and trebled with the interview with Stephanopoulos.  He seems exactly like the guy I don't want to eat with.  

I didn't see this but a friend says there was hilarious moment in the interview where Comey described Trumps face as being orange with little white circles around the eyes -- and that's exactly what Comey looked like. 

In the alternative, blame Abedin for marrying Weiner in the first place, then not dumping him as soon as she discovered his bad behavior.

I am not sure I understand why Clinton made a mistake in associating the Abedin.  Abedin is not guilty of or responsible for her husband's misdeeds. 

My wife who grew up on Long Island says "Spinnage." I, correctly, say "Spinnitch." Where do you land?

I don't care.  But I don't like "acrost" or "heighth"

Staying out of the debate about whether somebody should be fired, I was struck by the claim that the reporters didn't bother to call the public utility. Do newspapers no longer employ the kind of fact-checkers that led to Stephen Glass's downfall? Am I wrong that they used to?

Fact-checkers are a magazine thing, not newspapers.  At newspapers, the role was always served, more sporadically, by copyeditors, who had lots of other things to do, too.   And now there are fewer copyeditors.  

Know who is primarily responsible for facts?  The reporters.  That's the way it should be. 

Because he needs the attention. Needs it. He's said before that good or bad attention doesn't matter. If he goes down, he wants to go down as the worst president ever. He wants to be remembered. He will not go quietly.

But it's not like he gets no attention as Donald Trump. 

Would you like to speculate about how many people voted for Trump not because they wanted him to be President, but because they wanted to cast a protest vote against Clinton and the larger establishment, secure in the knowledge that Clinton was "sure to win" (kinda like many Brexit voters)?

Probably enough for him to win.  

Last night I watched an early episode of "Law & Order: SVU" (from the year 2000), in which the plot line had to do with Russian emigrés in NYC, especially Brighton Beach. Russian prostitutes were, in certain Russian circles, admired for their assertiveness and eagerness to get ahead in life. And one throwaway line was that Russian politicians admired Bill Clinton MORE for his Oval Office activity with Monica Lewinsky, because it evidenced his greater virility. Luckily I wasn't drinking any liquids at the time, because I would've spit-sprayed all over the coach, thinking of the "golden shower" that Trump allegedly observed in that Moscow Presidential suite.

I can tell you the French definitely  liked Clinton more for that.  

Wasn't that also pretty expensive for its time? What's even worse IMO is how expensive public universities have become. In the 1980's I earned two degrees (BA and JD) from the University of California. It took seven years and I spent a total of $48,000, including room, board, textbooks, etc. for that entire period. My 11th grader will likely burn through that much just to get through her freshman year if she goes anywhere except our in-state public university. Even taking inflation into account, it's depressing. Even in the blue states we have lost touch with the idea that educating our young is both a civic responsibility and a public good.

I think colleges have priced themselves into a very serious crisis. 

Hi Gene, (long-time reader but first-time asker here) I know you've had your say on "reach out" and various other recent diseases, but I can't recall reading your take on "having said this".

It's more like "For his part" than "reach out."  Reach out is just a vomitous term.  For his part and having said that are just throat-clearing.  They mean nothing.   

How much wiggle room does he have? He's just looking for collusion, right? Or is it obstruction? What if finds out that Trump is doing something illegal that's neither of those things? How does that get handled.

Historically, he goes after it.    Ken Starr was investigating Whitewater, and wound up investigating BJs. 

My wife tells a story about her just off the boat from Poland father looking for a furnished apartment in DC. He asked whether there were sheets on the bed, but that's not what the landlady heard. "No sh*ts on the bed!," she said.

This made me laugh out loud.  


Please don't start acting like Gene, who thinks that regional pronunciation differences should not exist.

I don't believe that.  I just believe some regionalisms are dumb.  

what's with the "ab"?

They are slightly different words.  Similar, but not the same.  Practical means commonsensical.  Makes sense.  Practicable means able to be accomplished. 

That damned AT&T commercial from the late 1970s.

"Reach out to" is older.  It's 12-step jargon. 

I was just thinking this the other day while I was standing on line.

Now, see.  There you go.  I have actually jettisoned "on line" from my vocab after using it for the first 30 years of my life.  I REJECTED MY OWN REGIONALISM. 

I would say "how very New York of you" but you'd probably take that as a compliment.


Pastry chef Jacques Torres used to host a cooking show, probably on PBS. He has a French accent, but has lived in the US for a long time and is careful about pronouncing certain words. I remember one time he had another French chef on as a guest, who had a much heavier accent. They must have been working with sheets of filo dough, and Torres kept trying to get his guest to say, "sheet", knowing how it would sound to American ears.

At the Miami Herald, when Dave and Tom and I were being interviewed on TV or radio, we had to be very careful about how we pronounced the "Tropic Hunt."  Lot a space between words. 

Pretty sure Hillary set Abedin and Weiner up in the first place -

Good point.  


What really burns my britches is the Berners who didn't vote for Hillary and are now complaining about Trump who honestly believe it's not their fault for not voting. It's the DNC's fault for not making Bernie the nominee.

I think Bernie would have lost.  I've said this before, but Trump would have turned it into a fight between capitalism and socialism. 

I honestly don't get the hostility to telling someone to "reach out" - it seems like a shorter way to say "get in contact with." I use it at work all the time. I'm a west coast Gen-Xer if it matters.

It's icky because it carries an icky connotation.  

To "reach out to" is to extend your heart to another human, blah blah blah.  

Mark Trail has been very surreal the past month or so. Especially when the injured clowns showed up.

Mark Trail has ALWAYS been weird. 

Okay, guys.  I'm outta here.  Next week same place. 

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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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