Chatological Humor (Feb. 19)

Feb 19, 2019

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.

Good afternoon.

A brief intro today, based upon personal history.  I recently stumbled upon the first story I wrote twenty-odd years ago, after quitting my job as an editor at the Post, and becoming a writer.   I had been a little famous as an editor, having done some somehwat unusual things, none of which we have to go into here.

I also had a new boss.   David Von Drehle, one of my closest friends, had become the new editor of the Style section.  This was a recipe for problems: David and I both understood that he kind of trusted me, within reason, and that I was not entirely to be trusted. 

Basically, I needed an adult supervisor.  David was very much an adult, and he was my supervisor, but you see the problem.  He also was my really close friend.

So, a few days after I had left my job as an editor I went to David and told him I had an idea for what would be my first story as a writer.  This is, as best as I can remember, how it went:

Me: So.  I have a story.

David:  Good!

Me:  I will have it in a couple of hours.

David: Good.

Me: Everyone will hate it.

David: Good!

Me: it will be satire but no one will read it as satire.

David: Good.

Me: Every Jewish person in the world will be offended.

David:  Wait, what?

Me:  Kidding.  But there is really no defending this story on any level.

David: Good.

Me: Do you have any idea what you are getting into here?

David: No.

Me: Good.

He ran the story.  Here it is. 


And here are the letters we received about it.


I am mentioning this today because the news binness has changed a bit, and I fear "Good" is no longer a reflex reaction by strong editors.  If I am right, this is not Good.


In the last chat, I called for important new nicknames for the president of the United Staes, and promised to anoint one the best.  I got none I loved.  But since then, on Twitter, I found one.  It is really sensational.  I cannot locate the original artist, but he or she is definitely an artist.  Here it is.

The Ayatollah Roly-Poly.


We start at noon sharp.


Lists of good movies but the Post should’ve asked you instead of Jill Abramson.

I think this is a really good list.  I could not have done better.

There are predidents we need to exclude from the Presidents Day holiday. Tyler, Buchanan, Rutherford B. Hayes, Papadoc and Babydoc Bush, Nixon, LBJ, and Cadet Bonespurs to start. Anyone else?

I would eliminate Hayes from your list.  He surprised people by being okay.  I would eliminate the first Bush.  I would definitely add Franklin Pierce. LBJ is too complicated to include.


Hi.  I love you.

Is anyone paying attention to the unqualified cabinet secretaries that aren't regularly in the news? I haven't heard of anything from "Ooops" Rick Perry except he was the designated survivor. Is Ben Carson's family still propping him up?

Wait.  Is Rick Perry still in the cabinet?

I watched the SNL cold open this weekend before I read the details of what Trump actually said in his rambling "press conference." (And I always avoid listening to him live, if possible.) So I thought the SNL writers had done a great job of satirizing what Trump was probably thinking--until I read the Post and discovered that the skit included many of Trump's exact words or close approximations! It's just too bizarre, and am I wrong to think that makes it somehow less funny?

In a way, it does.  Because it underscores how much trouble we are in.  We are in a LOT of trouble, and not just because an idiot is president.  Because he is supported by 40 percent of the idiots in America.

Alexandra Petri is WAY funnier than you are, and yet her chat is pathetically worse. (I'm talking about the quality of the "questions" -- which are typically lame jokes, which makes for a terrible chat -- not her responses.) I can't figure out why this is. Why is someone so much funnier than you are the host to an inferior chat?

it's a conundrum.  Ask her.  She's really funny!

The first things that jumped out at me was the hunter that decided to amputate his leg after being pinned for ONE HOUR. I've spent more time trying to figure out what to make for dinner.

I think he understood how screwed he was.

"Quote of the day" on the reverse of my Pearls Before Swine desk calendar for Presidents' Day: "Presidents quickly realize that while a single act might destroy the world they live in, no one single decision can make life suddenly better or can turn history around for the good." (Lyndon Johnson) Methinks his Orangeness believes the opposite.

Do NOT criticize the Ayatollah Roly Poly.

At one time, I recall you thought that one of your best lines you'd ever come up with was one about your plumber being "like John Henry, a stool-drivin' man." Your judgment is flawed. This is better: "Trees kill. Their bite is worse than their bark."

It is possible -- neither of us recalls this for sure-- that Von Drehle wrote that line.

The Tangerine Tornado (he destroys everything he encounters) or the Underminer ( he undercuts the foundations of our society and NOTHING is beneath him).


What? It sounds like you're saying everyone in America is an idiot, and 40% of said idiots support Individual-1. Did you mean that 40% of Americans support him, and that those 40% are idiots? I hope so.

I meant that the forty percent of Americans who support him are, by definition, idiots.

Isn't this the lesson of Clinton, who first denied and then became indignant once his denial was untenable? And Trump, who literally was caught on tape saying terrible things? We're now seeing the lesson applied in Virginia, where Justin Fairfax has not only refused to step down, but has even gone on the attack against his accusers - who not only have nothing to gain, but also have no discernible connection that could explain the similarities in their stories unless they are telling the truth. Many argue that Faifax's political future is ruined after these allegations, but perhaps this makes him more qualified for The White House?

Read today's oped page in the Post.

"Why is someone so much funnier than you are the host to an inferior chat?" The simple answer: Her persona is much nicer than yours. The more complex one: Speaking as a fan of both you and Ms. Petri, and your respective chats, I don't think hers is inferior in quality. It's just softer in tone, and tends to attract chatters who are comfortable with that. You enjoy snark and baiting readers/chatters, which is also perfectly fine.


Butt Jump seems apropos as well.

Yes, agreed.

What compels people to write to the editor about things like your Tree piece?

I LOVE humorless letters to the editors.  They are my favorite things in the paper.

I think the difference is that Petri is more into atrocious puns, which may strike some as lame, whereas Weingarten is more into aptonyms and fart jokes, with frequent detours into weightier subjects. I participate in both chats, and I'm a fan of atrocious puns. I agree that Petri is funnier than Weingarten, but both are entertaining. Usually.

Good.  Thank you.  Farts the first joke.  That is very important.

I get the reference but don't find it catchy or clever enough to be "the best" by a long shot, particularly as it's a slam on his size, which is frankly irrelevant except for his absurd lying about appearance related matters. Would you give a derogatory nickname to a woman related to her appearance? If not, why is this ok? DAMNIT GENE YOU MADE ME DEFEND THAT SOCIOPATH I'LL NEVER FORGIVE THIS.

Totally understood.

But we need to discuss this.

Ayatollah:  He is a fan of autocrats.  He wants to be one, desperately.

Roly-poly.  sorry.  apololgies.  but our country is laughably fat, and our president has just officially become the first obese president in 110 years.   This is fair game.

Ruhollah Khomeini.  The sound of it is fabulous. 

Sorry.  It's really good.

You're not a fan? How about Trumpty Dumpty?

Not a big fan.  Too ubiquitous.

Gene, what's your take on this decision to drop Non Seq? I call it sanctimonius cowardice. What say you?

it was a really, really, really bad stupid idiotic joke.  Its problem was how stupid and hamfisted it was, but it's bigger problem, frankly, is that he snuck it past his syndicate.

I am really conflicted here.  I think cartoonists should have maximum leeway, and should be forgiven for occasionally overreaching.

This was moronic. 

I love them and then I realize that it is these same people who vote for Trump.


Ayatollah Roly-Poly is good, but it fails to capture his hue. I suggest Orange-atang.

Not bad.

If we're going for alliteration, I offer Mango Manbaby.

Not bad either.

Il Douche' is shorter and punchier.

Not bad either.

When you were editing Kornheiser, did you two high five when one of his columns was castigated on the Free For All page (which is my favorite page in the paper, btw.)


Might be dated, but just "Ivana Trump's ex-husband"?

I prefer "marla maples's ex-husband."

I'm intrigued by the Post article today that talks about Trump just picking up the phone to chat with random Members of Congress. Do you think they know it's him when he calls? Do they dodge his call and pretend to be out running errands or getting their stomach pumped? And what would YOU do if you picked up the phone and heard "Hey, Geno! It's me, Donald. How ya doin'?"

I know what I would say.  I can't say it here.

There is a dead branch hanging precariously from the upper limbs of a large Oak in my back yard. It has been there for over two years now. It is often in motion, but will not fall. It has survived ice storms, snow storms, rain storms, wind storms, hail storms, and the occasional bolt of lightning. Still it will not fall. But I know that it, eventually, will. Probably while I am standing beneath it.

Please send in your name and address so when it kills you I can write the most wonderful obituary ever.

I appreciated the satire in your article on killer trees, but I'm not sure I would have when it was printed.

Believe me, I understand. 

"Is your refrigerator running?" seems perfectly innocuous.

Is your refrigerator running?

Has this been revised? If not, what is the actual offense?

He hid a fu mesage, not well, in the scribbles.

I hae a rule, with Barney & Clyde.  If i am hiding something, or implying something that might not be obvious,  or doubl entendre something, I tell Amy, my publisher.  No surprises.  That is not weenie-ness.  That is professionalism. 

one of my most un-favorite humans along with Bani Sadr. Was 12 years old when they took Dad (and our other embassy personnel hostage. Good nickname for Trump, but hope he's not nearly so bad!

Sorry.  He's pretty bad.

Wondered about your take on this editor/publisher in an Alabama town who is calling for the Ku Klux Klan to "night ride" again to storm gated communities up North and who advocates lynching communists and socialists who he claims aren't real Americans. It sounds from this story like he was once a crusading editor. 

He needs to go away.    This caused a good friend of mine to observe this morning that he seems to be in an alternative universe.   This sort of thing is now okay?

Man, this chat is moving slower than Trump's neurons.

Yeah, sorry.  I am having some computer problems.  Gonna end it now.  I love you all though, except for those of you who know who you are. 

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: