Chatological Humor with Gene Weingarten

Oct 06, 2020

You asked for it and you got it. Gene holds weekly chats every Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET, where he takes your questions about what's happening in the country — and anything else you want to discuss.

Here is Gene's latest column.

Here is this week's poll.

Hello there! My aunt read last week's chat the day after it posted and remarked that we all seemed so young and innocent before the debate happened to us. 

That was Wednesday. 

I had you all watch President Trump's Saturday video because I had a reaction that surprised me, and then surprised me some more that no one else seemed to react the same way. So I wanted to see if anyone else felt that way. And the answer is no! 

Until the video posted all I really knew was that he had symptoms and that nobody would be telling the truth about how sick he was. Whatever else I feel and think about him, a dangerously ill President is not good for the country, especially if all the rest of us know is we're being lied to about it. 

So seeing him there, speaking and everything, was a relief. And he was different than I had ever seen. No war paint. He wasn't angry or scapegoating. He wasn't bragging. He was grateful and seemed to want to reassure me. It was so odd. 

He's been proven a con man over and over again, and I never really understood how anyone was taken in. But this video worked on me. He seemed more human than I have ever seen him.

Kathleen Parker wrote last week

"Could this be it? By “it,” I mean the thing that finally forces Trump to become human? In the event that Trump experiences the full brunt of the disease that has killed 200,000 Americans, might he emerge from the passage transformed? Illness can be a fast track to humility, gratitude and grace."

It seemed possible.

That was Saturday. 

My poll answers were vulnerable, and more positive, however temporarily. I also thought "Who's writing this for him?" And it made me think of Lyndon Johnson's first press conference after being sworn in on the airplane the day President Kennedy was shot. 

Here it is, 20 seconds in. The most famous part is the end, "I will do my best. It is all I can do. I ask for your help, and God's."

It seems awfully humble, doesn't it? Not really like Johnson. Liz Carpenter, his executive assistant, wrote it. As far as history has recorded it is the first time a woman wrote the President's first words to the nation. She'd been a reporter and she was there. 

Today's premium sports content is an ad for pantyhose. Take the poll and tell me your feelings. We're back here at noon. 

It's the elephant in the room, so somebody needs to admit it: Rachel is not Gene. Rachel is smart and charming and many other nice things, but Rachel is not Gene. I'm sure that Rachel would attract a loyal following with her own live chat, and she would give it a clever name of some sort, but it would not be Chatological Humor. I come to this chat for Gene and his special blend of self-conscious obnoxiousness, humor, and a smattering of serious views about the state of the world. For Truth in Advertising and for some rare honesty in our public discourse, can the Post agree to call this chat something else when Gene isn't here? We miss you, Gene.

Gene misses you too! And yep, I hear you. He says he's about 50-50 back next week and definitely back thereafter. I would definitely be more obnoxious if this were a group formed around me. And grumpy! Many people have said they miss the grump. 

 Here. I’m surprised “yes, a lot,” and “no, it will worsen,” made such a poor showing.

All of the above. 

I think it's an abomination that Hax is so easy to find and Gene is not. I outgrew Hax years ago, but I feel like I've grown up with Gene. Are the number of chat attendees they attract different enough to justify hiding Gene and putting Hax out front and center? I usually use the search tool to find Gene and Carolyn Hax is 3rd on the list of top searches, after Biden and Trump and 3 positions before Date Lab. Does this reflect WaPo readers? I find it so weird!

I think Hax's numbers destroy everyone else. 

I find it by going to the "search" feature (magnifying glass) and typing in chat name. Little more work, but usually worth it.

I'd like to hear from the people who can't find the chat. 

It's bad enough that COVID has (most of) us in a pretty deep funk, but what makes it worse (at least to me) are the nearly daily back-and-forths in the news surrounding Trump. I realize that constantly causing chaos is part of Trump's strategy (because it's not easy to hit a moving target), but I find it hard most days to even check the news. Even if today's headlines look promising (to being rid of this national nightmare), I can only assume that tomorrow's news will be depressing. And even if should Biden win the election, there is still an apparently large number of Americans out there who think Trump is great. I don't really have a question, but I guess I feel a little better just trying to express my frustrations with life right now.

I'm here to not really help with that. 

If I knew nothing else about him, I think he would seem humble and thoughtful. But, y'know. Whatever someone says comes to us through a mental filter built from what we know, or think we know, about them. It's hard to turn that off even as an exercise. It's like if, say, your neighbor is really into dolphin porn. You'll be examining everything he says for how it fits into the dolphin-porn angle.

The solution is to assume everyone is into dolphin porn. 

I picked "Something Else" for how he "seems" to be. I assume he is being deceitful, and he wants to appear strong, and he certainly should be scared (I know I would be). But he doesn't "seem" to be any of those as I watch the video. However, in the news footage when he returned to the White House last night and stood on the balcony and took off his mask, in that moment he did appear to be vulnerable and possibly scared.

I know Gene has written about the Jeffrey MacDonald case before as well as the Errol Morris book from a number of years ago, but I was wondering if he had any additional thoughts after FX documentary based on the book?

From Weingarten Prime: I have not seen it yet --working! -- but I have spoken at length to the filmmaker, Marc Smerling.   I have a feeling he got it right.  Jeffrey MacDonald is the guiltiest man on Earth.  It is so obvious -- as is the pathetic thinness and duplicity of Errol Morris's book -- that there really is no other story.   Please read this and this.  

Teufel here: I haven't seen the documentary either, but it does seem to be based on Morris's book and also take down Morris's book. Unusual. 

I like you Rachel Man-Devil but Gene has been with me for over 2 decades and I've come to really adore him.

Okay, but please be mean to him when he comes back. 

I can't even remember the last time I heard him speak. Yell, harangue, and bloviate, sure, but just plain normal human speech was something I hadn't heard out of Trump in months, maybe years. I forgot he had an inside voice. Imagine if he had a functioning moral compass too!

It was jarring!

Did Trump go out of his way to call Melania old? "Just a tiny bit younger?" Sure sounds like a jab. Could there be a bit of tension between them, now that Melania has learned via NYT that Trump is not only broke, but is over $400m in debt, for which she's on the hook?

I saw it as him being facetious, as she is famously much younger than him. Hadn't thought that she might be responsible for his debts. Anyone with knowledge know? 

1. Were Amy Coney Barrett’s children tested for covid before the so-called ACB super-spreader event in the Covid Garden (formerly known as the Rose Garden)? Children are often asymptomatic spreaders. Is it possible that they were the source of the White House cluster?

2. Have ACB’s children been tested AFTER the Covid Garden event? And what are the results?

3. Did Walter Reed Hospital save samples of the POTUS’s covid infection? Can it be (legally and scientifically) used to match to possible infectors and infectees of POTUS?

4. If Biden or Wallace get covid (God forbid), can they sue POTUS?

5. And Bill Barr’s snot swipe followed by handshake.

This is where it would be much easier to be fake news that makes everything up. 

If one person can be identified as the one who infected Trump, I would worry for that person's safety. 

The movie "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, 2020! Did you see the movie as part of an audience-participation event in the theaters? What do you think about the movie? And did you ever see the show live in its stage, theatrical version? The entity actually started as a play, in London, I believe. Then it was made into a movie.

In high school I went to see one of my theater teachers play Frank N. Furter. There were some middle schoolers in the row ahead whose theater teacher was playing Magenta. Also, friends of the show sat in the back yelling back all the things you yell back because the regular audience could not be counted on. 

Have you gone to Halloween season haunted house attractions as a kid, and as an adult? If so, which Halloween haunted attractions have you been to? Have you been to Markoff's Haunted Forest in Poolesville, Maryland?!

Nope! Are they doing it this year?  

Rachel, The ultimate recycling issue is that it's more expensive and difficult to recycle everything but metals. Aluminum recycling is the only type that's profitable. Dirty paper and cardboard ruins then clean stuff. It's why you don't recycle greasy pizza boxes. Plastics 1 and 2 are easy to recycle but have to be clean. Other plastics are more difficult or impossible. Glass also has to be separated by color and type. Right now, in order to do real recycling, tax money has to be used. Socialist Sweden does. So do certain cities in California, hello San Fransisco!

A public necessity that doesn't turn a profit? Who would pay for that? 

By definition, anyone with knowledge knows.


is the answer. He looks tired and somewhat haggered to me. And it's weird not to see him normal people colored instead of orange. Can I comment about making American great again? Wasn't he supposed to have done that? If he's supporters are still wearing MAGA hats doesn't that mean Trump failed, made America worse and we need someone else to make America great again? I want a blue MAGA hat!

My plan four years ago was to tweet "America is great again" when she won. 

What happened to Petri Dishes today? I checked last week's chat and she said she'd see us next week. Don't tell me the Post axed her too!

She and Gene are off somewhere, laughing. 

Gene (Assuming you're here): I found it unnerving that, in your absence, one poll question showed that more than 70 percent of the respondents wouldn't consider continuing an acquaintance with a person who supported the "other" candidate for president. Is it really that bad? I have some friends who are strongly antiabortion who won't support Biden no matter what. I'm not going to reject them because of that.

From Weingarten Prime: Wait about three weeks.   I have a magazine story coming out about this subject. 

I would love to know why the chatter with the plastic recycling conundrum was afraid to go into a Whole Foods? I have been pondering this for two weeks.

I imagined it like in Pretty Woman when the salesclerks are rude. Fear of entering someplace you don't think is for you. 

Obviously you (Rachel) weren't around during his playing or pantyhose days. You also weren't around when Namath played (and later provided commentary) on Monday Night Football, where Howard Cosell invariably called him "Joe Willie Namath". Have you seen his recent Medicare supplemental insurance ads?  He appears starting about 20 seconds in, although I find it hard to believe that Joe Namath would be calling the Medicare coverage help line himself.

Why can't we see his legs?

Rachel, I'm not sure if you're aware that Joe Namath appeared in several commercials that, at the time, went up to the limit of what the networks would permit on the air. There was the commercial for a popcorn maker where Namath says, "There's nothing I enjoy more than hot buttered popcorn." Namath had quite the reputation as a man who "loved the ladies." Any adult who saw that commercial realized that had Namath been truthful, he would have added the clause, " and a hot piece of a__." Then there was the Noxema shaving cream commercial, in which Namath looks into the camera and exclaims, "I'm so excited! I'm gonna get creamed!" Farrah Fawcett then proceeds to apply Noxema saving cream all over Namath's face, making it that rare instance where the woman gives the man "a facial." Double entendre was the commercial currency of the day.


This video by Kathryn and Mandy Patinkin is the greatest political ad of all time

Your subject line is great. There's an f bomb in the video. And way to maintain our Evita (original Broadway version) content. 

Also, Finishing the Hat

Not to beat a dead horse, but count me among the people baffled by the placement of the link to live chats. If you want to put it in the section menu, cool. Makes sense, especially with the nice redesign of the home page. That's what I click to get to Food and whatnot. But that menu itself makes no sense! Why are there like 50 links? You have links for both Climate & Environment and Climate Solutions! What the heck is Launcher? Road to Recovery? Why isn't Election 2020 a subset of Politics? Suffice it to say, there is nothing intuitive about that menu. It's almost aggressively user-unfriendly.

I am revealing here for the first time that Weingarten is to blame for the whole thing. 

Please post a pic of Gene with the front page of today's WaPo...just so we can all rest assured.

I'm sorry, he's unavailable at the moment. 

Throughout the pandemic many of the most serious outbreaks have been in meat processing plants where workers are forced to continue their jobs without proper safety gear, in close proximity to one another, with little information about testing or isolation, and no help from the company bosses. Imagine how those conditions now have been transferred to the White House for all those staffers laboring next to oh so many infected individuals!

Jada Yuan has a good story about it here. I can also imagine it becoming a test of loyalty to go without a mask around him, to prove you're not afraid or letting it run your life. Aagh. 

Trump seems to be afraid of being afraid. Do you think that is a circular route to insanity?

It's probably fine. 

If you think he looked even marginally human Saturday, what about later? He's telling us covid is nothing to be afraid of. He literally doesn't understand that he has had a level of medical care -- including experimental drugs -- that is not available to anyone else on earth. But if it works for him....

The effect has worn off. By Sunday I was watching the Saturday video wondering what I'd been thinking. 

Helen Reddy and Mac Davis died on the same day--Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020--at the same age, 78, and they had nearly identical careers! They hit huge levels of popularity and success in the early-, mid- and late-1970s; they had hit songs, television shows and acting gigs; and both subsequently had very successful second acts in the 1980s--Reddy with acting in theater on Broadway and the West End and Davis with a string of huge country hits. And then both continued to work successfully in the 1990s and 2000s! Did you ever meet Helen Reddy or Mac Davis, and have you ever interviewed any other musicians (besides the subway violin guy) for newspaper and magazine feature stories? If so, who?!

I did not know about Reddy's acting! That's cool. 

I interviewed Nils Lofgren about his tap dancing

There are far worse kinks in this world.

As long as the dolphins are happy. Like this

No question. My sister’s birthday was yesterday. I miss her. She lives 20 minutes away. She is a high school teacher. I work in a restaurant. We both have kids. Our mom is immunosupressed. Gene, I miss my sister. Dude. I miss my sister.


If I recall, Gene had some reasons against a popular vote. Rachel, what are your thoughts? My husband had some good points that the electoral system is basically a racist setup. I greatly like and respect the hubs, but I would love some additional intelligent perspectives.

John Oliver cited a study, I think in this episode, that the net effect of various antidemocratic measures in our government is that on average, a Black person has 75% as much representation as a White person. There are no good arguments for that. 

I had no idea that the orange guy was so strong that he could will away COVID. I mean that kind of super strength should account for something right? Would Biden be able to do that????

Has he even tried?

There was a problem with your poll -- it did not have an option for "Why the F**K are you asking me to watch video of this sh--bag? Do you understand the degree to which I go out of my way to avoid watching, listening to, or thinking about him?" So with no other recourse I chose "Other."

That works. 

Chris has a lot of chutzpah for saying "Do they think rules for anybody else do not apply to them (Trump & his family)?" Well, yes they do because people like Wallace and the Cleveland Clinic don't enforce the rules! Cleveland Clinic could have called security and removed the family if they didn't put masks on, but they didn't. Wallace could have stopped the debate, but he didn't. These are only the 2 most recent examples, but there have been countless times where they have been able to get away with flaunting the rules and nobody does nothin'. And that's why they do what they do, no consequences ever.

Good point. 

Too late, Gene, 538 had that story yesterday.

Oh. I guess he'll be back next week!


Shouldn't the count down be in Russian?

Did you know that sloths only poop once a week, and it can be as much as 1/3 their body weight? 

Now I do!

Those of us who are Asian American were praying, praying, and praying more for Trump's full and complete recovery. If you think it was bad to be Asian American before when the President blamed the "China virus" every single day, just wait for the response from his supporters if he didn't recover. Pence would probably just send us to internment camps to "protect" us.

Another good point. 

Was praying for a “very lengthy recovery” as Michael Che quite aptly said


My friend dubbed Trump's outbreak "The Republican Flu".

I thought I had seen Chinese officials calling it White House Flu but can't find the reference now. 

Did you know that wombats poop cubes thanks to their unique anuses?

I did, and am grateful to share it with everyone. 

Now that I would watch.

Here. Also seems to be a podcast. 

Well, "swine flu" was already taken.


Um, tax money has to be used for incineration, landfills, etc.

Fingers in ears and saying "la la la la" are free. 

Can anyone -- ANYONE -- explain why President Trump gave a very formal and extended salute to Marine One as it flew away from the South Lawn? I'm former military and fully steeped in its traditions, but I am totally unfamiliar with any custom involving a salute for any helicopter that is empty other than its crew.

I doubt it! 

Talk about fitting a round peg into a square hole.

More filth! 

The chats are easy to find IF you know to look for them. What about people who don't know they exist? Hard to just stumble across them.

I would like to hear from someone who doesn't know they exist. 

Dont forget that some of us inexplicably can't scroll down the menu on a computer. I have to set my screen to 36% to get all of the menu items on the page so I can click them. At that size, I think have to use my phone as a magnifying glass to see what the menu names are!

Gene really screwed this up. 

A: Rachel Manteuffel Double ffs are an honor. But it was 34 Fs that launched your writing career.


Also I should have said double fs. 

Is the person who keeps writing into this and other chats incorrectly using "flaunt" instead of "flout" now just trying to get on my nerves? Because it's working.

The person is trying to teach you to let go. 

The Trump family WANTED to be thrown out of the debate audience. They are trolls. They would have pointed-out how unfairly they are being treated.

I haven't seen a solid explanation for that. 

This chatter has nailed the reason why I refrained from participating in this week's poll. I have only -- ever, since long before he was president -- watched Trump in small snippets put somewhere because somebody is making fun of him.

just realizing now I should have censored! Because you did not, in the quote! Excuse me for a minute. 

It is improper for anyone who is not in the military to salute. Reagan started this nonsense.

Oh. I seem to remember Shirley Temple doing it. 

Rachel, I, along with many others, miss having Gene on these chats. But I also want to say that you've done a great job on these chats. Your style reminds me of none other than Chatwoman Herself, Liz Kelly Nelson. Her Celebritology chats were not to be missed.

And yet we miss them. Thank you!

How about those #proudboys?? Too bad this didnt get more press....

Someone sent it in. One sec. 

Yes. A Takei down.

Biden was only a few feet from Trump at the debate, at which Trump was spewing COVID-spittle in all directions. I think Biden super-powered the virus away.

Good thought!

Rachel, you have won me over with your LuPone/Patinkin content (with bonus Sondheim).

I still need your love after all that I've done. 

And John Kennedy, Jr.


Wow, we are doing 1963/4 justice today. 

I mean, I didn't think it was possible. Yet, here we are.


Wyoming State Banking Hearing happening right now. Inside, no masks. We are a long way from getting out of this. 

I am trusting you that this is insane, or at least a Rickroll. 

Nope. That was sentiment. He said himself he was trying to keep the sun out of his eyes.

Wow! That is amazing. 

I think many noticed the error. I see nothing wrong with a gentle correction.

I want to make a joke about FLOUTUS but do not know how. 

Well, he was hardly more than a toddler, so it's quite credible that he had no idea what a salute was or why it would be appropriate.

Accidentally iconic. Love it. 

Thanks all! Next week

I bet Gene could find a joke there

But he wouldn't tell anyone. 

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. He was awarded the 2008 and 2010 Pulitzer Prizes for Feature Writing.

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Rachel Manteuffel
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