Chatological Humor with Gene Weingarten

Nov 03, 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.

Good afternoon. 

First thing first.  If you have not done so already, vote.  Vote early and often.  I don't care for whom you vote, and you know I am serious because I am using "whom" and not "who," which is what the idiot wannabe tyrant would say because he has no idea what language is and revels in his ignorance and idiocy.   

That is the most important thing I have to say today. There is a second and third most important thing I have to say.  Here they come. 

Actually, there is no second, because the third is so less important than the first.  The second will remain blank. 

The third arrives now. 

Around six months ago, when public political sentiment reached a fever pitch, I promised you that I would continue these chats every week, without missing a week, without a break.  I have done that, and we have talked about many things, including your anxieties, and mine.  I am proud of that.  I am not paid to do these many chats, but I did it and I have no regrets.  Alas, it is over.  This is our last chat, ever.  (I suggested that in the poll, though only about half of you got it.)   It is not my choice, but it is a fact, and we are about facts here, as well as excretory matters, which I will get to presently. Even though it is not my choice, it is my fault, and we will also get to that presently. 

Last week, we rolled out a new chat software and it was not a good rollout.   It was a rollout with rectangular wheels.  I was not at all kind in my public reaction to it, and the Post did not like that, and I understand their feeling.  I have said in the past, many times and in many ways, that if you work for an organization that pays you, you are obliged not to savage them publicly, and it is a principle I have followed for 30 years, until last week.  I backslid, but only in the sense that the downhill skier backslid in that famous "agony of defeat" video in which he pitched ass-forward into barricades, slicing his genitals into gates until he came to an unceremonious unconscious end. 

It was a terrible rollout, but other chat hosts managed to (mostly) hold their tongues, though many of them requested going back to the previous software, which I have done, in fact, for this last chat.  I was not smart or decent enough to be that diplomatic, and I have been punished.  I feel a little embarrassed, but not angry.  I feel mostly just sad.  The Washington Post has treated me well for 30 years, and this is just a disagreement, a blip, and I won't make more of it than that.  I am still employed.  You will still be reading my stuff. 

But we won't have these chats. 

Good God, these chats.  I have sort of been obsessed by them, because they seem to be a chance to show that a distant, hands-off journo can connect to the reader in a transparent and vulnerable way, showing who she or he is.  I have spent ridiculous amounts of time on them -- I typically have woken up at 6 a.m. to start answering questions on Tuesdays, which is why I seem to be answering an impossible number of questions in an hour -- which is something the poorly-chosen  new software does not allow -- and I will miss that interaction.   I think you all know this, but I'll say it just the same:  These chats have not been really good because of me.  They have been really good because of you, your willingness to be honest, funny, profane, vulnerable, silly, serious, and outrageous.  I do feel that, together, we created something unusual and I fear irreplaceable.  I feel guilty for having made that go away.  It was my fault. I blame no one else. 

I was going to do a bit of a memory-lane sort of thing here, reprising details from my favorite chats -- for example, the time I interviewed the world's greatest proctologist to explain why we have an urge to poop seconds before we HAVE to poop -- but I don't really have the energy to do it.  I am exhausted by this, and a bit depressed.  This has been a great ride.  It is over after 19 years, just like the Vietnam War.  Fewer people have been killed by it. 

The time overwhelms me.  My first chat producer, the greatest of many talented successors, was Liz Kelly, who I called Chatwoman, a name I never gave anyone else, out of respect.  I told her about this last week and she sent this message.  My request was that she only be negative, and she almost succeeded: 

"In late summer 2001, I had an idea: Let's offer Gene Weingarten, who I read in the Post Magazine and thought mildly amusing, a weekly online chat. Certainly, he could do no worse than Lloyd Grove, I thought. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but we launched the chat in November, I think  - after we went back to post-9/11 regular programming. I said I would produce it. My colleagues and bosses gave me a look that said I had no idea what I was in for.

"I had no idea what I was in for. Gene, as you all know, is a handful. Two hands-full. I needed to have an extra hand surgically attached. I worked for The Washington Post, one of the bulwarks of our Democracy, but suddenly I was Chatwoman, the Pantsless Producer. I sifted through hundreds of questions and comments about landscaping, if you catch my drift. We danced dangerously close to the line every week and, more often than not, got in a bit of trouble. 
"Gene was, and is, ridiculously needy and insecure. He's also exacting. And can be dumbly stubborn about the seemingly stupid things, like the placement of a poll or the spacing of the words in his intro (true story). He's also utterly wrong about important stuff, like his preference for plain hot dogs and his idiotic insistence that Sloop John B is a better song than Hang on Sloopy (he's still wrong). 
"But over the course of the 10 years I produced this chat, he always left the final decisions about editorial calls up to me. We trusted each other. He became more than that crazy columnist on the other end of a computer connection.  He became my friend. And even though I haven't been a part of the chat for the last 10 years, Gene will always be a part of my life. All of our lives, really. And we're better for it." 

Nineteen years is a ridiculously long amount of time.  I feel honored and privileged to have been allowed to do this absurd thing for that long. I feel honored and privileged to have interacted with you all, this intimately, for that long. 

How long is it?  It began before 9/11 .   At the time, I was the Czar of The Style Invitational, the weekly humor contest of the Washington Post.  A couple of years before the chat began, we had a contest to allow grumpy baby boomers  to say how things were different in their day.  One of the honorable mentions was written by a 13 year old girl from Vienna, Virginia, who for some reason entered it under her mother's name.   It read:  In my day, we didn't have Strom Thurmond. Oh, wait. Yes we did ... (Peg Sheeran, Vienna) 

That was Rachel Manteuffel. And yes, you may make fun of me for this, or accuse me of all sorts of mortal sins, that's been the rule of these chats, and they are not suspended today.  For a year, her "binder" in middle school had her winning bumper sticker affixed to it.  It read "Who is the Czar and why does he hate me?" 

Rachel has been the last chat producer, and the all-time second best,  for the last few months, the 36-year-old woman I love and live with. 

But today is about something else, as we all know.  Here is a bottle of very expensive bourbon I bought yesterday. 

Rachel and I will be consuming it tonight, a half-shot apiece every time Biden-Harris win a swing state.   I doubt it we'll finish it, but I hope it is substantially diminished by midnight. 

So.  Goodbye.  I truly love you all, even the a-holes.  Maybe particularly the a-holes.  I will be answering questions, as always, starting at noon, but I will only address those that are critical of me and the chat.   I hate maudlin stuff.  Don't do it. 


Are you gonna be up all night watching from bed, or are you gonna drink yourself into unconsciousness? *As a former hypochondriac you should DEFINITELY look this condition up.

But first things first - Sloop John B is a better song than Hang on Sloopy. And I forgot the original source of outrage...

¥es.  Liz is a brilliant woman who made exactly one gigantic error in her life, and this was it.  The only other one I can think of is Leni Riefenstahl. 

In the face of despair, I wanted to give you all one of the world's great things, which is when a cat, against his better judgment, seeks you out and allows you to make him feel nice. He sits on you and holds eye contact and makes a rattling noise. The technology is only recently available to capture this experience and beam it into your homes. 

This is from Rachel, and it is about Buster. 

Gene's election day update from November 8, 2016, the most important election of his life to date. 

On the most emotionally-wrought day in an emotionally-wrought year, you have to spring the chat firing on me? Really, I don't see much point to keeping my subscription any more. I admire the Post's storied history of journalistic integrity, but a *newspaper* that penalizes employees for factually accurate and manifestly true speech is waaaaayyyy too Fox News for me. NY Times, here I come. They broke the tax story anyway. In other news: I said prison. Really, I would LOVE for him to walk out knowing he's the biggest loser in history. But he lives in too much of an alternate reality to actually believe that the biggest loss in history was the result of his idiocy, incompetence, and malevolence, and not, you know, because fraud/Democrats/etc. Prison is something he can't ignore or whitewash in his own mind. Although leaving the country with his tail between his legs in ignominious defeat doesn't suck either. Why do you make me choose between all of these wonderful options?

I was going to include "all of the above" but everyone would have answered that. 

I read your chats when I was in college back in the early 2000s. I found you insufferable, so I stopped reading after awhile (I always liked Hax better), but I found my way back during the past few months. It's entirely appropriate that this is how it ends - in a pandemic, on election day, due to bad behavior on your part. It's almost like you planned it...

Thank you.  I agree.  Also, I snore, loudly at times. 

If I simply have to frame this as something critical of you then, fine: I think it's really mean that you've been making us all wait for it for all this time. And if the rest of the day brings no good news, as I fear it won't, this will be one thing I can hold on to from 2020.

I can't.  I was going to, but Rachel ordered me not to. And she is the boss here.   It involves abortion.  I will say that. 

Thanks for the idea to drink for every swing state, Gene and Rachel. (I thought there was a romantic thang between you years ago.) I will be joining you with beer or wine tonight. Or both. Here's hoping we all end up very, very drunk later, and I'll see you both on twitter.

Bad news:  I will be naked.  Worse news: Rachel won't be. 

I've been a chat member since the beginning. IIRC, it was originally called "Below the Beltway" (like the column), and Chatological Humor came about as a name later. I've not always been able to participate live but would always "catch up" as time allowed. I'm a OLD live online reader, Kim O'Donnel old...when Desson Howe and Rita Kempley both had movie chats in the same week old...Vic Sussman LI RI HI old. KOD and you have been the only chats I've been an active participant in. I remember a chat where the subject of kissing...I don't remember the reason for the thread within the chat about it. Something about kissing someone you're not in a relationship with, and what it can mean. I wrote about a (still incredibly fond) memory of a kiss that ended with an acknowledgement of what could but never would (and never did) be. I so appreciated having your chat be a place I could share that memory. And I will miss having you as a weekly friend I can share such things with.

I remember everything you are talking about.  Thank you 

Canceled? and just when the chat was getting good, too! I have been reading since the beginning. The chat seemed to have some potential, in the good to okay range. But I hung in there because how can you really judge a chat after just 5, 10, or even 19 years? And my patience was rewarded. oh how it was rewarded. the chat suddenly became spectacular starting about 4 weeks ago. just when it got into 100 % amazing terretority, boom, the post canceled it. :( :( :(

Actually, this is a matter of emphasis.  It started terrible and about four weeks ago achieved mediocrity 

Count me among the surprised (I am incapable of understanding even obvious hints apparently)... and devastated. I have been reading this chat every week since 2003, when I graduated from college. I’m now pushing 40 and over this period my life has changed. A lot. This little community has been really meaningful to me through all that (to a surprising and maybe weird/freakish degree?). I will really miss you Gene, and everyone!

Things will be good, and thank you.  

Emergency use only. 

An emergency has been declared. 

Maybe a little more of this. 

Rules have gone from suspended to hanged by the neck until dead. 

Cheers had the best ending. "Sorry, we're closed." Classic.

The Shield, though. 

Even better: Succession. 

Succession is not over!

Some more oxytocin? Yes?

More of the same.  All rules are suspended. 

The final post in this chat will be a photo Rachel took of me, with my pandemic haircut.  You need to stick around for that. 

I watch the Nova Program "The Choice" every 4 years. Back when McCain was contesting against Obama, I watched. When Dan Balz came on to provide political commentary, I said to my wife, "I know him!" I only knew him through his chat, but you know what I mean. (BTW he's a little long in the tooth this year, but aren't we all) Then Desson what's his name changed his last name, I was there. I've been with this chat from the beginning. Once, I posted a comment that was terrible misspelled because I was typing quickly and didn't check it. It had something to do with booze (I think) and you asked me if I was drunk now. (lol I wasn't). Once I got 2 comments posted and by the end of the chat asked you to post a third so I could claim a hat trick. You did. Once I posted a comment about my Italian relatives getting free houses from the relatives who emigrated to the US and me working 2 jobs trying to pay for my Washington mortgage. You said it would make a great story. It never did, but I was happy you said it. When I turned 50 (13 years ago) I posted a statement about losing my youth and having crushes and it wasn't well received by the chatters because I was too honest. But it was there and I learned from it. FINALLY, I learned from this chat THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO WIPE YOUR BUTT STANDING UP. You ARE better than Lloyd Grove. I lived through the Lloyd Grove years, and he is no Gene Weingarten. Over the years, I have seen many chat hosts come and go. I don't know if the muckety mucks at the Post understand that through the chats the unwashed masses develop relationships with the paper, and through these relationships, wish to support it. I have a subscription with the paper only to get the chats. I like your long form writing. You are a master of long form in my opinion. If you do anything in the future, I would do that. And you were right about last week. Good luck. I have dropped Facebook because it has turned into a fetid cesspool so I don't know if I'll ever have the opportunity to keep up with you in the future, but I know that at some point, if god wills that I last longer on the earth than you, I will read your Obit and tell whomever is sitting in the general area, "I KNOW THAT GUY".

Well, this made me tear up, but to remain it character, I must inform you that it is "whoever," not whomever. 

I was once awarded the "worst question of this chat" comments which, of course, it was not. Rather than move on from that non-atypical example of your poor judgment (which occurred some 8 years ago), I buried that resentment down deep, feeding the ball of hate that slowly consumed the place where my soul once existed. But I take some comfort in knowing that I, a regular participant in this chat over the past 18 years (during which I met and married my wife, welcomed two kids into the family, and moved from lowest level employee to boss in my office), have outlasted you. Victory is mine! Although . . . I will now need to find another source to feed the ball of hate, and there are none who can do the job quite as well as you can. Curse you, Weingarten!

Thank you. 

Your wife is ugly. 

So does this mean you'll have more time to work on making your columns actually funny?

Yes, I plan to start being funny tomorrow. 

I recently heard that Trump's favorite movie is Citizen Kane and my mind cannot process this fact. Does he fully grasp that he is essentially living out the life of the movie's protagonist and that, in the end, he's almost certainly going to be croaking out his own "Rosebud" as he dies, alone and miserable? Or does the boorish infant only see the rise to power and fame and think "yeah, that's the life!"?

This was one of the questions we didn't get to last week after it became a barrage of wtf posts. I'm thinking he just saw some list that said Citizen Kane was the best movie of all time and so decided the best is his favorite. Or maybe it was his dad's favorite movie. 

and unemployed for the past 6 months. My Post subscription is due for renewal in a week or so. My plan was to cancel the subscription next week just because i plain ol' can't afford it anymore. Now I'll gladly change the reason for canceling it. Cancel the chat, cancel my subscription. Bring back the chat, i'll renew (but first, i must look under the couch cushions for spare change)

send in your email address. I won't post it but I'll send you a free month. 

I met one of my best friends through the long defunct Weingarten Chatters Yahoo group, so thanks Chatological Humor! But before your heart gets too melty, Gene, you should know she also stopped participating a long time ago, after you stopped being funny. I let her know this is your swan song, so let's see if she retains enough nostalgia to drop in today.

Thanks.  I stopped being funny after 40 percent of my brain cells died. 

Everyone who didn't vote for the Seinfeld ending is the reason we got Trump. A show about nothing, where nothing is everything because life in the end means mostly nothing except to ourselves. To be punished by society because we actually only cared about ourselves. Not to anyone's detriment, the 4 never hurt anyone, they just admitted that they thought of themselves first. For the most part it's true, in a satirical way. Larry David said about the show "no lessons, no hugging". I feel that way about your chat. It was always funny but I expected no lessons and no hugs. For that I read your feature stories. Please go hard with interacting on twitter, I need your non-lessons in life in some way. Ciao Gene!

The Seinfeld end was terrible.  

I will obey your order to refrain fro sentimentality, but I have one request: Would you please make the final entry on the final chat pictures of Murphy and Buster?

There is a plan. 

And Gene spoiled it. 

Tuesdays have been unbearable since the pandemic began. I wake up and think, "ugh, it's only Tuesday." Monday is always endless and boring, and I still have four more endless days to go, but with the added fun of a painful full-staff meeting via Zoom every Tuesday. This chat was the one bright spot. Thanks for screwing that up.

I accept responsibility! 

You f***er! Now I'm crying and I don't even have anyone to talk about why I am sad. At least you chose this day and I can blame it on being worked up by the election. I've read every one of these chats from the beginning and you once gave me a terrible response. I asked if you knew why the bottom of my feet might get hot right before I had an orgasm and you said "maybe they are too close to the lamp." I'm still pissed at you for not giving me a good and possibly BS medical excuse. Chatwoman was right about you. I hope, and I say this with love, that you have a hangover tomorrow (but not Rachel).

 I have no idea what that lamp comment meant, but I accept responsibility. 

Newhart was the best ever.


During the chat on Election Day in 2016, I asked how long it would take for the media to stop paying attention to Trump's tweets if he lost. I've kicked myself for four years for possibly jinxing the outcome, but I'm also not superstitious, so I'll ask again: IF Trump loses, how long after Jan 20, 2021 will it take for the media to stop covering every idiocy that comes out of his twitter feed? I'm not on Twitter and I'm pretty careful about my news consumption, and yet I still hear just about everything he says to his idiot followers. I want this to stop. What do you think?

I think it will be like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz.  He will be utterly abandoned once the spell is over. 

Thank dog. I see our chatters are old enough to have actually seen the Newhart surprise, which was all the better for having had to endure the rest of the apocalyptically bad final episode. Apparently the studio audience had no idea what was coming when the lights came up. "Tell me more about the blonde" is the stuff of legend. I don't care what happens to Donnie Boy. I just want to not have to think about him ever again. And it's funny; I didn't even remember the last line from Goodfellas, despite having seen it lots. I went with Some Like It Hot, which is almost always the answer when talking about the best of anything. And no, I don't think Trump's exit will even be interesting. Once it's clear that he lost and that there's no way for him to chisel out a win, he'll resign while raging against the enemy. What a loser. Thanks for letting me vent.

I agree on the last point. 

Hello! I almost always sign into this chat but am missing it on Nov 3rd because I am serving as an election judge - I am sorry to miss it and am excited to read it later! Please fill the chat with lots of entertaining stories and poop discussions and NO baseball discussions so that my weary soul can have some respite when I read it the evening of Nov 3rd to unwind!!! <3 (The excessive exclamation points are because this is gonna be a helluva week and no other punctuation mark is up to the task!!)

You are not going to be happy!  I am sorry. 

I voted a couple weeks ago (in person early voting) and had no trouble whatsoever with most races- all Dems, no hesitation, almost broke the screen poking the box next to Biden's name. However, on one of the down-ballot races, I did pause. In my county, Coroner is an elected position, and has no medical requirements for candidates. Why, I can't say. But while the Republican candidate is a licensed doctor, the Democrat is a funeral home owner. In normal times, I would have voted for core competence (coroners oversee autopsies, among other duties), but ultimately this time I deciding there should be a penalty for membership in a corrupt party. I'm not sure if I made the right choice. What would you have done?

You made the right choice, though you might not have chosen the winner. Same choice as not voting for Trump in 2016 because had had zero qualifications, 

Have you, Gene, gone out to eat at a restaurant during the virus pandemic during the last seven months? If so, how was the experience?!

Nope!   We've done takeout a few times. 

I vote for leave to a country with no extradition. I'd like to see him in prison, but that's never going to happen to a US president. If he leaves the country, he'll show his true colors to his followers, and they'll stop idolizing him. The new country isn't going to provide him with Secret Service, so he'll need to provide his own very expensive security, in a place he'll never feel safe. Ivanka and Jr will have to go there to visit, he'll never be able to come back here. I say "Good Riddance".

I am not in favor of prison, either. 

I think that will trigger the idiot "martyr" response.  I also think it would be wrong.  We don't jail political prisoners, and I think (wrongly) it will be seen as that. 

In a tweet, Laura Lippman said she is making a tuna noodle casserole for watching returns. She suggested comfort foods. I think I am going to have nachos and guacamole. And bourbon. What are you and Rachel going to eat?

This is absolutely true:  We have a gigantic cow heart.   We are going to grill it. 

You’re retiring. Or dying. One of the two.

Both, actually. 

Your chat hasn't been funny in years. I only hate-read it. We will miss you.

Thank you.   In my defense, it is because I am not funny. 

I have heard of this issue before. The answer as I understand it is that the nerves from your feet run through your crotch on their way to your brain, and the body is not very good at insulating the responses of nerves that are next to each other.

Thank you.  This is the last medical advice that will be published in this chat, and it appropriately idiotic. 

Okay, I'm through Denial and Anger. My question is, can't we just get rid of Barney & Clyde, instead?

Barney & Clyde is extremely unfunny but funnier than most things on the comics page.  Still, it should be killed. 

And finally, Gene's pandemic hair. 

Okay, going to end the chat now, on this bit of humiliation.  Even though someone has just asked why he sneezes after ejaculating.  That's how depressed I am. 

l love you all, and that's not just a line.  Well, it is a line in the sense that it's words in a line, but it is also true.  This has been great, and it has been great because of you.  Thank you.  

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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