Petri Dishes: Everything’s Jake from Stake Farm

Aug 25, 2020

Humor columnist Alexandra Petri will be online every Tuesday at 11 a.m. Eastern for Petri Dishes, where she'll offer a lighter take on the news of the day. Chat now about on her columns and any other questions you might have. Catch up on the transcript of his latest chat below.

Read Alexandra Petri's columns or catch up on past chats here.

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter here.

Good morning, all! I hope your weeks are off to good starts. These days, my phone tries to correct “good” to “oof,” but I hope yours doesn’t! 

Are you familiar with this TV show? It's much like Star Wars, that is, if Star Wars had been shot in black and white at a cable-access channel in Buffalo (yes, it's actually from Buffalo). It airs locally in Buffalo on Saturday evening, and in the rest of the country on Retro TV (one of x.2 or x.3 digital channels) on Sunday at 8 pm ET. It's low-low budget, with most of the scenes shot in front of a green (or perhaps gray) screen, but it's campy and fun, with the titular Captain Oliver Isotope, Cadet Timmy, and the main villain who is "Bing the Merciless", though he looks nothing like Mr Crosby or the character from Flash Gordon. As an added bonus, the earworm of a theme song has actual lyrics that will stay in your head for days. :) There's apparently on hiatus now, rerunning shows from early in the current Season 2, but new episodes are due again this fall.

I have never heard of this until now, but now I am thrilled and must know everything. I knew about the various local late-night Bad/Horror Movie Hosts like Count Gore DeVol and Ned the Dead, but this sounds like another level!

Or is this the dystopian place filled with terrifying messages?

Only one way to find out! 

Alexandra: We all have had the standard, recurring, stress dreams over the years: mine usually involve showing up for class just in time for the final exam or stepping onto the first tee without any golf balls or clubs... I had a new twist the other night: I showed up for the first day of high school, and although I was fully dressed (contrary to the ordinary stress dream), I didn't have a mask!! All eyes were upon me and I didn't know what to do! Am I alone, or are you and your readers starting to dream more topically this year? Thanks! Signed: Wake Me When It's Over

I had long and elaborate dreams to begin with, and These Times have only made them worst. Last night I had three dreams— I started typing them out and realized they could be of no possible interest to anyone but myself. 

Many New Mexicans were very pleased with our “roll call”. You even featured it in the photos at the top of your op-ed. But then nothing? Enough about the calamari - as if you can’t get good calamari many other places.

I’m sorry! I thought New Mexico was terrific. Originally I wrote a piece that mentioned every state but it was approximately 4000 words long, did not work, and my editor begged me to do something else! 

I was just reading The Wind in the Willows. I would have never thought that Trump's character would mirror a character in a classic of children's literature. But here it is, the song that Toad makes up and sings about himself: "The world has held great Heroes, As history-books have showed; But never a name to go down to fame Compared with that of Toad! The clever men of Oxford know all that there is to be knowed, But they none of them knew one half as much As intelligent Mr. Toad! The animals sat in the Ark and cried, their tears in torrents flowed. Who was it said, "There's land ahead?" Encouraging Mr. Toad! The army all saluted as they marched along the road. Was it the King? Or Kitchener? No. It was Mr. Toad. The Queen and her Ladies-in-waiting sat in the window and sewed. She cried, "Look! who's that handsome man?" They answered, "Mr. Toad." The motor-car went Poop-poop-poop-as it raced along the road. Who was it steered it into a pond? Ingenious Mr. Toad." " It's not just the conceit or the incompetence, it's the virtuoso ease of lying makes such a striking resemblance. "There was a great deal more of the same sort, but too dreadfully conceited to be written down. These are some of the milder verses. " (Chapter 10, the further adventures of Mr. Toad).

I wonder that Mr Toad acknowledges steering into a pond! This seems like a promising sign of self-awareness and makes me want to at least hear him out.

I've not been sick in a really long time. Due to social distancing and mask-wearing, I've been amazingly sick-free. But at some point in the future, I will get sick again. In normal times I average 2 to 3 colds a year, but I'm going on 13 months without one. When i finally get sick, will I forget what being sick is like, and therefore suffer a lot more than normal? Will I conflate the common cold with a sinister 18th Century illness that pirates and explores used to get like Beriberi or Rickets?

I was thinking the same thing recently! I used to get at least one real doozy a year, but not this year. We will have to compare notes when the Mild Annual Cold finally comes. 

Just wanted to be the first to say: Calamari Comeback State!

Yesterday I learned that my "cell salt" is potassium chloride and that I should eat lots of strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, asparagus, and all my other favorite fruits and veg. And my husband learned that he should undergo a past life regression. Is there a new horoscope writer or source, or what?

What? Link, please! This serves me right for not reading the comics for even a single day. 

Stress dreams are so 2019. Now we all have stress insomnia. It was originally touted as a cure for stress dreams until we all figured out that no sleep was worse than stressful sleep.

Does it occur to anyone that the special pillows may CONTAIN sex demons? They're infiltrating our homes! Semi-related: My parents watch The Lion In Winter every December, "Because it's a Christmas movie."

It IS! I have no complaints about this viewing choice. 

In Tampa in the way back times, there was Dr. Paul Bearer. Came on at eleven, so I was only able to watch it when I was babysitting.

From last week's chat mentioning ads. I would continue to rank Geico at the top. I do this because Geico offers variety and not just the same ads over and over again... The gecko, the clogging, the aunts, etc. Despite years of Progressive trying to get me to love Flo, I don't. Introducing more of an ensemble is a good start, but there's still too much Flo. Farmers is kind of like this but with J.K Simmons, so they get a pass. Allstate also does this but they seem to understand that their spokes person is now well known for their ads and feature him in Inception like ads within ads. This is new and I'm not sure I like it, but I appreciate the awareness. I like that Liberty Mutual ads are taking the Geico approach, Limu Emu has his moments, as does Doug.

This is an astute analysis! But I like Flo and Jamie. And their version of a car ad with Real People in it is one of the great masterpieces of our time. Agree on J. K. Simmons. I love that two That Gritty Prison Drama Oz alums now sell us insurance. 

I used to get one or two colds a year. Haven't in awhile- two things: my kid got older and I started washing or sanitizing my hands after riding the Metro to work. Keep up the hand washing like you are doing know and stay away from small children- that will really help.

Would you consider the skill set required to be a professional humorist as having the most in common with that required to be a brain surgeon, or would it be more like that required to be a professional bowler?

I imagine the bowler and the brain surgeon have more in common with one another than with the humorist; they both require good hand-eye coordination and a steady grip. If I had to pick one of those, I guess, bowling, in the sense that if you do not do your job well, it is unlikely that you will kill anyone, and the shoes are similar. 

Because it's Australia.

Well, better than Die Hard. At least the whole family's together for the holidays.

he is of much higher character than Trump. He is vain yes, but cares about his friends, and does learn (eventually) from his mistakes.

Went to, searched on "horoscope" and got only articles about them, no actual daily predictions. Scrolled down the "sections" sidebar and found horoscopes under "Puzzles & Games" which seems appropriate, but when I clicked on the individual zodiac signs, I got the conventional "family members may be difficult today" -- no cell salts or past-life regressions anywhere. I guess you have to go find a print edition. Although there's a phone app that lets you see the print edition.

We must get to the bottom of this! Does anyone have a print edition handy?

I don't remember that name of the host but one of our local channels used to show horror movies after the 11 o'clock news on Saturday nights. Like the Tampa poster I only watched while babysitting. But I discovered that isn't always a good idea when you are basically alone and you hear noises....luckily the strange scratching at the door was their dog.

Babysitting in the '60s & '70s is the source of my encyclopedic knowledge of old movies. Before cable, late night was when the old movies came on. And youngsters today will not enjoy "Amazon Women on the Moon" nearly as much as I do since the creaky old local stations showing late-night oldies with all their interruptions and local commercials no longer exist.

I set up my children's desks with all their school supplies yesterday, along with the noise-canceling gaming headsets with microphones I bought specifically for their zoom meetings. Now I'm starting to wonder: if the next step is larger monitors, am I setting my children toward the path of having evil lairs? I'm also LOL'ing at my past efforts to limit screen time only to have the schools require attendance in zoom meetings for six hours a day or more.

I say construct a full evil lair! Then when they get older and want to separate themselves from their parents by rebelling, they will think, “I need to put lair-having behind me, that was mom’s dream, not mine!”

also, rueful LOL at the daily six hour zoom meetings. 

Hang in there! 

I’ve noticed recently that when I write a text to someone my phone is giving some crass suggestions. If I ask a friend if they’re going to the store when I write “are you going to ... ” the first suggestion after that is a four-letter word meaning poop that isn’t poop. Why does my phone suggest such crass and vulgar questions? I’ve never asked that before so it’s not like it’s picking up on my parlance. Is it trying to get me into trouble?

Huh! I don’t know where your phone learned to communicate! I always assume it was something I was doing in another tab. 

I don't know if this is a British thing but I've noticed that some people use the term "definite article" to mean the same thing as the "genuine article." Saying someone is the genuine article means they are the real deal. Saying someone is the definite article is saying they are a the word "the."

I am with you on this! I suppose if you are trying to identify yourself as THEE something you could be both the genuine and the definite article. 

I had just started at a new university. Buried in papers in my office, I'd lost track of time and had to rush to the classroom. But the room was on the fourth floor of a maze-like building. When I walked in students were already backing their books and standing up. "Oh," I said, "did I violate the 15-minute rule?" Some nodded their heads. Inspiration saved me: "But I saved 15% on Geiko!" They sat down. True story. A humorist is more like a bowler.

Good thinking! The fascinating thing for me about this story was that on first reading it I assumed you were the student, and not until the students were leaving did I realize that you were in fact the professor! That is the advantage of anonymous online chats; sometimes stories that don’t actually have twists have twists! 

They were so memorable! Anyone from the Cleveland area remember "Garfield 1- 2323"? I don't even remember what the business was, but the sing-songy way they announced the phone number remains lodged in my head. (So is the song for Sarpilla's, which I have tried and failed to find on the Internet, but I don't want to make this a whole chat about Cleveland commercials from 35 years ago.)

… is one of the funniest movies ever. And it delivers a stern warning about sexually transmitted diseases!

We have two “Amazon Women on the Moon” appreciators in the chat, and... I don’t think I’m surprised!

To continue the saga from last week, I now believe the wife is having an affair with Jake from State Farm. That’s why she says it’s 3 am when it’s really 2:10 AM. She is trying to gaslight her husband to establish a fake time line so that she can rendezvous with Jake at 3 am. That way if the husband becomes suspicious of her whereabouts at 3 am she can say she was with her husband at 3 am when he was on the phone with Jake. "Remember when I said 'Jake from State Farm at 3 am?'” This also explains why she bizarrely asks what he is wearing. That’s a slip up as she struggles to hide her lust for Jake.

Hmm, I can see this going any number of ways. What always strikes me about this ad is that the wife seems untethered from reality. She has lost time; she wants to know what Jake is wearing. What could Jake be wearing that would possibly establish his innocence or guilt? The question is unanswerable. What answer does she hope for? It makes more sense for her to ask this, as you suggest, if she and Jake are already engaged in an illicit liaison of their own. But it still does not entirely make sense. And what is the husband’s role in all this? The ad could be his own skewed, distorted view of his married life, the daily jealousy and criticism he must contend with. But I guess I keep coming back to the question of why he is calling Jake from State Farm at this hour in the first place. Something is amiss. This is not a normal time to call Jake from State Farm. 

The problem with evil lairs is that now you have to hire a bunch of henchmen. And that gets expensive, what with the matching jumpsuits, the meals, the health and dental plans, etc.

which is calcium fluoride. And it's in carrots, cabbage, kale and watercress. I've noticed the cell salt thing- the horoscope writer only has it for one "sign" at a time and I don't remember if I've seen mine. I did see my husband's but I've forgotten it already. And while I did see a pandemic-aware horoscope or two mine today says "social events are woven into this good time."

While I agree with the OP that GEICO has a much broader range of commercials than Progressive. But the fact is GEICO ads just aren't as funny as they used to be. And you know they're getting desperate because they've turned to celebrities. That one with John Stamos is just not funny. What does him knitting a scarf have to do with anything? It's a complete waste of a Stamos.

Exactly! The celebrities suggest that the end is near, even if one of them is the Wick-edly talented Adele Dazeem. 

I would sit scooched by the television so that the kids couldn't hear it. I trace my dislike to the color brown to this, as it was the 90's when beige ruled supreme and the family I babysat for had dark brown walls, beige couches, and brown carpet, like sitting in a freshly-dug grave.

At least it was fresh? Hmm, no, that doesn’t necessarily improve it, in this scenario. You need to sign in. Horoscopes on page C5. Cancer sign references “cell salts.”

Today's print edition says Cancer's cell salt is calcium fluoride. I don't see anything else that looks unusual.

Thanks, all! Please keep posted for past life regressions! 

At least they'll associate screen time with less fun and more work, so they're suffering, not vegging out. Maybe you can try restricting book time as a special treat and get them eager to read more off-screen.

Hmm, I wouldn’t push it! 

I definitely got through Love Boat, but usually got to leave before the end of Fantasy Island. Then again, I stopped babysitting fairly early because Algebra tutoring was much more lucrative.

Horoscopes page C5. Gemini references cell salts; Scorpio past life regression.

Yes, nothing adds up or makes sense about the commercial. The only thing that could possibly explain all the oddities is if both the husband are wife are having an affair with Jake. That explains the late call. But which Jake are they having the affair with. The Jake from the first one, or the Jake from the newer one? And how many more Jakes from State Farm are there. It seems likely there are more than two Jakes among the 56,000 plus State Farm employees.

I've always thought the point of the wife's question was that she did NOT believe that her husband was talking to "Jake from State Farm," but to his secret girlfriend. Because guys on the phone always ask their lovers "what are you wearing?"

Yes, but the question coming from her means that the answer will be different, doesn’t it? If your lover is suddenly not on the line with you and his wife is, would you still answer that you were wearing negligee? Or would you answer, as Jake does, that you are in a conservative button-down and your name is Jake from State Farm?

Yes, I'm a little disappointed that my Sagittarius husband has no weirdness in his horoscope today. Yesterday was the past-life regression. Oh, also, yesterday, his deep affinity for animals of the wilderness was supposed to manifest itself. He doesn't like animals. Except cats.

Imagine having a deep affinity for animals of the wilderness! 

Does Geico offer "jump the shark" insurance?

I still have the number of some business from my childhood that was sung in it's add. I'm 65 and can't reliably remember my zipcode (JK) but this number sticks. I need those brain cells for something else!!!

No question - just tos ay that your very not-funny column on Sunday was wonderful. Thank you.

Thank you! 

Sometimes when your keyboard updates, it automatically turns off the "hide profane suggestions" setting. :(

What if he's really Jerry Falwell, Jr.?

I think we have been slowly building towards this joke the whole time and I am going to allow it. 

Anyone familiar with this bargain basement channel that showed very bad Japanese sci-fi movies in the wee hours?


What the heck are cell salts and how do they relate to horoscopes? For the poster about the late night horror movies - was it Elvira, Mistress of the Dark? Or USA Up All Night? I illicitly enjoyed both of those when I was young enough I should have been asleep.

I remember the Garfield 1 2323 jingle but had to Google that it was apparently a roofing company. The late night Saturday horror movie show was on Channel 8, hosted by Big Chuck and Houlihan, and later Big Chuck and Little John. Doreen Gentzler started her career at Channel 3 news about the time I left Ohio and never went back.

Official Food of the Pandemic? Nominees?

I wouldn’t have gone straight to the Nominees as the official food of the pandemic, but I did just watch Hannibal and would be willing to hear you out.  

Apparently the CW (of course) is doing a live-action version where they are “disillusioned twentysomethings who resent having lost their childhood to crime fighting”

This is too on-the-nose to check! And you know what, *sighs heavily*, I’m excited for it! 

The couple I babysat for regularly came home at 1 or 2 am. Somewhat drunk on his part so luckily I lived only 2 houses away and didn't need him to drive me home. They did pay extra for the hours after midnight. And didn't mind if I was asleep on the couch when they got home.

Speaking of going places at hours, it is that time! I had better skedaddle! I hope you have pleasant weeks and will catch you on Twitter and the blog

Obviously *someone* thinks it's Comeback Calamari, but I suggest off-brand potato chips eaten out of the hood of a sweatshirt you're wearing backwards

That thing you stashed in the freezer so long ago that you still haven't figured out what it was even when you thawed it, but you ate it anyway.

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri is a Washington Post columnist offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences." She joined The Post as an intern in 2010, after graduating from Harvard College.
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