Humor will save the world...unless it's just not funny. Speaking of, did anyone read Gene Weingarten's latest "Below the Beltway" column last week about men and women talking on the telephone? Probably not. I'm guessing the majority of the people who read this blog are probably both young and clever -- a market the Washington Post seems to be actively alienating as it continues to market its content to octogenarians and above.
For proof, let's look at the first paragraph of Weingarten's latest "humor" column, The feminine mistake: This time Gene has Gina's number:
"Do you recognize this scenario? You are on the phone, giving your phone number to someone. You recite the first three digits, pause a second for transcription, then continue with the rest. But just as you do, the other person inanely repeats the first three digits out loud, and everything gets lost in the cross talk, and you have to start over. And the same thing happens again. Mutual indecision ensues, with fitful stops and starts and stammers."
No. No I don't recognize that scenario because like a growing number of other Americans, I no longer rely on a landline to make or receive, well, any of my phone calls. This means that, unless someone takes special measures, his or her number will automatically come up on my phone when it rings, or more likely, vibrates -- something else landlines don't do. That, Mr. Weingarten, is how people under 40 exchange numbers these days. Either it's done automatically after someone asks for it over email, or you're in a bar and you get this all done in person. Mutual indecision does not ensue. Nor are there fitful stops and starts and stammers, unless of course you're dealing with someone who's either mentally impaired, hard of hearing, or apparently, Gene Weingarten and his aging lady friend Gina Barreca, who joins Gene in the above-mentioned article by offering this eye-rolling drivel on the matter:
"The phone number overlap happens because women are more apt to seek consensus, to make sure -- before proceeding with something -- that everyone is on the same page. It's nurturing, validating behavior, and it is entirely consistent with positive female values. It's the same reason why a woman won't adjust the thermostat, even if she is sweating copiously, until an inventory has been taken of all other people in the room, to make sure that everyone is equally uncomfortable, and that it's not 'just me.' A man walks into the same room, declares himself hot, and sets the thermostat to 30 degrees."
Maybe that'd be funny in the '50s, when men could also waltz into their houses and punch their wives in the face freely... But look, I don't mean to use the words "old" and "aging" as complete insults here. Hell, at 31, I'm no young whippersnapper myself anymore either. (And I think the fact that I just used the phrase "young whippersnapper" proves just how close to old and aging I am.) What I mean simply is that much like their own pulses, it seems people like Weingarten, Barreca and, hell, let's throw in Dave Barry, too, are losing touch with the pulse of what makes Americans "LOL." And in the slight chance that Mr. Weingarten, Ms. Barreca or Mr. Barry happen to be reading this essay (you know, in my dreams and such), "LOL" stands for Laugh Out Loud. Hey, I'm here to help.
But here's the thing -- buried deep beneath my frustration, I actually respect all of these people because at one point they were on the forefront of what was funny. (Or at least they weren't totally in the back.) And even though Weingarten and his ilk were never as daring in their essays as, say, David Sedaris or, hell, even Jack Handey's 1980s SNL one-liners seem more relevant today than most mainstream media humor columns in 2010, Gene actually seems like a funny person WNW (While Not Writing).
First of all, his Twitter icon is a twisted up pile of dog doo-doo. That's funny! As anyone with a good sense of humor knows, poop is a timeless source hilarity. Secondly, I heard an interview on Monday with Mr. Weingarten on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show and I only rolled my eyes once, and that was only when Gene started talking about that gimmicky piece of feature-writing garbage that somehow earned him the 2008 Pulitzer. Now, that was a joke...
But seriously (kinda), Weingarten was (kinda) funny on the radio. He made Kojo shift in his seat (or so I imagine) at his references to all things scatological; he had some amusing, self-deprecating one-liners; and, he demonstrated he's actually capable of being a witty observationist when talking about general goings-on (he did not, thank God, talk too much about telephone etiquette).
And so here we are, left to wonder why mainstream humor writing falls nearly completely flat in the wake of such truly funny sh*t (and that's the academic term), like Eastbound and Down, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Onion, Louie C.K., all of my friends, my Brooklyn-born grandmother, and basically 3/4ths of the rest of the world. Is it Weingarten or his editors at the Post? Are they really catering to an audience that hasn't heard of such new-fangled things like iPhones, email or, let's be honest, anything more technologically advanced than a phonograph? If so, who thought that was a good idea? And the questions go on and on...
But "meh," I say with a shoulder shrug. Since all major newspapers seem like they're going to close within the next few years anyway, I suppose all these questions don't really matter. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go laugh at some poop.
By the way, I swear to all that is Glenn Beck-y, I'll have my video roast of the Tea Party Guide to DC (and the Tea Party, in general) up tomorrow. All the suspense is actually going to be worth it this time. Um, stop laughing -- that's not a joke...