By staff writer Et Nola
July 30, 2006
“Made With 23 Flavors of Humor and the Colonel’s Blend of 7 Herbs & Spices”
I was at a bar a few nights back with the associate board of the non-profit that I work for out here in San Francisco. Now, if meeting at the bar after a board meeting is indicative of the work habits of late twenty-something professionals, business casual bar-hopping is requisite. While having drinks, the conversation shifted to recent travels and the details therein. Apparently, it was funeral travel season, which, as you may not know, is Vince Vaughn’s second-favorite season.
After hearing how one of the board members had attended over 30 funerals, I began to think that either I got their ages wrong by half a century or that maybe a topic change was in order. To be honest, I was tempted to change the subject because of a four-alarm-fire-worthy board newcomer named “Star”—and who could blame me? (Imagine hearing Mariah Carey speak and not having the urge to puncture your ear lobes, and you’ll have an idea how hot she is.)
“Writing a humor column about the Special Olympics that conveys the importance of the games is like hunting a coked-up Courtney Love across a mine field.”
This got me thinking about the process in which I first held an adult conversation. I mean, at what point did I “grow up”? Beers later, the thought subsided and I channeled the instincts obtained from my New Orleans bar days. The mission: make the hot girl feel more at ease. That always seemed a good move. Besides, she wasn’t a total airhead, even though her name was “Star.” I know what you’re thinking, thus I immediately reviewed my pocket copy of “Rules for Women Born with Porn Star or Stripper Names” (there is a difference, mind you).
1. If they can converse intelligently (as in “Star’s” case), they merit the benefit of a doubt (and subsequent doubting may follow.)
2. Theirs is a dismal plight in life. They weren’t expected to do much with a name like that (i.e. Star Jones and Shar “sounds like it almost was Star” Jackson), so give them a chance to make an ass of themselves before discounting them.
3. If ever you should date one, take her to a strip club. Think of it as returning a caged bird to the wild. If it comes back to you, you know you were awesome in bed—plus, you’ll then know why the caged bird sings (without even reading the book).
For “Star’s” sake, I changed topics to weddings since she managed to slip in (about four times that night) that her brother was getting married soon. Perfect. Marriage discussions can tell you a lot about people, particularly if they are currently in one and would be a poor candidate for liquoring up. I learned something about her that night. I learned that… wait… well, whatever I learned about her, I forgot almost immediately (an affliction known as GASM—Girl-induced Amnesia to Short-term Memory). The point is that I navigated the situation like a verbal ninja, and it felt good to be back to my old self, shrouded in linguistic shinobi shozoku.
One of the hardest things about writing (public speaking, conveying thoughts to countless people, etc.) is the importance of choosing words that both effectively communicate your point, yet do not undermine potential future points. What the hell am I talking about? Good question, my critical reader. What I mean is that it is one thing to say something that might work at the time and another thing to say something you can remain content with having said the day afterwards. I mention this because the issue comes up a lot whenever I write a column.
As I write I try to hit multiple levels of comedy while reaching as many people as possible. Humor writing makes this a bit more difficult because there are things I could write that, while funny, aren’t really the level of funny I’d want to be remembered for. Hell, I wrote an entire column on the Special Olympics* entitled “It’s Hard Out Here for A Gimp,” but I realized that the extent to which I appreciate the Special Olympics and their cause would go unseen. Writing a humor column about the Special Olympics that conveys the importance of the games is like hunting a coked-up Courtney Love across a mine field: of course it’ll be funny and may leave an impact, but probably not what I’m shooting for.
Oddly enough, I debate regularly about whether some of what I’ve already put online has wholly ruined my run for Congress in 2020. I’m kind of excited to see what articles get misquoted or truncated so much so that I manage to gain the anti-Semitic, hobo-hating, misogynist vote. I hear they’re already forming a political party in anticipation. I’d like to thank the internet for making it possible.
In all honesty, there’s always the possibility that something I type will come back to haunt me like A Million Little Pieces bit Frey in the ass, but I write regardless. The difference is that I write satire (maybe he should too). I may not be the most-read columnist on the site, but I take pride in both writing something that’s different, and knowing that chicks still dig a cunning linguist as much as they loved the joke about it back in grade school.
The balance of what to say and how to say it is often the struggle of being a writer, particularly when biting one’s tongue is deemed a weakness. Actions speak louder than words, but writing can speak loudest of all. What has been written remains a testament to thought-made-substance. It is by that notion that I am bound to make my words more substantive.
I am given a vocabulary to convey thoughts that others may have already experienced, thus it is my duty to express them in a manner unlike others before me. I write out of that sense of commitment, despite the appearance of posturing. I won’t always succeed, but whatever’s clever will likely prevail. As we grow, so should our ability to laugh while considering what is brought before us. If we don’t challenge what we say, do, or read, then truly the joke is on us, one punchline after another.
*For more information about the Special Olympics, ask your mom why she refuses to sign you up. Failing that, visit www.specialolympics.org and find out how you can get involved.