The Michigan Daily - Monday, September 10, 1990 - Page 5
Have Perspective and Insert 1 Weasel
By Dave Barry
I frequently get letters from read-
ers asking me to explain how hu-
mor works. Of course they don't
ask in exactly those words. Their
actual wording is more like:
"Just where do you get off, Mr.
Barry, comparing the entire legal
profession to flatworms?" Or:
"How about if I come down to that
Inewspaper and stick a wastebasket
up your nose?"
People come to me with this
kind of probing question because I
happen to be a major world expert
on humor. I deal constantly with
sophisticated humor questions such
as: Would it be funnier to have the
letter say, "How about if I come
down to that newspaper and stick an
IBM Selectric typewriter up your
nose?" Or should I maybe try to
work in a subtle political joke,
such as: "How about if come down
to that newspaper and stick Vice
President Quayle up your nose?"
This is the kind of complex philo-
sophical issue that I am forced to
wrestle with, hour after hour, until
10:30 am, when "Wheel of For-
tune" comes on.
After years of pursuing this reg-
imen, I've learned certain fundamen-
tal truths about humor. One of
them is that "weasel" is a funny
word. You can improve the humor
value of almost any situation by in-
jecting a weasel into it:
WRONG: "Scientists have dis-
covered a 23rd moon orbiting
RIGHT: "Scientists have dis-
covered a giant weasel orbiting
WRONG: "U.S. Rep. Newt
RIGHT: "U.S. Rep. Weasel
But the most important humor
truth of all is that to really see the
humor in a situation, you have to
have perspective. "Perspective" is
derived from two ancient Greek
words: "persp," meaning
"something bad that happens to
somebody else," and "ective,"
meaning "ideally somebody like
Take for example funerals. Fu-
nerals are not funny, which is why
we don't laugh during them unless
we just can't help ourselves. On the
other hand, if a funeral occurs way
on the other side of the world, and
it involves the late Mr. Ayatollah
"Mojo" Khomeini, and the mourn-
ers are so upset that they start grab-
bing garments and souvenir body
parts off of the deceased to the point
where what's left of him could be
laid to rest in a standard Good &
Plenty box, then we have no choice
but to laugh until our dentures fall
into our laps.
An even better example of hu-
mor perspective involves a
masseuse named Danette Sadle I
met in San Francisco. (Let me
stress, for the benefit of those read-
ers who happen to be my wife, that
I met her in a totally non-massage
Danette had a regular client who
decided to give her husband a pro-
fessional massage as a gift, think-
ing that he would enjoy it. When
the husband showed up, however,
he was very nervous: He said he'd
never had a massage before, and he
was concerned about getting un-
dressed, and specifically whether he
was supposed to leave his under-
pants on. Danette assured hin that
she was a professional, and that
he'd be covered at all times by a
sheet, but he was still very con-
cerned. So Danette said look, leave
your underpants on, take them off,
whatever makes you comfortable.
The she left the room while he un-
When she came back, the man
was under the sheet looking as re-
laxed as a person being strapped
down for brain surgery via ice pick.
So Danette, trying to be as calm
and non-threatening as possible,
walked up to him, reached out her
hand, and touched the man's back at
EXACTLY THE MOMENT the
famous World Series earthquake
Let me stress that there was
NOTHING FUNNY about this
earthquake, unless you have the
perspective of hearing Danette de-
scribe how the man's entire body,
in defiance of gravity, twitched vio-
lently into the air like a trout on
amphetamines and landed on the
other side of the room.
"It's usually more relaxing than
this," said Danette.
"It's a good thing I kept my un-
derpants on!" said the man.
These are words that a lo; of
people could stand to remember
more often, but that is not my
point. My point is that by haing
perspective on things we can find
humor in virtually any situation,
except of course for genuinely
tragic events that cause serious
trouble for large numbers of people.
Or anything involving my car.
W Dave Barry's syndicated column is
a regular feature of the Daily's
Vf1L/ FVVL JCL LLV/L. _
Getting mail at college can be an enlightening experience
By Andrew Gottesman
Before I arrived at college, I
'never used to get much mail. Oh
sure, the annual renewal form to
Sports Illustrated or my compli-
mentary issue of Motorcycle Gang
magazine would occasionally grace
the kitchen table, where my mother
placed the day's letters.
But all that changed completely
when I came to the University. My
mailbox was stuffed with letters
from friends, family and even
The whole thing sort of worried
It was a strange feeling, actually
reading about people you're used to
talking with every day face to face.
But after a while, opening the mail
got to be fun - a person's letters
--have basically turned out to be an
-extension of the person.
For example, there's the "You're
*'-at college now, you ought to be to-
-tally in touch with world events and
jntellectual stuff" letter from my fa-
ther. He actually clipped out an ar-
Gottesman is an LSA junior and a
Daily Associate Sports Editor.
title from Time magazine about
protestors at some university and
sent it to me.
And the headline?
"Bigots in the Ivory Tower:
Racial, religious and sexual preju-
dice makes a campus comeb .ck."
Excuse me, Pop, but I' ve got
plenty of that stuff right here at my.
feet in Ann Arbor. No need to add
to the hysteria.
My mother even asked me last
year if she could send articles out to
me. I probably don't have to worry,
though; while my father sends me
intellectual stuff, she'll probably
send me wedding announcements
from The New York Times. It's
sort of a take-the-hint kind of thing.
"Dear Andy," the letter will read,
"look at all these nice married peo-
ple. Wouldn't you like to be a mar-
ried people, too?"
And then there's the "I'm doing
great at college and I love it so
much and, oh, I just wish I could
rub' it in your face a little bit
more," letter from your high school
friends. For example, one friend at
the University of Vermont wrote, "I
got my grades and I made Dean's
List. I'm finally taking things that
I'm really interested in like
Political Science and Sociology."
Well isn't that career as a
diplomat to a country with a lot of
social problems just beating down
your door? Nobody cares that your
grades are good and c'mon, don't
feed me the "I like school" stuff.
Admit it, you hate classes
(especially ones with a lot of extra-
neous reading like Political Science
and Sociology), teachers and
homework just as much as the rest
of us. Plus, there is absolutely no
way you keep up with the reading,
anyway. So get off your high
Another friend at U.Vm. (I
guess that place brainwashes stu-
dents very quickly) wrote about all
the new and exciting things she's
doing. "Last week I went hiking...
I signed up for the horse club... I
also am in the outing club." And
then she has the nerve to say, "I
don't want you to think I'm turning
into a Granola or some nature freak,
I'm simply broadening my hori-
I thought about writing back, "I
joined the skinheads and enjoy beat-
ing up people of all different races
and beliefs, but don't worry, I'm
just broadening my horizons."
I wish these people could just
admit they love college for the
same reason the rest of us do: mak-
ing the most of their final years be-
fore entering the Real World.
Anyway, one of my favorite
kinds of letters was the, "Golly, gee
whiz, high school just isn't the
by school)," she writes. "Was it
open when you were here? It's re-
Well, gosh, I'm so sure The
Mall is just totally gnarly; we'll
just have to do lunch there some-
time with the rest of the gang.
But then there were the letters
that did brighten my day and re-
minded me that some people had
stayed the same. A good friend
wrote to me about what a bunch of
losers his professors were and about
"Dear Andy," the letter will read, "look at all
these nice married people. Wouldn't you like
to be a married people, too?"
wicked (expletive deleted). The tAst
night I was here my dad bought
beer for me so I had kids over and
had a small party in my room. Qne
girl brought vodka and Jack. My
schedule is cake and so are the
times I have class... gotta cruise-i
But the best letters I received
were, without a doubt, from two-of
my nieces and a nephew. The first,
which I received on September .18
of my first year after being 'at
school for about two weeks, put it
simply, yet perfectly: "Have fun."
And another card they sent, for
Valentine's Day, may have been a
little messed up, but it's the
thought that counts. "Grandma," it
said, "...when I grow up, I wahito
be just like you!"
Ok, so they got the cards mixed
up. It didn't matter, though; I'm
sure my mom enjoyed a card say-
ing, "Hey Uncle, have a wild time
this Valentine's Day" and I cer-
tainly wouldn't have traded mine for
Well, maybe for a football sea-
son ticket renewal form.
same without you" letter from one
of the poor youngsters who is just
now a junior or senior in high
school. One letter tells me about
how tyrannical the administration
in my school has become - as if I
didn't know that when I went there.
And get this: "I'm going to
Bridgewater Commons (a new mall
a stupid paper he was writing on
The Odyssey. Of course, I was do-
ing exactly the same thing at the
Another friend wrote: "I'm hav-
ing a (expletive deleted) blast so far,
I hope you are too. I went to a cou-
ple of frat parties last night with
the dudes I hang out with. We got
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