Home Life & Style Gene Weingarten: These are desperate times for us humorists

Gene Weingarten: These are desperate times for us humorists


In short, it’s gotten bleak for us humorists. We are desperate. For example, when I read that there was a female llama whose blood might cure the coronavirus, I began feverishly trying to turn this into something funny, and it occurred to me that the only word that rhymes with “llama” is “pajama,” which seemed promising from a humor perspective because pajamas are funny, particularly the kind with trapdoor flaps in the butt. But then my idiot editor, Tom the Butcher, pointed out that “Bowl-a-Rama” also rhymes with “pajama.”

I claimed he made the word up, but he proved there is such a thing — it is apparently a bowling-themed arcade game — at which point I realized “melodrama” also rhymes with “llama,” but I was still going to go with this lame mama-llama joke until I had a slap-to-the-forehead revelation that “Obama” also rhymes with “llama,” and “Obama” gets millions of Google hits, so it’s like one of the most common words in the world, and even I could no longer justify using it. But then I discovered that the llama in question has antibodies that combat a disease I had identified 22 years ago, in a book I wrote, as the funniest-sounding disease in the world: “thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.” So at this point, column-wise, I was gaining ground, humor-wise.

Tom gets paid to help me come up with ideas, so as you can imagine from the above, he was motivated to be of assistance. He suggested that someone should write a book “Coronavirus: The Novel.” And I told him that was really stupid, and arguably insensitive, only here it is, in the column.

Anyway, thee next thing that happened was what just happened. Did you notice? Lately, when I type the letter “e,” very ofteen it prints twice. There is something wrong with my keyboard. This is annoying because I have to keeep backspacing and deleting e’s. I called thee Apple store, but it was closed because, you know. Deeath. Still, I feeel aggrieved, and then feel embarrassed for feeling aggrieved. I think about writing “eee!” and then reject it as a terrible joke.

Here is something that I haven’t seen written by any other humorists because, frankly, only I would be tasteless enough to mention it. Spam phone calls have ended. A positive coronavirus development! I used to get about 11 of them a day, but that has fallen off to zero. Apparently even the desperate souls in boiler rooms aren’t willing to risk their lives annoying people.

President Trump usually helps humorists out, and I have to say he came through for me. He went on a tirade that veered out of control, and he seemed to be suggesting that all journalists are scum who should give their Pulitzer Prizes back so they can be re-awarded to journalists who, in his judgment, think he is the greatest and most unfairly treated president in history. I agree, particularly about the scum part. I have two P’s, and I am going to deliver mine to Tucker Carlson, right at his home, but only on the condition that he must use them when he can’t find toilet paper at the store. This is a man who cannot be shamed. He might do it!

But mostly, as I think we all understand, these are very strange and disturbing times, and that is at the real heart of the humorist’s dilemma. Occasionally, though, there is a breakthrough, and one happened the other day. Like most of you, I have been sheltering in place with my girlfriend, Rachel — well, I mean you are not sheltering with Rachel, as far as I know. My point is, we are living like animals, unsuccessfully foraging for food, frequently making do in shabby ways. So one day we decided to risk appearing in public, to pick up takeout.

I need to emphasize something, and I am guessing you can identify with it: We are a little nuts, particularly me. Housebound, nervous, not quite sure how one’s partner is bearing up, looking for signs of anxiety — loving, supporting, alert to problems, ready to help.

Rachel called in the order to the restaurant; I left to pick it up.

As I walked out of the house, I asked her, “Are you Rachel?”

Her head snapped around. She looked stunned. Kind of panicked. I’ve never seen this look before, and it alarmed me.

We blinked at each other.

“I mean, is the name you left for pickup ‘Rachel’?”

We both burst out laughing. Now that was funny.

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