Issue 7: Funny Pages

We are pleased to bring you the work of Joe Lavin, a syndicated humor columnist whose work appears in many newspapers and magazines. Joe’s writings have nothing to do with kiting, but, what the heck, we think he is a funny guy.

And Now for Something Stupid!

by Joe Lavin — http://joelavin.com

As we enter the week of Christmas, it’s time to celebrate one of the true gifts that so many people are privileged to have. Yes, I’m talking about stupidity. Once again, let me open the old vault of stupidity and share some of the stupid stories that readers have sent to me. I do this out of a service to you, and — oh yeah also because this week I just don’t feel like writing about all the stupidity that has been taking place in Washington.

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“Will the whole ship return to Port Canaveral?” — A question asked by a passenger on a cruise ship.

“I’m not sure.” The cruise director replied sarcastically, “But maybe you should sit on the front of the ship to make sure.”

***

I admit that figuring out how to use the timer on a VCR can be daunting, but there are some people who just shouldn’t bother. One reader told me about her friend who was trying to set a VCR to record “60 Minutes” and had to ask, “How long does ’60 Minutes’ go for?”

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Ray Rapier informs me that for some reason Paxton, Illinois serves as the headquarters of the Independent Baptist Church Association. Well, it’s good to see that all the different independent Baptists manage to stay together. After all, it would be a shame if they had to go it alone.

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A receptionist answering the phone shortly after noon, “He’s at lunch. Would you care to hold?”

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Les Killion sent in some more stupidity from the office. One day, his supervisor was trying to dial a phone number and kept getting a wrong number. When she asked Les for the correct number, she discovered that she had reversed two digits. And so she tried dialing it again, but still she kept getting the same wrong number. This went on for quite a while until finally the person on the other end told her that she was still reversing the digits. She tried calling the number one more time, but even then it didn’t work. She still got the same wrong number.

Finally, she asked Les for the number again. When he asked her how she could have possibly dialed the same wrong number so many times, she told him that she had used the redial button. And somehow she still didn’t understand why she kept getting the wrong number.

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Jen Doyle told me about her friend’s “really dumb girlfriend.” This person was at a Rancid concert and offered the following commentary on bassist Matt Freeman: “Wow, that guy plays like he’s got ten fingers.”

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This one sounds like a myth, but Bernard Dolivet wrote in with a story about a man who bought a house in a remote area and soon called the local authorities to suggest that the “Deer Crossing” sign near his house should be moved because it really wasn’t a good spot for deer to be crossing the road.

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Why is it that McDonald’s always seems to make it into these stupidity columns? Here’s one more story from a reader:

At a local McDonald’s we ordered two cheeseburgers. We told the girl to put pickles on one of them. She responded, “Which one do you want the pickles on?”

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Stupid criminals also seem to be a regular feature here. This one sounds a bit suspicious, but with stupidity like this it’s tough to tell. One reader wrote in with a story about two high school students who were arrested for robbing a house in the 1970s. When the police came to the thieves’ house to arrest them shortly after the crime, the thieves asked how the police had found out. Was it a brilliant investigation by the police? Well, not exactly. You see, while our heroes in stupidity were robbing the house, they had also found a Polaroid camera and taken pictures of themselves in the house — pictures which, of course, they left behind on the kitchen table of the house.

What’s So Wrong About Computer Addiction?

(Different versions of this originally appeared in Computoredge and The Boston Tab.)

Okay, I admit it. I’m a computer addict. Personally, I don’t think this is a problem. I view it as more of a personality trait. Nevertheless, the hours I’m awake in my apartment and the hours during the day that my computer is on are roughly equal. And so when the university I work for announced it was having a lunch time seminar about computer addiction, my curiosity was piqued.

Granted, I didn’t really want to attend. After all, it was being held during my lunch hour when I normally surf the net. I’m too busy then to go to some stupid computer addiction seminar. I’ve got web sites to check out and e-mail to send. But then I thought about the bigger picture. Maybe the seminar would be good for me, I thought. Maybe I could learn how to depend less on my computer. And, hey, I could always goof off later in the day and surf the net then.

The day before, I called to register. “That’s great. I’ll sign you right up.” The woman said. “By the way, we have an e-mail list to notify people about our other self-help seminars. Would you like to be placed on that?”

“Hell yes!” I thought. “Give me all the e-mail you’ve got. I’m a computer addict.”

It certainly seemed an ominous start to my computer addiction treatment. The same people also offer drug addiction seminars. I wonder what they must be like. “Great. We’ll sign you right up. By the way, we just got a new shipment of heroin. Would you like to try some?”

When I eventually arrived at the seminar, only five people were there. Either this meant that few on campus were affected by the problem, or it was a sign that most employees were wired to the net for lunch and couldn’t break away from their computers. I’m still not sure.

The seminar mainly consisted of a speech by a doctor who was a computer addiction specialist. This doctor began by reviewing typical stories of children whose grades had dropped from playing computer games too much, about marriages destroyed by affairs started in Internet chat rooms, and about people whose lives were ruined by “inappropriate use of the computer.” I assume she meant pornography by this, but I was never entirely sure. In fact, she threw the word “inappropriate” around so much that I felt like I was at a presidential press conference.

Then, she discussed some of the symptoms of computer addiction which include:

* Lying to family members, co-workers, fellow students, therapists, and others about the amount of time spent on the computer. “Look, you’re wrong! I was only on my computer 22 hours yesterday, not 23. Jeez!”

* Engaging in computer activities to experience pleasure, gratification, or relief. “Aaaargh! Minesweeper!”

* Feeling preoccupied with computers by thinking about the experience, planning a return to the computer or buying the newest or latest hardware or software. “Hey, thanks for the info about computer addiction, Doc, but I was wondering if you think I should upgrade to a 450 processor now or wait a few months.”

* Needing to spend more and more time or money on computer activities in order to change moods. “Uh, oh, I lost my Prozac. Somebody turn my computer on quick!”

* Showing physical signs, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, backaches, dry eyes, neglect of personal hygiene or eating irregularities. “Um, personal hygiene?”

Next, she actually said, “If you’re interested, there’s more information on my web site.” No, this wasn’t working at all.

“Hi, Doctor, I just can’t stop myself from going on the Internet. I think about the net all time. What can I do?”

“Well, have you checked out my web site?”

To her credit, she didn’t actually give out the web address during the seminar, but that night I entered her name into a search engine. (It’s not like I have a problem or anything.) It turns out she even has her own domain name — computeraddiction.com. I’m not joking. It’s just a text-based site with almost no links. Frankly, it’s a bit disappointing, because you’d think that being surrounded by computer addicts all day would have at least improved her HTML skills.

As for solutions, she doesn’t advice abstaining from computers completely. She feels that would be impossible since computers play such a prevalent role in our lives. Instead, one must gradually reduce one’s dependency on the computer. How do you do this? Well, she didn’t exactly say. I guess that’s probably revealed once the check clears.

At any rate, I’d like to write more about this important subject, but I can’t.

I have to go play Minesweeper now. I’m sure you understand.

The Ghost of Christmas Past:

Some News from Past Holidays

Elmo Considers Leaving Sesame Street (1996)

Sources close to Sesame Street reveal that popular muppet Elmo has threatened to leave the long running children’s television program if he is not paid $100,000 per episode. Previously a minor cast member on Sesame Street, Elmo has grown to become one of the most popular muppets on the show. In recent days, his stature has soared dramatically due to the popularity of Tickle Me Elmo, the hottest toy this Christmas season.

“Hey, I’m big now. People pay 28 bucks just to tickle me for Chrissake. I don’t need any of this Sesame crap.” Elmo told reporters this morning.

There is also a possibility of a bidding war between PBS and Fox Television. Fox has reportedly offered Elmo a late night slot with clearances in most of the major television markets. Like the toy, the Fox show would be called Tickle Me Elmo and would give Elmo “the opportunity to deal with adult topics not allowed on Sesame Street.”

Elmo is also scheduled to star in a film next summer with David Caruso and Shelley Long. “It’s gonna be big, man.” Elmo said.

Still, most industry experts expect Elmo and PBS to come to an agreement, an agreement that could cause further problems for Sesame Street. Big Bird has long been the highest paid cast member, and many speculate that the oversized bird will leave the show if Elmo is indeed given the $100,000 per episode. Even before Elmo’s recent success, there had been increased acrimony between Big Bird and the rest of the cast.

“Big Bird? Course I hope he leaves.” One muppet who wished to remain anonymous told reporters from a garbage can on Sesame Street. “Besides, half the time, he’s so drunk he can’t even remember his lines. We don’t need the schmuck.”

Big Bird could not be reached for comment.

Disney Toy Tops Worst Toy List (1996)

The Center for the Protection of Children today released its annual report on the most dangerous toys. At the top of the list was Disney’s brand new Rusty Nail, based on the upcoming Disney animated feature of the same name. Disney is standing by their product, although Disney’s promotional partner Burger King has reportedly backed off its earlier plan to include a Rusty Nail in all children’s meals.

While several others have questioned Disney’s decision in releasing the Rusty Nail, Howard Jones, a representative for Disney, was surprised at the findings of the CPC study. “Well, I didn’t think we had to worry. Frankly, I thought we already owned the CPC. I mean, are you sure we don’t?” Jones asked.

The CPC also cited Hasbro’s Nuclear FlameThrower in its survey. The toy, which can launch a radioactive flame up to fifty feet, comes wrapped in a small plastic bag that could possibly cause asphyxiation if placed over the head of a small child. The creator of the Nuclear FlameThrower, Mark Thomas, was outraged. “I don’t see what the big deal is.” He said at a noon press conference. “I placed the bag on my head for over five minutes, and it didn’t cause any brain damage at all.”

Also cited was the R.J. Reynolds company, whose first move into the lucrative children’s toy market, the new Baby line of cigarettes, has been widely criticized. A company representative defended the decision to include twice as much nicotine in a Baby cigarette as in their regular adult cigarettes. “Well, we feel babies don’t have as much disposable income as adults, so it is our responsibility to give babies an extra hit of nicotine in their cigarette.” He said.

The CPC also questioned R.J. Reynolds’ new advertising slogan of “Light up. It’s the right thing to do.” Nevertheless, the company appears to be going ahead with production of Baby Cigarettes, although sources indicate that the release dates for Baby’s Chew chewing tobacco has been pushed back indefinitely.

Children Help Poor and Homeless in Beautiful Display of Christmas Spirit; Parents Blame Hollywood (1997)

Much to the anger of their parents, nine year old Melissa Bailey and her seven year old brother Tyrone recently began a neighborhood canned food drive to help feed poor and homeless people in their neighborhood.

Her parents were understandably outraged. “I’ll tell you what,” their father Lionel “Spike” Bailey, a convicted drug dealer and suspected hitman, said. “Those aren’t the kind of values we teach our children. All that kindness, well, they sure didn’t get that here. They got that straight from Hollywood.”

City officials confirmed that the children had been watching a heavy dose of uplifting family programming in the past few weeks. Melissa especially enjoyed the Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life.

A spokesperson for Republic Pictures apologized to the family. “We wish to reiterate that It’s A Wonderful Life was merely intended as a story and was never meant to cause such actions.”

“My kids used to be little hooligans until all this Hollywood stuff changed them.” Mr. Bailey lamented. “I miss the old days.”

Mattel’s Bag O’ Satanic Rocks and Trek’s Bike with Missing Parts Lead Holiday Toy Rush (1997)

As parents fervently line up in stores to scoop up the most popular toys, Mattel’s Bag O’ Satanic Rocks seems to be the favorite of children this year. The bag of rocks painted red comes with a book of Satanic curses and is retailing for $79.95.

“I’ve gone to 73 stores in thirteen states, looking for these rocks, and now they’re all mine!” Ecstatic parent Maureen O’Donnell said after buying the hot new toy. “My Billy just loves everything about Satan. I couldn’t disappoint him.”

O’Donnell was later arrested for allegedly assaulting eight other customers while rushing to pick up the Bag O’ Satanic Rocks. She is expected to be released from prison tomorrow on $1000 bail.

Meanwhile, after sluggish sales over the last few years, Trek’s Bike with Missing Parts is making a dramatic comeback. “Our new model is missing six parts, three screws, and comes with directions entirely in Swahili. It’s a real winner.” A company spokesperson said.

Senate Votes to Redefine True Meaning of Christmas (1997)

In a 99-0 vote, the U.S. Senate agreed Monday to redefine the true meaning of Christmas to be “all about advertising and making people think they have to spend exorbitant amounts of money even if they don’t really have all that much money in the first place.”

Vice President Al Gore expressed the Administration’s support for the bill. “This is an important bill that we all desperately need in order to make America a stronger country.” Gore said on the telephone from his office. “Hey, while I have you, would you be interested in donating some money to the Democratic Party?” He added.

Thousands of Young Children Expected to Make Startling Discovery This Christmas (1997)

Last Christmas Eve, seven year old Ashley Walker sneaked out of her  room and discovered that one of her most fervently held beliefs was completely wrong. As she spied on her father putting together her brand new ten speed bike, she finally realized that her father really wasn’t that polite a man after all and was quite capable of using words and phrases such as “f@%^”, “s%&#” and “F*&%ing c@#$%#&*^$ of a f%^&ing bike!”

Every year, thousands of children just like Ashley sneak into the living room on Christmas Eve and discover that their parents who had always seemed so nice can actually swear like a real mother*&^%$&% when it comes to putting together Christmas presents. “That’s okay.” Ashley, now eight, said. “I still love my Daddy even if he sure can be one real #&*%&#@ sometimes.”

Cool Site of the Arbitrary Time Period

Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
http://www.mcsweeneys.net

From Might founder David Eggers comes McSweeney’s, a magazine and web site dedicated to, among other things, quality articles killed by other magazines. Often hilarious, it’s always a great read.

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Copyright 1998 by Joe Lavin

Joe Lavin’s Humor Column is published early every Tuesday morning (while most sane people are sleeping) at:http://joelavin.com