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funny university essay

Should You Be Funny In Your College Essay + Examples

funny university essay

What’s Covered:

Why are college essays important, should you be funny in your college essay, tips for adding humor to your college essays, essay examples, how to make sure your humor is effective.

College essays are an important part of your application profile. They humanize you and provide you with the opportunity to prove that you’re an interesting individual beyond your grades and test scores. 

Some ways students humanize themselves include reflecting on their values, clueing readers into their backstory, showing off their personalities, or any combination of these. 

One question that may come up with regards to showing off your personality is: can I be funny in my college essay?

Read along to hear our expert opinion on the subject and tips for writing a funny essay, the right way. You can also check out a few examples of essays that have successfully included humor to give you a good idea of what’s appropriate for your writing.

To put it simply, college essays are needed because top colleges have lots of qualified candidates and, to get accepted, you need to stand out. It is estimated that, at top schools, there are at least four academically-qualified applicants for every open spot. This means that students hoping to gain admission to top schools must supplement outstanding grades with other outstanding qualities.

Ways to make yourself stand out include extracurriculars, recommendations and interviews, and essays. At the nation’s top schools, reports tell us that these non-academic factors are weighted respectively as accounting for 30%, 10%, and 25% of your overall admissions chances. The fact that essays account for 25% of your admissions chances means that they could be your key to acceptance at your dream school.

If you are interested in the specific factors that determine how important essays are for individual candidates at individual schools, check out this post .

Essays are heavily weighted in the admissions process because they are the only place where admissions officers get to hear directly from you. An individual’s voice says a lot about them—how mature they are, how comfortable they are with their experiences, and even how likable they are. These are important factors for admissions officers who are trying to see how you would fit in on their campus!

The gist of our answer: if your personality is funny, feel free to be funny! As we’ve said, an important opportunity provided to you by the college essay is the opportunity to show your personality. Humor, if done correctly, can be an important part of that.

That said, if you are only attempting humor because you think it is what admissions officers want to hear or because you think it will help you stand out, abandon ship and find a way to shape your essay that is true to your personality. Try writing down how you view your personality or ask friends and family for adjectives that describe your personality, then show that personality through your voice. It will be more natural this way!

Some elements of personality that could define your voice, if humor isn’t for you:

  • Thoughtful/reflective
  • Extroverted/social
  • Charismatic
  • Clever/witty
  • Honest/authentic
  • Considerate
  • Practical/rational

Additionally, if you cannot follow some basic guidelines (listed below) for how to incorporate humor into your essay, you might want to change your course.

1. Be Appropriate

First things first: be appropriate. Humor is, of course, subjective, but make sure your subject matter would be considered appropriate by absolutely anyone reading it. Think about the most traditional person you know and make sure they would be okay with it. No jokes about sex, drugs, lying, crimes, or anything inappropriate—even if the joke is “obviously” against the inappropriate thing you are mentioning.

2. Don’t Be Overly Informal

You want your essay to position you as mature and intelligent, and the way you control language is a sign of maturity and intellect. That said, lots of humor—particularly the humor of young people and internet humor—are based on informality, intentional grammatical errors, and slang. These types of humor, while arguably funny, should be excluded from college essays!

As you write, remember that you know nothing about your admissions officer. Of course, you do not know their age, race, or gender, but you also don’t know their sense of humor. The last thing you want to do is make a joke with an intentional grammatical error and be perceived as unintelligent or make a joke with slang that confuses your reader and makes them think you don’t have a firm grasp of the English language.

3. Avoid Appearing Disrespectful or Inconsiderate

Humor often involves making fun of someone or something. It is very important that you do not make fun of the wrong things! In the last example, the student made fun of themself and their failed cooking experience. That is totally acceptable.

Things that you should not make fun of:

  • Other people (particularly those in positions of authority)
  • Political ideas
  • Religious ideas
  • Anything involving ethics, morals, or values

When you make fun of others, you risk sounding cold or unsympathetic. Admissions officers want to admit candidates who are mature and understand that they can never understand the struggles of others. That means you shouldn’t make a cutting joke about your old boss or an unintelligent politician who was running for your city mayor, even if they are the villain in your anecdote.

Similarly, avoid jokes about types of people. Avoid stereotypes in your jokes. 

In general, it is hard to write a humorous essay about a controversial subject. Controversial issues are typically issues that require deep thought and conversation, so if you intend to engage with them, you should consider a more reflective approach, or consider integrating reflection with your humor.

Here is an example of a student successfully poking fun at themself with their humor, while alluding to controversy:

My teenage rebellion started at age twelve. Though not yet technically a teenager, I dedicated myself to the cause: I wore tee shirts with bands on them that made my parents cringe, shopped exclusively at stores with eyebrow-pierced employees, and met every comforting idea the world offered me with hostility. Darkness was in my soul! Happiness was a construct meant for sheep! Optimism was for fools! My cynicism was a product of a world that gave birth to the War in Afghanistan around the same time it gave birth to me, that shot and killed my peers in school, that irreversibly melted ice caps and polluted oceans and destroyed forests. 

I was angry. I fought with my parents, my peers, and strangers. It was me versus the world. 

However, there’s a fundamental flaw in perpetual antagonism: it’s exhausting. My personal relationships suffered as my cynicism turned friends and family into bad guys in my eyes. As I kept up the fight, I found myself always tired, emotionally and physically. The tipping point came one morning standing at the bathroom sink before school.

This student engages with controversial subject matter, but the humorous parts are the parts where she makes fun of herself and her beliefs— “ Darkness was in my soul! Happiness was a construct meant for sheep! Optimism was for fools!” Additionally, the student follows up their humor with reflection: “ However, there’s a fundamental flaw in perpetual antagonism: it’s exhausting. My personal relationships suffered as my cynicism turned friends and family into bad guys in my eyes.”

This student is both funny and mature, witty and reflective, and, above all, a good writer with firm control of language.

4. Don’t Force It

We have already mentioned not to force humor, but we are mentioning it again because it is very important! 

Here is an example of a student whose forced humor detracts from the point of their essay:

To say I have always remained in my comfort zone is an understatement. Did I always order chicken fingers and fries at a restaurant? Yup! Sounds like me. Did I always create a color-coded itinerary just for a day trip? Guilty as charged. Did I always carry a first-aid kit at all times? Of course! I would make even an ambulance look unprepared. And yet here I was, choosing 1,000 miles of misery from Las Vegas to Seattle despite every bone in my body telling me not to.

The sunlight blinded my eyes and a wave of nausea swept over me. Was it too late to say I forgot my calculator? It was only ten minutes in, and I was certain that the trip was going to be a disaster. I simply hoped that our pre-drive prayer was not stuck in God’s voicemail box. 

As this student attempts to characterize themself as stuck in their ways (to eventually describe how they overcame this desire for comfort), their humor feels gimmicky. They describe their preparedness in a way that comes off as inauthentic. It’s funny to imagine them carrying around a first aid kit everywhere they go, but does the reader believe it? Then, when they write “ Was it too late to say I forgot my calculator? ” they create an image of themself as that goofy, overprepared kit in a sitcom. Sitcom characters don’t feel real and the point of a college essay is to make yourself seem like a real person to admissions officers. Don’t sacrifice your essay to humor.

5. Make Sure Your Humor Is Clear

Humor is subjective, so run your essay by people—lots and lots of people—to see if they are confused, offended, or distracted. Ask people to read your essay for content and see if they mention the humor (positively or negatively), but also specifically ask people what they think about the humor. Peer feedback is always important but becomes particularly useful when attempting a humorous essay.

Essay Example #1

Prompt: Tell us an interesting or amusing story about yourself from your high school years. (350 words)

Cooking is one of those activities at which people are either extremely talented or completely inept. Personally, I’ve found that I fall right in the middle, with neither prodigal nor abhorrent talents. After all, it’s just following instructions, right? Unfortunately, one disastrous night in my kitchen has me questioning that logic.

The task was simple enough: cook a turkey stir fry. In theory, it’s an extremely simple dish. However, almost immediately, things went awry. While I was cutting onions, I absentmindedly rubbed at my eyes and smeared my mascara. (Keep this in mind; it’ll come into play later.) I then proceeded to add the raw turkey to the vegetable pot. Now, as any good chef knows, this means that either the vegetables will burn or the turkey will be raw. I am admittedly not a good chef.

After a taste test, I decided to take a page out of the Spice Girls’ book and “spice up my life”, adding some red chili paste. This was my fatal mistake. The bottle spilled everywhere. Pot, counter, floor, I mean everywhere . While trying to clean up the mess, my hands ended up covered in sauce.

Foolishly, I decided to taste my ruined meal anyway. My tongue felt like it was on fire and I sprinted to the bathroom to rinse my mouth. I looked in the mirror and, noticing the raccoon eyes formed by my mascara, grabbed a tissue. What I had neglected to realize was that chili paste had transferred to the tissue—the tissue which I was using to wipe my eyes. I don’t know if you’ve ever put chili paste anywhere near your eyes, but here’s a word of advice: don’t. Seriously, don’t .

I fumbled blindly for the sink handle, mouth still on fire, eyes burning, presumably looking like a character out of a Tim Burton film. After I rinsed my face, I sat down and stared at my bowl of still-too-spicy and probably-somewhat-raw stir fry, wondering what ancient god had decided to take their anger out on me that night, and hoping I would never incur their wrath ever again.

What the Essay Did Well

This essay is an excellent example of how to successfully execute humor. The student’s informal tone helps to bridge the gap between them and the reader, making us feel like we are sitting across the table from them and laughing along. Speaking directly to the reader in sentences like, “ Keep this in mind; it’ll come into play later, ” and “ I don’t know if you’ve ever put chili paste anywhere near your eyes, but here’s a word of advice: don’t. Seriously, don’t,”  is a great tactic to downplay the formality of the essay.

The student’s humor comes through phrases like “ Now, as any good chef knows, this means that either the vegetables will burn or the turkey will be raw. I am admittedly not a good chef.” As this student plays on the common structure of “As any good (insert profession here) knows,” then subverts expectations, they make an easy-to-understand, casual but not flippant joke.

Similarly, the sentence “ I decided to take a page out of the Spice Girls’ book ,” reads in a light-hearted, funny tone. And, importantly, even if a reader had no idea who the Spice Girls were, they would recognize this as a pop-culture joke and would not be confused or lost in any way. The phrase “ raccoon eyes”  is another humorous inclusion—even if the reader doesn’t know what it’s like to rub their eyes while wearing mascara they can picture the rings around a raccoon and imagine the spectacle.

As you can see from this essay, humor works well when you engage universal and inoffensive concepts in ways that are casual enough to be funny, but still comprehensible.

Essay Example #2

Prompt: Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History… a full list of unmodified majors ready for your editor’s eye is available here. —Inspired by Josh Kaufman, AB’18

When I shared the video of me eating fried insects in Thailand, my friends were seriously offended. Some stopped talking to me, while the rest thought I had lost my mind and recommended me the names of a few psychologists. 

A major in Gastrophysics at UChicago is not for the faint hearted. You have to have a stomach for it! I do hope I am accepted to it as it is the only University in the U.S. with this unique major. My passion for trying unique food such as fish eye has made me want to understand the complexities of how it affects our digestive system. I understand that Gastrophysics started with a big pang of food, which quickly expanded to famish. Bite years are used to measure the amount of food ingested. I look forward to asking, “How many bite years can the stomach hold?” and “How do different enzymes react with the farticles?” 

Gastrophysics truly unravels the physics of food. At UChicago I will understand the intricacies of what time to eat, how to eat and how food will be digested. Do we need to take antiparticle acid if we feel acidity is becoming a matter of concern? At what angle should the mouth be, for the best possible tasting experience? When I tried crocodile meat, I found that at a 0 degree tilt, it tasted like fish and chicken at the same time. But the same tasted more like fish at a negative angle and like chicken at a positive angle. I want to unravel these mysteries in a class by Professor Daniel Holz in gravitational gastrophysics, understanding the unseen strong and weak forces at play which attract food to our stomachs. 

I find that Gastrophysics is also important for fastronomy. I want to learn the physics of fasting. How should we fast? Hubble bubble is a good chewing gum; an appetite suppressant in case you feel pangs of hunger. I have read how the UChicago Fastronauts are stepping up to test uncharted territories. Intermittent fasting is a new method being researched, and UChicago offers the opportunity for furthering this research. Which is better: fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8, or fasting for 24 hours twice a week? It is just one of the problems that UChicago offers a chance to solve. 

I can also study the new branch it offers that uses farticle physics. It is the science of tracking farticles and how they interact with each other and chemicals in the stomach space. It could give rise to supernovae explosions, turning people into gas giants. It would also teach about the best ways to expel gas and clean the system and prevent stomach space expansion. 

I want to take Fluid dynamics 101, another important course in Gastrophysics; teaching about the importance of water and other fluids in the body, and the most important question: what happens if you try to drink superfluids? 

I hope to do interdisciplinary courses with observational gastrophysicists and work with environmental science majors to track how much methane is given by the human and animal gastrointestinal tract in the atmosphere and how much it contributes to the global climate change. I believe, with the help of courses in date science, they have been able to keep a track of how much methane is entering each day, and they found that during Dec 24-Jan 3 period, a spike in the methane and ethane levels could be seen. Accordingly, algorithms are being programmed to predict the changes all year round. I would love to use my strong mathematical background to explore these algorithms. 

These courses are specially designed by the distinguished faculty of UChicago. Doing interdisciplinary research in collaboration with biological science students to determine what aliens may eat, with fart historians to know more about the intestinal structure of medieval Italians, Japanese, Chinese, Swedish and French people to better their lives is what I look forward to. The Paris study abroad program is an immersion course into fastronomy, where I will have the opportunity to test my self-control with all the amazing French food and desserts around! 

My stomach rumbles now, so I am going out to try out new food – hopefully it will be in Chicago a few months later. 

This is a fun essay! This student’s voice is present and their goofy personality is especially evident. Not only did they change the name of their major, but this student incorporated word play throughout the essay to showcase their imagination. Phrases like “ the big pang of food ”, “ bite years ”, “ fastronauts ”, and “ farticle physics ” keep the tone lighthearted and amusing.

Incorporating this style of humor takes a lot of creativity to be able to still convey your main idea while also earning a chuckle from your readers. While some jokes are a bit more low-brow—” farticles ” or “ fart historians ” for example—they are balanced out by some that are more clever and require a bit of thinking to get the A-ha moment (referencing the Hubble telescope as “ Hubble bubble chewing gum “). You might not feel comfortable including less sophisticated jokes in your essay at all, but if you do want to go down that path, having more intellectual sources of humor is important to provide balance.

Another positive of the essay is the continued thread of humor throughout. Sometimes humor is used as a tool in the introduction and abandoned in favor of practical information about the student. This essay manages to tell us about the student and their interests without sacrificing the laugh factor. Weaving humor throughout the essay like this makes the humor feel more genuine and helps us better understand this student’s personality.  

Essay Example #3

Prompt:   Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? (650 words)

Scalding hot water cascades over me, crashing to the ground in a familiar, soothing rhythm. Steam rises to the ceiling as dried sweat and soap suds swirl down the drain. The water hisses as it hits my skin, far above the safe temperature for a shower. The pressure is perfect on my tired muscles, easing the aches and bruises from a rough bout of sparring and the tension from a long, stressful day. The noise from my overactive mind dies away, fading into music, lyrics floating through my head. Black streaks stripe the inside of my left arm, remnants of the penned reminders of homework, money owed and forms due. 

It lacks the same dynamism and controlled intensity of sparring on the mat at taekwondo or the warm tenderness of a tight hug from my father, but it’s still a cocoon of safety as the water washes away the day’s burdens. As long as the hot water is running, the rest of the world ceases to exist, shrinking to me, myself and I. The shower curtain closes me off from the hectic world spinning around me. 

Much like the baths of Blanche DuBois, my hot showers are a means of cleansing and purifying (though I’m mostly just ridding myself of the germs from children at work sneezing on me). In the midst of a hot shower, there is no impending exam to study for, no newspaper deadline to meet, no paycheck to deposit. It is simply complete and utter peace, a safe haven. The steam clears my mind even as it clouds my mirror. 

Creativity thrives in the tub, breathing life into tales of dragons and warrior princesses that evolve only in my head, never making their way to paper but appeasing the childlike dreamer and wannabe author in me all the same. That one calculus problem that has seemed unsolvable since second period clicks into place as I realize the obvious solution. The perfect concluding sentence to my literary analysis essay writes itself (causing me to abruptly end my shower in a mad dash to the computer before I forget it entirely).  

Ever since I was old enough to start taking showers unaided, I began hogging all the hot water in the house, a source of great frustration to my parents. Many of my early showers were rudely cut short by an unholy banging on the bathroom door and an order to “stop wasting water and come eat dinner before it gets cold.” After a decade of trudging up the stairs every evening to put an end to my water-wasting, my parents finally gave in, leaving me to my (expensive) showers. I imagine someday, when paying the water bill is in my hands, my showers will be shorter, but today is not that day (nor, hopefully, will the next four years be that day). 

Showers are better than any ibuprofen, the perfect panacea for life’s daily ailments. Headaches magically disappear as long as the water runs, though they typically return in full force afterward. The runny nose and itchy eyes courtesy of summertime allergies recede. Showers alleviate even the stomachache from a guacamole-induced lack of self-control. 

Honestly though, the best part about a hot shower is neither its medicinal abilities nor its blissful temporary isolation or even the heavenly warmth seeped deep into my bones. The best part is that these little moments of pure, uninhibited contentedness are a daily occurrence. No matter how stressful the day, showers ensure I always have something to look forward to. They are small moments, true, but important nonetheless, because it is the little things in life that matter; the big moments are too rare, too fleeting to make anyone truly happy. Wherever I am in the world, whatever fate chooses to throw at me, I know I can always find my peace at the end of the day behind the shower curtain.

While the humor in this essay isn’t as direct as the others, the subtle inclusion of little phrases in parentheses throughout the essay bring some comedy without feeling overbearing. 

The contrast of elegant and posh Blanche DuBois and “ germs from children at work sneezing on me ” paints an ironic picture that you can’t help but laugh at. The ability to describe universal experiences also brings a level of humor to the essay. For example, the reader might laugh at the line, “ abruptly end my shower in a mad dash to the computer before I forget it entirely,”  because it brings to mind moments when they have done the same.

This student also achieves a humorous tone by poking fun at themselves. Admitting that they were “ hogging all the hot water, ” leading to “ (expensive) showers, ” as well as describing their stomachache as a “ guacamole-induced lack of self-control, ” keeps the tone casual and easy-going. Everybody has their flaws, and in this case long showers and guacamole are the downfall of this student.

While the tips and tricks we’ve given you will be extremely helpful when writing, it’s often not that simple. Feedback is ultimately any writer’s best source of improvement—especially when it comes to an element like humor which, naturally, can be hit-or-miss! 

To get your college essay edited for free, use our Peer Review Essay Tool . With this tool, other students can tell you if your humor is effective/appropriate and help you improve your essay so that you can have the best chances of admission to your dream schools.

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

funny university essay

Cardinal Education

How To Write: The Humorous Essay, for College Applications

There are all sorts of different essays that you can write for your college applications. The intellectual essay. The identity story. The tale of the underdog. Cardinal Education is here with a series on the different types of angles you’ll want to take in your writing. We’ll start with one of the most fun to write, yet one of the hardest to truly pull off: the humorous essay.

So, What Makes “Funny” Funny For College Admissions Officers?

There’s no doubt that funny essays can be wildly successful with admissions officers. The college application is all about showing off your personality, and what better way to show your personality off than by demonstrating that you know how to make a joke? Obviously, though, if you want to write a funny essay, it has to be funny. Here are our thoughts on how to achieve that.

Humor is so diverse and complex that there’s really no one way to define it. There’s self-deprecating humor, there’s slapstick humor, there’s wordplay, there’s satire, and more . Many will say that there’s no one formula to make something hilarious and that everyone has to find a way to be funny by themselves. While this is true to some extent, these are a few things that different styles of humor have in common:

Humor relies on the unexpected. This is the first thing that many will tell you in a how-to-be-funny guide: you can get your biggest laughs out of surprise twists and turns. Lead your audience to believe one thing will happen, then crack a joke about how the opposite actually occurred. Tell them how you expected a certain outcome, but something else happened and you couldn’t help but laugh. Or make a list where one of the items is not like the others. For example, things you learned while nature researching up North: the importance of biodiversity, the ability to work on a team, and…never leaving the house without an extra pair of socks. Think beyond simply telling a story to all the surprising things that happened along the way.

Humor is all about setup and delivery. Every punchline has a setup, and you’ll want to structure your narrative to set up for all the remarks you’re going to pepper through your piece. You don’t want to turn the whole thing into a joke after joke because then each one you write has less impact; instead, spend some time narrating the setups to your best punchlines in a way that makes them as—well—punchy as possible. Yet it’s not as though these narrations should be completely unfunny themselves. Think about the tone you’re trying to set, bring it ahead, and then yank the expectations right from under your readers’ feet.

Humor makes witty observations on the commonplace. This is part of the fact that it relies on the unexpected—it finds something new, fresh, and snappy to say about everyday things, from farming to fishing to the embarrassing moments that inevitably make up our lives. Poke some gentle fun at commonplace expectations and situations; stand-up comedians are experts at this. If you’re the type of person who can see something special in the mundane, admissions officers are sure to appreciate it.

Good humor punches up, rather than punching down. What is meant by this is that humor makes fun of those who are in a position of great power in society, rather than people who have relatively little power. You can joke about CEOs—that’s called satire—but not about janitors; that’s called classism. And you certainly can’t make jokes at the expense of students at your school that you don’t like—that’s called bullying. As you craft your essay, make sure to keep this in mind.

The Best Humor for College Essays Has a Point

Now you have a few pointers on how to write funny. You probably also have a few jokes in mind about your experiences. Once you start writing out what you’ve envisioned in your head, you then need to ask yourself: what is the overall point you’re trying to make?

This is the sort of thing that makes a lot of comedy great—it’s ultimately aimed at saying something deeper about society and about the way we do things. It would be good to learn from such comedy about how to tie your humor back to a deeper meaning behind it. Use your sense of humor to expose personal truths about what you’ve learned throughout the story of your journey. Use it to show admissions officers that you’re truly a better person, more ready for adulthood because of what you’ve discovered. If you can leave them in stitches while also leaving them with a profound takeaway, the beautiful picture you’ve created of yourself will be complete.

One Last Word of Advice: Don’t Force It

If you find yourself struggling too hard to write any of this, trying to force out jokes, then maybe the humorous essay is not your style. This essay can be a favorite at the admissions table if done right, but potentially disastrous if it’s not. Perhaps you’re not a natural comedian, and that’s perfectly fine. What matters most is that your essay reflects who you are on the page; maybe in our next installment of the How To series, you’ll find what’s best for you!

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funny university essay

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funny university essay

12 Unforgettable College Application Essays

funny university essay

It's been a long time since I penned my college application essays, but that doesn't mean I don't still appreciate them. On the contrary: I think memorable college admissions essays are to be applauded. Why? Because anyone who can make theirs interesting, thus bringing a modicum of relief to those who have to actually sit there and plow through them all, definitely deserves some acknowledgment for their work. And hey, wouldn't you know it? That's the subject of today's AskReddit thread: “ College admissions counselors of Reddit , what's the weirdest/worst/most memorable essay you've read?”

As is wont to happen in an AskReddit thread, many — possibly even the majority, although I haven't actually counted them, so do with that what you will — of the responses did not come from their intended source; in this case, we're talking about college admissions officers. Some of them were submitted by the people who wrote them; others by people who knew the writers in question; and still others have the “a friend of a friend who dated my cousin's best friend” level of remove that can sometimes bring their veracity into question. Either way, though, they're all good for a laugh — and a few of them might even teach you something. Full steam ahead for a wide variety of lessons in what to do while writing your college application essays — and what not to do, too.

Here are 12 of the most notable examples; head on over to AskReddit for more . Oh, and for anyone who's waiting on their acceptance letters? Good luck! I believe in you!

1. The Theory of Cat/Toast Equilibrium

funny university essay

But… what does happen? I must know!

While we're on the subject, the University of Chicago seems like they've mastered the art of making college applications not boring for the people who actually have to read them. Check out some of essay prompts from this year's app:

funny university essay

Not going to lie: I am considering writing answers for them just for the hell of it. Because you know what? It actually sounds — dare I say it? — fun.

2. Law and Order: College Application Essays Unit

funny university essay

I would imagine that would be a pretty terrifying read. Quick, teach her to use her powers for the forces of good!

3. The Legendary Hugh Gallagher Essay

funny university essay

You may already be familiar with this one, but for the curious, here's the story behind it: Humorist, writer, and musician Hugh Gallagher penned the glorious satiric creation excerpted here for Scholastic Press' national writing contest when he was in high school. Unsurprisingly, he won. For some years, there was confusion surrounding whether or not he actually used it as his college essay; in 1998, though, Gallagher emailed University of York comp sci professor Susan Stepney , who had posted the essay on her website, noting that he did in fact send it along with his applications. For the curious, he ultimately attended NYU. Here's the permalink for the full comment — it's worth just for the final line. Trust me.

4. The Power of the Mighty Trombone

funny university essay

I was unable to discern whether or not this one actually happened or whether it's just an urban legend — but I'm willing to bet it's the latter. Either way, though, I think it's a terrible way to try to teach the “think outside the box” lesson; I feel like it encourages laziness more than anything else. But maybe that's just me.

5. How to Get Into Yale

funny university essay

That, though? That's pretty funny. Well played.

6. The Key to Effective Multitasking

funny university essay

Here's the thing with writing humorous college application essays: They only work if you're actually… y'know… funny. I feel like maybe the right person might have been able to make this idea work, but the execution of the idea this time around just wasn't up to par. However, this also happened:

funny university essay

Small world, no?

7. Art History Is Best History

funny university essay

Either the admissions officers loved it, or they didn't actually read it. The jury's still out on which one it is.

8. We Are Gathered Here Today…

funny university essay

To be fair, I'm not totally sure what's to be gained by sending your own obituary as a college essay; unless the prompt was something like, “Write whatever you want, as long as it is at least 500 words long,” it doesn't seem like it would really answer any questions the admissions committee might be relying on the essay to fill them in about. At the same time, though, clearly someone could have used a little Journalism 101.

9. An Act of Valor

funny university essay

This one was copied from another thread and pasted in this one , but I think it's definitely a winner.

10. The Importance of Proofreading

funny university essay

Ouch. Just… ouch.

11. The Legacies

funny university essay

Oh, come on. I wouldn't blame these two for using their legacy to help them get a leg up — but relying solely on it like this? That's cheating. Also, shame on the school that let them get away with it.

12. Hardboiled Washington

funny university essay

I hope this Redditor is planning on studying creative writing. You've got a great future ahead of you, kid — even if you do need a little work with your punctuation and grammar.

Images: churl /Flickr; Giphy (2); Pandawhale

funny university essay

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Can You Answer These Bizarre (But Real) College Essay Prompts?

Can You Answer These Bizarre (But Real) College Essay Prompts?

With the release of universities 2022-23 supplemental essay prompts, we take you through some of the most unusual and bizarre US college supplemental essay prompts of all time, featuring universities such as UChicago, Tufts University and UPenn.

To get into a top US college , you’re going to need more than stellar grades, test scores, common application and extracurricular achievements. You’ll have to demonstrate, in your supplemental essays, that you are the kind of mature, driven, interesting person that would thrive at the particular university. This is much easier said than done — standing out from the crowd with a unique college essay can be very difficult.

Luckily, over the years some colleges have given their applicants a helping hand on this point by providing some really bizarre essay prompts. These warrant truly inventive responses, and let applicants really show off their writing prowess, creativity, and individuality.

Here’s out our list of some of the most creative, unusual and bizarre supplemental essay prompts from all time. How would you have responded to these questions? Check it out below!

Bizzare Supplemental Essay Prompts in 2022

We thought that it would be a good idea to include some of the more creative supplemental essay prompts from this year’s admission cycle (2022-23). We hope that this gets the creative juices flowing and helps you get a good early start to the essays!

University of Chicago

What advice would a wisdom tooth have?

Chapman University

Name one dish you would cook for the school’s admission team.

Pomono College

Marvel or DC? Pepsi or Coke? Instagram or TikTok? What’s your favorite ‘this or that’ and which side do you choose?

University of Vermont

Which Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor (real or imagined) best describes you?

In approaching these essays, it's essential to keep in mind why they are important and how they add context to your application. Admissions officers at top universities look for candidates that display creativity, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, and a unique perspective.

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Unusual Supplemental Essay Prompts From Previous Years

When it comes to asking creative and wacky essay prompts, the University of Chicago is the leader. To come up with the best and most creative prompts, the college takes suggestions and inspiration from their own students, who are allowed to email their ideas annually. If you look on the UChicago website you can even see who submitted each essay prompt.

UChicago also allows you to answer a past prompt making these options for you to choose.

Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History…

This prompt was an excellent opportunity for students to show their creativity and humour, as well as their academic interests. The best ideas that we could find online were probably Visual Arms (Visual Arts) and Pig Problems (Big Problems).

Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.

Have you ever written an essay about a giant jar of mustard? In 2004 UChicago applicants had their chance, and while there are absurd elements to the prompt, there are many creative and serious directions essays took.

The elusive goal of mathematics, but with no context. What is “x”, and how did prospective UChicago students find it? We’re sure the students brought in a novel discussion of a diverse array of mathematical theory, as well as philosophical and personal matters.

Elvis is alive! OK, maybe not, but here in the Office of College Admissions we are persuaded that current Elvis sightings in highway rest areas, grocery stores and Laundromats are part of a wider conspiracy involving five of the following: the metric system, the Mall of America, the crash of the Hindenburg, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, lint, J.D. Salinger and wax fruit. Help us get to the bottom of this evil plot by constructing your own theory of how and why five of these items and events are related. Your narrative may take any form you like, but try to keep your theory to under two pages.

If there were any conspiracy theorists applying to UChicago in 1999-2000, they would certainly have been in luck with this prompt. Who would have been the mastermind behind your evil plot?

Tufts University

If UChicago is the champ of creative college essay prompts, Tufts might be considered a close second. Check out their unique prompts below.

Kermit the Frog famously lamented, 'It's not easy being green.' Do you agree?

This prompt is inspired by a Muppets song, whereby Kermit laments how green seems to blend in with so many other ordinary things and how he thus fails to stand out from the crowd. Of course, many students in their essays took this quote in a totally different direction, demonstrating their critical thinking and creativity.

The ancient Romans started it when they coined the phrase “Carpe diem.” Jonathan Larson proclaimed “No day but today!” and most recently, Drake explained You Only Live Once (YOLO). Have you ever seized the day? Lived like there was no tomorrow? Or perhaps you plan to shout YOLO while jumping into something in the future. What does #YOLO mean to you?

Back when this prompt was released, Tufts’ #YOLO question caused quite a stir. Lee Coffin, the dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Tufts admitted that the question was inspired by his affinity for pop music and his desire for applicants to have some fun when they introduce themselves to Tufts.

It’s been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can cause a typhoon halfway around the world. History is filled with such linchpins – small events or decisions that have huge effects on the future. Make your own change somewhere in history and show us the effects on the world.

This is one for fans of alternative history, perhaps invoking visions of a distorted universe where life as we know it has taken a turn for the better or worse. Again, a challenge for applicants would have been how to say something about themselves and their interests in a creative way.

University of Southern California

(Short Answer) Hashtag to describe yourself

It is common for college essay prompts to have a few short answer questions to get to know the student. For a few years starting in 2017 USC adopted a unique question, making students describe themselves with a #hashtag as they would on twitter or instagram. But what a difficult task that is - how would you describe yourself with a single hashtag?

Wake Forest University

Give us your top ten list.

Many Buzzfeed enthusiasts applying to Wake Forest in 2017-18 would have enjoyed the opportunity to make a top-ten list about anything of their choosing. What topic would you have written about, and what does this say about you?

UC Berkeley

If any of these three inanimate objects could talk, how would your room, computer or car describe you?

Imagine all of the time you’ve spent in your room, at your computer or behind the wheel; these objects might be the only things in the world that know your real identity. This question would have certainly prompted some deep reflection from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business applicants.

University of Notre Dame

You have 150 words. Take a risk.

Students could have taken this anywhere - so long as what they wrote was risky. There are even reports that some students took the ultimate risk and wrote nothing at all.

University of Pennsylvania

You have just finished your 300-page autobiography. Please submit page 217.

This is an iconic prompt that UPenn asked for about 20 years. It encourages students to consider their story, and to use this to introduce themselves to UPenn. For added realism, many students liked to start their responses in the middle of a sentence.

So, How Do I Write the Essay?

Since more than three quarters of US universities no longer require students to take standardized tests, college essays are becoming increasingly important in your application.

The key piece of advice we give to our students is to start on these essays early. If you are applying to several universities, you will have many different supplemental essays to complete, as well as the common application essay . Many of our students attest that writing all of their essays is by far the most stressful part of the application, and a part of the application that is easy to neglect.

Our other key piece of advice is to make the content of each supplemental essay very specific to the university you are applying to. You need to do your research about what each university looks for in a candidate and show a clear desire to attend that particular university.

As the world’s leading university admissions support company, we at Crimson know how to approach each supplemental essay and maximise your chances of gaining admission to a top university.

If you want to feel confident when submitting your college application essay, get your essay reviewed by us at Crimson. Our experts have assisted students who have gained admission to Harvard , Yale , Princeton , Stanford , Oxford , Cambridge and many other top universities!

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Frequently asked questions

Can i use humor in my application essay.

You can use humor in a college essay , but carefully consider its purpose and use it wisely. An effective use of humor involves unexpected, keen observations of the everyday, or speaks to a deeper theme. Humor shouldn’t be the main focus of the essay, but rather a tool to improve your storytelling.

Get a second opinion from a teacher, counselor, or essay coach on whether your essay’s humor is appropriate.

Frequently asked questions: College admissions essays

When writing your Common App essay , choose a prompt that sparks your interest and that you can connect to a unique personal story.

No matter which prompt you choose, admissions officers are more interested in your ability to demonstrate personal development , insight, or motivation for a certain area of study.

The Common App essay is your primary writing sample within the Common Application, a college application portal accepted by more than 900 schools. All your prospective schools that accept the Common App will read this essay to understand your character, background, and value as a potential student.

Since this essay is read by many colleges, avoid mentioning any college names or programs; instead, save tailored answers for the supplementary school-specific essays within the Common App.

Most importantly, your essay should be about you , not another person or thing. An insightful college admissions essay requires deep self-reflection, authenticity, and a balance between confidence and vulnerability.

Your essay shouldn’t be a résumé of your experiences but instead should tell a story that demonstrates your most important values and qualities.

When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding your message and content. Then, check for flow, tone, style , and clarity. Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors .

If your college essay goes over the word count limit , cut any sentences with tangents or irrelevant details. Delete unnecessary words that clutter your essay.

If you’re struggling to reach the word count for your college essay, add vivid personal stories or share your feelings and insight to give your essay more depth and authenticity.

If you’ve got to write your college essay fast , don’t panic. First, set yourself deadlines: you should spend about 10% of your remaining time on brainstorming, 10% on outlining, 40% writing, 30% revising, and 10% taking breaks in between stages.

Second, brainstorm stories and values based on your essay prompt.

Third, outline your essay based on the montage or narrative essay structure .

Fourth, write specific, personal, and unique stories that would be hard for other students to replicate.

Fifth, revise your essay and make sure it’s clearly written.

Last, if possible, get feedback from an essay coach . Scribbr essay editors can help you revise your essay in 12 hours or less.

Avoid swearing in a college essay , since admissions officers’ opinions of profanity will vary. In some cases, it might be okay to use a vulgar word, such as in dialogue or quotes that make an important point in your essay. However, it’s safest to try to make the same point without swearing.

If you have bad grades on your transcript, you may want to use your college admissions essay to explain the challenging circumstances that led to them. Make sure to avoid dwelling on the negative aspects and highlight how you overcame the situation or learned an important lesson.

However, some college applications offer an additional information section where you can explain your bad grades, allowing you to choose another meaningful topic for your college essay.

Here’s a brief list of college essay topics that may be considered cliché:

  • Extracurriculars, especially sports
  • Role models
  • Dealing with a personal tragedy or death in the family
  • Struggling with new life situations (immigrant stories, moving homes, parents’ divorce)
  • Becoming a better person after community service, traveling, or summer camp
  • Overcoming a difficult class
  • Using a common object as an extended metaphor

It’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic. However, it’s possible to make a common topic compelling with interesting story arcs, uncommon connections, and an advanced writing style.

Yes. The college application essay is less formal than other academic writing —though of course it’s not mandatory to use contractions in your essay.

In a college essay , you can be creative with your language . When writing about the past, you can use the present tense to make the reader feel as if they were there in the moment with you. But make sure to maintain consistency and when in doubt, default to the correct verb tense according to the time you’re writing about.

The college admissions essay gives admissions officers a different perspective on you beyond your academic achievements, test scores, and extracurriculars. It’s your chance to stand out from other applicants with similar academic profiles by telling a unique, personal, and specific story.

Use a standard font such as Times New Roman or Arial to avoid distracting the reader from your college essay’s content.

A college application essay is less formal than most academic writing . Instead of citing sources formally with in-text citations and a reference list, you can cite them informally in your text.

For example, “In her research paper on genetics, Quinn Roberts explores …”

There is no set number of paragraphs in a college admissions essay . College admissions essays can diverge from the traditional five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in English class. Just make sure to stay under the specified word count .

Most topics are acceptable for college essays if you can use them to demonstrate personal growth or a lesson learned. However, there are a few difficult topics for college essays that should be avoided. Avoid topics that are:

  • Overly personal (e.g. graphic details of illness or injury, romantic or sexual relationships)
  • Not personal enough (e.g. broad solutions to world problems, inspiring people or things)
  • Too negative (e.g. an in-depth look at your flaws, put-downs of others, criticizing the need for a college essay)
  • Too boring (e.g. a resume of your academic achievements and extracurriculars)
  • Inappropriate for a college essay (e.g. illegal activities, offensive humor, false accounts of yourself, bragging about privilege)

To write an effective diversity essay , include vulnerable, authentic stories about your unique identity, background, or perspective. Provide insight into how your lived experience has influenced your outlook, activities, and goals. If relevant, you should also mention how your background has led you to apply for this university and why you’re a good fit.

Many universities believe a student body composed of different perspectives, beliefs, identities, and backgrounds will enhance the campus learning and community experience.

Admissions officers are interested in hearing about how your unique background, identity, beliefs, culture, or characteristics will enrich the campus community, which is why they assign a diversity essay .

In addition to your main college essay , some schools and scholarships may ask for a supplementary essay focused on an aspect of your identity or background. This is sometimes called a diversity essay .

Though admissions officers are interested in hearing your story, they’re also interested in how you tell it. An exceptionally written essay will differentiate you from other applicants, meaning that admissions officers will spend more time reading it.

You can use literary devices to catch your reader’s attention and enrich your storytelling; however, focus on using just a few devices well, rather than trying to use as many as possible.

To decide on a good college essay topic , spend time thoughtfully answering brainstorming questions. If you still have trouble identifying topics, try the following two strategies:

  • Identify your qualities → Brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities
  • Identify memorable stories → Connect your qualities to these stories

You can also ask family, friends, or mentors to help you brainstorm topics, give feedback on your potential essay topics, or recall key stories that showcase your qualities.

Yes—admissions officers don’t expect everyone to have a totally unique college essay topic . But you must differentiate your essay from others by having a surprising story arc, an interesting insight, and/or an advanced writing style .

There are no foolproof college essay topics —whatever your topic, the key is to write about it effectively. However, a good topic

  • Is meaningful, specific, and personal to you
  • Focuses on you and your experiences
  • Reveals something beyond your test scores, grades, and extracurriculars
  • Is creative and original

Unlike a five-paragraph essay, your admissions essay should not end by summarizing the points you’ve already made. It’s better to be creative and aim for a strong final impression.

You should also avoid stating the obvious (for example, saying that you hope to be accepted).

There are a few strategies you can use for a memorable ending to your college essay :

  • Return to the beginning with a “full circle” structure
  • Reveal the main point or insight in your story
  • Look to the future
  • End on an action

The best technique will depend on your topic choice, essay outline, and writing style. You can write several endings using different techniques to see which works best.

College deadlines vary depending on the schools you’re applying to and your application plan:

  • For early action applications and the first round of early decision applications, the deadline is on November 1 or 15. Decisions are released by mid-December.
  • For the second round of early decision applications, the deadline is January 1 or 15. Decisions are released in January or February.
  • Regular decision deadlines usually fall between late November and mid-March, and decisions are released in March or April.
  • Rolling admission deadlines run from July to April, and decisions are released around four to eight weeks after submission.

Depending on your prospective schools’ requirements, you may need to submit scores for the SAT or ACT as part of your college application .

Some schools now no longer require students to submit test scores; however, you should still take the SAT or ACT and aim to get a high score to strengthen your application package.

Aim to take the SAT or ACT in the spring of your junior year to give yourself enough time to retake it in the fall of your senior year if necessary.

Apply early for federal student aid and application fee waivers. You can also look for scholarships from schools, corporations, and charitable foundations.

To maximize your options, you should aim to apply to about eight schools:

  • Two reach schools that might be difficult to get into
  • Four match schools that you have a good chance of getting into
  • Two safety schools that you feel confident you’ll get into

The college admissions essay accounts for roughly 25% of the weight of your application .

At highly selective schools, there are four qualified candidates for every spot. While your academic achievements are important, your college admissions essay can help you stand out from other applicants with similar profiles.

In general, for your college application you will need to submit all of the following:

  • Your personal information
  • List of extracurriculars and awards
  • College application essays
  • Transcripts
  • Standardized test scores
  • Recommendation letters.

Different colleges may have specific requirements, so make sure you check exactly what’s expected in the application guidance.

You should start thinking about your college applications the summer before your junior year to give you sufficient time for college visits, taking standardized tests, applying for financial aid , writing essays, and collecting application material.

Yes, but make sure your essay directly addresses the prompt, respects the word count , and demonstrates the organization’s values.

If you plan ahead, you can save time by writing one scholarship essay for multiple prompts with similar questions. In a scholarship tracker spreadsheet, you can group or color-code overlapping essay prompts; then, write a single essay for multiple scholarships. Sometimes, you can even reuse or adapt your main college essay .

You can start applying for scholarships as early as your junior year. Continue applying throughout your senior year.

Invest time in applying for various scholarships , especially local ones with small dollar amounts, which are likely easier to win and more reflective of your background and interests. It will be easier for you to write an authentic and compelling essay if the scholarship topic is meaningful to you.

You can find scholarships through your school counselor, community network, or an internet search.

A scholarship essay requires you to demonstrate your values and qualities while answering the prompt’s specific question.

After researching the scholarship organization, identify a personal experience that embodies its values and exemplifies how you will be a successful student.

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.

Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.

In most cases, quoting other people isn’t a good way to start your college essay . Admissions officers want to hear your thoughts about yourself, and quotes often don’t achieve that. Unless a quote truly adds something important to your essay that it otherwise wouldn’t have, you probably shouldn’t include it.

Cliché openers in a college essay introduction are usually general and applicable to many students and situations. Most successful introductions are specific: they only work for the unique essay that follows.

The key to a strong college essay introduction is not to give too much away. Try to start with a surprising statement or image that raises questions and compels the reader to find out more.

The introduction of your college essay is the first thing admissions officers will read and therefore your most important opportunity to stand out. An excellent introduction will keep admissions officers reading, allowing you to tell them what you want them to know.

You can speed up this process by shortening and smoothing your writing with a paraphrasing tool . After that, you can use the summarizer to shorten it even more.

If you’re struggling to reach the word count for your college essay, add vivid personal stories or share your feelings and insight to give your essay more depth and authenticity.

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.

You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.

If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.

In your application essay , admissions officers are looking for particular features : they want to see context on your background, positive traits that you could bring to campus, and examples of you demonstrating those qualities.

Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.

You don’t need a title for your college admissions essay , but you can include one if you think it adds something important.

Your college essay’s format should be as simple as possible:

  • Use a standard, readable font
  • Use 1.5 or double spacing
  • If attaching a file, save it as a PDF
  • Stick to the word count
  • Avoid unusual formatting and unnecessary decorative touches

There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay , but these are two common structures that work:

  • A montage structure, a series of vignettes with a common theme.
  • A narrative structure, a single story that shows your personal growth or how you overcame a challenge.

Avoid the five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in high school.

Campus visits are always helpful, but if you can’t make it in person, the college website will have plenty of information for you to explore. You should look through the course catalog and even reach out to current faculty with any questions about the school.

Colleges set a “Why this college?” essay because they want to see that you’ve done your research. You must prove that you know what makes the school unique and can connect that to your own personal goals and academic interests.

Depending on your writing, you may go through several rounds of revision . Make sure to put aside your essay for a little while after each editing stage to return with a fresh perspective.

Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your language, tone, and content . Ask for their help at least one to two months before the submission deadline, as many other students will also want their help.

Friends and family are a good resource to check for authenticity. It’s best to seek help from family members with a strong writing or English educational background, or from older siblings and cousins who have been through the college admissions process.

If possible, get help from an essay coach or editor ; they’ll have specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and be able to give objective expert feedback.

When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding message, flow, tone, style , and clarity. Then, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

Include specific, personal details and use your authentic voice to shed a new perspective on a common human experience.

Through specific stories, you can weave your achievements and qualities into your essay so that it doesn’t seem like you’re bragging from a resume.

When writing about yourself , including difficult experiences or failures can be a great way to show vulnerability and authenticity, but be careful not to overshare, and focus on showing how you matured from the experience.

First, spend time reflecting on your core values and character . You can start with these questions:

  • What are three words your friends or family would use to describe you, and why would they choose them?
  • Whom do you admire most and why?
  • What are you most proud of? Ashamed of?

However, you should do a comprehensive brainstorming session to fully understand your values. Also consider how your values and goals match your prospective university’s program and culture. Then, brainstorm stories that illustrate the fit between the two.

In a college application essay , you can occasionally bend grammatical rules if doing so adds value to the storytelling process and the essay maintains clarity.

However, use standard language rules if your stylistic choices would otherwise distract the reader from your overall narrative or could be easily interpreted as unintentional errors.

Write concisely and use the active voice to maintain a quick pace throughout your essay and make sure it’s the right length . Avoid adding definitions unless they provide necessary explanation.

Use first-person “I” statements to speak from your perspective . Use appropriate word choices that show off your vocabulary but don’t sound like you used a thesaurus. Avoid using idioms or cliché expressions by rewriting them in a creative, original way.

If you’re an international student applying to a US college and you’re comfortable using American idioms or cultural references , you can. But instead of potentially using them incorrectly, don’t be afraid to write in detail about yourself within your own culture.

Provide context for any words, customs, or places that an American admissions officer might be unfamiliar with.

College application essays are less formal than other kinds of academic writing . Use a conversational yet respectful tone , as if speaking with a teacher or mentor. Be vulnerable about your feelings, thoughts, and experiences to connect with the reader.

Aim to write in your authentic voice , with a style that sounds natural and genuine. You can be creative with your word choice, but don’t use elaborate vocabulary to impress admissions officers.

Admissions officers use college admissions essays to evaluate your character, writing skills , and ability to self-reflect . The essay is your chance to show what you will add to the academic community.

The college essay may be the deciding factor in your application , especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.

Some colleges also require supplemental essays about specific topics, such as why you chose that specific college . Scholarship essays are often required to obtain financial aid .

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Funny Persuasive Essay Topics: 177 Writing & Speech Ideas

funny university essay

Every one of us needs a little bit of laughter in our lives. In the academic world, working on a persuasive essay on a fun topic is one of the best ways to enjoy paper writing. By discussing something entertaining, you can connect with your reader on a more personal level.

If your readers or audience are enjoying themselves, it will be much easier to get their attention and impress them. This is the primary goal of a persuasive essay or a speech.

Coming up with a fun persuasive speech topic is often challenging for students. After all, most of their assignments tend to be more serious and informative. We understand this concern – and we want to help!

Our team has created an ultimate list of funny persuasive essay topics. You will find plenty of examples and prompts that you can use in your work. We have also included useful advice on how to find ideas for a paper. And check out our guide to making your speech or writing fun.

  • ✨ Top Fun Topics
  • 🧨 How to Find Topics
  • 🌧 Topics on Ecology
  • 🎭 Topics on Culture
  • ⚖ Topics on Laws
  • 💞 Topics on Love
  • 🌭 Topics on Food
  • 🍎 For Elementary Students
  • 🏫 For Middle Schoolers
  • 🗓 For High Schoolers
  • ☕ For College Students
  • 👩‍🏫 Making It Funny

✨ Top 10 Fun Persuasive Speech Topics

  • Fast food – it’s not that bad!
  • Education – students deserve a stipend.
  • Recycling – does it work?
  • Veganism – everyone should go vegan!
  • Homework – we don’t need it!
  • Writing – keeping a journal is great.
  • Mental health – best way to cure phobias.
  • Money- it can buy happiness!
  • Taxes – classes for high school students.
  • Alcohol – worse than drugs!

🧨 How to Find Impressive Persuasive Essay Topics

Try not to look only for persuasive topics that are funny. Search for the ones that aim to impress your audience. How do you choose the right one?

Determine an engaging subject area

Choose something thought-provoking, so you and your audience can have fun discussing. It is an essential thing to start with.

Get some ideas

Use lists on the Internet or have an ideation session. After picking your subject, start brainstorming for ideas. Ask for help from your friends and family or look at our list of suggested amazing topics! Look at some essay samples , too. They can be a great source of inspiration and fresh ideas.

Consider what interests you in particular

Find something that is going to be entertaining for the target audience and, most importantly, yourself. It is a significant advantage if the topic you are talking about is personally interesting to you.

Think whether you have anything to say

Choose an entertaining topic you will be able to talk about. Having an opinion about your subject is crucial, but stay open-minded for a discussion.

Research for possible arguments

Analyze what evidence and facts you can find on the Internet. Speculate on the arguments for and against your topic before writing. To include them in your paper, you need to ensure their high quality.

Exclude useless ideas from your list

Avoid using thoughts that do not correlate with your subject. If they are contradictory or there is simply not enough data on them, throw them away. Choosing the right ones will save you a lot of time.

Pick the one

After applying all of the tips listed above, do not hesitate to pick the one idea you prefer the most. Take a look at the list below to find impressive and interesting writing & speech topics!

Know your audience to find the most impressive persuasive essay topic.

🎇 A List of 103 Funny Persuasive Topics

Under this subheading, we have created an ultimate list of fun persuasive writing topics. There are five main themes with various ideas for your paper/speech.

🌧 Funny Persuasive Topics on Ecology

  • Solar energy harvesting should be obligatory for every citizen.
  • Water is going to be the most valuable resource in the future .
  • We should teach the baby boomer generation about climate change.
  • Can owls be domesticated?
  • The sewage system is the most useful creation of urban ecology.
  • Natural environments occur heterogeneously or exhibit patchiness .
  • Is ecotourism better than the regular one?
  • If humans had not discovered agriculture, our world would be completely different today.
  • Overpopulation has severe effects on the environment .
  • Biowaste is an excellent source of alternative energy.
  • Can donating have a more significant impact than recycling?
  • We should ban the usage of plastic bags altogether.
  • Many of our environmental problems today come from human greediness.
  • The most dangerous creature in the world is…a mosquito.
  • Natural science can be fun if taught the right way.
  • Deep-sea creatures have a completely different lifestyle from regular ones .
  • A big pandemic can reduce the level of global death statistics.
  • Both renewable and non-renewable electricity sources produce pollution .
  • Global warming is a straight ticket to economic and geopolitical problems.
  • Some animal zoos are no better than jail for humans.
  • Unsustainable tourism can deeply hurt our environment .
  • Animals understand nature better than we do.
  • Why should we be more conscious of domestic water usage?

Climate change, and the more extreme weather that comes with it, means that water supply is becoming more unpredictable than in years gone by.

🎭 Funny Persuasive Topics about Culture

  • Talk shows should be banned from television.
  • The toxicity in social media should be punished by law.
  • The Hollywood dream is fake.
  • People in Western culture are obsessed with their looks .
  • Should we stay off Facebook?
  • Materialistic ideas heavily influence the nation of UAE .
  • How would the Buddhist monk react to your shopping habits?
  • Love portrayal in movies is far from reality.
  • Why are dads in sitcoms so childish sometimes?
  • Studying a nation’s pop culture is a great way to learn about its people’s values and beliefs.
  • The expression of love is different in every culture .
  • Beauty pageants are sexist towards women.
  • Our culture changed drastically with the advancement of technology .
  • A controversial public figure will get more media attention than a “quiet” one.
  • White people tend to appropriate black culture .
  • Modern social standards have a direct connection with our pop culture.
  • Smoking is a big part of our culture .
  • How do you make everyone want to befriend you?
  • Celebrity idolization is pad practice.
  • People are easily offended nowadays, but they have every right to feel so.

Cultural differences.

⚖ Funny Persuasive Topics on Laws

  • The absence of gun control laws is the ultimate example of democracy in the United States.
  • Taxes for individual businesses should not exist.
  • The government should increase corporation taxation.
  • Lottery wars are a real thing .
  • Do female criminal gangs exist ?
  • Honking in a traffic jam should be considered criminal.
  • Online gambling is getting out of control .
  • Why pay bills when you can live in the wilderness?
  • Gun ownership should be illegal for people under the age of 21.
  • Marijuana usage should be legal worldwide.
  • America is misled about its rights to freedom of speech .
  • We should contribute more to avoiding wars and international conflicts.
  • International law is not really a law .
  • Racial profiling is not an effective way of police work.
  • The war on drugs has been the longest in US history.

💞 Funny Persuasive Topics on Relationships

  • Creativity and dishonesty have a lot of things in common in a relationship .
  • Your boyfriend should not be your reason to cry.
  • What does not affect a child’s psychology?
  • The couples’ therapy does not work.
  • LGBT community confronts outdated conventions of society .
  • What should be considered a family?
  • The long-distance relationship is the worst kind of relationship.

Distance prevents constricted intimacy from forming in a meaningful way.

  • There should be boundaries in a marriage .
  • Stop viewing relationships as a game.
  • A mother-child relationship starts before that child is born .
  • After a failed relationship, a simple conversation is sometimes better than finger-pointing.
  • Can love between two people last forever?
  • Online dating is worse than the real one.
  • Rich couples have lower divorce rates .
  • If you cannot respect your partner, you deserve to be alone.
  • What is the proper way to ask a girl out on a date?
  • How do you balance work and family ?
  • Sometimes communication just does not work if you like someone. You need to take action.
  • Honesty could ruin a good relationship.
  • How to talk to your crush if you have anxiety?
  • If you are having seconds thoughts about a date – cancel it.
  • Choose your clothes carefully for the first date.
  • The flirting ideal is different for males and females .

🌭 Funny Persuasive Topics about Food

  • Junk food is not actually that bad for you.
  • Why is food in Mexico so spicy ?
  • Ramen is the greatest creation of humanity.

Instant ramen was Japan's top invention of the 20th century.

  • Fish is the most valuable food resource for humans .
  • A vegan diet could kill you.
  • Your fresh meat from a local store is, in fact, not fresh.
  • Hotpot is a new trend for restaurants worldwide .
  • Farms use a lot of illegal methods to increase their production.
  • Food science saves our lives daily.
  • Curry is perfect for your health .
  • Yogurt is the best among fermented foods.
  • Sustainable food allowed our civilization to thrive.
  • The fast-food business model’s primary aim is profit, not food.
  • Opening a Halal restaurant is a profitable business model .
  • Are we supposed to believe nutrition facts on packages?
  • America developed its way of dining out .
  • Globalization plays a significant role in a country’s food culture .
  • Some things to do when you are offered food you don’t like.
  • Ketchup can improve the taste of every dish.
  • Are men better chefs than women?
  • Technology has drastically changed the way we eat.
  • Mediterranean cuisine is the best cuisine in the world.

😂 Persuasive Essay Topics: Funny for Whom?

This chapter is going to list funny persuasive topics for people of different age groups. However, remember that humor is a very subjective thing. Each and one of us (no matter the age) has different mentality and ideals.

We are going to try and speculate what funny things are worthy of discussion for each generation. Let’s go!

🍎 Funny Persuasive Topics for Elementary Students

  • We should ban adult news and leave only cartoons on TV.
  • Schools should include computer games classes in their program.
  • Our schools should do activities more often, such as camping and excursions.
  • Chocolate awards are the best demonstration of the teacher’s appreciation.
  • A school classroom should have more toys.
  • A lunch box is the most valuable thing in our backpacks.
  • Writing an email requires concentrated group work.
  • Teachers should have more rest from their pupils.
  • Your yearly achievements should be read aloud by your parents.
  • Homework is useless for elementary students.
  • A pack of gum is more valuable than money.
  • School cafeterias should be banned for their lack of good food.
  • Family is the primary source of happiness in our lives.
  • Collecting certain things is an excellent way to become popular in school.
  • Domestic robots are going to make us lazy.

🏫 Funny Persuasive Topics for Middle Schoolers

Middle school is the place where students are only beginning to get acquainted with world realities. They form new relationships, discover sports, drama clubs, start new adventures, etc. First gossips and rumors spread. Middle school is also the first place where students first face bullying.

Here are some topics for this generation:

  • Teachers should allow students to express themselves freely in middle school.
  • We should ban books and only use iPads in classes.
  • Public schools should be administered wiser .
  • The efficiency of children’s literacy development must be increased .
  • Building new relationships is the best thing about middle school.
  • Every school has one craziest school story.
  • Do boys gossip more than girls?

Men gossip as much as women do.

  • The only thing you think about during classes is song lyrics.
  • 7th grade is the time when you start having crushes.
  • It is impossible to order at McDonald’s without staying “Ummm.”
  • Teachers are the biggest motivators for students .
  • Pen clicking is the most annoying thing during a test.
  • Finding old pictures of yourself is the worst thing ever.
  • According to teachers, grades are more important than your emotional and physical health.
  • In middle school, you learn to hate people truly.
  • They tell us sleep is essential, so why do the classes start early?

🗓 Funny Persuasive Topics for High Schoolers

This period is filled with excitement and many adventures. At the same time, students experience too much stress and anxiety. The finals, prom, separation from their parents, college, and adult life are looming.

  • Don’t neglect your teachers; they should become your friends in the last year.
  • Don’t like Shakespeare? Study him even more !
  • Why is math so complicated in high school?
  • “The Epic of Gilgamesh” is the best piece of literature studied in high school .
  • Watching Ted Talks is better than studying.
  • We should live according to the rules of High School Musical .
  • Yearbook quotes are the reason why we go to high school.
  • Senior high school students experience more stress in the last year than all the previous ones combined.
  • Graduation is the happiest moment of your life.
  • The concept of a zombie comes from Haitian culture , but it blooms in every high school.
  • Waiting for a letter from a college is the most stressful thing during high school.
  • There should be a gap year after high school to decide your future.
  • Job interviews for high schoolers should be banned.
  • Why is it so stressful to ask a person on a prom date?
  • Monday classes should not exist.
  • Household rules could tell a lot about someone’s family.

☕ Funny Persuasive Topics for College Students

Almost anyone could say that college is the most fun period in their lives. You can have independence, crazy parties, new relationships, etc. At the same time, college students have to get used to a different lifestyle living away from parents.

  • College students are the best procrastinators.
  • Fast food is bad for your mental health.

Eating lots of fast food significantly increased perceived mental distress.

  • You have to get a job in college.
  • How do I not go broke in college?
  • Doing your laundry is a waste of time.
  • Parents can still control you even in college.
  • Fraternities are not so cool anymore.
  • If you want better grades, try to understand your professor.
  • Is attending college worth it ?
  • College jokes are the best.
  • College students are the best liars.
  • Memes is a fantastic stress reliever.
  • The hypocrisy levels of professors are sometimes unbearable.
  • What is the best hobby one could have in college?
  • Adults can attend college, and we should support it.
  • Colleges should be mandatory .
  • Coffee is your best friend in college.

👩‍🏫 Guide to Making Your Speech or Writing Funny

So, you have already chosen your idea from our funny persuasive topics list. However, you also have to make sure that your speech or essay correlates with it.

Watch how professional speakers deliver their persuasive speeches.

Here’s a guide just for that:

  • Think of your audience . What age group is going to listen to you or read your persuasive essay? What humor would they appreciate? This tip is an essential part of your success.
  • Evaluate whether a humorous approach can contribute to the success of your essay or speech. Your final goal is to persuade. If jokes here and there will only interfere with your objective, don’t incorporate them.
  • Consider your strengths . You’ve probably used humor before in your daily conversations. Which jokes were successful? Are you good at relatable comedy or anecdotes? Looking for an impressive funny topic, you have to take your skills into account. Otherwise, even the hilarious idea will fail. Always keep practicing.
  • Try different techniques . If you’re good at various types of humor or at least willing to attempt, use a few methods. Storytelling, anecdotes, tags, ambiguity, self-deprecation—the list goes on! Try different approaches not to become predictable. Check online sources that speak on the many humor techniques.
  • Use expressive yet simple language . It’s hard to laugh when you’re trying to understand what the author intended to say. If you are struggling with word transparency, check your dictionary for synonyms.
  • Don’t forget to pause . Doesn’t matter whether you write or speak—give your reader or listener time to prepare for the next joke. Effective spaces between comedic moments are essential not to turn your persuasive speech into a standup. Throwing too many jokes around does not work. Aim for quality over quantity.
  • Practice the jokes on your close ones. Try to find the age group similar to your future audience and ask for their opinion. Then you’ll be able to polish and improve your humor. Both essay writing and public speaking require some practice.

Pay attention to wording.

That is everything you need to know about funny persuasive writing topics! We thank you for taking the time to read our article. If you liked it, share it with your friends to help them find information on the subject.

🔗 References

  • 414 Funny and Humorous Speech Topics [Persuasive, Informative, Impromptu]: My Speech Class
  • 4 Steps to Finding a Speech Topic that Clicks: Michelle Mazur, Communication Rebel
  • How to Use Humor Effectively in Speeches: Write Out Loud
  • How to Add Power or Humor with the Rule of Three: Andrew Dlugan, Six Minutes
  • 7 Tips on Writing an Effective Essay: The Fastweb Team
  • Introductions and Conclusions: Writing Advice, University of Toronto
  • College Essay Examples How to Write Your Story Best Colleges: Josh Moody, US News
  • Essays That Worked: John Hopkins University
  • How To Write A Persuasive Essay: Writing Guides, Ultius
  • Tips To Write An Effective Persuasive Essay: Dr. Michael W. Kirst, The College Puzzle
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funny university essay

Funny Personal Statements: How to Use Humor in Your College Application

James Eimers

June 16, 2017

funny university essay

The Art of Writing Funny Personal Statements: How to Use Humor in Your College Application

When 650 words or fewer play a critical role in determining where you’ll pursue your degree, it’s hard to think of admissions essays as anything other than serious business.

With such a small space to give admissions officers a glimpse into who you are and why you’d be a great addition to a given school, it’s always tempting to paint a professional, straight-laced picture of yourself; after all, what school wouldn’t want a mature student highly focused on academic success?

Indeed, for some students, this might be a completely reasonable approach to the Common App personal statement . However, as with many things in life, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to admissions essays, and it’s important to take a step back and recall their purpose. Test scores, grades, and letters of recommendation all play an important and informative role in the application process, but none allow you to present yourself in your own words—that’s the beauty of the admissions essays.

There are as many approaches and possible answers to essay questions as there are applicants, including those with a keen sense of humor. Admissions readers count on this because, aside from assembling an incoming class that meets the academic profile of their schools, they hope to admit interesting students with diverse talents who will enrich the educational and life experience of those around them. As a result, even though it feels a bit untraditional, letting your personality—including your sense of humor—shine through your essays can be an excellent way to create a memorable application.

Although humor can go a long way to demonstrating an applicant’s creativity and personality, this doesn’t mean that the approach will work for everyone. It actually can be a common personal statement mistake to try and use humor. Funny personal statements can definitely pack a punch, but they're difficult to do well. When writing what I call a “humorous/offbeat” admissions essay, there are a few key concepts to keep in mind.

Remember that humor itself should never be the main point of the essay. It’s perfectly acceptable to make your reader smile or even laugh out loud, but only in the course of telling a story that reveals something important about yourself. In other words, ensure that you use humor only as a device to highlight or enhance the underlying substance or reflective nature of your essay. Funny personal statements are effective only in showing the personal qualities of the writer at the same time.

You should never force humor into your essays, even when attempting funny personal statements . It is an unfortunate truth of life that making others laugh does not come naturally to all of us, so the offbeat/humor essay might not be an option for everyone. Admissions essays should indicate who you really are; forced humor that falls flat will indeed leave a memorable impression, but for all the wrong reasons.

When writing funny personal statements , the peer-review process becomes even more important than it already is. Humor is subjective by nature, so before clicking “submit” on your applications, make sure that a wide variety of people in your life (friends, parents, and teachers) have read your essays. If all your readers think your essay is appropriate and lighthearted, you’ve likely composed an essay with humor that will land well with an admissions office. If not, it might be time to go back to the drawing board.

When done correctly, f unny personal statements can be extremely effective. One of the best essays I’ve ever read followed this formula: Rife with stories about fanciful white lies he had told others over the years, this student’s essay at first seemed risky. Why reveal to an admissions office the fact that you have, at times, stretched the truth?

However, the student soon made it clear that stretching the truth in his younger days was in fact an early manifestation of his larger desire to tell stories—he wanted to study creative writing and ultimately become an author. His past storytelling revealed much about his creative character and also the fact that, although he had done quite well in school, he didn’t take himself too seriously while doing so. Ultimately, the student was admitted to a number of top schools.

I’ll leave you with some final tips to review when thinking about using humor in your admissions essays:

  • Stay away from potentially controversial topics—at best, you will demonstrate a lack of self-awareness, and at worst you might personally offend the admissions reader. Again, peer review your humor before submitting!
  • The humor should be original. By writing funny personal statements , you are illustrating the fact that you are a creative student with a good sense of humor—recycling humor falls short here.
  • You can use humor in many different types of essays, but remember that the humor should be added only after you already know what story you want to tell; humor alone should never be the substance of your essay.
  • Subtle humor can often make a stronger impression than can loud, straightforward humor.

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Where’s the Funny Bone in a College Essay?

Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine Karydes

Lead admissions expert, table of contents, college essay.

Stay up-to-date on the latest research and college admissions trends with our blog team.

Where’s the Funny Bone in a College Essay?

We all have our own stories to tell, from the firs t time you broke your arm to the first time you broke your mother’s favorite vase because you saw a spider. But what do you write about when it comes to personal essays? Do you go for downright business and bluntness, or do you try and show your humorous side? Let’s break down the different approaches to a funny college essay that still hits the mark.

When college s ask for personal statements, it means it’s your chance to show a side of you that you can’t convey through an academic resume. Most people talk about their volunteer work, jobs, or any other extracurriculars they participated in. These essay topics are easier to write about, and they’re pretty much what colleges look for since they can say a lot about a student if written well and with lots of description and insightfulness. 

But what about that comedic aspect?

Wouldn’t that make your essay more memorable to the admissions officer that spends about 15-20 minutes on your essay? Incorporating humor into your essay can be a huge benefit. Brittany Stinson, the girl that wrote an essay about her experiences at Costco, got into numerous Ivy League schools because of her unique take on essay prompts. She displayed her carefree and curi ous personality by relating her traits to her activities at Costco: running around for samples led her to sample different classes and activities in school.  


Many would see this as a huge risk, considering it can be pretty difficult to exemplify your personality and characteristics in essays as is. We’re told to write about how this club developed this trait and how this sport built your experience working in teams. With the right tweaks, you can incorporate some humor into your essay. Add some puns or plays on words, or dedicate a few sentences to making a funny side comment about your story.

For example, if you are writing about developing your patience, you can insert a small story about a memory you have from school and then add a sentence like “I guess I should have stayed behind a few minutes longer after class because I ended up missing the treats the teacher gave out, which proves that good things come to those who wait”, which may give readers a small chuckle as you wrap up the story (but don’t forget to conclude your essay with what you learned from that experience and how you grew and developed!)  

So what’s the final takeaway?

In the end, it’s all about you. It’s your tale to tell, and it’s your writing style that speaks your voice the best. It is your genuine self that college admissions officers are interested in learning about. If you feel like you can spare a few words, the topic is just right, and the placement isn’t awkward, then humor can add a bit of flair and pizazz to your essay. But don’t feel like you’re obligated to add humor. Sometimes it won’t flow with the essay; in these cases, it’s best to keep it simple and straightforward. See what works or doesn’t work for you, and find what makes you satisfied with your work.

For information on college essay tips and more, visit our website .

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By submitting my email address. i certify that i am 13 years of age or older, agree to recieve marketing email messages from the princeton review, and agree to terms of use., crafting an unforgettable college essay.

Most selective colleges require you to submit an essay or personal statement as part of your application.

college essay

It may sound like a chore, and it will certainly take a substantial amount of work. But it's also a unique opportunity that can make a difference at decision time. Admissions committees put the most weight on your high school grades and your test scores . However, selective colleges receive applications from many worthy students with similar scores and grades—too many to admit. So they use your essay, along with your letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities , to find out what sets you apart from the other talented candidates.

Telling Your Story to Colleges

So what does set you apart?

You have a unique background, interests and personality. This is your chance to tell your story (or at least part of it). The best way to tell your story is to write a personal, thoughtful essay about something that has meaning for you. Be honest and genuine, and your unique qualities will shine through.

Admissions officers have to read an unbelievable number of college essays, most of which are forgettable. Many students try to sound smart rather than sounding like themselves. Others write about a subject that they don't care about, but that they think will impress admissions officers.

You don't need to have started your own business or have spent the summer hiking the Appalachian Trail. Colleges are simply looking for thoughtful, motivated students who will add something to the first-year class.

Tips for a Stellar College Application Essay

1. write about something that's important to you..

It could be an experience, a person, a book—anything that has had an impact on your life. 

2. Don't just recount—reflect! 

Anyone can write about how they won the big game or the summer they spent in Rome. When recalling these events, you need to give more than the play-by-play or itinerary. Describe what you learned from the experience and how it changed you.

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3. Being funny is tough.

A student who can make an admissions officer laugh never gets lost in the shuffle. But beware. What you think is funny and what an adult working in a college thinks is funny are probably different. We caution against one-liners, limericks and anything off–color.

4. Start early and write several drafts.

Set it aside for a few days and read it again. Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions officer: Is the essay interesting? Do the ideas flow logically? Does it reveal something about the applicant? Is it written in the applicant’s own voice?

5. No repeats.

What you write in your application essay or personal statement should not contradict any other part of your application–nor should it repeat it. This isn't the place to list your awards or discuss your grades or test scores.

6. Answer the question being asked.

Don't reuse an answer to a similar question from another application.

7. Have at least one other person edit your essay.

A teacher or college counselor is your best resource. And before you send it off, check, check again, and then triple check to make sure your essay is free of spelling or grammar errors.

Read More: 2018-2019 Common Application Essay Prompts (and How to Answer Them)

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Funniest College Essays - To Ease the Tension

<p>MIT certainly has a reputation to be proud of, but its admissions department went a little over-board, I think. The first letter is an honest-to-goodness mailing from MIT, the second is one prospective student’s reply:</p>

<p>Mr. John T. Mongan 123 Main Street Smalltown, California 94123-4567</p>

<p>Dear John:</p>

<p>You’ve got the grades. You’ve certainly got the PSAT scores. And now you’ve got a letter from MIT. Maybe you’re surprised. Most students would be.</p>

<p>But you’re not most students. And that’s exactly why I urge you to consider carefully one of the most selective universities in America.</p>

<p>The level of potential reflected in your performance is a powerful indicator that you might well be an excellent candidate for MIT. It certainly got my attention!</p>

<p>Engineering’s not for you? No problem. It may surprise you to learn we offer more than 40 major fields of study, from architecture to brain and cognitive sciences, from economics (perhaps the best program in the country) to writing.</p>

<p>What? Of course, you don’t want to be bored. Who does? Life here <em>is</em> tough <em>and</em> demanding, but it’s also <em>fun</em>. MIT students are imaginative and creative - inside and outside the classroom.</p>

<p>You’re interested in athletics? Great! MIT has more varsity teams - 39 - than almost any other university, and a tremendous intramural program so everybody can participate.</p>

<p>You think we’re too expensive? Don’t be too sure. We’ve got surprises for you there, too.</p>

<p>Why not send the enclosed Information Request to find out more about this unique institution? Why not do it right now?</p>


<p>Michael C. Benhke Director of Admissions</p>

<p>P.S. If you’d like a copy of a fun-filled, fact-filled brochure, “Insight,” just check the appropriate box on the form.</p>

<p>May 5, 1994</p>

<p>Michael C. Behnke MIT Director of Admissions Office of Admissions, Room 3-108 Cambridge MA 02139-4307</p>

<p>Dear Michael:</p>

<p>You’ve got the reputation. You’ve certainly got the pomposity. And now you’ve got a letter from John Mongan. Maybe you’re surprised. Most universities would be.</p>

<p>But you’re not most universities. And that’s exactly why I urge you to carefully consider one of the most selective students in America, so selective that he will choose only <em>one</em> of the thousands of accredited universities in the country.</p>

<p>The level of pomposity and lack of tact reflected in your letter is a powerful indicator that your august institution might well be a possibility for John Mongan’s future education. It certainly got my attention!</p>

<p>Don’t want Bio-Chem students? No problem. It may surprise you to learn that my interests cover over 400 fields of study, from semantics to limnology, from object-oriented programming (perhaps one of the youngest professionals in the country) to classical piano.</p>

<p>What? Of course you don’t want egotistical jerks. Who does? I <em>am</em> self-indulgent <em>and</em> over confident, but I’m also amusing. John Mongan is funny and amusing - whether you’re laughing with him or at him.</p>

<p>You’re interested in athletes? Great! John Mongan has played more sports - 47 - than almost any other student, including oddball favorites such as Orienteering.</p>

<p>You think I can pay for your school? Don’t be too sure. I’ve got surprises for you there, too.</p>

<p>Why not send a guaranteed admission and full scholarship to increase your chance of being selected by John Mongan? Why not do it right now?</p>

<p>Sincerely, John Mongan</p>

<p>P.S. If you’d like a copy of a fun-filled, fact-filled brochure, “John Mongan: What a Guy!” just ask.</p>

<p>Question: Are there any significant experiences you have had, or accomplishments you have realized, that have helped to define you as a person?</p>

<pre><code> I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row. </code></pre>

<p>I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.</p>

<p>Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets. I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.</p>

<p>I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat .400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.</p>

<p>I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.</p>

<p>I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four-course meals using only a Mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.</p>

<p>But I have not yet gone to college.</p>

<p>These are two of my favorites. If you’ve got any to add, feel free.</p>

<p>I hope this eased some tension!</p>

<p>lol the first one I’ve never seen before</p>

<p>that was pretty good</p>

<p>Guys, seriously, it’s worth the time. They’re pretty funny. Haha I just realized that the only people who would read this comment are the people who already read the essays. Lol.</p>

<p>Second is a classic. The first one I absolutely love!</p>


<p>first one. what gut!</p>

<p>lol i really hope the kid got accepted.</p>

<p>Ahahaha that first one is awesome.</p>

<p>This is awesome.</p>

<p>hahahaha brilliant!!!</p>

<p>That first one is awesome. I have to bookmark this page and come back if I need a laugh.</p>

<p>I wish I was that funny. No sarcasm</p>

<p>“You think I can pay for your school? Don’t be too sure. I’ve got surprises for you there, too.”</p>

<p>I died at that line haha</p>

<p>^ ME TOO! Glad someone on this site shares my sense of humor :D. I really want to know if either of these kids got their first choice.</p>

<p>omg the first one killed! the 2nd is good too,but didnt make me laugh off my chair</p>

<p>wonder what happened to them…lol…omg I’m dying to write something unique in the essay “your interest and goals…”. this really helps me relax</p>

<p>The second guy is Hugh Gallagher.</p>

<p>I sent an actual essay, but I decided to send a “supplement” along with it. This was after I had already gotten in to one of my top schools early. I ended up getting waitlisted at the places I sent this to. Considering I got rejected by the schools I didn’t send this to, I’m not sure if it helped or hurt me. </p>

<p>A Guide To Cracking the Teenage Girl Below is the tested and trusted method for “Cracking the Teenage Girl.”*</p>

<p>The Five Fundamental Theorems (FFT)</p>

<ol> <li><p>Despite what they say, teenage girls are not looking for someone to understand them. They want someone to control them and tell them what to do.</p></li> <li><p>The more arrogant and self-confident you are, the more you’ll be able to be the guy mentioned in one. Remember, it’s not harassment if she enjoys it.</p></li> <li><p>Physical and verbal reminders of the master/slave relationship is constantly needed to be able to fully follow steps one and two to perfection.</p></li> <li><p>The more she acts as if she dislikes the treatment; the more she’s actually enjoying it.</p></li> <li><p>Teenage girls have no self-pride. They are what you say they are.</p></li> </ol>

<p>Right at the beginning a firm master/slave relationship needs to be established with the girl immediately. It is usually achieved by personal attitude, by saying something along the lines of, “Hey, you’re almost as good-looking as I am. I might just let you go out with me.” This will attracts the girl’s attention causing the effect known as “love at first sight,” “a hot flash,” or “sexual obsession,” all of which share the same meaning.</p>

<p>The next step is to add in the punches. Phrases such as “Girl you the dumbest ***** I’ve ever seen” are usually a safe bet. The girl would become instantly ecstatic and aroused, even venturing to touch you, but don’t let her, not yet. When she replies to agree with you, nod your head like you’re not really listening; since she won’t be saying anything intelligent anyways and girls find that very attractive as well. It’s called foreplay.</p>

<p>A side effect however, is what professionals term Hard to Get Syndrome, or HGS. It usually involves the girl feigning shock and anger at the actions of the guy. It is believed to be a sort of mating test used to determine the validity of the opposite partner. A common occurrence is the phrase “You’re horrible I hate you”. However, this is commonly interpreted to mean “Wow I love this so much please don’t stop.”</p>

<p>In order to fulfill her desire for further domination one should take this opportunity to give her a quick slap. The suggested form used is the Wu Slap. Based on the Five Fundamental Theorem, the Wu Slap has become a standard practice in the Player’s handbook. Professional slapping involves the use of several techniques that distinguish it from normal slapping. Unlike other forms of slapping, the Wu Slap neither as light as the “girl slap” nor as heavy handed as the “***** slap.” It is also unlike both in style, consisting of a quick flick of the wrist, mainly to establish master/slave positions. The Wu Slap also contains the use of dragging the fingernails across the face, producing a raking effect. Properly done, a Wu Slap can cause pain and humiliation in a teenage girl, producing a desirable effect that cancels out any HGS the girl might possibly have.</p>

<p>Upon reaching this point, cracking the girl is already almost finished. The final trial simply comprises of hearing her complain, scream, and/or cry about various events. Never pay attention. Paying attention is a sign of homosexuality and male impotency. Falling asleep is an often used technique. This would also be a good time to pull out a nine-millimeter and shoot someone for the increased dramatic effect, which is extremely useful. A different type of firearm would also work, but a nine is usually more gangster and better fitting for a player.</p>

<p>*Disclaimer: The author takes no responsibility for the repercussions that may happen to any idiot dumb enough to follow the above method.</p>

<p>^wth would you put that? What was your motivation?</p>

<p>OMG, WTH?!!! you’re serious??!!</p>

<p>I would waitlist you, too. Enough guts/humor to warrant not getting rejected, but the humor/sarcasm is a little over the top to accept you. At least, that’s how I feel.</p>

<p>HAHAHA I love the first one! Hope the guy got accepted.</p>


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7 Funny College Essays: Full Examples & Tips

funny college essays

The whole process of applying to college feels very serious. It feels like if you don’t get into your dream school, it will be the end of the world. And having so much on the line can definitely make writing the admissions essay seem like a scary task. But it doesn’t have to be! In fact, a good way to stand out in the college admissions process is with a funny college essay.

College admissions officers have to read through tons of essays and some humor can go a long way. But how do you do that without coming across as try-hard or unprofessional? How do you find a comedic touch that will feel natural and relevant to the adult reader? Check out our tips on writing a funny college essay that works!

How to Write a Funny College Essay

Tip 1: use a funny metaphor.

Brittany Stinson answered a prompt that asked about an interest so meaningful that the application would be incomplete without it. Her answer was so original that Business Insider did an entire article about it.

Not only did Stinson write a funny college essay but she also got into five Ivy League schools (Yale, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, and Cornell) and Stanford!

Brittany drew a beautiful parallel between her memories of running around Costco to grab all the free samples and her intellectual curiosity of “sampling” different experiences.

What made this essay so great was that it takes a funny visual image and weaves in a subtle message about Brittany’s character. Remember that, in the end, the admissions officers want to finish reading the essay and know more about YOU . Using a metaphor is a great way to give them a little window into you while also showing off your comedic chops. Check out Stinson’s essay below.

Essay Spotlight: Samples at Costco

Prompt 1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Managing to break free from my mother’s grasp, I charged. With arms flailing and chubby legs fluttering beneath me, I was the ferocious two­ year old rampaging through Costco on a Saturday morning. My mother’s eyes widened in horror as I jettisoned my churro; the cinnamon ­sugar rocket gracefully sliced its way through the air while I continued my spree. I sprinted through the aisles, looking up in awe at the massive bulk products that towered over me. Overcome with wonder, I wanted to touch and taste, to stick my head into industrial­ sized freezers, to explore every crevice. I was a conquistador, but rather than searching the land for El Dorado, I scoured aisles for free samples. Before inevitably being whisked away into a shopping cart, I scaled a mountain of plush toys and surveyed the expanse that lay before me: the kingdom of Costco. 

“I was a conquistador, but rather than searching the land for El Dorado, I scoured aisles for free samples.”

Notorious for its oversized portions and dollar­ fifty hot dog combo, Costco is the apex of consumerism. From the days spent being toted around in a shopping cart to when I was finally tall enough to reach lofty sample trays, Costco has endured a steady presence throughout my life. As a veteran Costco shopper, I navigate the aisles of food stuffs, thrusting the majority of my weight upon a generously filled shopping cart whose enormity juxtaposes my small frame. Over time, I’ve developed a habit of observing fellow patrons tote their carts piled with frozen burritos, cheese puffs, tubs of ice cream, and weight ­loss supplements. Perusing the aisles gave me time to ponder. Who needs three pounds of sour cream? Was cultured yogurt any more well­ mannered than its uncultured counterpart? Costco gave birth to my unfettered curiosity. 

“Who needs three pounds of sour cream? Was cultured yogurt any more well­ mannered than its uncultured counterpart? Costco gave birth to my unfettered curiosity.”

While enjoying an obligatory hot dog, I did not find myself thinking about the ‘all beef’ goodness that Costco boasted. I instead considered finitudes and infinitudes, unimagined uses for tubs of sour cream, the projectile motion of said tub when launched from an eighty foot shelf or maybe when pushed from a speedy cart by a scrawny seventeen year old. I contemplated the philosophical: If there exists a thirty­ three ounce jar of Nutella, do we really have free will?

I experienced a harsh physics lesson while observing a shopper who had no evident familiarity of inertia’s workings. With a cart filled to overflowing, she made her way towards the sloped exit, continuing to push and push while steadily losing control until the cart escaped her and went crashing into a concrete column, 52” plasma screen TV and all. Purchasing the yuletide hickory smoked ham inevitably led to a conversation between my father and me about Andrew Jackson’s controversiality. There was no questioning Old Hickory’s dedication; he was steadfast in his beliefs and pursuits – qualities I am compelled to admire, yet his morals were crooked. We both found the ham to be more likeable–and tender.

“Purchasing the yuletide hickory smoked ham inevitably led to a conversation between my father and me about Andrew Jackson’s controversiality.”

I adopted my exploratory skills, fine tuned by Costco, towards my intellectual endeavors. Just as I sampled buffalo ­chicken dip or chocolate truffles, I probed the realms of history, dance and biology, all in pursuit of the ideal cart–one overflowing with theoretical situations and notions both silly and serious. I sampled calculus, cross ­country running, scientific research, all of which are now household favorites. With cart in hand, I do what scares me; I absorb the warehouse that is the world. Whether it be through attempting aerial yoga, learning how to chart blackbody radiation using astronomical software, or dancing in front of hundreds of people, I am compelled to try any activity that interests me in the slightest. 

My intense desire to know, to explore beyond the bounds of rational thought; this is what defines me. Costco fuels my insatiability and cultivates curiosity within me at a cellular level. Encoded to immerse myself in the unknown, I find it difficult to complacently accept the “what”; I want to hunt for the “whys” and dissect the “hows”. In essence, I subsist on discovery.

funny college essay topics

Tip 2: Show Off the Real, Flawed Human Behind the Resume

We all know that the admissions process is highly competitive. Everyone has great grades and test scores, so how do you set yourself apart? By showing your humanity in a funny college essay! And taking a comedic dig at your human shortcomings or struggles is a great way to do just that. Consider this story of a student having a minor dishwasher mixup that resulted in an expensive renovation.

We can all relate to this cringe-worthy example when things go wrong for the silliest of reasons.

The admissions officers were probably impressed by her resilience and honesty in the face of adversity, as well as her vulnerability in showing how one of her defining personality traits, being a people pleaser, created this mess in the first place.

The writer got into Penn state, so they clearly appreciated the honesty!

Looking for 1:1 college essay writing help?

Book a session today  , tip 3: make it short and sweet.

This one is a risky strategy, but Reddit is full of stories of someone who knows someone who got into their top school with a mere sentence or two that showcased their out-of-the-box thinking, stunning creativity, and cheek at the same time.

Like this student that answered the simple enough prompt of naming the biggest challenge they’d ever faced with the answer “this application.” The admissions officers will surely recognise the struggle that college applications present and this student’s ability to be concise but also show some personality in such a short amount of space.

Or this student who replied to the prompt of “What’s your favorite word and why?” with a simple “Brevity.” So if you’re feeling brave and want to go for the unexpected, aim for a very short essay that packs a punch.

But beware, this strategy for writing a funny college essay is risky and could backfire spectacularly if the punchline doesn’t go down well. So use with caution and get another set of eyes on your word(s) before you press submit!

funny college essays examples

Tip 4: Have Fun With Your Storytelling

Storytelling is always a great way to connect with your reader by helping them visualize what you’re saying and feel empathy for your experiences.

And adding humor can make your story even more memorable. Like author and musician Hugh Gallager’s brilliant college essay that he credits as being the world’s first viral comedy skit. Hugh himself confirmed that he did indeed send his fantasy masterpiece to NYU as his application essay. Check out Hugh’s way of using humorous storytelling to make a lasting impression here:

Essay Spotlight: Hugh Gallager

Prompt 1: In order for the admissions staff of our college to get to know you, the applicant, better, we ask that you answer the following question: Are there any signifiant experiences you have had, or accomplishments you have realized, that have helped define you as a person?

I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

“I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear.”

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat 400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college.

A Funny College Essay Final Checklist

Whatever you decide to write about, your college admissions essay has to reflect your personality. So if injecting a little bit of humor into a funny college essay feels natural to you, go for it! 

Ideally, you should make sure there’s a point to your funny story so you’re not just telling a random joke. It’s vital to also say something meaningful about yourself if you’re taking a comedic approach.

Also, remember that humor is a complex and personal thing, so what you think is funny might not be to someone else.  Your essay is not intended to make you or your friends laugh . Instead, it should make the admissions officers laugh.

As a final tip, make sure that the overall tone of your essay is still professional . Remember that the goal is not just to get the laugh. It’s to make them see that you’re the perfect candidate for their college. So use humor wisely and sparingly, and make sure that it always serves a greater purpose in your story.

If you’d like to add a comic touch to your essay but aren’t sure how to start, hire an Essay People writing coach . We have a team of top writers who can help you brainstorm and make sure that you shine.

With that in mind, go forth and be funny!

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Comedic Essays: Funny writing from Clean Comic Shaun Eli

103 hilarious and serious essays. some of these are funny, and some are serious. if you can’t tell the difference then i’m not doing my job., to the editor of money magazine.

I was dismayed to discover that your list of the fifty best jobs didn’t include any in entertainment (and only one that was on the creative side– creative director). I’m a stand-up comedian and I wouldn’t trade my job for any other (not even for my high school job– working at an ice cream parlor with unlimited on-the-job eating). While there are aspects of my profession that an audience doesn’t see (marketing– working to get booked, for example) there’s nothing like getting paid to brighten people’s days.

Sure, not everybody can do my job (it takes talent as a writer and performer, plus years of practice) but neither can anybody just get into medical school, pass the bar exam or become an engineer.

Making a list of the best jobs but leaving out the creative ones is like having a list of the best places to live but excluding all the coastal states. But then I notice that “Magazine Editor” didn’t make the list either– maybe you’re just not that happy. Not a problem… I know just what you need… come to a show!


posted on 2/8/08

For every person about whom you think “He’s awful, why is he getting opportunities that I’m not getting?” there’s someone else saying the same thing about you.

Comics, if you’re gonna eat it* on stage, try not to do it when the waitresses are in the room.

This is especially true for the waitress you have a crush on.

This is possibly even more importantly true if one of the waitresses is dating the booker.

Try not to have a crush on the waitress dating the booker.

If you can’t help it, try even harder not to mention the crush to anyone.

Don’t assume that the writer of this piece has a crush on a waitress, or that any particular booker is dating someone working at the club.

Don’t even assume that comedy clubs HAVE waitresses.

* comedy slang for having a terrible show

How to Audition

posted on 1/30/08

People have been asking me about auditioning for Last Comic Standing, so here’s what I know.

I was the first NY comic to audition for Last Comic Standing II. And I was way not ready– very new in stand-up. While waiting to go on stage I thought of an addition to strengthen my opening joke, an addition I still use. And I promptly forgot about it when I nervously stepped on stage. The judges Bob Read and Ross Mark, who book The Tonight Show, were very nice to me; I didn’t realize how nice until I watched the show and saw how they treated some other auditioners. I made them laugh a few times which isn’t as easy as it sounds at 10 AM (7 AM on the L.A. time they were living on) in front of people who watch comics for a living. And as I sat next to them at the call-backs I saw them sit through many comics without laughing much at all.

They asked me if I were nervous because I was performing for only two people. I said “No, I’ve performed for audiences half this size” which got a laugh. Two, actually.

One thing I noticed at the LCS II call-back show is how tight most of the sets were. That is, instead of getting a story started, then set-up, set-up, punchline, the comics who did well had almost every single sentence get a laugh. A punchline would also set-up the next sentence and it would flow from there. So a three minute set would have well more than fifteen laugh lines. It was a great show to watch as well as educational and inspiring. And quite humbling for a new comic.

AND– they weren’t just looking for comics– they were casting a reality show– so the comics not only had to be funny, they had to reveal who they were. And that’s not easy to do in three minutes and still fit in fifteen to twenty punchlines.

First of all, realize that a comic may get only two or three sentences– if the first set-up is too long, or the first joke doesn’t hit– you may not get a chance to continue. So put the shortest, strongest jokes up front.

Secondly, have to have at least something that not only says “Laugh at this, it’s funny” and “I know what I’m doing and I’m ready for prime-time TV” but also says This is who you are and what you’re like and why you should be allowed to continue.

Thirdly, one does not want to end up on the blooper reel– where they show comics looking ridiculous. (well, some people want to be on TV so badly they don’t care, or they don’t realize they’re being made fun of– and if on a network TV show they show you for eight seconds and had to bleep you six times, or they followed your attempt at a joke with a shot of the judges’ blank stares, yes, they’re making fun of you).

So to avoid ending up on the blooper reel I have gone through my jokes one sentence at a time to eliminate anything that might not sound good out of context. Specifically one joke has a punchline that works well with the set-up but the punchline alone sounds creepy. Cross out that joke.

Then it’s Avoid any joke that is on a common theme. For example, I may have the greatest “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” joke (I don’t; but I do have a decent, original one that fits my persona) but I’m sure that as the two hundredth auditioner they will have heard jokes that start with “What happens in Vegas…” ten times already, and number eleven isn’t going to thrill them. Same with references to penises, breasts, TV commercials, the TV shows that the NY auditioners are/were on (“Law & Order” and “The Sopranos”), X is different from Y (NY/California, men/women, black people/white people, etc.), contrasting ethnic backgrounds especially if they rely on offensive ethnic stereotypes (I’m half black and half Jewish so I’m really good at raising my own bail money, kind of jokes, and yes, I realize that half of that comment is more offensive than the other half but that’s what first came to mind as I type this– I’m not that good at writing offensive jokes)…

Then I cut out any sentence that’s unnecessary. A bunch of blogs ago I questioned whether it’s better to have a three sentence joke that gets 80% laughter or a two sentence version that gets 60% laughter. And while I still don’t have the answer for audiences, for auditioning I go with two sentences and 60%.

Then I get on stage as much as I possibly can in the next week and a half to practice my two minute audition set plus my four minute call-back set.

Then I show up at the audition and I hope that I have the set of my life. Twice in a row.

Knock ’em dead, everybody that’s trying. I want all of us to rock. Good stand-up raises it up for everybody. And good stand-up on TV gets more people to come see our shows. And I want NY comics to dominate as we should– after all, NYC is the center of stand-up comedy.

A Few Good Men & a Few Others

posted on 1/5/08

My mother sent me the link to a study reporting that drinking low-fat or non-fat milk may lead to cancer.

Thanks, mom. I read the same newspapers you do, and then some. You know what causes cancer? Not dying of something else first. Sure, some things are known carcinogens: Smoking. Having a job wrapping asbestos around pipes. Frequent sex with (insert someone’s name here).

So. An early study claims ~ … Unless the study reported something like “We fed low-fat milk to forty subjects, and thirty seven of them burst into flames” I’ll think I’ll wait until the outcome is replicated in further studies.

I didn’t get a chance to read the study or to submit it to my panel of experts. But perhaps it’s what they were drinking milk instead of that’s the problem. Maybe they were drinking low-fat milk in place of wine. Or beer. Or Erbitux. And maybe, just maybe, the people who drink regular milk are mixing it with their Kahlua or Baileys and that, too, knocks down some cancer.

To whichever idioticalite at the Clinton campaign who thought it was a good idea to load six buses full of supporters on a narrow sidewalk right outside of Grand Central Terminal at 5 PM on a Friday: Get a clue. The sidewalk is only two people wide there– don’t pick a street leading to one of the busiest train stations in the country. Three blocks up or one block over would’ve worked much better. Or at least you could’ve had them line up single-file.

Hillary, you ought to know better. You claim to be a New Yorker– you’ve ‘lived’ here over a decade. And you’re FROM Chicago. I expect this behavior from someone who grew up in one of the forty six states without people. But you? I know, you don’t spend a lot of time walking by yourself around Manhattan. You’re driven by Secret Service agents and followed by your posse, or whatever non-rappers call hangers-on.

If you plan to run the country like you are running this part of your campaign then I’m voting for someone else. It’s the little things that piss people off.

I get it. It’s not your fault. You don’t dictate the logistics of loading buses to New Hampshire. You leave that to lower-ranked people twelve levels down from you.

Oh, you say, why would how some idiotical lower-level person in a campaign affect how she’d run the country as president? That lower-level person isn’t going to become Secretary of State or be appointed to the Supreme Court.

Well, baby Einstein, maybe not. But that lower-level person is going to be offered a job as a mid-level bureaucrat in the Clinton (Mrs.) Administration. And while you think that it’s the Supreme Court and the Cabinet that matter, think of where the decisions are made. There are over six hundred federal District Court judges who each try one case at a time. There are fewer Appeals Court judges and they seem to work in threes. And the nine justices of the Supreme Court? They hear cases together– it’s ONE court. So as a group which do you think has more power?

That lower-level person is going to clog something in the system. Something way more important than the sidewalk at rush-hour on a Friday.

A long time ago I volunteered to work on a presidential campaign. The weekend before Election Day they sent me to hand out campaign literature. My instructions? “Your corner is 86th and Lex. Get to work.”

Yes, baby E, you’d think that someone with a college degree doesn’t need to be told how to hand out flyers. You’d be wrong. Why? Because another guy was given the same intersection and he stood across the street from me at the top of a subway entrance. And what he did was to shove a flyer into people’s faces and say “Snarf Garftarf* for President.” After a few minutes I, the novice campaigner, took him aside and said “Look. This is New York. You shove a flyer in people’s faces, all you’re doing is annoying them. You want them to read this propaganda, not crumple it up and throw it at me when they get across the street. Here’s what you do. Engage them. Ask politely if they’re voting on Tuesday. And then ask for whom. If they say Snarf Garftarf, thank them, tell them they’ve made an excellent choice. If they say the other guy, ask them to read the flyer, maybe you’ll change their mind. If they say they haven’t made up their mind, THESE ARE YOUR PEOPLE. And if they say they’re not voting, ask why, and maybe you can convince them that they CAN make a difference.”

Although, it turns out, the most frequent reason people told me they weren’t going to vote? That they’re illegal. Not “Sorry, I’m not a citizen” or “I’m just visiting your country” or “I have a Green Card.” “I’m illegal.” Not only common at 86th & Lex, but readily admitted. I had no idea. Immigration should volunteer for a presidential campaign, they could probably knock the twelve million illegal immigrants down by a few million. Just here in NYC.

And it turns out, when you shove a piece of paper in people’s faces, nobody takes them. Ask them a polite question, they may stick around. We were the first group to run out of flyers. Which means that all the other teams were as ignorant as my co-hort across the street…

Which may explain why the Garftarf Administration didn’t accomplish much in all its years in office.

And now, with the jokes, comes the whining.

Today, for about the eightieth time this year, someone told me what to do.

Now, if the “You should” is followed by “get off my foot” or “not vote for Ron Paul” that’s good advice.

But if your “You should” is followed by your telling me how to manage my career, and you’re not an entertainment lawyer, or an intellectual property lawyer, or a manager of comedians, or an agent, or writer, or comedian, or club owner, or club manager, or comedy club waitress (comedians who are smart or at least paying attention learn that comedy club waitresses see a LOT of comedians and a LOT of audiences and overhear managers and owners, and know quite a bit about making or screwing up a career), or television executive, or comedy writer, or my mother, then please just shut up.

My mother has the right to tell me what to do. She’s earned it. It doesn’t mean I have to listen to her. But she can say whatever she wants.

Even if it’s “Get on ‘The Tonight Show’ and stop drinking so much low-fat milk, it’s no good for you.” (Nice call-back, huh?)

Because probably, just probably, though for some reason you THINK you know something about the entertainment business, well, you don’t.

That’s why you’re my dentist, not host of “The Tonight Show.”

Saying “You need a good agent” or “You should get on that TV show, what’s it called, ‘Last Comedy Standup'” or “Why don’t you call ‘The Tonight Show’ or HBO and ask if they’ll put you on TV” or “You should create a funny sit-com” clearly demonstrates that you DON’T know how this business works.

I don’t know what compels people to think they know how to write a TV show just because they spend seven hours a day on the couch (or DESPITE the fact that they spend seven hours a day on the couch), or that they know how comedians get ‘discovered’ (hint: we don’t GET discovered. We WORK, and WORK MORE, work HARD, and ACHIEVE success– we don’t just show up once in a while and hope someone ‘finds’ us–- just like any other career- have you ever heard of an oncologist getting ‘discovered?’) but really, doctor, I don’t say things like “You know what you should do? You should figure out what cures cancer and patent it and sell it.” (hint– you want to know what cures cancer? Anti-low-fat milk pills– invent some of those)

Okay, first of all, EVERY comic wants to be on “The Tonight Show”– even Jay Leno is trying to figure out a way to stay on the show past when his contract expires. You don’t just call up Bob and Ross (they’re the guys who book the comics for the show– and if you didn’t know this then maybe, just maybe, you’re not in a position to give career advice to a comedian) and say “Hey guys, I’m ready, what nights are free?” After at least ten years, IF you’re a comedy GENIUS (in the category of comedy genius to get on the show after ONLY around ten years of hard, hard work-– Ellen DeGeneres, Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Wright; sorry, probably not me but ask me when I’m ten years in) MAYBE, just MAYBE, you get a SHOT AT IT.

And you don’t just write a sit-com. Nobody in TV takes a sit-com idea from a new guy. What you do is, you write a spec script for a TV show (that means a script for an existing show, on speculation, because nobody’s paying you for it and nobody will ever buy it). Then you get someone (agent, manager, hot chick that producer wants to bang, blackmailer that has video of said producer and hot chick caught in the act, and the ‘hot chick’ is really a man) to show it to someone at A DIFFERENT show. He says “Gee, it doesn’t totally suck.” It proves maybe, just maybe, you can write for someone else’s characters. Eventually you get a job writing for a show. You write. You get stuff on the air. You prove you can continue to produce under pressure. To write under deadline. To Not Suck.

Then, maybe then, someone will look at your new sit-com idea.

And if it beats the one-in-a-thousand odds, it gets picked up.

Yeah, roughly a thousand-to-one. That’s why the word ‘maybe’ appears fourteen times in this essay.

Or, if you’re really, really talented, and really lucky, you go the Aaron Sorkin route. You work your ass off writing during the day while tending bar at a Broadway theatre at night. Your third produced play gets to Broadway. It’s a hit. You write the screenplay. THAT’S a hit too (“A Few Good Men” as if you didn’t know).

Oh, it might help if mommy or daddy’s a top entertainment lawyer or otherwise already in the entertainment business.

Not a dentist.

But please, unless you ARE Aaron Sorkin, or Jerry Seinfeld, or Jay Leno, or one of their agents, attorneys or managers, how about you finish looking at my teeth or whatever you’re supposed to be doing, and let me manage my own career. It’s going rather well, I must say.

It must be since I flew to the dentist in a new glass cockpit Cirrus SR22 Turbo GTS.

My dentist drives a Saab.

And if you ARE Aaron Sorkin, I’m not going to ask you to read my screenplay (that would be crass) but if you don’t buy me the beer you’ve owed me since 1988 then I’m going to remind you that I stole three bases in one game against your team when we were kids.

* His name wasn’t Snarf Garftarf, but wouldn’t that be a cool name for a president? I’m keeping his name secret (but a family member of his is mentioned in this article and I’m pretty sure nobody named Erbitux is running for president this year)


How NOT to get booked

posted on 1/1/08

As I look back on last year, and having finally managed to clean off my desk, I wanted to let people who feel not-as-good-about-themselves-as-they-ought-to, to have a reason to think that they’re doing most things right. Because a lot of your competition isn’t.

I produce a comedy show- Ivy Standup sm – it’s not “The Tonight Show” but it’s a pro show at one of NYC’s A clubs as well as a few select places outside NYC.

I get frequent requests from comics to appear in the show.

And for the most part they make my decision pretty easy.

If you’ve ever written a book and looked for a literary agent you know that their slush pile is so big that they’re simply looking for a reason to say no. Spelling errors, wrong genre, not following their submission guidelines… all make it easier for them to toss you aside and get closer to the bottom of the pile with no guilt.

All of us comics want to think you have to be smart to be a comedian. We want to think that. And while I’m sure that some very good comedians are bad spellers it’s certainly not what we want to see. Especially if the show you’re asking to be in is the Ivy League show.

And especially since if you’re emailing us– you have a computer that has a built-in spell-check. USE IT!

I’m not sure how well the grammar-check feature works since I stopped using it a long time ago but if you’re not sure of the difference between to, too and two, you might try it. Or ask someone to proof-read for you.

Secondly, if you send me a video (or a link to a video on the web) please, Please, PLEASE make sure I can watch it without throwing up. I got one video that was so hard to watch… well, let me give you some background. I’m a licensed pilot. Instrument-rated. I’ve trained for a commercial pilot’s license. I’ve done aerobatics. Steep turns. Side slips. Power-on stalls. Spins. Flown upside-down until the instructor said “Enough. Right the plane.”

All this to say I don’t easily get motion-sick.

The best way to describe this one video? It had to have been shot by an epileptic, having a seizure, while drunk, in a tornado, during an earthquake, while sitting on top of a bowl of jell-o.

While being beaten with a Louisville Slugger.

And tickled at the same time.

Seriously, I couldn’t watch it because I was getting motion-sick.

I got another video that started with a wide shot of the stage before zooming in, so I knew it was a big room. I couldn’t see how many people were in the room, and by the sound I figured there weren’t many people there. The comic didn’t get many laughs, and barely any applause. Which is okay– I was considering hiring the comic, not the audience.

But the tape he sent me wasn’t just of him. He included the end of the performer before him, and a bit of the intro of the person following him.

And they got great applause. Which he didn’t. It’s one thing to send in a tape with a quiet audience. It’s another thing to send in a tape that shows that the audience just wasn’t that into you.

If you don’t have a quality video to send, one that is a good representation of how good you are, and is watchable, just wait to send something.

It’s much better than sending something that just sucks.

SUCKS gets remembered. Your career can wait. And my show just isn’t that important. It’s not going to make your career. And if it could? Would you send a crappy tape to “The Tonight Show?”

Yes, we too know how hard it is to get a quality tape. Shows with good sound recording are few and far between– if the audience isn’t miked then it could sound like nobody’s laughing. So you have to work hard to get into a show with good recording.

Pay your friends to fill the club, beg, promise to wash someone’s car. Whatever it takes to get on a show that will get you a good tape.

One in a club, not shot in your basement.

If your mother yells that dinner’s ready, we know it’s not in a club, and that you still live with your mother.

And if a waitress drops a tray of drinks during your set, or a drunk interrupts, or the emcee makes fun of you in his introduction, or the mike cuts out, or you screw up a couple of jokes, or something else goes wrong so that the tape isn’t great?

Pay other friends, wash a herd of cattle, hire a videographer yourself, whatever it takes.

Just don’t send a tape that makes you look like an idiot.

And if you have a good tape and the booker still says no? Don’t write back to say “I’m funnier than you are.” Even if you’re sure you are.

Because I’m not giving up my spot in the show. It’s MY SHOW. Funnier than I am? That’s a given. Otherwise I’ll simply give myself a longer set. I LIKE being on stage. I can fill the time; I have plenty of material.

The question is: Are you funnier than other people in the show? Because if not, why would I bump them for you?

I already know they’re reliable, they’re funny, I’ve worked with them before. They show up. They don’t question my judgment. They can probably spell.

And to be clear, even for those who’ve sent me awful tapes I’ve tried to be constructive and positive, despite it going against my nature (I’m a native New Yorker). So when I write back to say “Thanks for submitting. I can’t use you right now– but feel free to write back in another year– and to be clear, I HAVE put people in the show long after their first query” please don’t argue.

Because while I do give try to give people another shot, I don’t give arguers another shot. Nobody wants to work with a pain-in-the-drain.

A story– a long time ago I tried out for a sports team. It was the U.S. National Dragon Boat team. Yeah, not exactly the highest sport in the U.S. but it was a team representing our country in the World Championship. And in China, where the sport originated, it IS a big sport. It’s like football to them. In fact it is the second most popular sport in the world, China being a fifth of the world’s population. It’s also the oldest continually raced sport around, at almost 2500 years old.

I was living in NY. The practices were in Philadelphia. Five days a week. I came to the team late, and everybody else trying out had dragon-boated before– almost all were on the team the year before, and were active, competitive kayakers or canoeists. I was a rower, quite good but rowing is a different range of motion from dragon-boating.

One day the coach took me aside. Told me he didn’t think I was going to make the team. That he wouldn’t ordinarily say anything, but as I was commuting 2+ hours a day, each way, just the commute alone almost a full-time job, he felt it his obligation to let me know. But that I was welcome to try again the next year, and to stop by if I were in Philadelphia again.

The next night I showed up at practice. He asked why. I said “Pete, I appreciate what you told me last night. It was the right thing to do. And with that knowledge you know that I can’t complain if I don’t make the team. But it’s still my choice to keep trying, and that’s what I’m gonna do, until the selection process is finished and you’ve chosen the team.”

And he understood.

And when it came time to select the team, and he had us race against each other, I won every race, and made the team.

I didn’t just win my races, I trounced people.

I’m sure that if I’d said anything the night he suggested I go home and not come back, other than “Thanks for talking to me,” I probably wouldn’t have gotten the chance to even race for my spot. But I appreciated what he told me, and I didn’t argue.

We made the finals in Hong Kong, beating every other Western boat. Even though we sank in the heats and semi-finals and some of us caught stomach bugs because Hong Kong Harbor is filthy.

To be clear, do not ever swim in Hong Kong Harbor.

If your plane crashes in Hong Kong Harbor and you manage to escape from the wreckage, you might not be one of the lucky ones.

Just saying.

The point is, don’t argue. Just get so good that you’re chosen for the team. TROUNCE everyone else and nobody can question whether you belong there.

Dan Naturman has been in several of my shows. He’s really, really funny, and he’s good to work with. People still ask me if he’ll be in the next show. If he weren’t a nice guy I’d still put him in the show, because he’s a great comic and my job is to put on the best show I can. Within reason. But most others? If they were jerks I’d never have them back. I’d find someone else for their spots.

Dan’s good enough to be a prick and still get booked.

You’re probably not.

To be clear– I like Dan on and off the stage. Don’t misquote me. And he regularly trounces. That’s his job. We all try. He succeeds.

But for you to get booked– have a good tape. AND be nice. And if you’re trying out for a clean, smart show, try to have a tape that’s at least somewhat clean. Not one full of Monica Lewinsky jokes. That’s not only not what I’m looking for, it’s a decade out of date. If I tell you I want “Smart and clean– what’s right for people entertaining clients” and your set opens with “Where my pot smokers at?” I will probably continue watching, but I may not watch the full ten minutes.

I’d rather spend the next nine minutes trying to catch up to Dan.

If you want us to bring Ivy Standup sm to your city, here’s a good way to do it– ASK.

Overheard Today in the Post Office

Posted on 12/24/2007

Clerk:  I hope Santa’s bringing you something nice this year. Adult Patron:  Santa won’t be visiting my house any time soon. Clerk:  Why not?  Are you Jewish or Moslem? Adult Patron:  No, I’m an asshole.

“Go To The Mirror, Boy!”

Posted on 11/29/2007

Greetings from Lost Angeles, land of 3 AM traffic jams, metered on-ramps and billboards advertising breast augmentation operations ($2999, if you’re interested; I assume that means for both).  Yes, I know, doctors prefer to call it a “procedure” but technically speaking I think the correct word is “installation.”

Just like when you’re hanging art on the wall.

It took over an hour on the freeway before I spotted a woman driving an SUV who was NOT speaking on a cell phone.  Then I saw her bumper-sticker: “Support Deaf Education.”  I guess that explains it.  Here they don’t just number the highways, they’re very specific that THEIR highways in California are the ONLY highways.  In NYC I often drive on 87.  Here it’s THE 405.

Unless you’re Russian, in which case it’s just 405.

Or you’re Paris Hilton, in which case it’s “Oh, like, I’m not really good in math but I want to go over there.”

Had an uneventful flight, courtesy of just enough frequent flier miles to sit in Business Class.  Where I get a reminder of just how snobby I might be about some things.  Right after take-off they offered drinks (at noon, otherwise known as 9 AM California time), including Champagne.  I love Champagne, and asked what brand it was.  The flight attendant said she’d check but in the meantime she handed me a glass.

It tasted like a penny dissolved in kerosene.  There are a lot of great American wines but nobody’s caught up to the French when it comes to sparkling wine. Say what you want about their lack of military prowess, but they know how to make beverages.  And when you come right down to it, which is more important, anyway?  Yeah, English-speaking countries did bail them out of two world wars, but if it weren’t for the French 230 years ago we’d still be calling soccer “football” and naming our children Nigel.  And doesn’t the world already have enough Nigels?

This time I remembered to bring some CDs to listen to in the car so I’m not limited to news radio or that nutty Dr. Laura.  Whose doctorate, by the way, is not in psychology.  I’m pretty sure it’s in animal husbandry.  My rental Corolla is a cute white car but the sound system doesn’t do justice to the opera I brought.  The Who’s “Tommy” in case you didn’t catch the “Go To The Mirror, Boy!” reference as the title of this blog.  Anyway I think it’s very Californian of me to notice how the car stereo sounds before I say anything about the weather.

My headlining gig was cancelled (nothing to do with me) but the producer said he’d try to find me something else since he heard good things about me. I wonder whom he asked since I never provided him with any references.  Somebody’s due a bottle of Champagne (the French kind, not what American serves in Business Class) but I don’t know who.  Anyway I have a bunch of other performances scheduled and the weather’s nice here despite the ongoing fear of returning wildfires.  Wind gusts of 18 miles per hour are major news here but maybe it’s nothing to do with fires, just warnings about bad hair days.

Monsters at my Door, a tale of 10/31

If you’re too young to stand up or old enough to drive to the store on your own to buy candy, I don’t mind that you’re with your family at my door.  I even encourage it.  But you shouldn’t be trick-or-treating.  If you’re carrying a 1 year old I know that it’s not your child eating the candy.  If you tell me that I’m wrong then I’m calling the Administration for Children’s Services.

If someone comes to your door looking scary I suggest you make sure they’re in costume.  Otherwise you risk offending a very scary-looking person.

And her husband?  Even scarier.

A kid came to my door tonight in full Home Depot gear.  And by that I don’t mean dressed as a sales associate.  Clearly he was a NASCAR driver.  I understand why NASCAR vehicles have advertising on them.  But your children?  Fine with me. I’m a Home Depot stockholder.  They’re not my kids.  Thank your sponsor for the tiny dividends.

A few years ago I came back from France just before Halloween.  I bought a lot of my favorite chocolate when I was there (Lindt Madagascar– milk chocolate with bits of cocoa beans, like a very, very good Nestles Crunch bar).  That wasn’t what I was giving out, not at $2 a bar for a product unavailable in the U.S.

At 9:45 PM on Halloween I was about to turn off my outside light– the universal signal for “It’s late, go home, you’re too old to be trick-or-treating anyway”– just as the doorbell rang.  I had about ten bars of Halloween candy left, so I figured I’d get rid of most of it and be done with Halloween for this year.

I opened the door and there were 30 kids outside.

The smart thing to do would’ve been to say “Sorry, I have only ten bars left, send the littlest kids forward…” but I didn’t think of it.  And the Lindt was on my dining room table right near the front door.  So 20 kids got really, really good candy.

The next year five thousand eight hundred kids came to my door.

From every country but France and Madagascar.

They all got Nestles Crunch bars.

I remember being annoyed at people who weren’t home on Halloween.  One day a year is all anybody asked.  We didn’t care if they were away on Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July or my birthday.  Just when we rang the bell on 10/31.

So I vowed to be home every Halloween.

Even if Home Depot and Grandparents are asking for candy.  Even if a one year old gets taken away by ACS.

Nowadays kids seem to have Halloween all figured out.  When I was a kid you got together with a few friends and went door-to-door.  These days kids are much more efficient.  They come to the door and the first kid to get candy rushes to the next house.  So that by the time you’re finished giving out candy most of the kids are gone.

Eliminating the biggest impediment to gathering as much candy as possible– waiting for the people to answer the door.  Now when the kid gets to the door it’s already open.

Saving the kids time.  And yielding more candy for each kid over the course of a limited evening.  While the homeowner pretty much can’t leave the doorway because so many kids are coming.

I blame the Bush administration.

Their “The First MBA President” idea, combined with trickle-down operations management, means more kids at my door each year.

Kid, if you can’t interrupt your cell phone conversation to say “Trick or treat” then you’re WAY too important to be going door-to-door for candy.

By the way, it’s really hard to prepare a whole chicken when the doorbell keeps ringing and I’m by myself.  I think my parents are right– it’s time I got married.

To someone who likes answering the door.  Or washing my hands.

Or at least visits France frequently and brings home good chocolate just for me.

And if that doesn’t happen… if your 14 year old daughter comes to my door dressed as Marilyn Monroe, please send her back when she’s 18.  If I’m still single: she can have the Lindt.

As long as she’s not carrying a 1 year old.

From The Joey Reynolds Show

Due to the good graces of way too many people to name I appear from time to time on the nationally-syndicated Joey Reynolds radio show.

Two months ago it was Joey’s birthday and many of his friends stopped in during the show, which is live starting at midnight (it goes national at 1 AM).

During a commercial break The Amazing Kreskin walked into the studio. Think that guys like Kreskin travel with an entourage? Not when they’re 70.

People there knew him and someone asked how he got home from a recent gig. His response? Something like “It was awful, I got lost in Jersey and it took me hours to get home.”

Not so amazing, huh Kreskin? You claim to find lost objects and people but you can’t seem to find your own house?

Then later, in what passes for the green room at a radio station, Kreskin put down his bag, walked past the food, then said “Where’s my bag? I just put it down three minutes ago…”

The Amazing Kreskin, the great mentalist, mind-reader extraordinaire… couldn’t even read his OWN mind. But he did look around and find his bag. I’d found the roast beef and rye bread, which to me was a far more important feat. His biography hypes his power to find hidden objects. I guess his bag wasn’t hidden– it was in plain sight so maybe that didn’t count.

But Kreskin was a very nice guy.

Or did he simply plant that idea in my mind? I guess we’ll never know.

 If Only Senator Bathroom BJ Had Read THE CONSTITUTION

Because Article 1, Section 6 clearly states:

“The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

The senator claims he was on the way to Washington, DC when he was detained by the police.  Except that if he knew his rights he could have pointed out that they weren’t allowed to detain him.

One of the few senators who is not a lawyer, Senator Craig none-the-less claims to be a defender of the Second Amendment right to bear arms… but apparently he couldn’t be bothered reading all those words that appear in the Constitution prior to the Second Amendment.

To quote Nelson Muntz of The Simpsons… Ha HA!

The Answers to Your Questions

I’ve gotten a lot of mail lately and don’t have time to answer it all individually.  Here are the answers– if you asked then you know what the question was.

Yes, even if your wife watches it still counts as gay.

Of course she says they’re real– she’d look like an idiot if she told you she paid for them and they’re still uneven.

Of course not.  If I were trying to kill him, he’d be dead.

Of course not.  If I were trying to kill her, she’d be dead.

I won’t tell anyone.  Why would I admit I know you?

No I won’t give you her phone number.  Didn’t you just spend ten minutes telling me how crazy she was?

I don’t have a sister. No, it must’ve been someone else you saw in an orange dress on Broadway last night. I look horrible in orange.

No, I don’t think I need to thank President Bush for all the material he’s given me.  It’s been more than offset by record budget deficits, increased pollution, high energy prices caused by the lack of any viable energy policy…

No, I don’t think I need to thank the Clintons for all the material they’ve given me.  It’s been more than offset by the repeal of the equal time rule, a huge decline in respect for the office of the president, the time I’ve spent stuck in traffic at Westchester County Airport when the Clintons flew in and out, high energy prices caused by the lack of any viable energy policy…

Proud to be an American?

Posted July 4, 2007

Someone recently asked if I were proud to be an American.

I don’t think that pride is the right word.   I am glad to be an American– there aren’t too many other countries that afford anywhere near the freedom and opportunity available here.

But Pride?   What have I done that has created those freedoms and opportunities?  I didn’t help draft the Constitution.   I didn’t create the Industrial Revolution.   I didn’t even help win World War II*.   America’s Greatest Generation?   Nope, I grew up in the Me Decade. Or was it the Al Franken Decade?   I forget; it was so long ago.

What HAVE I done?  Let’s see- I vote, I pay all my taxes without complaining, I don’t litter or steal or kick puppies and it’s been a long time since I killed someone.  Even though a lot of people have deserved it lately.  I’ve also been part of the capitalist system, making funds flow more efficiently so we can have factories and power plants and buildings and stores that sell really nice-smelling soap.  And money for your retirement– you might have more of that too, partially because of what I’ve done.

Occasionally I also make someone laugh.  Now if you’ll excuse me there’s someone I have to go kill.  He cheated on his taxes and kicked a puppy.

I’m so glad to live here.

*My father did and I am proud of him.

Dirty Words on TV

“All the President’s Men” was on channel 31 tonight.  In the space of less than five minutes Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee used two different four-letter curse words.

After the initial surprise of hearing the F word and the S word on over-the-air television, my next thought was:

A movie as important as “All the President’s Men” should never be censored.

As they say, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, even on-line

A recent on-line dating exchange:

Her (initial contact): Funny and Jewish all rolled into one man..lol wow

Me: Hi.  Thanks for writing. I don’t think we’re a match, but I wish you the best of luck in your search. -S

Her: Presumptuous aren’t you ?? I don’t think we’re a match —I didn’t ask you that.  Why would you think that?

Me: Well, I thought that most of the time when people write to someone on a dating site, they’re looking for a date. I think that it’s polite to say no thank you.  Most people don’t bother writing back, choosing instead to let the other person simply twist in the wind and wonder.  I’m not like that. I came here looking for someone to love, not seeking an argument.

Her: I wasn’t looking at you for a possible match….but just curious why you say we aren’t.

Me (unsent): Because you don’t handle rejection all that well.

Ah, the Beauty of a Drunken Beauty

Last night I had two shows at Ha! Comedy Club in NYC.  The first show was well-attended for a Sunday early show.

The emcee did a passable job warming up the audience though he had a bit of trouble trying to have a conversation with a European who didn’t understand his questions (comics– if this happens to you, here’s my suggestion: Cut and run. Say thank you and move onto someone else; don’t try to keep communicating with someone who doesn’t understand you).  Danny McDermott was up next and did well with a short set, but towards the end a drunk woman in the back kept interrupting him.

I was the next comic up, and it was clear that the woman was getting drunker and drunker because not only was she interrupting more, but was getting increasingly difficult to understand.

Some clubs will rapidly throw out audience members who disturb the show.  Ha! isn’t one of those clubs.

After a few interruptions I asked her her name.  She laughed.  I said “Your name is Ha?  Then you’re in the right club.”

At one point I said “I can’t understand a word she’s saying… and something tells me I’m better off.”  All my lines to quiet her down got laughs from the rest of the audience but didn’t do much to get her to stop talking. The audience finally told her to shut up and while it took me almost a minute to finish a fifteen second closing joke, it was worth it.

On my way out of the showroom she stood up and hugged me, telling me how funny I was and how much she’s enjoying the show.  I noticed the guy at her table, ignoring her.

A few minutes later she came outside.  She was beyond breath-taking.  She said it was her one year anniversary, and she was angry at her boyfriend because he kept telling her to shut up, but she wanted to talk to the comics because that’s how it’s supposed to be.  As politely as I could I told her no, that’s not how it works.  That the emcee may ask questions at the start of the show, but after that it’s our turn to talk.  But that didn’t stop her from her touchy-feely state. The other comics were staring at her, but to me she smelled like betrayal.

Clearly she wanted attention of the male kind.  But I’m not the kind of comic who’ll have sex with an audience member in the bathroom so she can get back at her boyfriend.  Or for any other reason, for that matter.

Besides, Ha! has a secret r… oops.

I’m looking for Ms. Right.  Not Ms. Right Now.

She went outside to smoke a cigarette.  The emcee and I were standing outside the showroom when she came back.  She continued talking to us, telling us how much she loved us and how funny we were.  She was also having trouble standing up.  At one point I asked her to which side she was most likely to fall so one of us could be ready to catch her…

I didn’t want her attention but I felt it was my duty to the other comics to keep her out of the showroom for as long as possible.  Which worked until she decided to return to the showroom and headed for the wrong room.

We steered her back to the waiting room and kept her occupied until it was time for her to leave.

She was so annoying that a gay comic commented that “She makes me even GAYER, if that’s possible.”

After the show one comic gave her his business card.  I pointed out that she was the drunken one who kept interrupting the show (with the bright lights in your face on stage, it’s often difficult to recognize someone from the audience after the show).  He said he knew.  When I suggested that she probably wasn’t the kind of person he wanted coming to more of his shows, he disagreed, saying that she might not always be drunk, and she’s the kind of woman who may bring a dozen friends to the next show.  Comics– what’s your take on this?

The second show was almost sold-out, the audience was warmed-up and happy when I took the stage, and I can’t even begin to explain to non-comics how great it is to tell an opening joke and have sustained laughter for ten or fifteen seconds and have that energy continue all the way through a fifteen minute set.  The kind of show where you know that you won’t get through half your material because they’re laughing so much, and because every spontaneous riff you throw in gets laughs, and you feel like you can do no wrong.

Ah, the joys of being a performer.  And in general the pride from doing a good job dealing with a difficult situation.  I can’t wait to go back.  Even if she’s there again with eleven equally-drunk friends.  Even a difficult audience is better than no audience at all.

Random, Rainy-Day Thoughts

The Ivies vs. The Sopranos… Last night was our Ivy League Comedy Showcase sm at Gotham, probably the nicest club in the city. I had a great time hosting the show, as I always have.

Then tonight I did a ten minute set at a club that’s in the basement of a chain restaurant a few blocks north of Times Square, in front of a bunch of Soprano mobster-wannabees.  Who wouldn’t shut up for anybody, not even their friend in the show whom they came to see.

Both shows were fun in their own ways.  At the Ivy show, I said “I just heard on the way here that the head of undergraduate admissions at M.I.T. had to resign because she lied on her resume– claimed to have gone to medical school when she didn’t even go to college.  And I’ve been thinking for the last hour that there has to be a joke that’s perfect for this audience.  And I thought, and thought, and thought… then realized: HEY, M.I.T. is not IN the Ivy League!”

At tonight’s show I had to fight for the audience’s attention.  But the way to do that, in circumstances like this, is to engage the biggest trouble-makers.  The only way they’d stop talking to each other is if the comic talks to them.  I really don’t like making the show about them, it’s like rewarding bad behavior, but for the sake of the rest of the audience– if the only way to make the show fun for everybody is to joke with the noisy folks, that’s what to do.  So I did. When the mobster-lite is from Harrisburg, PA, it’s easy.

Virginia Tech jokes: The killer sent his video manifesto to NBC News, which aired it.  That’s typical. This crazy murderer gets a TV credit, and I’m stuck handing out flyers in Times Square in the rain.*

Whenever there’s a tragedy like this people take advantage of the situation to advance their own political agendas… no, I’m not talking about comedians.  The pro-gun folks say that if more people had guns someone would have returned fire and fewer people would have been killed.  A nd the anti-gun folks say that if we made guns harder to get, this would never have happened. I don’t know which side is right.  But I do know that if everybody had a gun, I would’ve shot at least four people just on the drive in tonight.

* I don’t really hand out flyers in Times Square.

The Differences Between Democrats and Republicans

Okay, it’s considered a really overdone topic in comedy– the differences between men and women, or between New York and Los Angeles.  So how about… the differences between Democrats and Republicans?

I used to say that while they may share the same goals they differ in approach.  And that the difference between a Democrat and a Republican is that when an expert proposes a solution to a social problem that involves spending money (such as “I can improve reading scores by 20% or cut poverty in half; it’ll cost a billion dollars”) the Democrat says “Wonderful.  Here’s a billion dollars, best of luck to you!”

The Republican says “Prove to me that it works, WITHOUT spending any money, then you can have the billion dollars.”

Here’s another difference: When the Democrat asks a bureaucrat to take care of something and it doesn’t get done on a timely basis, the Democrat says “Wow, I didn’t realize how busy they were– so busy that they couldn’t get to my thing as quickly as I would have hoped.”

The Republican says “Those lazy bureaucrats should be fired– clearly they’re just sitting around doing nothing instead of getting to my thing when they should have.”

Random stuff

You can’t spell “Slaughter” without “laugh.”

I got spam email today– the subject was “World Wide Lootery” which I thought contained a rather ironic spelling error.

Last week at a business lunch one of my guests was trying to hide his Blackberry below the table, so while everyone else was chatting he was busy emailing in secret.  Or so he thought until I said something.

He said it was important– it was an email from his wife.  Their son’s teacher called, said he had trouble focusing and paying attention.

Clearly due to the great example his father must set.

Notes from Saturday Night’s Party

A Polish-American friend of mine invited me to her birthday party.  She said she invited 20 Americans and 80 Polish people.

I was the American who showed up. A ll around me, conversations in Polish that didn’t switch to English when I approached, speaking English.

One of my best friends in college was Polish, so I tried the only Polish I knew. Because he taught all of us Polish drinking songs.

Somehow, entering a conversation by saying what apparently translates to “The streets will be rivers with the blood of our enemies, and at the end of the rivers of blood, the navies of our enemies will be washed away” didn’t endear me to them.

The party had entertainment.  I discovered that Polish drag queens aren’t that convincing as women.  Say what you want about America– we may not make the best cars, or the best beer, but our drag queens are second to none!  Take that, you overly masculine Polish she-men!

I started a conversation (in English, this time) with an attractive woman.  What does she do for a living?  Tax accountant.  Perfectly respectable profession.  Until… she told me, completely seriously, that after tax season she’s moving to Kenya because she’s sick of the city.  I don’t know what’s wrong with rural Rockland County, but apparently the idea of retiring in her thirties to survive for $4000/year on her savings is attractive to her.  I don’t know what she’ll do if Kenya gets more modern and the cost of living rises… but that’s not my problem. If she likes kissing giraffes (she said she did) that’s between her and Mrs. Giraffe.

The next woman I met is a fashion designer.  With no designs on moving to Africa. We spoke about fashion models.  She said that clothes look good on tall, thin women.  I said that doesn’t prove anything.  Any clothing will look good on Tyra Banks.  If she wants to prove what a great designer she is, design something that looks good on Rosie O’Donnell.

Won’t Get Fooled Again

I saw a television commercial for Chevrolet.  The ad’s theme song was “American Pie.”  For the six of you who don’t know the song, it’s about the death of Buddy Holly.  And for the four of you who don’t know who Buddy Holly was, he was one of the pioneers of rock music in the fifties, until he died in a plane crash.  He was a great inspiration for a lot of rock groups who followed, including The Beatles (in fact they chose the name “The Beatles” because Buddy Holly’s group was called “Buddy Holly and the Crickets”).

I understand that “American Pie” mentions Chevrolet in it (“Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry…”).  But the song is not about cars.  It’s about the death of an American icon.

Like General Motors?


The Republican Club at NYU is running a game called something like “Spot the Illegal Immigrant.”  Participants compete to be the first one to spot a student wearing a sticker that says “Illegal Immigrant.”

Protesters are saying that the game is racist.

Exactly which race is illegal immigrant?  Because I’m pretty sure I’ve met illegal immigrants from six continents.

Illegal immigrants come from all ethnic groups.

Except one.

Last week the British military announced that Prince Harry’s unit would be going to Iraq.

This week the Prime Minister announced that Britain would begin to withdraw forces from Iraq, reducing its deployment.


I saw an ad on the internet for a service for shy people that said “Shy? Send your marriage proposals via email…”

Ignoring for a moment the use of the PLURAL in the ad…

Well, I guess it SHOULD be plural– why get turned down by one woman for proposing by email, when you can spam MILLIONS and hope that maybe one person clicks the wrong box?

How do you email an engagement ring?

I totally understand the honeymoon– with a little Photoshop you can easily paste your face into a porn site.

Women are Funny. Vanity Fair isn’t Funny… nor fair.

The January issue of Vanity Fair had an article entitled “Why Women Aren’t Funny.”

The article was, of course, nonsense.

The March issue published a number of letters in response, including mine.  Since the editors of Vanity Fair severely edited my letter, leaving merely an almost incomprehensible few sentences and even editing out my middle name, for those who are interested here is the original letter:

As possibly the only comedian ever to do a statistical analysis on gender differences in comedy I wish to refute some statements made in “Why Women Aren’t Funny.”  I strongly disagree with the claim that most funny women are either homosexual, large or Jewish despite the fact that one of my best friends in comedy happens to be all three.  Most female comedians in America are heterosexual, normal-sized Christians.

Your columnist asserted that there are more terrible female comedians than male comedians despite the preponderance of male comedians in the industry.  Isn’t it likely that these female comedians just don’t appeal to him so he labels them not funny?  If they’re working comics they must be making somebody laugh or they would soon be unemployed.  How often does Mr. Hitchens go to comedy clubs or open-mikes?  Because my experience has been that most of the really awful amateur comedians tend to be men.  When taking the stage, even if they don’t have great punch lines, women generally at least have a point to make.  And in my opinion most of the really bad amateurs are men who go on misogynistic tirades with nothing funny to say.

My gender analysis, done earlier this year, revealed that approximately a third of amateur comedians are female.  A smaller percentage of professional comics are women, although mathematically one can’t directly compare the two populations at one point in time because of the several years it takes to go from beginner to professional.  Women do appear more likely to take a class when starting in comedy, whereas men are more likely to just write some jokes and show up on open-mike night.  And while almost all women who attend open-mike nights seem to want to be comedians, some percentage of males who show up are just in need of attention, or medication.

Perhaps one reason that women comprise less than half of all working comics is the same reason there aren’t that many women in investment-banking– it’s a hard business, with a lot of hours and a great deal of self-sacrifice.  It’s quite difficult to start a family and be on the road forty weeks a year.  And anyway, as a male-dominated industry it’s a long, hard fight for women until the numbers start to even out over time.

What will help the numbers even out?  If people would stop publishing articles claiming that women aren’t funny.  It’s clearly not true.  What can your readers do?  They can go to comedy clubs to see female comics.  Comedy is a business; it runs on money.  Your money is your vote.  Go out and vote.

Shaun Eli Breidbart

Now I’m Customer Service and They’re the Customer

Dell called me yesterday about the computer I ordered for my father, which I’d already picked up at UPS earlier in the day.

Someone who may actually have been speaking English called to ask if the computer had arrived.  I said yes.  She then told me that I’d be receiving an email survey about the customer service she had just provided me.  I explained that SHE called ME, and that in fact I was the one helping her (I didn’t bother to ask why Dell didn’t check with UPS instead of me).  But that I didn’t particularly care to send HER a survey.

She didn’t understand.  But then she asked if there was anything ELSE she could help me with.  At which point I asked her what she had already helped me with.

She didn’t understand that either.

Sure hope the folks designing and assembling the computers are a bit smarter.

Um, not Exactly My Dream Girlfriend

“I play a push-up game with my boyfriend. We take half a deck of cards, flip them over one by one, and whatever number shows up, he does that many push-ups and I do half…”

Champion marathoner Melissa White, quoted in “Runner’s World” magazine.

I’ve played a push-up game or two with a girlfriend, and it never involved half a deck of cards. And I’ll bet it was a lot more fun for both of us.

By the way, shouldn’t the name of the magazine be “Runners’ World” instead?   I don’t think the world belongs to only one runner.

The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People

I got this book as a gift.  The cover says there are over 15 million copies in print. That’s more than 10% of the entire work force!  Do you think that 10% of the work force is highly successful?  Has the success of the work force improved much since this book was first published?

Have you been to the Gap or Home Depot lately?

I think his next book will be titled “The Seven Million Dollars of Highly Successful Self-Help Book Authors.”  By the way, the Self-Help section in my local Barnes & Noble is in the basement.  That’ll do wonders for your self-esteem.

And if you really want my critique of this book– it’s based on ‘research’ done by the author.  NOT research of highly-successful people.  No, that’d make sense. It’s based on research of OTHER self-help type books written over the past two hundred years.  Most of which were themselves not based on any research.

In college we called this “Mushing all the small bits of left-overs together and throwing it in the microwave because you’re hungry and drunk and there’s nothing else to eat.”

My violent new years resolutions

If you think that saying “My bad” after doing something stupid is an automatic excuse, I will punch you in the face then say “My too.”

If you drive recklessly while talking on a cell phone I will snatch the cell phone out of your hand and throw it in the river.

If you’re at the front of an elevator and think that it’s polite and chivalrous to step half aside and partially block the door while waiting for others to exit first, I will shove you into traffic.  Or at least out of the elevator.  Just get out of the elevator.  And don’t stand there with your hand on the door acting like you’re helping.  There’s an electric eye– the doors won’t close on anybody. It’s not 1976 anymore.

Global warming is maybe two degrees a century.  Not a lot in terms of temperature change, just a lot in terms of its impact on the environment.  If you blame much warmer than usual weather, like a sixty degree day in NYC in January, on global warming, I will shove you into a melting glacier.

If you didn’t order dessert that means you don’t get to eat dessert.  Don’t think it gives you a license to stick your fork in mine.  You had your chance to order when I did.

One more thing: “If life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”  WAKE UP!  You don’t get lemonade from lemons.  You get lemon juice.  You need sugar to make lemonade. And if you had the sugar, you probably wouldn’t be complaining about the lemons, now, would you?

Welcome to Brooklyn

Posted on 12/08/2006

In some ways it’s a rite of passage for a comedian, especially a white comedian, to play at an urban club.  As you probably know if you’ve ever watched “Showtime at the Apollo,” some audiences don’t go to be entertained.  They go to boo the performers off stage.  Maybe it’s empowering; I don’t know as I’ve never been tempted, while sitting in the audience, to make the show about me and start booing.

Comedians, at least those who have enough sense to research and ask questions, know that the best way to approach this kind of audience is to get them laughing so soon that they want to pay attention instead of taking over the show.  And every comedian with any experience knows that if there’s an elephant in the room you have to address it.  I’ve just never before been the elephant.

Wednesday night was my first spot at an urban club.  I was the first comedian up after the emcee who conversed with the audience, told some jokes, and mentioned, not joking, about a recent NYPD shooting in which white officers fired 50 rounds at black men in a car, killing one of them on the morning of his wedding.

And then he introduced me by saying “Are y’all ready for some white people?” (‘some’ being a generous term; I was the only one)

I opened by saying that I didn’t mind being the whitest guy in the room, I just hated being the oldest guy in the room.  Then mentioned that the MC talked about “…the cops who shot fifty times, and then all of you turned to look at the white guy…”

“I didn’t shoot anybody fifty times, I didn’t shoot anybody forty times, I didn’t shoot anybody. The only thing I’ve EVER shot in my life was a Diet Coke can, and Diet Coke cans are WHITE.”

The only white guy in the room made people laugh and all was good in the world.  Or at least in that one room in Brooklyn.

Maybe I should stop making fun of their country

Posted on 7/3/2006

My web host allows me to see which countries have provided my site with the most visitors.  Of course the U.S. is on top by far.  Followed by Germany. More German visitors than from Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa COMBINED!

Germany.  So now I have something in common with David Hasselhoff, good beer, people who like to drive really fast and this year’s World Cup.

A lot of Germans speak very good English, further proof we won the war.  Now if only we could go to war with the food service industry, so the busboy would understand me when I said “No, I’m NOT finished with that.”

I’m also popular in the Czech Republic, Poland, Holland and Japan, other countries I’ve never visited.  And I’m popular with people in the U.S. military, and more popular in Malaysia than in Sweden.  More in Fiji than in Switzerland, and I’ve been to Switzerland.  If you go to Switzerland, yes, eat the chocolate.  Skip their wine.  France is nearby, drink their wine instead. I’ve never performed in either country, but I made people laugh on an Air France flight a few years ago (in French) and I’ve had fun performing a few sentences in French in American comedy clubs with Swiss people in the audience.

Even though they hadn’t brought any chocolate.

Fat Jokes and Sex Shops

I installed some software that tracks how people found my website (www.BrainChampagne.com). It tells me the keywords that people may have used in a search engine that brought them to my site.

Of course many people come to the site seeking free comedy videos, or advice on how to tell a joke (I wrote a column), or jokes on selling (I spoke about marketing comedy and some info appears on the website).

Quite a large number of people are seeking fat jokes.

Two people (yes, two) were seeking sex shops in Raritan, NJ.  No, I don’t have a link on my site– but one page does include the words Sex, Shop and Raritan (in unrelated posts).

Two people searched for Florida Gun Safety Comedy.

And two people this month typed in Standup Comedian Starbucks.  I guess when you can’t sleep, you can search.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Posted on 6/20/2006

As the woman walking in front of me on the sidewalk rummaged through her purse, a ten dollar bill flew out and landed in front of me.  I picked it up and caught up to her.  “Excuse me, miss…”

She turned around angrily.  “Can’t you see I’m on the phone!” she shouted.  I shrugged.  There was no evidence of a phone–nothing in her hand, no wire running to her head.  She brushed her hair back to reveal a wireless earpiece.

“See!” she scowled at me before turning away and returning to her phone call.

I kept the money.

Diary of a mad joke-writer

Posted on 3/31/2006

I wrote the perfect joke last night. Could not get to sleep. Around 3 AM I thought of it. Eight words. Just eight words. That’s it. Silly yet deep on so many levels.

I’m not normally a one-liner comic. Yes, I write jokes, and I wish my humor were more story-like, more revealing of myself. But I’m decent at writing jokes, so that’s what I do. Usually set-up, set-up, punch, or set-up, set-up, punch, punch, punch.

Now the comics reading this think they know where it’s going. Jokes that are funny at 3 AM usually dissolve in the daylight. But not this one. Eight words. Followed by a tag that went even deeper and yet politicized the joke.

This morning I woke up and I was still laughing. Tired, but laughing. Remembering that I have a show tonight, and a show on Saturday night. I couldn’t wait to tell this joke on stage.

All day I thought about this joke. By 3 PM, only twelve hours after this perfect joke was born, I had a third tag– another punch line that not only capitalized on the eight words, and not only built on the next tag, but also added to the joke AND made fun of it all in just another eleven words.

Word-efficiency! I’d have them on the floor in twenty five seconds.

Now you all see where this is going.

There were sixty people in the room, sixty people who had paid to hear jokes.

I wanted to open with this joke, to shake the building until the bottles fell off the bar.

But I was seventh in the line-up. Seventh, after the two drink minimum would have broken through everyone’s blood-brain barrier. And how could I follow the perfect joke? Everything else I say would pale in comparison.

So I thought maybe open with something tried and true. No sense knocking their socks off if they couldn’t feel their feet. And I did. An opening joke about a cab driver, The Bronx and arson. I know it works.

It did. All three tags. The three-liner. Another three-liner that builds upon the previous. Then the next tag, one sentence that makes them laugh, then groan. That suckers them in so I can point out the futility, the silliness, the irony of their groans. For another laugh. I’m such a whore.

Then the perfect eight words. The joke I’ve been thinking about for sixteen and one half hours.

Followed by the perfect silence.

It was so quiet I could hear the subway. The Montreal subway, three hundred and twenty five miles away.

And then the next tag.

That woke them up.

And the next?

I felt exonerated.

Remember The Rule: Do not open or close with a new joke, no matter how funny you think it is. Because YOU are not the judge, nor the jury. You are the prosecutor. Your job is simply to present the evidence. THEY will render the verdict.

There is a reason people state these rules. Because we never know what’s funny. I thought those eight words were perfect.

And in a way, they were. They were the perfect set-up to the two tags that followed.

I’ve had set-ups that got bigger laughs than the punch line. I’ve learned to live with that, even feel joy– hey, if they laugh, who cares what I thought when I wrote the joke? If they don’t laugh, it’s not a punch line. But if they laugh at the set-up, IT is a punch line.

So it’s only fair that once in a while, what I thought was the perfect punch line is only a good set-up. Not ONLY a good set-up. A good set-up for two very good punch lines.

Hey, if you set out to build a car that runs on dirt, and you end up building a car that runs on oranges, don’t fret. Plant oranges.

Copyright 2006 by Shaun Eli.  All rights reserved.  Including the rights to a car that runs on oranges, if you build it.


Wow.  Got on stage on Saturday night before a packed crowd.  So packed that they had to bring in more tables to seat everyone.

I went up fourth.  As I’ve mentioned, I prefer to go up early, before the two drink minimum gets through the blood-brain barrier.  Fourth is good.

I opened my set the same way I did the night before.  Went into the eight word line, but this time thinking of it as the set-up to the two tags that follow (actually three tags now– I thought of another on the way to the club).

Worked just fine.  I’m happy.

What’s the joke?  Come to a show.  You’ll know which one it is.

See you at the clubs,

Women are Funny

Posted on 3/25/2006

Over the last month four different female comedians have spoken with me about the troubles in being a female comedian. One said that comedy was rough for women because club owners, bookers and producers often hit on the comedians, making it difficult for them to rebuff these advances and still get booked on shows. I, occasionally billed as a feminist male comedian, do notice the difficulties women go through in this business. It is harder for women to get booked than it is for men.

In the early eighties when I started going to NYC comedy clubs regularly as a fan, bookers were less likely to hire female comedians. They said that audiences didn’t like women comics, that all they did was talk about their periods and complain about men. Some club owners were even quoted as saying that women simply weren’t funny enough. It was very rare to see more than one woman in the line-up, even if the show had a dozen comedians.

And unfortunately, when people see a small amount of truth in something, they may believe the whole thing. The small amount of truth being that in fact there was a percentage of working female comics who did talk about their periods and complain about men. Sure, male comics talked about their girlfriends but they were more likely to say “MY girlfriend stinks” whereas the females were saying “ALL men stink” and for an audience there’s a difference between the two statements. I’m not her boyfriend but I am a man, and I’m therefore being insulted for my gender.

Some generalizations may have had a bit of truth twenty years ago, but no longer.

It’s been my observation lately that at amateur shows and open-mikes in NYC around thirty five percent of the comedians are female (this is more than a guess– I’ve been counting). The percentage of professional female working comics is probably much lower. But before the statisticians start calling, I do need to point out that you can’t compare the two– you’d have to look at the proportion of female amateur comics several years ago vs. working comics now (and not just in NYC) because it takes years to go from starting out to making money. And maybe only one percent ever make it to the professional level.

It takes a long time for things to change. Right now one NYC comedy club, Laugh Lounge, is owned and booked by a woman, and the person who first auditions comedians at The Comic Strip is also a woman. Many other clubs have women who book/produce shows. And if you look at who is booked at some rooms, the proportion of women seems to be on the rise. There’s no Title IX in comedy, but there are women who are doing all they can to help other women succeed. Change is happening. Not terribly fast, but faster than it would happen without the women in comedy who are there helping other women. But there is a group of people who can help women comedians even more than the bookers and other comedians can. It’s you. How can you help? Keep reading.

Some people say that one reason that men are more successful in the business world is that while women tend to seek consensus, men are more likely to try to win people over to their point of view. Genetics? Upbringing? Sexism? A combination of all three? We don’t know. I will say this about comedians– search for comedians on the web and you will discover a lot more male comedians than female comedians, and the men’s sites are more likely to have content that draws you in– as an example, look at my site (www.BrainChampagne.com) or Steve Hofstetter’s (www.SteveHofstetter.com). Of course there are exceptions– Laurie Kilmartin’s website (www.Kilmartin.com) is a good example of a woman’s comedy website with a lot of content. But only 15% of the comedians choosing to list themselves on ComedySoapbox.com are women, and an equally small proportion of the comedians who regularly post blogs, one of the site’s most popular features, are women. Marketing is very important in comedy– the more we promote, the more people we get to shows. And it’s putting people in seats that gets us booked.

I’ve learned that the comedy business is half about being funny and the other half is about people. The business really runs on favors. You gave me a spot last year when I asked for one, so I’ll tell my agent about you. You introduced me to this booker, so come open for me on the road. You gave me a ride home when I was sick and it was raining, now I have a TV show so come audition for it. Successful comedians have learned to be nice to other comedians– more than half their help as they start in the business will come from other comics.

Want to know the reason that comedy clubs put on theme shows such as Latino comics or gay comics? Because they attract an audience. Vote with your feet– if you see that NYC’s Gotham Comedy Club is putting on an all-women show, go to it. If the room is full the owners will notice and put on more of these shows. They’ll probably also put more female comics into the regular line-up. If you go to The Comic Strip because Judy Gold or Veronica Mosey or Karen Bergreen is playing, mention how much of a fan you are within earshot of the person at the door. Amateur comedians are told that one step in getting noticed is when the waitresses at comedy clubs start talking about them– they see a hundred comedians a week and what they say carries some weight. More importantly, if you, a paying customer, let it be known why you went to a show, you will be heard. It’s not exactly as scientific as the Nielsen ratings, but it works.

Why aren’t female comedians getting their share of TV shows? Where’s Laurie Kilmartin’s sitcom, or Jessica Kirson’s? I don’t know. I don’t think TV executives are geniuses, and surely they prefer going with what has already worked instead of risking something new, but if the few female-centered shows were drawing in huge ratings, the networks would notice. There seem to be a lot of television shows about young women– they’re all on UPN or WB. How are they doing? Obviously well enough that we’re getting more of them. It actually took Fox to put on a number of TV shows about black families (after very few of them on network… “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons” and “The Cosby Show” come to mind) and now there are a lot of them. And black people are what, fifteen percent of the country? Women, you’re are more than half, and I’m pretty sure you all own televisions.

Why aren’t there any women hosting late-night talk shows, traditionally a job given to a stand-up comedian? I don’t know. Joan Rivers had a shot at The Tonight Show but she blew it. Frankly I really liked her on Monday nights but I don’t know if I could have watched her five nights a week because she was, to me, more of a character than a person I wanted to invite into my home on a regular basis. I would quickly get sick of having so much of her. I would have said the same thing about Rodney Dangerfield, by the way. But perhaps this is still the result of sexism. Possibly women in comedy have to be more character-driven in order to get to the top, and then at the top they’re locked into their character. Roseanne and Ellen got sitcoms, but Jay Leno got the comedian’s biggest prize. I think he does a fabulastic job and I’m thrilled he buys some of my jokes, but when Johnny Carson retired part of me wanted Rita Rudner to get the job.

A long time ago people said that women would never be TV stars, until Lucille Ball proved them wrong. In the eighties people said that the traditional sitcom was dead because it had been done to death, until “The Cosby Show” showed that the problem was not the sitcom format but simply that we needed better sitcoms. For a long time people said that standup comedy as a TV show or movie theme wouldn’t work, until Jerry Seinfeld proved them wrong. Some people even say that Kevin Costner will never be in a movie without baseball. Eventually he may prove them wrong too. There will consistently be number one sitcoms starring women. Maybe even, shockingly, with me, a feminist male, as the head writer of one of them. What will make these shows number one? When you all watch them. That’s what made Oprah the Queen of daytime TV. Viewers. It’s as simple as that.

And before you go completely batty, remember that while the winners of all three seasons of “Last Comic Standing” were men, not one has a TV show. Pamela Anderson has had how many?

You want more female comics to succeed? Get yourself to their shows. There are thousands of comedy clubs in big cities, in little cities and even occasional professional comedy shows in small towns, all over the United States. Comedy is a business; it runs on money. Your money is your vote. Go out and vote.

Feminist Male Comedian sm

Note: This was written for publication last year and never run.

The Stupidity of Being Dishonest

Written 2/17/2006

Yesterday someone I don’t know contacted me through the feedback form on my website. She said that she was taking a friend out and asked if I could mail her eight free tickets, and mentioned a particular date.

A date when I do not have a show scheduled (and my website lists my schedule).

There are some shows I do where I can occasionally ask the club to comp people’s cover charge, so I wrote a nice email to the address she gave on the feedback form.

I said that I didn’t have a show that night, but that I appreciated her interest. I explained that most of the clubs at which I perform don’t have actual tickets but simply add the cover charge to the bill at the end of the show. And that I would be happy to let her know the next time I could get the club to waive the cover charge for her entire party.

The email bounced. She filled out the contact form but didn’t give me her correct email address (she gave me her mailing address for the tickets, but lied about her email address).

So she’s not going to receive my offer of free tickets, because though I emailed her, at this point I don’t think it’s worth my while to type out a letter, print it out, fill out an envelope, put a stamp on it, and mail it to her. Even if I did, I doubt she’d bother to write back to tell me whether she’s actually coming, so why would I go through all that trouble for someone who might not even show up?

No, an actual letter is too much work. I’d rather just blog about it.

Cheney should have served in the military

Written on 2/13/2006

Because in the military they teach you an important rule: You’re not supposed to shoot your friends.

What a bizarre country. The Secret Service uses a vast amount of resources to protect our leaders, but then they give people shotguns and say “Feel free to stand near the vice president and shoot at quail. Try not to hit any people.” And this confused some of the older Secret Service personnel because two vice presidents ago was a guy named Quayle.

Do you get the feeling that if it had been the other way around, that if Vice President Cheney’s friend had been the one doing the shooting and had accidentally hit the vice president that he’d have been sent off to Guantanamo Bay and never be heard from again?

In other news, the author of “Jaws” died over the weekend. Ironically, he was eaten by an alligator.

In Today’s News– from the front page of the Bloomberg Professional Service

Created on 1/12/2006

Since registration dates are getting earlier and earlier each year, couples in NYC are advised to register their future children for private pre-schools and summer camps prior to having sex during ovulation

Wal-mart is being sued in Pennsylvania for requiring its employees to work for free through breaks and after their shifts end. “You have a friend in Pennsylvania…” you just can’t see him because he’s in the stock room on his lunch hour.

I suggest starting the trial at 9 AM and not stopping for anything until the jury has reached a verdict.

The U.S. Trade Deficit has started shrinking as exports reached a record. Apparently now foreigners have enough money to start shopping at our country’s new Going Out Of Business Sale.

California regulators have approved a $2.5 billion subsidy program for solar energy. It’s a trick. Good luck getting the sun to sign off on it.

“Supreme Court nominee Alito Seeks to Assure Democratic Lawmakers of Views on Presidential Powers”– does this remind anybody of every movie and TV show where someone makes a deal with Satan but somehow Satan cheats and wins? No matter what Alito says, once he’s confirmed he’s in for life, which could be a very long time unless he accepts a ride home from Senator Kennedy, a pretzel from President Bush or signs a $50 million deal with Comedy Central.

Home Depot says that the S.E.C. has made an informal request for information on the company’s dealings with vendors. I hope they’re more successful than I’ve been with all my requests for information from anyone from Home Depot. I’m still waiting for a response to my question about the generator I’m thinking of buying for Y2K.

“Cape Cod Indians Worry Abramoff Links May Hurt Casino Chances, U.S. Aid”– Listen, we all feel bad for how this country has treated, and continues to treat, Native Americans. But hey, aid OR casinos, okay? One or the other. You don’t need both.

“Toyota, Bullish on U.S., Doubles 2006 Sales Growth Target Set Last Week”– apparently their executives stopped by a Chevy dealership yesterday and revised all their sales goals upward. When they finished laughing.

“Federated to Sell Lord & Taylor to Focus on Macy’s”– The company has hired JPMorgan Chase and Goldman, Sachs to advise them on the sale. Maybe this is why sales are down– when a retailer needs two investment banks to tell them how to sell, something is clearly wrong.

Wine with Food? How about Wine with Movies?

Posted on 1/7/06

Millions of words have been written about which wines go with which foods. To the best of my knowledge up until now no one has written about which wines go with which movies. This occurred to me as I was fetching a wine to drink as I screened “The Godfather” for about the fifth or sixth time.

Many people might suggest a Chianti or Barolo but I think a strong red zinfandel such as a Martinelli or Hartford would be a better choice. The taste seems to follow the sepia tones of the film, and more than one Italian-American has told me that red zin reminds him of the wine his father used to make at home. Besides, zin would go better with the cannoli.

For “When Harry Met Sally” I’d suggest an over-oaked chardonnay.

“American Graffiti”– a blanc de blancs Champagne.

“The Producers”– an inexpensive ice wine (Selaks from New Zealand, for example, where they pick the grapes then place them in a freezer instead of the more traditional method of letting them freeze on the vine).

“The Taking of Pelham One Two Three”– cough medicine.

“Casablanca” anyone?

Goodbye, old cell phone

Posted on 12/1/2005

I won’t miss your easily broken antenna, your scratched screen or that fact that your charger plug is loose and I sometimes have to jiggle the phone to get it to recharge. I will miss your choice of ring tones. I hope the battered spouse who receives this now-donated phone gets through to 911 when she or he needs to. I know I always did.

My new phone comes with 35 ring tones, each one annoying. But it has a camera that has already helped me fight a parking ticket I received because apparently not all ticket agents have the same definition of “Sunday” as the rest of the city.

I’ll miss some of the numbers I didn’t bother copying to my new phone. Such as the woman I dated two or three times who kept saying she wanted to see me again, but apparently she defines “see me again” the same way at least one ticket agent defines “Sunday.” I don’t know when it is, but it never got scheduled whenever I asked.

I won’t miss the woman I dated for three months who still had to schedule our Friday and Saturday night dates around all her internet secret first dates that she thought I didn’t know about. Won’t miss her even though she was quite lovely-looking, always smiling, a genuinely happy person, the only one with all three of her numbers (home, cell and work) in my phone.

I’ll miss the woman I dated for five months, dated until I gently asked her what the cause of her twitching was. I thought it might be a form of Tourette’s Syndrome, but I’ll never know because she denied twitching (“What hump?” for those of you who remember the movie “Young Frankenstein”) and then broke up with me. Her loss; her shy cat was beginning to like me, an accomplishment previous boyfriends had never achieved.

I’ll miss the fact that I could call my parents by pressing one button and saying “Folks.” Now I have to flip the phone open and push two keys. Way too much effort to say hi to the people who brought me into this world and raised me with values I appreciate and want to instill in my future children. Especially because every time I call them they tell me how much they love me and how much something in their house needs fixing and when can I come over and do it? Not tomorrow? Saturday, then? I’ll always suggest Sunday.

I’ll miss having a booker’s cell number programmed directly into my phone and being able to call her anytime I wanted to confirm shows. I’m sure she’s not missing it.

I’ll miss seeing my ex-girlfriend Jen’s phone number in the phone, even though I didn’t call her after we broke up (for those of you saying “They’re ALL named Jennifer” this was Jen #3). I have fond memories of my time with Jen #3–I was dating her when I started stand-up comedy, and if you’ve heard my joke about dating a doctor, that’s Jen. Actually I did contact her recently– she’s married and eight months pregnant. She’s possibly only the second long-term girlfriend I’ve had who didn’t almost immediately after our breakup marry a doctor. But that’s maybe not exactly an exception to the rule because SHE’S a doctor; perhaps the rule is that ONE of them has to be a doctor. She’ll make a great mom. She’s so good with babies and children. And yes, she’s a pediatrician, just as the joke goes.

I won’t miss the most recent ex-girlfriend, the one who broke my heart by not falling in love with me even though I thought we were perfect together, right down to the compatibility of our stuffed animals and that we both referred to her liquid soap dispenser as the soap house and to my bedroom as the sleeping pod. I won’t miss her because her number is in my new phone, which I got just before we broke up. Oh, her photos are there, too, and they come up when she calls me. A photo of her when she calls from home, and a photo of her holding her cell phone camera, taking a picture of me, when she calls from her cell phone.

I’d give up the cell phone entirely to have her back and in love with me, but since that’s not going to happen, buy some stock in Verizon. I’ll be putting new numbers in the phone and making a lot of calls.

The On-line Dating Dictionary– some help for on-line daters

“I work hard and play hard” means I work too many hours then get really, really drunk and throw up on your new shoes.

“I want to experience all that NYC has to offer” means “I’ve lived here for ten years and still the only things I can think of to do are to see movies and go to dinner with my friends.”

Fat means fat… Zaftig means fat… Medium means fat… In Shape means fat (spherical is a shape)… Firm and toned means fat and will beat you up for saying it… Thin means fat (people lie)… A few extra pounds– “in the right places” means… the right place is ELSEWHERE! Be glad it’s nowhere near you!

“I like going to new restaurants” means “I like going to the newest, most expensive restaurants. And just being able to pay is not enough– you have to be able to get a reservation at the newest restaurant two minutes after I call and tell you about it.”

“My glass is half-full” means “I think I’m an optimist but since I can’t think of any examples I’ll just use an old cliche.”

ANYTHING IN ALL CAPS- I WILL SHOUT AT YOU through our entire first (and last) date.

Consultant- lost my job.

Self-employed- lost my job years ago.

Entrepreneur- lost my job two years ago but I found a thesaurus.

Enterpernuer- lost my job two years ago, found a thesaurus but didn’t look at it all that carefully.

“I’m intelligant”- maybe, but you’re not intelligent.

“My friends and family are very important to me” means “Daddy pays my rent so I answer the phone when he calls.”

“Communication is key” so after one date if you stop returning my phone calls, eventually I’ll figure out you may not want to talk to me anymore.

I love to travel” (woman) if I won’t sleep with you in NYC, I won’t sleep with you in Paris either. But I encourage you to fly me there just to make sure.

“I love to travel” (man)- If my team is doing well, I’ll disappear every away-game weekend to watch them play, and, win or lose, I’ll forget to call you when I’m away.

“I enjoy all that life has to offer” (woman)- remember, “life” includes your American Express Gold Card and Tiffany’s.

“I enjoy all that life has to offer” (man)- I expect you to offer me everything I can think of, and I’ve watched a lot of porn.

“Please be able to laugh at yourself” because this Sunday at brunch with my friends, we will all be laughing at you, and I don’t want you to dump my egg-white omelette/beer in my lap if you happen to be nearby and overhear.

“Loyalty is very important to me”- my last three lovers cheated on me.

“I am just as happy to sit at home and watch a movie as I am going out.” (Woman)- No, really, she’s not.

“I am just as happy to sit at home and watch a movie as I am going out.” (Man)- Don’t expect me to buy you dinner past the third date- I expect you to cook me dinner if I bring a DVD over.

“I’m as comfortable in a sexy black cocktail dress as I am in jeans and a t-shirt” or “I’m as comfortable in a tuxedo as I am in jeans and a t-shirt” Because I’ve put on weight and my jeans no longer fit.

“I’m down to earth”- I’m shorter than most of my friends.

“I’m not good at writing about myself but this is what my friends say about me”- I have no idea who I am so I copied a bunch of ideas from other people’s profiles.

The Name is Shaun

Posted on 11/04/2005

Often people ask me “Is Shaun a Jewish name?” or “How can you be Jewish and be named Shaun?”

Let me clear up the uncertainty. Shaun is very much a Jewish name. Prominent in the Bible were Shaun Macabee who saved the Jewish people from massacre when a tiny bit of oil burned for eight days (the holiday Shanukah celebrates this). There was also King Shaun, famous for such inspirations of brilliance as suggesting cutting a baby in half (nowadays, of course, with extended and convoluted families we cut babies into eighths, like pizza). And, in the Talmud, Rebbe Shaun of Letichev is very prominent, known for such wise sayings as “Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is better than doing nothing at all” and “”Instead of adding so much salt when you’re cooking, why don’t you leave it on the table and let the individual diners salt the meal according to their own tastes?”

Shauns are famous for more modern accomplishments as well. Shaun Graham Bell invented the telephone; later his grandson Shaun Walker Bell invented the cell phone, after an unsuccessful career as an oil man and an attempt to invent the smell phone.

Shaun Einstein, of course, was responsible for the famous saying “Nice work, Einstein!”

And then there was the Japanese engineer Shaun Ota, who invented a toy that later became a car. Of course he named it after himself. Yes, the ToyOta.

Copyright 2005 by Shaun Eli Breidbart. All rights reserved, except feel free to name your son Shaun. Everyone else is doing it.

News of the Day

Posted on 10/27/2005

The NYC Transit Authority is looking for ways to spend an unanticipated billion dollar surplus. How about… soap?

Or maybe a joint marketing promotion with Gillette– buy a Metrocard, get a coupon for a stick of deodorant.

arriet Miers withdrew her name for nomination to the Supreme Court. I find it hard to understand how the extreme right wing that got Bush elected won’t believe their extreme right wing president when he says Trust me, I’ve known her for years and she’s as right-wing as the rest of us.

Perhaps someone found a bad review of brownies she made for the Klan’s bake sale? Because that wasn’t she, it was Trent Lott.

Is it possible that someone found evidence that Harriet Miers is not a virgin?

Tropical storm Beta is now forming in the Caribbean. Beta? Are we TESTING storms now?

News stories show Floridians lining up for food and water… but they’re not Floridians, that’s just the end of the long line of Louisianans still standing in line.

Buying a Job

Posted on 10/25/2005

The Laugh Factory in L.A. recently auctioned off (proceeds go to Katrina victims) the opening spot in an upcoming Jon Lovitz stand-up comedy show. The winning bid was over $7,000. My smaller bid was apparently not enough.

Bidding for stage time? Why would a comedian do that? Please let me explain why I bid.

$2750 for a ten minute spot at The Laugh Factory

Bush’s four year term in The White House

At that rate, it would cost you $576,576,000* to buy a four-year term in the White House. Here are some advantages of buying the time on stage vs. buying the presidency:

1. I can finance the $2750 myself, with no help needed from Exxon, Philip Morris or the gun lobby.

2. The tape of my spot will surely have fewer gaffs than any ten minutes of Bush in front of a camera.

3. I can say whatever I want without worrying about offending those who claim to support me. I can contradict myself, change my mind, even insult myself.

4. The money goes to help Katrina victims, unlike any money actually being spent by the Bush administration.

5. I can leave early, and they won’t put Cheney on stage.

*Calculation based on 24 hours. The president isn’t any more productive when he’s awake, so why not include the time he’s sleeping?

ARE They on The Job?

Posted on 10/19/2005

On September 26th I wrote about a problem I had with the NYPD, and how they finally responded that they were doing something about it. I’d tried to report a crime, volunteering information as a witness, and I was pushed off from precinct to precinct as nobody wanted to take ownership of investigating this crime. This because precinct commanders are rated on how well they decrease crime in their territories, so they do what they can to prevent people from actually filing a police report.

Two days after my blog I got a letter from the precinct commander. The letter apologized for taking six months to get back to me but giving me the good news that an arrest was made and that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office was prosecuting the case.

Good news if it were true. But it’s not. I called the D.A. on the case. He said that while he’d like to continue, they haven’t been able to locate the perpetrator, and without being able to bring him in, they don’t bother issuing an arrest warrant (apparently they, or indictments, expire).

When I finished college, returned to NY and was living in The Bronx I was called for jury duty. A simple case– two cops saw a guy with a gun and arrested him. This was pretty easy because in 1989 in The Bronx about one in three people walked around with an illegal handgun. The defendant was a twice-convicted felon who contradicted himself on the stand. An easy verdict, I thought.

We couldn’t reach a verdict. Why not? Because the other jurors didn’t believe anything the cops said. Why would they lie, I asked.

“Because that’s what cops do,” they explained. “You naive child of the suburbs, babies cry, old people die and cops lie. That’s what they do. They don’t need a reason. They just do. Like alcoholics drink, cops lie.”

Eventually we convicted the guy, but it took a whole day of deliberations (more on this in a future blog).

My father is a retired law enforcement officer, a veteran, and someone I look up to as a model of integrity.

But tomorrow, when I start another round of jury duty, I won’t be thinking about my father’s honesty. Foremost on my mind might be how the NYPD is telling me what they think I want to hear, with reckless disregard for the truth.

Inspector, the next time your officers lose a case in court, keep in mind, you might also be to blame.

Attention Commuters

I could swear I heard this announcement in Grand Central Terminal this morning:

“Please be advised that the Constitutional rights of anyone carrying a backpack or other large item are subject to violation at any time.”

The NYPD is on the case

In February I was a witness to a non-violent crime. When I called the relevant precinct to make a statement and to give them further information on the crime they told me it wasn’t in their area, and to call a different precinct. Six phone calls later, all to find out which precinct covered that address (no exaggeration, seven phone calls in total) I was steered back to the first place I called. This is, of course, after the responding officers told the victims that what happened wasn’t illegal (it was clearly a premeditated fraud, and the District Attorney’s office looked into it but apparently never issued an arrest warrant for the perp).

It’s well-known in NYC that precinct commanders are judged by the amount of crime in their precincts and they will do anything they can to get that number down, even if it means implying that their officers try to avoid taking police reports. I’m sure that they’re great and brave when it comes to risking their lives to catch violent criminals, but if it’s just a property crime, well, too bad. Someone ripped the mirror off your car? Sorry, that’s a matter between you and your insurance company. Your druggie son stole your jewelry? Well, we’re not family counseling, we’re cops.

I sent an e-mail to the NYPD suggesting that they do something to stop their officers from deterring people from reporting crimes and that they post legible precinct maps on the city’s website (there’s one on the internet but it’s not detailed enough to be useful around the precinct borders). I also mentioned the crime and suggested that someone call me for further information.

Well guess what? Today (September 26th) I got a call from an officer at the precinct that covers the location. Seven months later, he’s getting back to me. He said that he’s new in that precinct, and to call him directly if I have any future problems in his precinct.

I’m glad the FDNY works on a different time-table.

From now on, whenever anyone says iPod, you have to say “You pod?”

Why do motorcyclists rev their engines at stoplights?

Because twisting a small penis doesn’t make the same loud noise.

Why do Harley riders rev their engines at stoplights?

To keep them from stalling.

Our MBA President

I just want to remind everyone that when George Bush ran for president the American people were promised that this first “MBA President” would apply business techniques to government, making it operate more efficiently.

The deficit, the war in Iraq and the feeble response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrate that while our “MBA President” may have mastered the principles of financial leverage by running up record deficits, he is a miserable failure at strategic planning.

I Was Wrong

All this time I thought that big business should not be running the country, that the government should be separate from industry. That the logging industry should not control our forests, that oil company executives should not be writing our energy policy.

I was wrong. We need the government completely run by corporations. For example, we should have Costco, McDonald’s and FedEx running FEMA– they would have had all the stranded flood victims fed and evacuated in about a day.

Too bad President Bush cut the government’s $40 Costco membership fee from this year’s budget, or we’d have had a lot more drinking water to ship…

It’s been reported that the government was asked for funding to repair the New Orleans levees but the president cut their funding to an amount insufficient to prevent last week’s disaster. That’s typical government thinking– someone asks for money, they give him less, and it’s not enough to solve the problem. When it’s a social program, typically the democrats ask for money, the republicans don’t give them enough, then when the program doesn’t succeed due to lack of funding, the republicans say “See, it doesn’t work.”

In this case I presume that either party would do what they can to cut the budget, and preventing this disaster was one of the items cut. But we’re the richest country in the world– we can afford to fix everything, but apparently tax cuts for the rich were more important than the lives of 100,000 poor people in Louisiana.

If you went to a plastic surgeon and were told that the procedure has a one in a thousand chance of complications, you’d probably go ahead with the surgery. Unless the doctor said that “by procedure I mean each time I press the Suck button on the liposuction machine, and I do that five hundred times during an operation,” because with such terrible odds you’d be nuts to go ahead with the procedure.

The levees breaking was maybe a one in a thousand chance. But I wonder how many other long-shot emergency items have also been cut. Are there more Katrina/New Orleans levees waiting to happen? And what are we doing about it?

As hard as it is for a black person to catch a cab in the city, it’s clear that it’s even harder to hail a helicopter.

Posted on 09/01/2005

President Bush has praised the newly-proposed Iraqi Constitution. You know he hasn’t read it…. He hasn’t even read OUR Constitution.

Volunteers are flocking to hurricane-damaged areas to help out. Hey, they HAVE people! Plenty of people, people with nothing to do. They need people with some SKILLS, like utility workers, not more unskilled people they have to house and feed. Turn your truck around, Gus, and go back home. The two hundred bucks you would have spent on gas to drive to New Orleans? Give it to charity, let them buy food for the hurricane victims, and use THEIR expertise to get it to Biloxi and New Orleans.

Dolce & Gabbana announced that they plan to begin selling low-rise jeans for men. Low-rise MEN’S jeans? This would be horrible… if any men actually shopped at Dolce & Gabbana.

Posted on 08/24/2005

President Bush is meeting Chinese President Hu. President Hu? This has Bad International Incident written all over it.

Last week Madonna was injured falling off a horse. Usually it’s the other way around.

The president of Turkmenistan has outlawed all lip-synching, even at private parties. Let’s call this what it is– the first step toward a total international ban on karaoke. My friend Phil, stationed in Ashgabat, probably doesn’t realize how lucky he is.

After calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Chavez, Pat Robertson is now saying he was misinterpreted… even though he clearly talked about assassination. Perhaps somebody showed him a copy of the Ten Commandments, so he’s trading in “Thou Shalt Not Kill” for “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness.” I have no comment on the Commandment “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Oil.”

I am tired of people writing editorials and letters to newspapers saying that if politicians are for the war in Iraq why aren’t their children in the military? This is not a relevant question:

Their children, once they reach 18, are free to make up their own minds. Not only is it not their parent’s decision, but it’s also wrong to assume that the children of pro Iraq war politicians are also for the war.

Furthermore, the children of politicians may be able to make other, equally important, contributions to society. I don’t think too many people would take someone who could be a brilliant cancer researcher and say “Hey, grab this rifle– you may not be a better shot than the next guy, but hey, screw the cancer research and start shooting.”

Yes, I realize I’m defending the president’s drunken daughters. But now that they’re adults, they’re free to opt to spend the rest of their lives getting drunk instead of defending our country. As long as they don’t get so drunk that they throw up on the Japanese Prime Minister’s daughters.

Hey, at least they don’t have their own reality show. I guess it’s because their daddy already does.

New Scientific Study on Business Productivity

A new study conducted by the Wharton School of Business in conjunction with the Pew Research Institute and the Marist Poll determined that the personal computer has increased American productivity by 34%… but that American workers now spend 47% of their work day playing on the internet.

Disagree? Where the hell are you sitting right now? And where were you sitting the first time you found www.BrainChampagne.com?

Please bookmark www.BrainChampagne.com and read it every morning on company time.

NBC’s Newest Show

Since the finale of their show “I Want To Be A Hilton” didn’t get the ratings they expected, the network has announced a follow-up contest show: “I Want To Beat The Crap Out Of A Hilton With A Louisville Slugger.”


Four Cops Stopped Me

Posted on 08/01/2005

They stopped me from getting on my train. They took me aside and said that they wanted to look in my backpack.

I said no. My backpack contained no contraband, only my date book, cell phone, some magazines, some confidential business papers, and a copy of the Constitution. Really. It’s in my backpack. Hey, some people carry the whole Bible. Oh, and about a half-dozen empty soda cans. I’m a caffeine addict, an environmentalist, and thrifty. Nobody needed to know that.

When “Seinfeld” first went on the air, my roommate and I wrote a spec. script for the show. The producer wrote back, saying no thanks, but explained that they didn’t know what they were looking for, because they were new at this and had no idea what they were doing. It was a nice letter, nicer now in hindsight because apparently, knowledge or not, they did just fine.

I wrote another script. You’ll see why this is relevant in a few hundred words.

I asked the police officer if she would prevent me from getting on my train if I refused to consent to a search. She said yes. I told her “Then I guess I’m taking the next train.”

Which I did, though I used a different entrance to the platform so they wouldn’t entirely keep me from getting home. Which I would have done with my regular train, but I didn’t have enough time.

As you know if you’ve read my earlier blog I think these random searches are a stupid, and unconstitutional, idea. Stupid because you can say no, which means that anybody carrying something illegal can just leave (okay, they caught one idiot carrying M-80 fireworks, but so far that’s it). It’s not a great use of thousands of police and civilian hours. And because a terrorist could choose to blow himself/herself up right there, killing civilians AND the police officers. Or, as I did, simply take another train. And unconstitutional because the Constitution says “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” By my way of thinking, the right to stop anybody, at any time, claiming the “right” to search their belongings, is unreasonable. My time is a valuable resource, and I don’t need the police looking through papers of mine which might be confidential, through property of mine which might be embarrassing, because they think that random stops deter terrorism. What if I were a journalist, an attorney, an investment banker or a doctor, carrying papers that were not for the police to examine? It might not be only MY rights which were being violated.

I called my parents to tell them that I was thinking of notifying the ACLU that I was stopped, and that I was volunteering should the ACLU, of which I am not a member, decide to sue to stop these random searches.

Both parents were against it. My mother said that the government had new powers, powers to which she is opposed, but you can’t fight them. My father also thought I shouldn’t fight.

My father’s family lost everything in the Great Depression, and his father died when he was young. My father fought in World War II (on our side). My mother came here from Russia, her parents fleeing totalitarianism. They abandoned everything they had when they came here, and were dirt poor back when there was no Welfare and Brooklyn still had plenty of dirt. My mother had to walk miles to college when she didn’t have the nickel for the trolley (really). Yet somehow she and her sister managed to get through college and a master’s degree program– because back then, City College was truly free.

Mom told me that even after living in the U.S. for decades, when her father saw a police officer he walked the other way. Because for his entire life in Russia, nothing good ever came out of a possible confrontation with a police officer. Keep in mind he was a Jew in a small town in Russia, where for sport the Cossacks would get drunk and beat up Jews for no reason. My family was smart– they got into the alcohol business so they had some control– if you’re drinking, the last person you want to beat up is the guy who makes the booze. But still it wasn’t a great life for them. Of course once they got here, like so many other immigrants, they had to start over.

Neither of my parents had it easy. Yet somehow they not only got through it, they raised three sons who, between all of us, have seven Ivy League degrees (one of which is mine).

When I told my parents that I intended to volunteer to fight the searches—— Well, this was the first time I’d ever heard either of them actually sound scared of anything. My parents. Two of the toughest people I’ve ever known, and my circle of acquaintances has included Olympic gold medal rowers, U.S. Marines, a pediatric oncologist, Israeli commandos, black belts in karate.

My own parents, scared of OUR OWN GOVERNMENT.

In AMERICA. The land of the free and the home of the brave.

Which made me realize I’m doing the right thing by volunteering to fight this. Because, as someone once said, and has often been quoted, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

Okay, now to explain the Seinfeld reference. I wrote a second spec. script. A couple of months later I watched as they aired MY SCRIPT. The same two plots, virtually the same story, some of even the same types of sentences and ideas. Yet I hadn’t even heard from them, and you can be sure that someone else was listed as the writer. I was LIVID. STEAMING. READY TO EXPLODE, for the five minutes it took me to realize that I hadn’t yet sent them my second script.

Yes. A co-incidence. Wow.

So, let’s say I wasn’t Shaun. I was darker-skinned, named Abdul or Mohammed, carrying a copy of the Koran. And they’d stopped me.

Do you think I’d have thought I was chosen randomly? Of course not.

So, not only do these random searches waste time, frighten people, waste resources that could be put to better use, but they also risk convincing people that they are the victims of stereotyping, of discrimination, of the violation of their equal rights. That too is a risk we should not be taking. Because people come to this country to ESCAPE that, not to experience it. We’re supposed to be the best country in the world, the one in which everyone wants to live, the shining example for the rest of the world to follow. Not just the richest. The most just. The one with the lady in the harbor, welcoming your “…tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” She’s been here more than a hundred years, yet we haven’t even had the decency to give her a full name. I suggest Janette Liberté. But that’s another story.

As an aside: I am for the legalization of marijuana. Also for the legalization of marajuana and the legalization of marihuana. Any drug that has three different spellings is fine with me.

Someone else once said, of nazi Germany, “When they came for the communists, I didn’t speak up because I was not a communist. When they came for the Jews, I didn’t speak up because I was not a Jew. When they came for the Catholics, I didn’t speak up because I was not a Catholic. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak up.”

I have to speak up. We have to draw the line somewhere. Better now than later.

I had no drugs in my bag. I do not use marijuana, by any spelling. But I feel that cannabis (this saves me from favoring a particular spelling) is probably less dangerous than alcohol, has been shown to have few if any harmful side-effects (okay, if you overeat because you smoked some then you may risk heart disease) and yet it’s illegal while alcohol and regular cigarettes, which kill hundreds of thousands of Americans a year, are legal.

Gee, I wonder who’s making those campaign donations. Hello?

So, since I’m against arresting people for possession of, or use of (as long as they’re not driving), cannabis, I think that these random searches inhibit people’s ability to buy, transport, sell and use the drug. Another reason to oppose these searches.

If enough people say no, maybe we can make a difference. Maybe instead of searching randomly they’ll put their brains to use to find a better way to stop terrorists. Because, guess what? The terrorists know they’re searching backpacks on NYC public transit. Heard of Philadelphia mass transit? Heard of the local supermarket? Heard of hiding a bomb under your shirt, instead of in a backpack? So have the terrorists. If you try to stop them somewhere, they’ll figure out where else to go. Stop looking backwards for train bombers, and think progressively, and figure out where they’re going NEXT. Like you should have, schmucks running our country, before September 11th. Because, as I said in a letter to the New York Times that was published three years ago, “Terrorists had previously tried to destroy the World Trade Center. The White House had received warnings of hijackings. A 1994 Tom Clancy novel depicted a terrorist crashing a 747 into the Capitol Building during a joint meeting of Congress. Just about everybody who had ever played Microsoft’s Flight Simulator game before Sept. 11 had crashed an imaginary airplane into a virtual World Trade Center.” I wrote this letter after Condoleeza Rice, then our National Security Advisor, said “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center.”

Hey, wake up and smell your job description.

To quote the leader of our country, “Either you’re with us, or you’re against us.”

How Stupid Are We? How Stupid Do We Think They Are?

Posted on 07/22/2005

On my birthday yesterday I learned that the NYPD plans to begin random searches of backpacks in subways.

“Those who are ready to sacrifice freedom for security ultimately will lose both” – Abraham Lincoln

But let’s even forget about the fact that the country is starting to feel a bit like a police state– random searches, secret uncontestable search warrants issued by secret judicial panels, people being labelled “enemy combatants” so they don’t have to be given their Constitutional rights (when the phrase “enemy combatant” does not appear in the Constitution). Let’s even forget that with all our airline security, while we’ve caught a lot of guys named Gus who forgot that they were carrying guns, we haven’t caught anyone with any actual intent to hijack a plane. And the highest-profile reported case of actually catching a suspected terrorist in this country turned out to be a guy who bragged to his friends that he was selling weapons, but since he had no access to weapons and didn’t know anybody evil to sell weapons to, the FBI conveniently pretended to be a weapons supplier and also found an FBI phony weapons buyer so they could actually arrest a guy with no access to either side of his transaction. Essentially they made him an arms dealer so they could arrest him for being an arms dealer.

Enough on that. Let’s look at the idea of random backpack searches. They say they’ll be random and there won’t be racial profiling. Sure, because Middle-Eastern isn’t a race. Do you think they’ll randomly open an eighty year old white woman’s big purse? How hard do you think it is to slip a small time bomb into Phillis’s purse when she’s not looking?

The NYC subway system has millions of riders a day. They’ll be able to stop only a few thousand people. So if you’re a suicide bomber, the odds are with you. Oh, and if they do stop one, do you think he’ll open his bag and let the cop find the bomb? No, he’ll blow himself up (along with the cop, and everyone behind him in line at the turnstiles). It will rain blood and metrocards. Mission accomplished.

So let’s search everyone, so the subway will be eight dollars a ride (cops are expensive) and it takes as long to get on the D train as it does to get through security at JFK. Don’t even think of taking nail clippers to work. Oh, you work in a nail salon, Kara? Not anymore.

Sure, let’s search every subway rider. So the suicide bombers give up on the subway… and instead blow up everyone in Gristedes, the movie theater, on the sidewalk. Maybe we’ll have door-to-door suicide bombers.

At least until winter, when they can hide the bombs under their winter coats.

Or recruit women. Do you really think Officer Subway is going to ask the pregnant woman to lift up her abaya to show that she’s really pregnant? Will they make Fat Tony prove he’s not really Mini-Tony?

Will pretty French tourists stop bringing sexy underwear on vacation because they don’t want to be embarrassed in public by Officer Subway pawing through their suitcase? Because if that happens, I’m buying an airline ticket to Europe.

Just for the record, I’m okay with some unobtrusive way to search, such as a machine that can sniff explosives. But anything that wastes my time, and invades my privacy, I have a problem with.

And I heard on the radio yesterday that in the past four years there have been 1600 accidental incursions of the giant flight restrictions around Washington, DC. That’s 1600 incursions and not one attempt on anyone’s life.

Think about that. 1600 pilots who screwed up. Which means that probably there have been hundreds of thousands of flights that had to divert around that airspace. Do you realize what a monumental waste of time and fuel that must be? Can’t we find a better way to protect our leaders than shutting down the airspace all around them?

Please stop talking about “Thinking outside the box” if THERE IS NO BOX.

Don’t tell me to “Do the math” unless there is actual math to be done.

It’s not “A win-win situation for both parties” unless there are four winners.

And please don’t say yourself or myself unless you or I are both the subject and object of the sentence. In other words, you can look at yourself. I can look at myself. But I cannot look at yourself unless you and I are the same person. And I’m pretty sure we’re not. Because when I do look at myself, I see me, not you.

If you have a problem with that, get back inside the box.

Suing the Landlord

Posted on 7/13/05

So I had to sue my landlord. Back in the winter they were doing reconstruction on the apartment upstairs. The standard way to gut an apartment is to bust out a window, park a dumpster in the alley below, and throw all the debris out the window into the dumpster.

And, if you’re not an idiot, when it’s four degrees outside you remember to cover up the gaping hole when you leave on Friday evening.

If you’re an idiot, the pipes freeze and the apartment below gets flooded. Under NY State law, it’s pretty clear that the landlord is responsible for the flood. I sent a nice letter asking for compensation and he said I’d have to sue him. So I did.

Since only a few months earlier we’d had a fire (Note– an unsupervised three year old, curtains and a cigarette lighter… any two of the three, no problem. All three, a big problem) I didn’t have much left to damage. I sued for around $1050. The night before the Small Claims Court date, the lawyer for the landlord’s insurance company called me. To ask questions. I pointed out that in Small Claims Court he’s not entitled to discovery (the asking of questions) but anyway explained why he was going to lose. He pretty much understood that I knew what I was talking about. And I found out that his office was an hour commute from the courthouse. So I suggested that he simply send me a check for $1050 rather than bill an equivalent amount to his client and still lose. He said he couldn’t do that.

When I asked if it was because he had to show up in court in case I didn’t, he pretty much said yes. I asked him the address of the courthouse. He said 34 Fifth Avenue. I asked him to read me my address. He said 17 Fifth Avenue. I said “Do you really expect me NOT to cross the street for a thousand dollars?”

He showed up in court. I met him outside, said “Hey, I crossed the street, do you want to give me $1050?” He said no. We went into court, where the judge asked if we could go outside and try to settle. So we tried.

He asked what I wanted. I said every darn penny I lost due to his client’s client’s contractor’s negligence. We quibbled over the value of one picture frame, and settled on $1025. He pulled out a standard contract that said something like “Plaintiff waives all claims from the beginning of time until (fill in today’s date).”

I said that sounded rather drastic– could we say July 4, 1776? Because I might have some rights under the Magna Carta that I’m not yet prepared to waive.”

He crossed out “From the beginning of time” and wrote in “July 4, 1776.”

So if the Magna Carta has no Statute of Limitations…

She No Longer Loves Bad Boys

Posted on 06/30/2005

Last Thursday was my girlfriend’s birthday, and she had a party. I was walking to her apartment carrying four dozen roses. In the water bottle pockets of my backpack I had two bottles of Champagne sticking out very noticeably.

As I passed by Columbus Circle I saw a woman wearing an “I Love Bad Boys” t-shirt. She looked at the roses, then at the Champagne, then at me. Then back at the roses, and the Champagne.

Bad boys just don’t know how to treat women” I said to her.

“It’s your anniversary.” She said to me.


“Then what is it?”

“It’s Thursday” I told her. “Happy Thursday.”

Kiss Your House Goodbye

Posted on 06/23/2005

Eminent domain is the Constitutionally-allowed power of state and local governments to seize private property for a public purpose, as long as they pay for it. Mostly it’s been used for a public good– they tear down some houses to put up a school or firehouse, or they take a piece of farmland to put in a highway or some railroad tracks. This has been done for hundreds of years and without the power of eminent domain we’d probably not have very many roads or firehouses.

The Supreme Court just ruled that the power of Eminent Domain allows state and local governments to seize private property and give or sell it to other private enterprises merely because the newer enterprise promises to add value to the property. In other words, they can tear down a slum and put up fancy housing because that will lead to economic development and higher tax revenue. Oh, they have to pay the people who own the slum properties, but they pay the market value for a slum, not what the land is going to be worth once the slum is replaced by fancy housing.

Of course with the slum gone the price of the least expensive housing goes up, and the poor people who have been forced out of their homes are screwed. Well, you should’ve lived in a communist country, you poor suckers, because here in America you live where you can afford to live, and if that means the street, well, you should be thankful it’s not a busy street.

The Supreme Court vote was 5-4, and I find myself agreeing with the conservative minority that there ought to be stricter limits to eminent domain. Otherwise, the state can seize a K-Mart and sell the land to Target, because Target promises higher tax revenues. That is, until Wal-Mart comes along. Where does it end? Ask Bill Gates, or Exxon, or maybe China.

I’d complain more, but I don’t have the time– I have to get in touch with my town to force my neighbor out of his house– I’m sure that my assessed value would go up, and thus tax revenues to the town, if I got rid of my neighbor and put up a huge house with a lovely indoor swimming pool. I’m thinking a movie theatre and bowling alley, too. Or those mini racing cars.

My neighbor’s in his sixties, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind moving in with his daughter. I’d let him come back and use the pool, but if word got out about the pool then somebody richer might come along and force me out of my house.

think I would get to keep my gun. Thank God for the Second Amendment. You can have my house when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands.


Posted on 06/13/2005

I’m a first-generation American. I vote and pay my taxes proudly and I think this is the greatest country in the world. But still we stink.

Let me explain. A few nights ago I was watching Fear Factor. One of the bug-eating episodes, not one of the bugs-crawling-all-over-you episodes.

Yes, we are entertained by watching people eat disgusting creatures in search of a $50,000 prize.

There are five billion people on our planet, and a lot of them go hungry. Some of them will die of starvation. But here in America we are paying people to eat stuff they don’t want to eat, just so others can be entertained.

Maybe we should pay them $40,000 and spend the other $10,000 on helping people grow more food. Or perhaps for every hour of Fear Factor people watch, they should be required to spend five minutes watching people go hungry. And don’t even get me started on all the mass murder going on in Darfur that we’re not doing anything about. It may not be on the same scale as the Holocaust, but this time we know all about it and we have the military means to stop it. And by stopping it, perhaps discouraging future mass murderers. Instead we’re sending the message that we’ll let them get away with it. Oh, unless they really piss us off. Our country’s leaders claim to be men of God. They sure aren’t men of men.

Now that I’ve brought down the room, go see a comedy show and get cheery again. Or at least scroll down and read some of my funny blogs. But I had to speak my mind. With my job comes some responsibility to speak out.

Oh, you think I owe you some jokes? Okay.

Some sad news. The founder of Wine Spectator magazine has passed away. Or, as the magazine is reporting it… “His Bordeaux is continuing to age, but he isn’t.”

Scientists are saying that the surface of the earth has been getting brighter, but they’re not sure why. I can tell you one thing: it’s not the people.

For more comedy, please visit the Expired Comedy section of this website.

I’m having a great day

Posted on 06/01/2005

We found out who Deep Throat was, and all day I’ve been glued to CNN, watching Nixon resign, over and over and over and over….

I Think I Lost This Round

Posted on 05/30/2005

Every few weeks my neighbors have a garage sale. To try to sell the same useless crap that nobody bought at the previous garage sales. Nobody buys anything. But still every sale fills up our quiet street with cars and clogs the neighborhood as my neighbors sit hopefully in their driveway all day.

So a couple of weeks ago I went over and asked what they wanted for EVERYTHING. Not much, so I bought it all to finally put an end to this nonsense, and on bulk garbage day I put it ALL out for the garbagemen.

But my neighbors beat the garbagemen to my curb, and they took all the stuff back, and now today they’re having another garage sale.

Anybody have any ideas that don’t involve a gallon of gasoline and some matches?

Today’s Mail

Posted on 05/02/2005

In today’s mail I got an invitation for an AARP credit card. A surprise. I’m sure they’d give me one even though I’m only 43.

The bigger shock was an invitation to celebrate Anne Frank’s 75th birthday. A party which will include a live musical performance by Cyndi Lauper. The woman who made her career by hopping around on stage in bright colors, screeching and singing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

I quote from her song: Some boys take a beautiful girl And hide her away from the rest of the world I want to be the one to walk in the sun Oh girls they want to have fun

This is in such poor taste I’m at a loss for words.

Driving While InTalks-icated

Posted on 05/01/2005

Sooner or later… two people are going to be talking to each other on their cell phones while driving, and crash… into each other.

Confucius say: He who crosses street while talking to girlfriend on cell phone get run over by woman driving SUV while talking to her nanny on cell phone.

My waitressing fantasy

WRITTEN BY Marianne Sierk and used with permission (Shaun’s comments follow)

Originally Posted on Comedy Soapbox 04/22/2005 at 09:35 PM

“I’m working at a restaurant on Lake Ontario this summer for some cccyash for my move to LA that feels like it will never happen. Tonight it was raining and yucky out so I only had 4 tables and am home already, writing to you, faceless Blog. In any case – I had a revelation as I was starring at the lake waiting for my last table to wash down their fish fry with our finest white zinfendel (Go Rochester!) and I imagined how I’d like to die – at least for tonight. I’d take as many orders for dinner as I can – then I’d pretend to put them in the computer – but I’d really be ordering Filet Mignon’s for everyone. Right before the first load of misordered steaks comes in – I’d rip off my bow tie and scream, “Surf’s up!” I’d run off the pier that’s connected to said restaurant and jump in the choppy lake waters. I’d be found with my tux shirt still on, apron afixed to my new polysesters, $14 CASH still secure within my pockets. Maybe my wine key would be lost, but I’d be CLUTCHING my lighter. (I don’t smoke, but birthday candles don’t light themselves….) I’d just let myself drift as far out as I can – and then eventually give up whatever struggle would come naturally and let the polluted Lake Ontario water fill my asthma ridden lungs – a huge smile embedded on my face. Two hotty italian busboys would gallantly throw down their Windex bottles and buspans and scream…..”NOOOO!” and jump in to try to save me – but it’s too late! It’s always too late. I’m a strong swimmer, but no match for the great tides of a Great Lake. Someone get me out of this city. The End. (in so many ways)PS – I swear this isn’t a cry for help – just a fantasy!”

Comments are below

The Response, Posted on 04/22/2005 at 10:45 PM by Shaun Eli

Same fantasy, minus the death. You win the $205 million lottery. Order steak for everyone.

Then run away, in your Ferrari, driven by comedian and excellent driver Shaun Eli. Okay, Brad Pitt.

When the police chase you, you drop a note out the window that says “Just Kidding. Bring this to the restaurant.” And with the note are fifteen hundred dollar bills. And an address in Malibu for them to mail the speeding ticket.

You and Mr. Pitt leave the car at a local airport, where pilot Shaun Eli is waiting with a plane to fly you two lovebirds to California, after a stop in Vegas where Mr. Pitt can beg you to marry him (you politely turn him down, explaining that he’s just a toy).

You spend a night (actually it’s from 9 AM to 11:30 PM but in Vegas there is no time) in a cheap hotel under assumed names. Then you kiss him goodbye, find a waiting pair of Ducati motorcycles, with expert motorcyclist Shaun Eli waiting to escort you to your new home in Malibu, where real estate agent and skilled interior decorator* Shaun Eli is ready to show you around and help you furnish your new home.

Fabulastic chef Shaun Eli goes shopping and returns to prepare you a wonderful dinner while you relax in a bubble bath. He then leaves you with two bottles of Champagne, and a wonderful dessert, as a ragged Brad Pitt enters the house for one final goodbye fling.

*Shaun Eli is not a licensed California real estate agent and his decorating skills are subject to some debate.

At What Point Do We Not Mention Race?

Posted on 04/22/2005

I went to pick up my date at her apartment. At 119th near Lenox. For those of you not familiar with Manhattan, this is in Harlem (Lenox is also known as Malcolm X Blvd and as I’m sure you can imagine, there’s no big push to name streets in white neighborhoods after Malcolm X, although there ought to be a push to rename all the Jefferson Davis streets and schools after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks or at least Chuck Berry).

My date didn’t answer the buzzer, and she wasn’t answering her phone. But she never answers her phone and her buzzer doesn’t work that well. Someone came out of her building, and I asked him if he knew if Evie were home.

Her building is a five story brownstone with only two apartments per floor.

He said he didn’t know who she was.

I said “She looks around thirty, she has long, dark, wavy hair, she’s thin and pretty, she’s a schoolteacher, moved in around five months ago.”

He had no idea who she was.

“She rides a bicycle a lot.”

“Oh, you mean the white girl! Why didn’t you say so? No, I don’t think she’s home.”

Okay, why DIDN’T I say so?

Think about this

Posted on 04/21/2005

A new study reported that most traffic lights in the U.S. have not had their timing changed in over a decade. That’s right, before those shopping malls were built, and back when that housing complex was still farmland. Back when fewer cars travelled, and came from and went to different parts of your town.

The reason for the lack of change? State and local traffic engineers don’t have the resources to study traffic patterns and re-time the lights. They say for only FOUR DOLLARS PER CAR they could re-time most of the traffic lights in America, saving us millions of hours in travelling time, millions of gallons of gasoline, and wear and tear on our cars (including the tires and brake linings that wear down every time we have to slow down to stop at another red light). And of course cut down on pollution, that thing we used to care about back before the oil companies took their first four year lease on America with an option to renew.

So the next time you’re stuck in traffic, listening to some politician on the radio bragging about how he’s going to lower your taxes, think about what more he intends to cut from the budget. The money has to come from somewhere. It’s already come from your time, your gas, your brakes, your tires, your lungs…

Comedy: A non-polluting, self-renewing national resource sm

There is no “I” in “Team”

Posted on 04/14/2005

But… HALF of T E A M is M E.

Google this! (warning: if you are easily offended please scroll down past this entry)

Somebody told me that no matter what phrases you Google, you will get some number of hits. I wasn’t sure. So…

I took the most random and unrelated of phrases and here’s what I found:

“Kansas City” + penis + buddha + “Home Depot” gave 651 hits.

arthritis + shoes + cunnilingus + oregon gave 146 hits.

But substitute fellatio for cunnilingus and you more than double the number of hits. Change it to fetus or calculus and it goes up further still. Algebra does even better, more than 2000 hits.

eraser + logical + river + telephone + cashew gives 83 hits.

welder + nostril + basketball + labor gives 77 hits.

Note that I was totally sober when I tried this experiment.

So you can imagine how my mind works after a few drinks.

My stand-up comedy is clean. Apparently my blogs are not always.

Mister can you buy me beer?

Posted on 04/11/2005

When I was seventeen I worked in a supermarket. I had a beard and looked older. Once when I was leaving, two sixteen year olds stopped me and asked if I could buy them some beer (the drinking age in NY at the time was eighteen). I told them I couldn’t, because I wasn’t old enough. They didn’t believe me. Of course I probably could have bought beer anywhere EXCEPT that store, since they knew how old I was.

Last night I was sitting at the bar at a comedy show, next to an eighteen year old. She asked me to buy her a beer. I told her I’d be glad to, in about three years. The bartender knows me, and obviously knew that this woman was too young to buy alcohol, so had I bought a beer and given it to her, we both would have been thrown out. Not that I would have anyway.

I couldn’t buy her a beer in any state; that’s illegal. But I’m pretty sure it’d be okay if I bought her a gun.

And if a woman with a gun asks me to buy her a beer, well, I don’t think I’d say no.

And probably the reason that having a beer is such a big deal for her is simply that it’s forbidden. In many European countries kids are given small amounts of alcohol to taste as they grow up. It’s not something forbidden to lust for. And they don’t have the same problem with drunken teenagers and young adults as we do. Certainly they don’t have as many people trying 21 shots on their 21st birthday and dying from their first exposure to alcohol.

Raising the drinking age is credited with cutting down on drunken driving, but in fact all the exposure to the issue, and stricter law enforcement, is probably responsible for much of that.

Perhaps we should lower the drinking age to sixteen, but give kids a choice– a license to drink OR a license to drive. That way every group of friends would have a designated driver, and they could switch off every few months.

Trapped in an Elevator

Posted on 04/07/2005

This week the NYPD undertook a massive search for a missing Chinese restaurant deliveryman. When his bicycle was found chained up outside an apartment building, they searched the building and found that he had been trapped in an elevator… for three days. An elevator with an emergency call button AND A CAMERA.

In the meantime the police arrested a man because he had a blood-colored stain on his shirt. It turned out to be exactly what he claimed it was: barbecue sauce from a dinner he’d eaten three days earlier.

Anybody who lives in an apartment building and doesn’t change his food-stained shirt for three days probably deserves a little jail time.

Don’t you agree?

Mitch Hedberg

Posted on 03/31/2005

Mitch headlined one of the first shows I ever did, at Stand-Up New York. I’d seen many of his TV appearances but had never before seen him live.

They announced that he was trying out material for his appearance the next night on “Late Show with David Letterman.” He read much of his material from his notes, and if anybody tells you that you can’t be that funny working from notes, they are W R O N G.

Mitch Rocked.

Then he did most of that material on TV the next night.

Until at one point they cut to a shot of his shoes while he was in the middle of a joke. This caught his attention, he made some off-hand comment about the irrelevance of showing his feet, he lost his rhythm and what I thought was his strongest joke, didn’t work well.

Mitch taught me a lot from this experience.

I learned that you can be really funny trying new material from a notebook, if you’re really, really funny. And I learned never to look at the monitor when you’re on television.

I hope some day I can benefit from both these things.

The world lost a great comedian this week. Someone who was different, who didn’t see the world sideways so much as inside-out. Someone who could make us laugh not only from a surprise or an unusual observation, but simply from a brilliant manipulation of the English language.

Three comedian websites I monitor (SheckyMagazine.com, ComedySoapbox.com and The Standups Asylum group on MSN) have had more comments on Mitch Hedberg this week than on just about any other topic, ever.

Mitch, you are already missed.

A Dubious Honor

I have been named one of Westchester’s Most Eligible Bachelors.

More interestingly, if you type NYC Arabian Comedian into Google, my website (www.BrainChampagne.com) comes up first.

I’m not Arabian.

Not even close.

Sell your Google stock.

Business School Admissions and Business Ethics

The New York Times reported on Monday that some business school applicants were able to hack an admissions website to find out whether they’d been admitted, prior to the release of the information.

Harvard, MIT and Carnegie Mellon found out who the students were and denied them admission on the basis of the students’ lack of ethics (Harvard said the students were free to re-apply next year, but I’d bet they won’t get in then either).

As one of the first business school students to take a business ethics class (this was in the early eighties), I applaud the universities’ decisions.

Some students have protested, claiming that hacking into a website to find out early what they would eventually have found out anyway is no big deal, likening it to taking a pencil home from the office.

I’d say it’s more like stealing a pencil during a job interview. Would you hire someone who did that?

If the students believe that what they did was not wrong, they should be amenable to having the schools publish their names, so we can decide for ourselves whether we ever want to hire these people.

Tourists from another planet

Posted on 03/16/2005

Those of us who live in NY are used to seeing all sorts of strange behavior.

Sometimes we can figure it out. Sometimes we can’t.

Last week I saw tourists, who spoke with American accents, taking a photograph of a Starbucks. Where could these people be from that they’ve never seen one before?

I’d bet that there were probably four or five Starbucks coffee shops inside the plane they flew on to get to NYC.

Unless they flew to NYC in a time machine from the 1950s. Or, with any luck, from not too far in the future.

A Typical NYC Conversation.. .

Posted on 03/15/2005

Street Vendor: Three for ten dollars. They’re ten dollars EACH in a store.

Tourist: How do I know they’re not stolen?

Street Vendor: Of COURSE they’re stolen.

Score One More for Feminism

Posted on 03/12/2005

Say what you want about Prince Charles’ fiancee, but after they’re married I expect that very few little girls will be saying that they want to be princesses when they grow up!

Comedians in the Talmud

“Rav Beroka of Bei Hozae was often in the market of Bei Lapat. There he would meet Elijah. Once he said to Elijah: ‘Is there anyone in this market who has earned eternal life?’ Elijah said to him: ‘No.’ They were standing there when two men came along. Elijah said to him: ‘These men have earned eternal life.’ Rav Beroka went to them and said: ‘What do you do?’ They replied: ‘We are jesters, and make the sad to laugh.'”

– – – The Talmud (a collection of ancient writings on Jewish law)

Hospital Suggestion

I was visiting my friend Sara who teaches and does research at a medical school– I met her outside the hospital entrance, where a large number of patients, many with IVs attached, were smoking.

If the hospitals are going to let the patients go outside and smoke, wouldn’t it be much more convenient, and HEALTHIER, if they just put nicotine into their IV solutions?

Jewish Geography

Someone accused me of anti-Semitism because I used the phrase “Jewish Geography” to refer to asking if someone knew someone else because he was from the same town.

So I quote you from Genesis 29:4–

“And Jacob said unto them: ‘My brethren, whence are ye?’ And they said: ‘Of Haran are we.’ And he said unto them: ‘Know ye Laban the son of Nahor?’ And they said: ‘We know him.’ “

Final Score: Commandments 10, Justices 9

Posted on 03/09/2005

The Supreme Court is hearing a case about whether it’s legal for governments to post the Ten Commandments.

All nine Supreme Court justices are either Christian or Jewish. Two religions which believe in the Ten Commandments as a central tenet.

Therefore I believe that all nine justices ought to recuse themselves from this case.

Censorship vs. Simple Bad Taste

Posted on 03/08/2005

According to today’s New York Times, a recent issue of the New York Press (a free weekly newspaper) had a front-page satirical article on the “Upcoming Death of the Pope.” After a public outcry over the article, the editor resigned.

I find the subject to be in bad taste (although I didn’t read the article and admit that the content might be funny, despite the subject matter).

But– also according the the New York Times, Representative (and mayoral candidate) Anthony D. Weiner said that “Everyone has a right to free speech, but I hope New Yorkers exercise their right to take as many of these rags as they can and put them in the trash.”

Actually there is NO such right. That is censorship. I haven’t looked at the inside cover of the NY Press lately but I hope they are smart enough to say that ONE copy per customer is free, which would make taking more than one paper and discarding it stealing. That is NOT one’s right.

I find the subject of the NY Press article in bad taste. I find Mr. Weiner’s comment beyond bad taste; it’s offensive and a violation of the our right to create and read articles written in bad taste.

Given a choice between the two, I would take the NY Press over Mr. Weiner.

Posted on 03/05/2005

Medical researchers at Harvard University have announced plans to start testing the psychedelic drug Ecstasy on humans.

And you thought it was hard to get into Harvard before!

Actually the study is to see if the drug could help relieve the suffering of terminally-ill cancer patients. White House officials are against the study because they say it could legitimize a dangerous drug. It could lead to the use of other dangerous drugs, such as alcohol, morphine and maybe even that very popular drug that CAUSES cancer, tobacco.

And the president’s biggest fear, the one that has led him to cut funding for medical and scientific research? That someone might eventually develop truth serum.

Posted on 03/03/2005

Mayor Bloomberg said that New York City’s economy received a $254 million boost from tourists coming to see The Gates, which, for those of you who haven’t seen this, is pretty much a bunch of orange curtains hanging from scaffolding in Central Park.

1.5 million visitors, including 300,000 from other countries, came to NYC specifically to see The Gates. Hotel occupancy was up more than 10% and some restaurants near the park reported double their normal business.

Top Broadway shows? The World Series? Wall Street? The center of fashion? The headquarters of the United Nations? Great restaurants? Top comedy clubs? The country’s greatest museums? Hit television shows? Symphony orchestras? Greenwich Village rock music clubs? Foreign art films you may not be able to see anywhere else? The Bronx Zoo? Nope, people come to see curtains. I guess that’s what we should expect in a country where NYC is the third most popular tourist destination, after…

Orlando and Las Vegas.

But we ARE glad you came. New York is the world’s most international city, and it wouldn’t be, without you. Please come back, with or without something specific to see. Just please walk faster or stay to the right on the sidewalks. We live here, we’re usually in a hurry, and sometimes we’re in a hurry to do something to make the city a nicer place for you to visit.

I said sometimes.

Changing the Presidents

Posted on 02/22/2005

A congressman wants to take President Ulysses S. Grant off the fifty dollar bill and replace his portrait with that of President Reagan. General Grant, who won the Civil War, saved the Union and gave birth to the question “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?” The answer to which, by the way, is “General AND MRS. Grant,” for all of you who got it wrong.

I have a better idea– leave Grant on the fifty, but reissue the thirty year Treasury bond and put Reagan’s picture on that. After all, nobody ever did more to run up government debt than Reagan (not yet, anyway, Bush still has four more years).

A stunningly beautiful woman kissed me tonight

Posted on 02/17/2005

A stunningly beautiful woman kissed me tonight. As part of our acting class. She kissed me passionately… then slapped me across the face.

Posted on 02/14/2005

Paris Hilton says she trademarked the phrase “That’s hot.” As if she’s the first one ever to say it. As if she had any legal chance of actually enforcing her rights if someone else used it in an advertisement.

So here’s the phrase I am trademarking: “Paris Hilton is the best example of why the inheritance tax rate ought to be 100% ™”

What goes around, comes around

Posted on 02/10/2005

Back in college, one of my classmates showed up one day in a bright yellow track suit. Really bright yellow.

She looked like a giant banana.

I wanted to tell her. But I didn’t.

I might have been the only one who remained silent.

I think hearing this so much made an impression on her. I saw her six days a week for a whole year but never again saw the yellow track suit. Not once. I doubt she was happy about it.

Cut to: Several years later. I meet a woman who completely wins me over. Charming. Smart. Beautiful. Funny. Willing to go out with me. A woman possessing all five of those important qualities is rare.

On our first date I told her where I went to college and she told me the name of her new best friend, who also went there.

The giant banana. Of course.

I knew that the moment she got home she’d call the giant banana and ask about me. And I knew that what she wouldn’t be told was that I was a giant jerk for calling her a giant banana. Because I didn’t. What didn’t go around couldn’t come around.

Cut to: Several weeks later. Thought that the five-qualities woman might be my soul-mate. She didn’t see it that way, and was not in the right place in her life for me. We parted ways.

Cut to: Now. She’s semi-famous. Married. Still lovely, and still very funny. I’m really happy for her success. She earned and deserves it.

Flashback: A few weeks ago. A bunch of comedians are in line to sign up for an audition. It’s cold and many of us have been waiting for a couple of hours to get our audition date, which is supposed to be randomly chosen when we get to the front of the line.

One comedian arrives late, starts talking to his friends in front of us when the line starts to move.

I ask him, politely, to go to the back of the line. He refuses, says it doesn’t matter because the dates are randomly chosen. Though we didn’t think they’d run out of audition spots, anything’s possible, and I explain that our feet are cold and we all want to get inside a few seconds earlier.

He doesn’t move. Until I turn to my friend and say “This isn’t very smart of him. A bunch of us are not only comedians but we also book shows, and we remember stuff like this.”

At which point he walks toward the back of the line.

Cut to: A minute or two later. We get to the front. They changed their policy. For this time only, they are assigning dates in chronological order. So it did matter where in line one stood.

And we will remember him.

My toughest show ever

Posted on 02/06/2005

I really like to open a show. It’s a challenge, taking a cold audience and getting them laughing. My style of comedy stands up to the challenge, I think, because I believe in lots of punchlines (in other words, quantity perhaps over quality), starting right from when I take the stage. No long set-ups, just grab the mike and start hitting hard. Plus, sometimes this has the advantage of avoiding the problem of following someone who just isn’t that good, or someone who abuses the audience and loses them (doesn’t happen often, but it happens).

Tonight I performed my third set at the Tribeca Arts Festival. I was the only stand-up comic (second time that’s happened there). I followed some musicians and poets.

There were around fifteen people in the audience (this was Super Bowl Sunday). Some of them had heard my stuff the first two times I appeared there. While I did vary my sets the first two times, the opening this time had nothing new, although the order was moved around some.

Nothing. For the first minute, barely a chuckle. After three or four minutes of material that usually does really well (and did so the prior two weeks), I got some laughter. But not much. I switched to crowd work (asking the audience questions, coming up with humorous responses) to get the audience on my side. They’d been paying attention, just not laughing.

The crowd work helped a little, then I did some more material and some real laughs finally ensued. Eventually. But it was a hard slog. I didn’t lose them. They were listening, but I could have been giving a lesson on how to gut fish to the seafood department for all the love I felt.

After I left the stage I figured it out. The person who preceded me was a poet. When I saw her two weeks ago, she had told a long story about a young girl forced into an arranged marriage who was repeatedly raped and tortured by her husband, and the horrible life she led.

I think this is the summit of A Tough Act To Follow.

Epilogue to My Toughest Show Ever, or Thank You, Kind Stranger

Posted on 2/7/05

Last night I posted a blog about the tough show I had just come from, when I was the only comedian and I went on immediately following a poet who speaks about the rape, torture and abuse of a young girl. It took a long time for the audience to warm up to comedy, and it was a difficult few minutes on stage getting to that point (and I use the term ‘stage’ loosely since there was no stage and no microphone).

This afternoon I was shopping and a guy leaving the store said hello to me. I said hi in that non-committal way that means Okay, hi to you, but I have no idea who you are and probably you have mistaken me for someone else.

He said “You were very funny in the show last night.” So he was talking to me. A major coincidence with so few people at the show on Super Bowl Sunday, in a metropolitan area with fifteen million people.

I said thanks, and mentioned that I didn’t get a lot of laughs. He confirmed that the person right before me told a gruesome story and brought down the whole audience and it took them a long time to get over what she said. I had the unfortunate luck of immediately following her. I suppose this means she is a very talented story-teller, which of course did me no good.

Kind stranger, your attendance at my next show is on me– if by a second coincidence you’ve come across this blog, email me and I’ll see that you get comped at my next show. And if somebody else thinks he can trick me into giving away free tickets, you’ll have to tell me the name of the store, what I was buying, and don’t forget that I know what the guy looks like– I just saw him in the shoe department of Bloomingda,, ha, you didn’t think I was really going to tell you where, did you?

Thanks again, kind stranger.

Two sides to every story

Posted on 01/21/2005

A bunch of us were friends with Phil Vosh in college. Phil and I were teammates for four years and housemates for two. Many other friends of ours also lived in the house.

A couple of years ago I received a letter. The return address was Celeste Vosh in the same city where Phil lived.

Before opening the envelope I assumed it was a wedding announcement. As far as I knew, Phil had no siblings. His parents don’t live in the same city and his mother’s name is not Celeste.

It turns out it was an invitation to a surprise party.

I called. Celeste is Phil’s sister. One of two. When I discussed not knowing that Phil had sisters with the rest of the crowd, only Buzz, Phil’s best friend, knew about them. The rest of us had no idea.

e all found it bizarre that Phil had never mentioned anything to us about his sisters. We all knew about everyone else’s siblings. We questioned Phil’s sanity.

Then I figured something out. The other side of the story. The reason we never knew that Phil had two sisters? Because we never asked. It wasn’t Phil. It was us.

By the way, if you’re thinking about having a surprise party for a Marine Reserves Lieutenant Colonel who works for the State Department, speaks three languages fluently and has two Ivy League degrees, don’t expect to really surprise him.

Great New Way to Lose Weight

Posted on 01/15/2005

It seems to me that the less one eats, the faster one loses weight. So here’s the diet I’m trying– NOTHING. For the past six days I’ve eaten nothing and had nothing to drink. And so far the only thing unusual is that my house is suffering from an infestation of midget giraffes riding flying motorcycles.

And there’s something wrong with my computer– the keys on the keyboard are really hard to push down. It’s getting really hard to type anyth

kg klglukrlkn

qiwu sgfr,sf,dasfr;l,/. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Why I can’t date date vegetarians

Posted on 1/14/05

I respect the ethics of vegetarians who say that it’s immoral to use eleven pounds of edible grain to create one pound of edible meat when people are starving all over the world, even though meat-eating is not the cause of starvation and an entire world gone vegetarian would not cure starvation. The reason people go hungry is not a worldwide food shortage, it’s a worldwide compassion shortage. We could feed the whole world for less than we spend on coffee, but we’d rather have the coffee. Why? Because we’re selfish. People die but unless we see them, we fail to act. Millions of people starve each year, way more than die from tsunamis. But flood destruction makes for better video so for that we write the checks.

But back to the vegetarians. Here’s why I have trouble dating them.

First date she tells me that she just doesn’t like the taste of meat, but isn’t uncomfortable when other people eat it. So I order a steak and get dirty looks through the whole meal.

Second date. Before I even glance at the menu she says “They have two pasta dishes I like—why don’t we each get one and we can share.” Saves the dirty looks but I have to eat fusilli with string beans, asparagus and chick peas in a pink mouchure sauce.

Third date she suggests the restaurant. It’s vegan and the word “tofu” appears on the menu eighty seven times. I like tofu, given something nice to flavor it. By itself it tastes like styrofoam. But they can’t serve styrofoam since it’s environmentally unsound, so they serve plain tofu, in eighty seven different shapes. I ask for a diet coke and all six waitresses, pale and unhealthy-looking, give me dirty looks like I ordered a broiled baby in kitten sauce with a side order of smallpox.

Before the fourth date even rolls around I’m on PETA’s mailing list and my barbecue grill is missing. And that’s the last straw.

P.S. The word “vegan” is not in MS Word’s spell-check.

My name got popular

Posted on 01/12/2005

While Shaun (or Sean or Shawn) is a popular name in Ireland, even among Irish-Americans it hasn’t been a common name in the U.S. (they prefer Patrick, Kevin and Timothy, for some reason, and not Shaun).

Growing up, until age 25 I probably had met only three or four Shauns in my life. Sean Connery was James Bond, and that was pretty good. But then there also was Shaun Cassidy, and he’s no James Bond.

round fifteen years ago I started to notice other Shauns. I’d be in a store and I’d hear “Shaun! Put that down!” in a very stern voice. I’d turn around and see an angry mother yelling at her five year old son. It was a weird experience, since before then I’d almost never heard my name apply to anybody but me.

Growing up I knew people with names like Phyllis and Harvey, and they didn’t like their names because these were old-people names, names that had been popular sixty or seventy years earlier, so most people with those names were senior citizens. Like all our Jennifers will be in forty years.

But now all those Shauns are grown up, and it seems to be a pretty cool name. The only drawback is that I read about a lot of Shauns getting arrested (Sean Combs and the over-the-Carnegie-Deli shooting a few years ago come to mind; there have been tons of others).

But all in all, other Shauns, welcome to the club. It’s a fun club, even if we can’t all agree on the spelling.

While trolling through my computer I found this piece I had written years ago

Posted 1/5/05


Post Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing

(prepared in accordance with Grossly Arbitrary Accounting Principles) (amounts in $ millions)

For entertainment use only.  No shareholders were harmed in the making of this parody.

Clean out your closets, re-live your childhood

Posted on 11/28/2004

I’ve been fortunate that even when I lived in a small apartment in NYC I had enough closet space (or perhaps not nearly enough clothing). So I’ve saved a lot of stuff.

On Thanksgiving I decided to clean out some of the boxes of papers. Wow! Certainly I don’t need gas credit card bills from fifteen years ago. That gets recycled. I found copies of my high school comedy newspaper (it was actually the Computer Club newsletter but writing jokes was much more fun than writing about computers). I wonder if there’s any material in there that’s actually usable on stage! I’ll have to have a look. Some of the stuff I tell is material I wrote fifteen years ago and it does well, although some stuff I wrote when I was younger is hack and I don’t use it (of course– the definition of hack is stuff that so many people think of that nobody should be telling it because it’s too obvious).

I found a letter from a girl I liked in college taking a whole page to thank me for UPSing her one of my cheesecakes. She loved the food, didn’t love me. Last I heard she’s been divorced around eleven times.

I found stacks of letters from two girls I had corresponded with in high school. I really don’t want their letters, but I’d like to see the letters that I’d written them. At the time I thought I was a pretty funny writer. I guess I should ask them if they want their letters. One is someone I still keep in touch with from time to time. She lives in upstate NY with a nice husband and a house full of kids. The other one has a unique enough name that I’m sure I can Google her and find her. She’s probably some famous mathematician or something (I have always been attracted to smart women).

I found a NYC subway map from the 1970s. One of the barely comprehensible ones with the thick parallel lines that came about after the totally incomprehensible ones with overlapping lines. I’d always wanted one for decoration. Unfortunately this one is ripped along the folds. Anybody remember the QB train? When was the last time you heard someone refer to the BMT? I’m getting old.

What I’m Thankful For

Posted on 11/26/2004

I’m thankful that I have a healthy and loving family. I’m thankful that I live in a great country in which two different stores are selling DVD players for $18 this weekend! I’m thankful that I’m happy about this even though I already have a DVD player and am not looking for another one.

I’m thankful that people laugh when I stand in front of the bright lights and tell jokes.

I’m thankful that my website host allows me to see which ISPs are used by people who visit the site (no, I can’t see any information on the individuals, just a list of ISPs). I’m thankful that I apparently have some fans in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates even though I’ve never been to any of those countries.

I’m thankful that earlier this year I won a semi-bogus award for economic forecasting, and am thankful that some people took it seriously enough for it to be picked up by the national press. And I’m even more thankful that John Dorfman, the fund manager and journalist who ran the contest, was nice enough to allow me to put a plug in for my comedy career when he wrote the press release.

I’m thankful that most of the other comedians I’ve met and worked with have been helpful, friendly and kind.

Using hands-free cellular phones while driving

Posted on 11/25/2004

A family member sent me an article on a study of hands-free cellular phone use by drivers (the study said that it’s dangerous whether or not you hold the phone). Here was my response:

I do not use a cell phone when I drive, and keep in mind that I’m an instrument-rated pilot who has specific training in just such multi-tasking: communicating detailed concepts while navigating and maintaining safe operation of complicated electronic and mechanical equipment. And yes, I, with all this training, knowledge and experience, do not use a cell phone when I drive. That should tell you something.

On Tuesday a client called me while he was driving. I suggested he call me back when he was parked. He said he was using a hands-free earpiece. I replied that this was just one more thing to break when he crashed.

To those of you who say that it’s just like having a conversation with a passenger, well, it’s NOT. When you’re with a passenger in the car and something unexpected happens- a sudden lane-change, the guy in front of you slamming on his brakes, a ball rolling into the road, or whatever– the conversation naturally stops. But if you’re on the phone and you stop talking because something unexpected occurs, the OPPOSITE happens. Your pause causes the person on the other end to START talking, to fill in the silence. Sometimes followed by your crash. Your brain can process only so much information at the same time.

Yes, I have an opinion on this matter.

Free food has more Calories

Posted on 11/24/2004

Because you eat twice as much of it.

I’m with stupid

Posted on 11/23/2004

If your friend is wearing an “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt, and you’re standing next to him on the side to which the arrow is pointing, you ARE stupid.

Posted on 11/21/2004

Putting a ribbon on your car does not make one a patriot.

If you want to be patriotic, give blood, sign your organ donor card and pay your taxes without complaining.

ABC apologized

Posted on 11/19/2004

ABC issued an apology for showing a woman’s bare back (this means above the waist, not her backside) in a commercial run during a football game.

An ABC spokesman said that it was a wardrobe malfunction– the woman’s burkha accidentally opened.

In the future they will ensure not to show any part of a woman, except her eyes.

Friendly vs. Nice

Posted on 11/17/2004

There is a difference between being friendly and being nice. A parable should exemplify.

A man was walking along a riverbank on his way to an important meeting when he saw a child drowning in the river. He asked the child what happened. The child said that he wanted to go swimming but the only nearby pool was not open. He explained that he got caught in a strong current and couldn’t swim well enough. The man spoke with the child, complimented him on his choice in clothing and said he would inform the child’s parents where he was. The friendly man then rushed to his appointment.

Shortly thereafter another man was walking along the riverbank and spotted the drowning child. The boy explained that though his parents told him not to go swimming in the river, he disobeyed them. The man rescued the child, then scolded him for disobeying his parents and for risking not only his life but also the life of the man who rescued him. He then suggested that the child take a swimming class. He told the child that the class would make swimming more enjoyable and would teach him not only how to swim better, but also to learn his limits so he will know when and where to swim, and when and where not to swim.

The first man was friendly. The second man was nice.

People are either friendly or nice. Some are neither. A few are both, but a third of those end up in a tower with a rifle, and when they are caught their neighbors are surprised, and tell TV reporters “He was so friendly and nice I never thought he’d end up shooting people.”

So now you know.

– – – S H A U N   E L I,

Nice, not necessarily friendly, and a former Water Safety Instructor

(By the way, if you see someone drowning, your LAST choice should be to jump in. First look for something to throw, like a rope or something that floats. And if you jump in fully-dressed, you will likely drown.)

Tips on water safety from the American Red Cross:  http://www.redcross.org/services/hss/tips/healthtips/safetywater.html

TV gone bad

Posted on 11/15/2004

I recognize that television programs are for entertainment, not information. But last night’s “Crossing Jordan” went so far past the line of ridiculous that I have to comment.

In the show, they know in advance a commuter plane is about to crash because the pilots stopped responding to radio calls and an Air Force plane flew past, looked inside and saw everyone passed out.

Okay so far.

But they are able to predict within a mile or two where the plane will crash (and they go there and watch the plane crash– not exactly the safest thing to do). This is nuts. While they may know exactly how much fuel is in the plane, they can not be sure exactly how much wind they encountered along the way, exact rates of climb, fuel burn, etc. Figuring out how the auto-pilot was set would allow them to guess along what line the plane would crash, but not where on that line.

And then, when the plane does crash, it blows up. Not exactly consistent with running out of fuel before descending and crashing.

The medical examiners are trying to identify burned bodies. So when they find cell phones among the bodies (turned on, by the way), what do they do? Use them to identify the bodies? No, they pile them on a table!

Oh, the representative from the National Transportation Safety Board doesn’t know the difference between a Cockpit Voice Recorder (which records sounds) and the Black Box (which records flight data). But of course he can arrive at the crash site in minutes. Wonder what plane he flies!

I can accept some straying from reality on a TV show, but there have to be limits.

Italian Food

Posted on 11/09/2004

A friend and I went out for Italian food this past Saturday.

It’s been our observation and experience that if the restaurant has a lot of old people eating there, we don’t end up liking the food. We refer to it as “Old people’s Italian food.”

But we’re getting older. We were wondering– when we’re old, will we be eating the same food we prefer now, and the younger people will refer to THAT as old people’s Italian food (and eat the kind of food we don’t like)? Or will our tastes change, so that old people’s Italian food will always be old people’s Italian food?

Posted on 10/29/2004

While they’re not disclosing the cause of his illness, one theory is gallstones.

Ironic, isn’t it? If the leader of the Palestinians is brought down by tiny little rocks…

The last debate

Posted on 10/14/2004

I finally figured out what the look on the president’s face reminded me of…

The smug look of a kid who knows that no matter how badly he plays, he is certain he’ll get picked for the team because his father is the principal.

Bush’s Bulge in the First Debate

Posted on 10/13/2004

It was actually a tape recorder playing a loop tape reminding the president “Don’t mention the draft. Don’t mention the draft. Don’t mention the draft.”

Since he wasn’t wired in the second debate, he forgot, and mentioned it.

50+ Funny Argumentative Essay Topics

50+ Funny Argumentative Essay Topics

Table of Contents

Joking on a serious note.

Essay writing is primarily used in schools and colleges to gauge the research, writing, and most importantly, thinking capabilities of the students. Teachers provide lectures and impart insights regarding the art and craft of writing. At the end of the semester, students need to show how much they have learned to retain and have been able to put into practice.

Many students believe that the tenser, and academically inclined topics they choose, the brighter their chances will be to score good marks. This cannot be further from the truth as teachers hardly regard topics, but the structure, thesis, and overall format of the essay. That’s why you can joke on a serious note!

Outlining Your Argumentative Essay Before Writing

Argumentative essay writing is one of the common types employed in academic institutions to gauge the capabilities of the students. It is different from narrative and descriptive essays because it follows a logical sequence of arguments and sticks to a rigid structure and organization. There are many types of argumentative essays, but they rely on starting with an argument and then gathering evidence to support its soundness.

Outlining the argumentative essay from the beginning provides a clear heading and discernible scope to the essay. Students will know which resources to scour and which evidence to earmark for further use. If a writer fails to outline his argumentative essay from the start, he will have a hard time keeping up with the deadline. That’s why we have added this step of writing in our guide on writing an argumentative essay in the concluding sections of this blog.

Can Funny Topics Become Controversial?

Argumentative essays can be written on funny topics or ideas that seem preposterous to the school and college professors. As we have mentioned earlier, what matters the most is how the execution of the essay is done by the writer, not the solemnity of his topic.

There is always a chance that when students go this unusual way, they might face controversy and criticism from the teachers. In a way, this is about argumentative essay writing. You can develop an argument no matter how absurd it may seem. You can work on it by gathering the necessary information, developing a thesis, and then moving on to the writing part. If it sticks in the face of scrutiny from both peers and professors, it is right. The controversy is not always bad, especially when it leads to new developments in human thought.

Funny Topics For School And College Students

Students love to joke around the campus. The pranks can go too far, but the comedy and hilarity in writing show more than just jokes. Writers who can write witty punch lines with impeccable timing can score well in their academic writing too. All they need to do is learn the ropes of academic writing.

In this section, we will go through some of the best funny topics that students can explore in their argumentative essays at different levels, from college to middle school.

Fun Argumentative Essay Topics For College

The college provides much more artistic freedom to students and young writers compared to high school and lower academic echelons. Since there are dedicated programs for writing, they can learn and apply the knowledge of writing across their studies. This not only helps them in broadening their academic horizon but also helps them to explore a novel side of writing. Here are our topic suggestions for college.

  • Cigarettes are a great way to break the ice with strangers
  • Dating apps are a disaster for romance and intimacy
  • Freedom of expression should have a cost
  • Is it teachers or parents that are to blame in the end?
  • The Middle East is a ripe ground for democracy
  • Fast food companies provide cheap and healthy food
  • Global warming helps us keep warm in winters
  • The world will be a better place without religion
  • Organic food is over-rated
  • Marketing gimmicks are the norms 
  • Conflicts should be welcomed in healthy relationships
  • Why lecture attendance is a problem for lazy students
  • Taxing the rich is the best way to help the poor and the needy
  • Sex education is harmful to young adults
  • Paying for music should be compulsory

Hilarious Argumentative Essay Topics For High School

For many young writers, high school is where their love for writing and learning starts. It is where they see the possibilities in restraints. Funny topics are not welcomed in school because of the conservative approach toward learning. Especially the topics that can incite controversies are avoided at all costs. Still, there are grey areas that students can explore in their search for a funny argumentative essay.

  • Facebook is the best place to know your teachers 
  • If companies cannot outsmart their competitors, they should copy it
  • Internet should be highly censored, especially for comedy and fun content
  • Customer complaints are the best source of learning for businesses
  • Energy drinks should become mandatory in schools
  • Social media is the best source to learn the truth
  • There is no racial bias in the police system of the US
  • People can end their lives as it is their right
  • Terrorists should be treated with clemency
  • Mind or body or body over mind – a simple discourse
  • The court system today has no flaws at all
  • The radical redistribution of wealth will eradicate poverty
  • Guns should have rights to own people
  • There is no need for gender inclusivity 

Funny Argumentative Essay Topics For Middle School

Middle school is not the place where students can have their say in picking a funny topic for an argumentative essay. Teachers provide topics and even detailed guidelines on how to develop an argument and then crystallize it through a thesis statement. Still, if students get a chance to write on the topic of their choice, one of these funny argumentative essay topics will be great.

  • Vegetarians are destroying plants
  • The internet is the bane of human being’s existence
  • The death penalty should be revived for economic purposes
  • Governments should pay their citizens
  • Governments should not provide free medical services to people
  • Political activism is a mess
  • We are now farthest than ever from World War 3
  • Public surveillance cameras are for security purposes
  • The sky is the limit for space exploration
  • Marijuana is the wonder cure for all maladies
  • Overuse of smartphones is not bad at all
  • There should not be any educational limit for the police force
  • Nature is killing us by default
  • Illegal drugs are not bad for us at all
  • The right to vote should be banned in democracies

Amusing Argumentative Essay Topics

Irrespective of the level of academics, funny topics come and go on campuses. There is always empowering for students to be able to pick up a topic and do justice to it, whether it is funny or serious. Argumentative essays often carry a serious countenance but they can act as perfect tools to make a joke – even on a serious note. Here are some more great suggestions.

  • Employees should be allowed to use social media at work
  • Companies are obligated to send birthday presents to their clients
  • Staying at home all day is better than staying at an office all day
  • Shakespeare plagiarized all of these plays from obscure writers
  • Internet slang should be included in the dictionaries
  • Full-day kindergarten is better for parents
  • The English language is not simple at all
  • Kids should be paid to draw on walls
  • Music is a therapy for the rich and the spoiled
  • Modern schools are better off without the internet
  • Online classes are better than in-person classes
  • Medical practices in primitive cultures were not evasive
  • Hospitals should employ placebo treatments to save real drugs
  • Innovations are making us agiler and healthier
  • Bosses are the oxygen of modern corporate culture

How To Ace Your Argumentative Essay

After going through the best funny topics for your argumentative essays, it is time to take a look at how to approach writing one. Students know what an argumentative essay is and what its characteristics are, but they may find themselves at odds while sitting down to write. This is where this little guide will walk them through different steps.

  • Start with sifting through multiple ideas. Just because an idea came into your head at a fortunate moment did not mean it was the best one. Try numerous ideas before settling on one
  • Arguments need to be blasted out of the ground – figuratively. It is hard to have an impeccable argument readily at the back of your head. You may have to work hard to nurture one
  • We have already discussed the importance of outlining your argumentative essay in the opening sections. Suffice it to say that you can easily complete your write-up quickly if you heavily outline it in the first place
  • After all these preliminary steps, what’s left is to sit down and write. No need to get worried if there are any errors or inconsistencies in the essay. They can all be weeded out in the editing and proofing stages

What are some fun argumentative essay topics?

Fun argumentative essays can help writers work through controversial areas with ease. Since they are cloaked in humor, they can easily “get away” with certain things. Here are some areas that can add a twist to the topics:

  • Commentary on social norms and issues
  • A witty take on systems
  • Issues with politics and economy
  • Discourse on the human condition

What should I write about for a fun essay?

It takes serious writing to compose funny essays – pun intended. Writers need to research a lot and make sure their points are made across without being died down in the process. The best thing that writers should do for fun essays is to employ literary devices such as satire, similes, metaphors, and so on.

What are good argumentative essays?

Argumentative essays have the primary purpose of persuading the readers. Here are some of the characteristics of good argumentative essays:

  • Rational in approach
  • Neutral tone and voice
  • Reliance on empirical evidence
  • Well-structured

What are some interesting arguments?

Interesting arguments need to be novel in their content and approach. They should explore new angles and ideas, especially when connecting the dots for the readers. Any argument can be interesting if it is well-founded and backed by evidence.

What are some good essay topics for high school?

High school essay writing is important because it helps writers to gain the necessary knowledge. This vocation readily helps them in getting admission, among other things. If you want to know some good and funny essay topics for argumentative essays in high school, this blog post has plenty.

How can I write funny argumentative essays that are not controversial?

Fun and comedy can garner controversy. But as long as you stick to the research and arguments backed by empirical evidence, there are few chances that your funny argumentative essay will not meet controversy.

Funny Academic Essay Writing

Narrative and descriptive essay writing are considered the easiest because they allow writers to showcase their angle on the topic or the problem. An argumentative essay is often backed by evidential information with heavy reliance on proofs. But you can explore different hilarious topics in argumentative essays, as long as their nature remains intact and it checks all the boxes.

This guide has covered major parts of essay writing along with some topic suggestions for writers. While writing argumentative essays with a twist, will help them a lot.

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Essay Typer

Bored Panda

45 Funny And Witty Memes About Literature That Might Inspire You To Open A Book

M any of you probably know SparkNotes from back in your school or college days. You got confused by an assigned book, you were running late for class, or you were writing an essay right before the deadline (again!), and you needed to get to grips with the plot and main themes. SparkNotes is probably the most well-known literature resource in the world, summarizing countless books to help you study alongside the source material.

But something that you probably weren’t aware of is that SparkNotes is ridiculously good at the social media game. It has an account on X (formerly Twitter) that posts some great memes about literature. Our nerdy sides love them so much that we couldn’t help but share some of the best ones with you. Scroll down for a refresher about why literature is so awesome and why being geeky is cool!

Bored Panda got in touch with the member of the SparkNotes team running its X account, Courtney Gorter, and she was kind enough to tell us about literary memes and reigniting people’s passion for reading. Meanwhile, we also reached out to Lisa McLendon, Ph.D. , from the University of Kansas, who is the William Allen White Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications, as well as the Coordinator at the Bremner Editing Center . She told us about truly great student essays. Read on for both of our interviews. 

More info: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | TikTok | SparkNotes.com

Image credits: SparkNotes

Gorter, an Associate Content Strategy Manager at SparkNotes, explained to Bored Panda that the secret behind creating such great literary memes comes from reading a ton and spending a lot of time on X (aka Twitter).

We were curious to get her opinion on what quality literary memes have in common. “To me, a sign of a good literary meme is that people who have read the book think it’s spot-on, and people who haven’t read the book are curious enough that they decide to read it!” she said.

Some people feel like they don’t have enough spare time to read. Others, however, are dealing with extremely shortened attention spans , a huge problem these days. Gorter shared her thoughts about inspiring people to read more.

“For people who are looking to reignite their passion for literature, sometimes it’s all in how you think about it. Get rid of the idea that audiobooks don’t count; give yourself permission to stop reading a book you’re not enjoying; read several books at once if you get bored easily,” the SparkNotes team member told Bored Panda.

“I know so many people who got back into reading after a long dry spell, and the reason they came back is always different—maybe they discovered ebooks or audiobooks and it changed everything, or maybe they watched a TV or film adaptation, and wanted to read the series, or maybe (just maybe!) they saw a literary meme on Twitter that piqued their interest.”

According to Gorter, the best approach here is to meet people “where they are,” instead of forcing them or moralizing them.

“Some people are never going to be big readers, either because they don’t have time or it simply doesn’t interest them, and I think that’s okay! The great thing about literature is that it’s such a vast world, and there’s no right or wrong way to engage with it.”

Meanwhile, Professor McLendon , from the University of Kansas, echoed very similar thoughts on helping people (re)discover the love of reading.

“I’d love to see people reading more books: novels, nonfiction, whatever. I think one thing that could help, and this is something I’m encouraging my students to do over the winter break, is just read something YOU want to read for the fun of it,” she shared her thoughts with Bored Panda.

“By college, it seems that students tend to associate reading with homework, not pleasure, and if they can re-capture the feeling of reading for pleasure, then they may read more. Going along with that, people need to know it’s OK, when they’re reading for pleasure, to quit a book that they’re not into. There are so many great books in the world; don’t waste time on one you’re not enjoying!”

We also asked the professor for her thoughts on truly great student essays and how they can wow academic staff.

“Truly great student essays don’t just follow the directions (though they do that); they sparkle in both content and writing. That is, great essays approach the topic from an inventive or creative perspective and support the main idea with clear, specific information and examples,” McLendon said.

“Great essays are written in concise, direct prose with a mix of sentence types and lengths to keep readers engaged, and they transition clearly from one point to the next. To achieve greatness, students need to think, then plan, then write, then revise,” she shared.

“It’s a process that most people can’t successfully complete the night before an assignment is due, and if a writer skimps on the ‘think’ stage—by, for example, using SparkNotes instead of reading the original and thinking through it—chances are the essay won’t be great,” the professor added that reading just a summary, in isolation, isn’t enough.

SparkNotes was initially launched way back in 1999 and has, over the years, become a household name. Meanwhile, the project launched its account on X (when it was still called Twitter, which most of us probably prefer) in April 2008.

The project has an extensive presence on social media. At the time of writing, SparkNotes had nearly 352k followers on X and 295k fans on Facebook. It also has 310k literature-hungry folks following it on Instagram and nearly 77k fans over on TikTok. All the more ways to spread funny and geeky literary memes!

Full disclosure: literature may have been (read: definitely was ) our favorite class of all time, so these memes are right up our alley.

Whatever you might have used SparkNotes summaries for in the past, the company itself points out that it stands firmly against cheating and plagiarism. While there’s nothing new under the sun, it’s important to be open about where you got your ideas from. Citing sources and crediting ideas—these are fundamental values whether you’re in a literature class or doing a degree in journalism.

“We're here to help you learn, not to help you cheat. Our literature guides are meant to be read along with the books they analyze. They are not intended to be copied on tests or papers (aka plagiarized),” SparkNotes explains its stance on people copying their summaries directly on the project’s website.

SparkNotes points out that you can avoid plagiarizing them by citing the words and ideas that came from their site or books. You can also rephrase these ideas in your own words, interpreting things from your own perspective.

Transparency, clarity, and honesty are worth more than their weight in gold when it comes to literature, journalism, historical analyses, and writing (endless) essays. 

The point is to use what SparkNotes offers as a supplement, not an alternative to reading the source material itself. We all need a little help understanding exactly what’s going on in a book sometimes when we’re “confuzzled.”

There’s no shame in asking someone for advice… or doing lots of Googling to check if we’re not alone in being lost. 

SparkNotes offers over 500 guides for English literature and Shakespeare, as well as many other guides for other subjects, including history, math, and biology.

They also have a whole bunch of quizzes to help you learn the info that you need way better before that big test. They have a vested interest in helping everyone learn in a more efficient way.

Memes are, essentially, ideas, attitudes, jokes, and images that we share with other people. So the more something is shared, the more successful it is at being a meme, by definition.

In our experience, there are a few main things that elevate a meme from something ‘meh’ to a viral sensation. It all comes down to relatability, humor, format, and consistency. 

Something that the SparkNotes team members in charge of creating and sharing all of these memes do so well is that they know their audience. It’s people who enjoy literature, reading, and books in general.

Naturally, they then focus on crafting memes that suit this particular audience. They make it relatable for lit geeks. But someone who’s not into literature may feel a lot of the references going over their head. But that's all right. Aside from dad jokes, there are very few categories of comedy that try to appeal to absolutely everyone.

Another aspect that the SparkNotes X account nails completely is adding copious amounts of humor to their posts. Memes do not have to be funny to be relatable or to go viral… but comedy certainly helps. When an image makes you feel good, you want to share it with the people you care about to make them feel the same way that you do.

In terms of format, you want your meme to be easy to read. We’re all overloaded with pics, memes, posts, and news stories on social media, so images only have a mere moment to grab our attention. If there’s way too much text or the font’s hard to understand, internet users might just decide to skip reading the thing altogether.

Meanwhile, if you plan on entertaining your followers with memes, it’s a good idea to be consistent with your posting. It doesn’t mean that you have to spam your feed with dozens of memes each day, though. But it means carving out a reputation as someone who’s consistent and trustworthy in their posting schedule.

We would love to learn a bit about your literary habits, Pandas, so scroll down to the comment section and share your thoughts. How much time do you find to read every week? What did you enjoy the most about lit classes back in school and college? Have you ever used SparkNotes before? Which gothic horror books are your faves?! Let us know!

45 Funny And Witty Memes About Literature That Might Inspire You To Open A Book

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The Loss of Things I Took for Granted

Ten years into my college teaching career, students stopped being able to read effectively..

Recent years have seen successive waves of book bans in Republican-controlled states, aimed at pulling any text with “woke” themes from classrooms and library shelves. Though the results sometimes seem farcical, as with the banning of Art Spiegelman’s Maus due to its inclusion of “cuss words” and explicit rodent nudity, the book-banning agenda is no laughing matter. Motivated by bigotry, it has already done demonstrable harm and promises to do more. But at the same time, the appropriate response is, in principle, simple. Named individuals have advanced explicit policies with clear goals and outcomes, and we can replace those individuals with people who want to reverse those policies. That is already beginning to happen in many places, and I hope those successes will continue until every banned book is restored.

If and when that happens, however, we will not be able to declare victory quite yet. Defeating the open conspiracy to deprive students of physical access to books will do little to counteract the more diffuse confluence of forces that are depriving students of the skills needed to meaningfully engage with those books in the first place. As a college educator, I am confronted daily with the results of that conspiracy-without-conspirators. I have been teaching in small liberal arts colleges for over 15 years now, and in the past five years, it’s as though someone flipped a switch. For most of my career, I assigned around 30 pages of reading per class meeting as a baseline expectation—sometimes scaling up for purely expository readings or pulling back for more difficult texts. (No human being can read 30 pages of Hegel in one sitting, for example.) Now students are intimidated by anything over 10 pages and seem to walk away from readings of as little as 20 pages with no real understanding. Even smart and motivated students struggle to do more with written texts than extract decontextualized take-aways. Considerable class time is taken up simply establishing what happened in a story or the basic steps of an argument—skills I used to be able to take for granted.

Since this development very directly affects my ability to do my job as I understand it, I talk about it a lot. And when I talk about it with nonacademics, certain predictable responses inevitably arise, all questioning the reality of the trend I describe. Hasn’t every generation felt that the younger cohort is going to hell in a handbasket? Haven’t professors always complained that educators at earlier levels are not adequately equipping their students? And haven’t students from time immemorial skipped the readings?

The response of my fellow academics, however, reassures me that I’m not simply indulging in intergenerational grousing. Anecdotally, I have literally never met a professor who did not share my experience. Professors are also discussing the issue in academic trade publications , from a variety of perspectives. What we almost all seem to agree on is that we are facing new obstacles in structuring and delivering our courses, requiring us to ratchet down expectations in the face of a ratcheting down of preparation. Yes, there were always students who skipped the readings, but we are in new territory when even highly motivated honors students struggle to grasp the basic argument of a 20-page article. Yes, professors never feel satisfied that high school teachers have done enough, but not every generation of professors has had to deal with the fallout of No Child Left Behind and Common Core. Finally, yes, every generation thinks the younger generation is failing to make the grade— except for the current cohort of professors, who are by and large more invested in their students’ success and mental health and more responsive to student needs than any group of educators in human history. We are not complaining about our students. We are complaining about what has been taken from them.

If we ask what has caused this change, there are some obvious culprits. The first is the same thing that has taken away almost everyone’s ability to focus—the ubiquitous smartphone. Even as a career academic who studies the Quran in Arabic for fun, I have noticed my reading endurance flagging. I once found myself boasting at a faculty meeting that I had read through my entire hourlong train ride without looking at my phone. My colleagues agreed this was a major feat, one they had not achieved recently. Even if I rarely attain that high level of focus, though, I am able to “turn it on” when demanded, for instance to plow through a big novel during a holiday break. That’s because I was able to develop and practice those skills of extended concentration and attentive reading before the intervention of the smartphone. For children who were raised with smartphones, by contrast, that foundation is missing. It is probably no coincidence that the iPhone itself, originally released in 2007, is approaching college age, meaning that professors are increasingly dealing with students who would have become addicted to the dopamine hit of the omnipresent screen long before they were introduced to the more subtle pleasures of the page.

The second go-to explanation is the massive disruption of school closures during COVID-19. There is still some debate about the necessity of those measures, but what is not up for debate any longer is the very real learning loss that students suffered at every level. The impact will inevitably continue to be felt for the next decade or more, until the last cohort affected by the mass “pivot to online” finally graduates. I doubt that the pandemic closures were the decisive factor in themselves, however. Not only did the marked decline in reading resilience start before the pandemic, but the students I am seeing would have already been in high school during the school closures. Hence they would be better equipped to get something out of the online format and, more importantly, their basic reading competence would have already been established.

Less discussed than these broader cultural trends over which educators have little control are the major changes in reading pedagogy that have occurred in recent decades—some motivated by the ever-increasing demand to “teach to the test” and some by fads coming out of schools of education. In the latter category is the widely discussed decline in phonics education in favor of the “balanced literacy” approach advocated by education expert Lucy Calkins (who has more recently come to accept the need for more phonics instruction). I started to see the results of this ill-advised change several years ago, when students abruptly stopped attempting to sound out unfamiliar words and instead paused until they recognized the whole word as a unit. (In a recent class session, a smart, capable student was caught short by the word circumstances when reading a text out loud.) The result of this vibes-based literacy is that students never attain genuine fluency in reading. Even aside from the impact of smartphones, their experience of reading is constantly interrupted by their intentionally cultivated inability to process unfamiliar words.

For all the flaws of the balanced literacy method, it was presumably implemented by people who thought it would help. It is hard to see a similar motivation in the growing trend toward assigning students only the kind of short passages that can be included in a standardized test. Due in part to changes driven by the infamous Common Core standards , teachers now have to fight to assign their students longer readings, much less entire books, because those activities won’t feed directly into students getting higher test scores, which leads to schools getting more funding. The emphasis on standardized tests was always a distraction at best, but we have reached the point where it is actively cannibalizing students’ educational experience—an outcome no one intended or planned, and for which there is no possible justification.

We can’t go back in time and do the pandemic differently at this point, nor is there any realistic path to putting the smartphone genie back in the bottle. (Though I will note that we as a society do at least attempt to keep other addictive products out of the hands of children.) But I have to think that we can, at the very least, stop actively preventing young people from developing the ability to follow extended narratives and arguments in the classroom. Regardless of their profession or ultimate educational level, they will need those skills. The world is a complicated place. People—their histories and identities, their institutions and work processes, their fears and desires—are simply too complex to be captured in a worksheet with a paragraph and some reading comprehension questions. Large-scale prose writing is the best medium we have for capturing that complexity, and the education system should not be in the business of keeping students from learning how to engage effectively with it.

This is a matter not of snobbery, but of basic justice. I recognize that not everyone centers their lives on books as much as a humanities professor does. I think they’re missing out, but they’re adults and they can choose how to spend their time. What’s happening with the current generation is not that they are simply choosing TikTok over Jane Austen. They are being deprived of the ability to choose—for no real reason or benefit. We can and must stop perpetrating this crime on our young people.

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Guest Essay

I’m a Neuroscientist. We’re Thinking About Biden’s Memory and Age in the Wrong Way.

President Biden seated in a chair holding a stack of what looks like index cards.

By Charan Ranganath

Dr. Ranganath is a professor of psychology and neuroscience and the director of the Dynamic Memory Lab at the University of California, Davis, and the author of the forthcoming book “Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory’s Power to Hold On to What Matters.”

The special counsel Robert K. Hur’s report, in which he declined to prosecute President Biden for his handling of classified documents, also included a much-debated assessment of Mr. Biden’s cognitive abilities.

“Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview with him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

As an expert on memory, I can assure you that everyone forgets. In fact, most of the details of our lives — the people we meet, the things we do and the places we go — will inevitably be reduced to memories that capture only a small fraction of those experiences.

It is normal to be more forgetful as you get older. Generally, memory functions begin to decline in our 30s and continue to fade into old age. However, age in and of itself doesn’t indicate the presence of memory deficits that would affect an individual’s ability to perform in a demanding leadership role. And an apparent memory lapse may or may not be consequential, depending on the reasons it occurred.

There is forgetting, and there is Forgetting. If you’re over the age of 40, you’ve most likely experienced the frustration of trying to grasp that slippery word on the tip of your tongue. Colloquially, this might be described as forgetting, but most memory scientists would call this retrieval failure, meaning that the memory is there but we just can’t pull it up when we need it. On the other hand, Forgetting (with a capital F) is when a memory is seemingly lost or gone altogether. Inattentively conflating the names of the leaders of two countries would fall in the first category, whereas being unable to remember that you had ever met the president of Egypt would fall into the second.

Over the course of typical aging, we see changes in the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, a brain area that plays a starring role in many of our day-to-day memory successes and failures. These changes mean that as we get older, we tend to be more distractible and often struggle to pull up words or names we’re looking for. Remembering events takes longer, and it requires more effort, and we can’t catch errors as quickly as we used to. This translates to a lot more forgetting and a little more Forgetting.

Many of the special counsel’s observations about Mr. Biden’s memory seem to fall in the category of forgetting, meaning that they are more indicative of a problem with finding the right information from memory than Forgetting. Calling up the date that an event occurred, like the last year of Mr. Biden’s vice presidency or the year of his son’s death, is a complex measure of memory. Remembering that an event took place is different from being able to put a date on when it happened, which is more challenging with increased age. The president very likely has many memories, even though he could not immediately pull up dates in the stressful (and more immediately pressing) context of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Other “memory” issues highlighted in the media are not so much cases of forgetting as they are of difficulties in the articulation of facts and knowledge. For instance, in July 2023, Mr. Biden mistakenly stated in a speech that “we have over 100 people dead,” when he should have said, “over one million.” He has struggled with a stutter since childhood, and research suggests that managing a stutter demands prefrontal resources that would normally enable people to find the right word or at least quickly correct errors after the fact.

Americans are understandably concerned about the advanced age of the two top contenders in the coming presidential election (Mr. Biden is 81, and Donald Trump is 77), although some of these concerns are rooted in cultural stereotypes and fears around aging. The fact is that there is a huge degree of variability in cognitive aging. Age is, on average, associated with decreased memory, but studies that follow up the same person over several years have shown that although some older adults show precipitous declines over time, other super-agers remain as sharp as ever.

Mr. Biden is the same age as Harrison Ford, Paul McCartney and Martin Scorsese. He’s also a bit younger than Jane Fonda (86) and a lot younger than the Berkshire Hathaway C.E.O., Warren Buffett (93). All these individuals are considered to be at the top of their professions, and yet I would not be surprised if they are more forgetful and absent-minded than when they were younger. In other words, an individual’s age does not say anything definitive about the person’s cognitive status or where it will head in the near future.

I can’t speak to the cognitive status of any of the presidential candidates, but I can say that, rather than focus on candidates’ ages per se, we should consider whether they have the capabilities to do the job. Public perception of a person’s cognitive state is often determined by superficial factors, such as physical presence, confidence and verbal fluency, but these aren’t necessarily relevant to one’s capacity to make consequential decisions about the fate of this country. Memory is surely relevant, but other characteristics, such as knowledge of the relevant facts and emotion regulation — both of which are relatively preserved and might even improve with age — are likely to be of equal or greater importance.

Ultimately, we are due for a national conversation about what we should expect in terms of the cognitive and emotional health of our leaders.

And that should be informed by science, not politics.

Charan Ranganath is a professor of psychology and neuroscience and the director of the Dynamic Memory Lab at the University of California, Davis, and the author of “ Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory’s Power to Hold On to What Matters .”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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