Wednesday, June 24, 2009

If you have to explain a joke . . .

Dear John . . .
You skunk-sucking bastard . . .

-- Hunter S. Thompson, letter to John Chancellor of NBC News, Sept. 11, 1972, reprinted in Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72

The humorous intent of my post congratulating Peter Suderman on his new gig at Reason magazine apparently was not apparent to all readers, as indicated by one commenter who described it as "an angry, childish, personal attack."

One would think that the phrase "acromegalic inamorata" would have been what they call a "tell" in Vegas. Or maybe the extended riff on the old free-milk-and-a-cow adage.

Well, never mind all that, let's do it Joe Friday style. Peter Suderman is an extraordinarily witty writer. The last time I saw him and Megan at a party in D.C., they informed me that they were, as young folks now say, "in a relationship." Or as more old-fashioned folks might say, fornicating.

Shagging. Gettin' jiggy. Living in sin. Whatever.

I immediately inquired when the couple planned to wed. This is my customary expression of "family values" when speaking to young people in Washington, where knocking boots without benefit of clergy is so commonplace as to be unremarkable.

Indeed, such is the mentality of young Washingtonians -- a consequence of our sexualized popular culture -- that a middle-aged mentor cannot consult with an attractive female protege without provoking whispers that some sort of concupiscent motivation must be involved.

Ergo, one learns to take this as the joke it is, and to turn it into a self-parodic schtick. So I'm the D.C. mack daddy pimp in the same way I'm a neo-Confederate lesbian. (Being notorious is not the same thing as being famous, etc.)

As the token social conservative in an ocean of cultural libertarians, I find it convenient to treat matters of sex humorously. On the one hand, I'm sincere in my advocacy of traditional family values -- Peter and Megan should get married immediately and rapidly spawn at least half-a-dozen babies, so as to invoke the expression "Irish twins" -- but on the other hand, I'm aware that most young people don't take that stuff seriously.

So I sometimes do things like alluding to the first chapter of Romans (well worth reading, especially in the King James Version) in hope that maybe these kids come from a background where such a reference might ring a bell. As Pastor Lon Solomon says, just a suggestion, not a sermon.

Hunter Thompson and John Chancellor were friends, and so when Thompson called Chancellor a skunk-sucking bastard, he meant it in a good way. Likewise when I called Suderman a "rent boy" and a "charity case," and suggested that he'd soon be flashing around his newfound wealth in the manner of a first-round NBA draft pick.

However, it is quite true that McArdle has never once linked me, not even after I gallantly escorted her home through the mean streets of D.C. one night when she suffered a spell of vertigo at a party. (Rumors that I secretly dosed her with ruhypnol and then had my way with her should be taken with a grain of salt, absent videographic proof.)

I'm a big enough man not to resent the non-linkage too much, but I feel compelled at least to mention it occasionally -- in the same way I mention that I am The Blogger Whom Allah Hateth -- lest the snobs who snub me think I'm too stupid to notice I'm being snubbed.

Even a self-parody must have some pride, and the snobs cannot be allowed to believe that they really are as superior as they wish others to think.


  1. MM is libertarian in name only. She believes that a live free or die gun-clinger such as myself needs Ivy-elites such as herself to make decisions that my beliefs preclude me from making correctly.

    Read any article she has written in the past year. Tell me I'm wrong. I put her current rag, the NYT and NPR down last year and I feel fine.

    Like Josey Wales said.

  2. I don't know, Stacy. I think the first post was pretty obviously a joke, but that's just me. Guess you can't be too careful these days...

  3. Now I understand why there are never any comments

  4. Ms. McArdle used to frequently mention her "roommate" which made me think, "The Atlantic must pay awful if she can't even afford her own place." I don't really want to know about her domestic arrangements but I'm glad to know it is at least not only due to the notorious low pay of the journalism profession.

  5. I dunno. If I wanted to read D.C. gossip, I'd Google it, for crying out loud.

  6. Sometimes Dave Barry would put in a column the phrase 'I am not making this up'.

    Perhaps you should add the parenthetical comment (I am kidding)? The humor-ful will reognize the joke and the joke of the parenthetical disclaimer; the humor-less will receive a clue.

    There is a real reason why warning labels are on manufactured products.