It's not the most respectful place to sit, but at least she didn't pee on it.
I realized I had a crappy first name when I was five.
Our family was moving from Chicago to Peoria. One day, close to moving time, sitting shotgun, my mother was running errands. At a stoplight she turned and said, “We’re moving somewhere where nobody knows you. If you’d like to change your first name, now is the time.” I had always gone by D.J. (and still do today), but the message I received in that moment was clear.READ MORE
Throughout the course we were taught the math behind The Onion’s News In Brief articles, the structure and composition of those articles, where to insert jokes, and how to tighten them up for maximum funny. I posted a few weeks worth of homework here, and then stopped. The reason for this is explained below.
Each week we learned a few “funny filters” which are types of jokes, and then sent home to write headlines and an article in those particular styles. For a while I would parrot back what I did in class. But I thought better of it in week four when we learned “shock.”
For “shock” jokes you wander out to the extreme edge of decency. Then you catapult yourself off the ledge into the abyss of darkness. That’s your base. After you find depravity, then you have to figure out a way to make “shock” funny. Because it’s actually very easy to be shocking. I think we can agree that telling a story to a friend where you called a nun the c-word would qualify as shocking. The friend might even chuckle, because often times we laugh at shocking statements. It would be a cheap laugh, however because it isn’t particularly funny. Nor is it an insightful or intelligent critique of society. Satire is The Onion’s goal, which means you must have a point of view.
Years ago I was walking with a girlfriend and we saw a nun running at full speed down the street on the sidewalk, wearing a habit. I asked, “You know why nuns are able to run so fast? Because they’re always being chaste.” It’s a dumb pun, but I like dumb puns so go jump in a lake.
To be able to complete the shock homework your mind has to go to some dark places. And mine did. The good news is that I was in a class filled with humor writers who have no boundaries. You were allowed to say pretty much anything without judgement. But this is a public blog. I wrote some truly terrible things for that exercise. I can share a few of what was submitted, but I won’t post everything. I think the reason for this is obvious. Some readers would get offended. And rightfully so. So I ain’t sharing it, because I don’t need the hate on Twitter.
Well, I’ll share two – these were the least disgusting headlines I penned.
Apple Watch 85% Accurate Predicting Diabetes And 100% Accurate Predicting Nerds
Valentine’s Day Difficult For Nation’s Unlovable Residents
This class we were taught three new filters – Reference, Character, and Irony. I won’t bore you with definitions of these filters, one because they’re relatively obvious, and two because nobody comes to this blog to be educated. People read this website for a chuckle, and usually at my expense. However, since I’m not writing about my folly these days you’ll have to settle for my submitted homework below.
I won’t even go into a whole thing about irony and how most people use the term incorrectly, because I actually enjoy that people say it wrong in that it makes me feel superior, and self esteem is important to me.
One positive thing that is happening as a result of the homework is that I write far fewer misses than hits. In previous weeks it would take fifty headlines to end up with ten winners. Now, I write maybe fifteen to get to ten. However, it still takes almost as many hours. Which means there’s a great deal of time where I’m staring at the wall waiting for a decent thought to emerge. Sometimes I’ll scan USA Today to see what’s going on in the world as a source of inspiration. If I was a smarter man I’d check out the Wall Street Journal but they have fewer pictures and use words I have to look up.
One of the exercises we perform each week in class, after learning that session’s funny filters, is immediately start writing examples of said filters. After a short period of time we pick our best and test them in class. Since we had just learned the particular joke structure minutes before, this is a way to test your resolve in humiliation. Because what you have just written is almost assuredly of poor quality, and you are now about to reveal it to all your classmates only to watch their blank expressions as the joke misses.
I’m a huge fan of Oliver Cromwell’s (minus the post mortem beheading), so here’s a few warts and all from this week’s in-class exercise.
Reference – Morning Of Dental Exam Area Man Decides To Start Flossing
Character – Shirtless Selfie Guy On Tinder Believes Optimal Lighting In Bathroom
Irony – After Baby’s Birth Dog Becomes Most Important Member Of FamilyREAD MORE
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In this course we are taught about satire and how The Onion approaches comedy. The publication is known for its sharp, pithy headlines and these headlines are the primary focus of the class. Headlines, in fact, are so important, it’s how The Onion selects articles for publication. Every week hundreds of headlines are submitted by editors and five or so articles emerge from that list. Their very best writers only have about a 1 in 50 chance of their headline becoming an article. We are asked each week to bring our ten best headlines and one article to be evaluated by classmates and instructor.
I was pleased with my work in week one. The jokes went over in most cases, and I felt that I had the knack to keep knocking out decent work in subsequent sessions. This proved more difficult than I had anticipated. In week one it only took two hours to write fifty headlines. The reason to write fifty is that forty are bound to be terrible. For example I am 100% in love with this headline:
Study Finds Camels Who Smoke Prefer Kools
I’m clear that there’s not one person on the planet that will share my love of that headline. It’s dumb. So there’s no way I can submit it in class unless I’m interested in sucking all of out the funny of the room. And since I care very much what others think of me, I wouldn’t include that in my final list.
But still, two hours of work got me ten decent headlines which performed well in class. However, this past week, I spent ten hours to generate that same output. I’m not sure why it took three times longer, but I can tell you it was frustrating. When I whittled down my list of fifty, I wasn’t pleased with the final ten. By my estimate, only five of the ten were winners. And, I guess if I had put in another ten hours maybe I would have perfected all of them, but I don’t have that kind of time. Peaky Blinders doesn’t watch itself.
One bright spot was that my article came out stronger than last week. Read aloud in class most of the students didn’t laugh at the story, but that’s because I don’t think they understood the reference. My teacher thought it was good, and she’s the expert.
For your reading enjoyment (or non-enjoyment), here’s my submitted list, warts and all.
– Headlines –
Alexa Always Listening, Silently Judging
Man Encouraged Not To Ask Wife To Pick Up Dinner On Way Home From Women’s March
Guy At Work Who Brags About Never Getting Sick Needs to Shut The Fuck Up
Megyn Kelly Surprisingly Proud of Taking Down 80 Year Old Woman
Local Man “Pretty Sure” Ex-Girlfriend Is Still Using His Netflix Account
Multicolored Mystery Stain on Presenter’s Pant Leg Derails Corporate Meeting
Gayle King Cancels “Gayle for VEEP” Bumper Sticker Order With A Deep Sigh
First Monkey Successfully Cloned, Ready to Throw Feces At Zoo Patrons
Shirtless Selfie Guy On Tinder Believes Best Photography Lighting In Bathroom
In April 1992 I fell in love with National Lampoon Magazine.
I bought my first issue at a local drugstore and raced home, excited to find out if this would be a worthy successor to my Mad Magazine fascination as a child. I had matured, albeit slightly, and was seeking a more sophisticated type of funny. I found it in National Lampoon. I decided after reading the issue that I would make it a life’s goal to write something worthy of the magazine’s inclusion. The problem was that as a sophomore in high school, I had never written anything. Plus, I was unfunny. Oh, and the National Lampoon quit publishing about a year later. I shelved the dream of being a writer and re-focused my efforts on trying to bone senior Ashley Ripley who once smiled at me in homeroom, to which I assumed meant she wanted this (note – pointing currently at self). She didn’t.
About seven years ago I started ThoughtsFromParis because I figured I would DIY the dream of being a humor writer. Which sort of worked for the first few posts but then I ran out of stories. I knew that if I was going to continue I would need to talk more about myself. My blog became less about hilarious stories and more about finding the chuckle of everyday life. I have a normal job and not too much crazy happens to me on the regular.
After many years of writing about myself I feel that I have developed a strong skill set in this type of writing. But it’s never been what I wanted to do creatively. My dream was always to make up funny and outrageous stories that weren’t about me. Thankfully, some old National Lampoon editors have revived the idea with the hilarious print magazine American Bystander, and I’m close to submitting my first piece, which (at least the title) was well received by their editor in chief.
I also realized, in trying to complete the Bystander article, that I have very little ability in writing anything other than in the style of this dumb blog. I reached out to my friend Tim O’Malley for advice. Tim is one of the big-deals at Second City and knows what to do about such matters. He recommended a class that The Onion developed in partnership with Second City. I signed up immediately.
Over the remainder of this writing course I’ll be honing skills on how to write headlines and articles in the style of The Onion’s humor. Each week we submit ten headlines and one article to be evaluated and discussed by the professor and students. As a blogger, I’m not used to instant feedback. If I think something is good, I write it and click publish. Being in this class I’ve learned that not everything I pen resonates with other human beings. Watching something I’ve written fall flat in a room of other funny people is humbling and humiliating. It’s also a lot of fun.
Because I’m putting a ton of energy into this class I thought it might be interesting to post my weekly submissions. Please understand I know not all of these are winners. To get to ten headlines, I write close to fifty and edit down. I then take the strongest one of the ten and write a full article. This first batch was presented to the class the other night, and most of them were well-received.
By the way, these headlines and articles are in a very specific Onion style, called News in Brief.
– Headlines –
Neighborhood Rabid Raccoon Wondering When Persecution Will End
Study Finds Dogs Prefer Organic GMO-Free Kibble – Also Garbage
Man Bravely Reheats Last Night’s Salmon Scaloppini In Company Microwave
Chipotle CEO Admits He Has No Idea What Barbacoa Is
Old Country Buffet in Shreveport Snubbed By Michelin. Again.
Actual Shithole Countries Excited To Be In News
Local Area Sexual Harasser Thrilled He’s Not A Celebrity These Days
Study Finds High School Sex Down 44% – Teen Skanks Devastated
Whole 30 Promises to Be Next Diet You Fail At
– Article –
Kevin Spacey Fan Club President Undeterred That Membership Is Down 8000%
SIOUX CITY, IA—Despite numerous shocking sexual abuse allegations against Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey, acting 2018 president of the a-lister’s fan club, Sherman Phillips, remains steadfast in supporting the celebrity through a fan-site and monthly print newsletter. “2017 was a tough year for our organization. Most of the management resigned, along with 97% of members,” Phillips said alluding to the actor’s troubles in the press, adding that they have begun selling rubber bracelets inscribed with WWFUD – What Would Frank Underwood Do in order to raise funds to keep the organization solvent. “Those [bracelets] are not selling well. However, we have a K-PAX temporary tattoo coming out next month which I believe will be a big hit with our remaining members.” When asked about the morality of keeping such a fan club active, Phillips deflected by launching into an impression of Spacey’s character from Glengarry Glen Ross where Spacey yells repeatedly at Alan Arkin to go to lunch.READ MORE
If you know what this is, you've wasted your life.
I had to be talked into this year’s card.
My girlfriend was certain it would land big with our friends and family, but what did she know? I’d like to think, for my own self esteem, that I’m the only one in the relationship with a rapier wit. Turns out she was right and the card was well-received. Many even reported that it was my best card to date. The credit for this success lands 100% in Liz’s lap.
Here’s how the idea came to be.
Months ago I took Liz to go see one of my favorite stand-ups, Jen Kirkman. At some point during her set, Jen turned her attention to Hallmark Christmas movies. While the jokes about these movies were funny, I had never seen one (nor heard of them). But as I looked around the audience was howling. I would estimate that 75% of the audience were female, so I chalked it up to something that women know about, but men don’t. Like heavy spotting days.
Later that night Liz declared that this would be the theme of our holiday card. I tried to convince her that nobody would get the joke. Since I had never seen one of these movies, clearly the masses hadn’t either. Liz reassured me that, not unlike most of our arguments, she was correct. After more resistance from me, I was encouraged to shut up. Also, I didn’t have a better idea, so I relented and agreed to move forward.
We took to Google Images which, if you’re not familiar, is the best place to steal copyrighted images. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you Liz and I looked at forty Hallmark holiday movie posters before deciding on a winner. This took hours and contained some heated arguments. Should we pick the cover where the two main characters were playfully throwing snowballs at each other, or the one where the guy is trying to balance seventeen packages in his arms while the woman is staring at the camera shrugging? Eventually we selected one, but for the life of me I can’t remember why it was chosen.
Next, we needed a Photoshop expert. Via Fiverr I hired a graphic designer to do the superimposition. We had to go back and forth a few times, and ultimately he still made my face too big, but it was close enough.
I went back to make sure superimposition was a word, because I was pretty sure I had fabricated it. Turns out it’s legit! Use that at your next cocktail party to impress the babes.
Now again, I was concerned that the joke would fail. And I take a lot of pride with these dopey holiday cards. I try to make the jokes hit like a sledgehammer – obvious and vulgar. This time it wasn’t really a joke, per se. It was just a reminder of these dumb movies that Liz convinced me everybody (but me) knew about. A reference to a pop-culture juggernaut, if you will.
The cards went out and we waited for response. And, to my credit, a few people didn’t understand the reference. But out of the 100 or so cards that we sent, it was almost universally praised (unlike the quality of these movies).
I did finally watch one on Christmas Eve. It starred Alan Thicke (of course) and Candace Cameron (also, of course) and halfway through her trying save the ski lodge I nearly jammed a golf pencil into my jugular. If you’ve ever watched a Hallmark Christmas movie, you know how painful they are to absorb. But instead of ending my own life I retreated to the guest bedroom and yelled at the wall for a few minutes. That calmed me down and I was able to return in time to see dad and daughter reunite on Christmas day. Also, the ski lodge didn’t fold, so that was nice. And, even though the movie was complete garbage, watching Alan Thicke and Candace Cameron embrace while the credits rolled was admittedly satisfying. It felt like Christmas.
So, here’s the card, for those of you who didn’t make the mailing list cut. Enjoy.
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I went to Nashville to see the eclipse because my dentist told me to.
Throughout my life, whenever anyone asks me to list my dream vacation destinations, I stare back with blank eyes. It has never occurred to me to cultivate places I’d like to visit. Even now, I have no idea of where I’d like to travel to next. I’ve never turned on the Travel Channel and I don’t find myself fantasizing of being anywhere other than where I currently am. That being said, I go on a fair number of trips. My only rule is that I never try to visit the same place twice. That’s for squares, if you ask me (you didn’t).
A few years ago I went to Nicaragua because someone tweeted the suggestion. Last year I did the fall color change thing in the North East due to a recommendation from a stranger. Because I have no travel goals of my own, I’m a blank canvas. If you provide me a good enough reason to visit Dubuque, Iowa, I just might load up the camper.
I do not own a camper, nor will I ever. My grandfather had a Winnebago and we once went on a multi-state trip. It was miserable. Riding in a Winnebago is the world’s most expensive way to travel third class.READ MORE
The surgeon who was to perform the hernia operation told me I must first see another doctor who could run the appropriate clearance tests. I guess once you become a surgeon you don’t have to do the low-level stuff. Like how the guy who drives the garbage truck doesn’t leave the driver’s seat. He’s got a guy riding on the back who deals with the actual garbage.
I protested that I didn’t need any tests and he could take my word that I was healthy enough to handle a small incision. My case was admittedly unconvincing as I didn’t have a fancy medical degree and my knowledge of gastroenterology was limited to knowing that word means “gut stuff.” I further weakened my position by acknowledging that I hadn’t read the medical questionnaire I was handed at the beginning of my appointment. He frowned when I told him this. But, c’mon, does anyone actually pour through those questions with precision? I simply checked “no” to every disorder, disease, or preexisting condition. If this was a more serious medical issue, like a triple heart bypass, I’d take the “Have you ever bled from the eyeballs?” question more seriously.
But even if I had completed the medical questionnaire correctly he would have made me get cleared for surgery anyway. It’s a malpractice thing. Lawyers ruin everything, right? I mean, until you need a lawyer to sue someone because they said you have a tiny wiener on Snapchat and though the message self-destructed a few people saw it and your reputation had been damaged enough to sue for restitution. I wouldn’t know because I don’t have a tiny wiener. Seriously. Let’s clear that shit up right quick.
Upon arrival at the medical testing facility I met the general practitioner who would perform the necessary exams. And while I feel that salespeople in general are annoying, I had to hand it to this guy. He was the best up-seller (note – not a word) I’ve ever seen. Halfway through the blood work he asks, “Hey, when’s the last time you had a physical?” It had been over a year and he said, “Should we tack it on?” I was already in my underwear so I said, “Sure.”
After the physical I was upsold again. “Hey, you’re dating, right?” I nodded. “You probably want to check for STDs, then. Should I perform the HIV test?” I told the doctor he did not need to sell me on an HIV test. In fact, I told him that for the rest of our relationship as a doctor-patient, he never again needed to ask me for permission to perform this test. He should just do the test. I don’t care if it’s free or costs $300. HIV is an important piece of information and I told him I would never say, “No thanks. I’m good.”
When he came back with the HIV-negative results a few minutes later, he pushed on. “You know, since we’re doing all this other stuff do you want us to test for every STD?” I said, “Once again, you never need to ask me that.” This doctor was now batting 1.000.. As he’s pricking my finger for herpes or whatever I asked, “Wait – does anyone actually turn down the STD test?” He said that many people do. Which made me feel superior to those people. Which felt good.
After all the tests were completed, he announced me I was in excellent shape for surgery, I added, “..also, in excellent shape to hit the disco tonight for some action, right Doc?” Not my best joke. “Actually,” he said, “We won’t know about the full STD results for three days. We’ll call you when they come in.”
I asked that they not call me unless it was bad news. I’d rather not be bothered. However, if they find out that I’m ridden with chlamydia, please go ahead and send word. He said that it was protocol to call with the results, positive or negative. I waived him off and said, “Seriously, just call if there’s bad news.”
A nurse called a few days later and told me the lab results came in and that I was negative on all STDs. I thought of making a joke telling her I went to an EDM concert over the weekend and that all hell broke loose and I’d need to get rescanned, but thought better of it.
I once dated a girl whose favorite genre was EDM. Every time I walked into her townhome that awful music was playing. And I’d have to take deep breaths until the feeling of wanting to smash the stereo over her head would leave me. It’s too stressful to date a chick with bad taste in music.READ MORE