Posts Tagged ‘Humor’

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

Political humor is a wonderful and necessary rhetorical tool in shaping our perceptions about politics and politicians.

Growing up in the 80s/90s, I was shaped in part by the many hilarious impersonations of politicians by one of America’s most notable comedic institutions: Saturday Night Live. A number of SNL’s most famous impersonations have become more ingrained in our culture than the actual politicians.

Still today, when I hear George H.W. Bush I first think of SNL’s Dana Carvey:

And Carvey again for Ross Perot:

Ross Perot

“Can. I. Finish?”

And Jon Lovitz as Michael Dukakis:


These days, it seems nearly impossible to separate Sarah Palin from Tina Fey’s brilliant impersonation of her:

Sarah Palin

When done well, political humor reveals critical truths about politicians, policies, laws, and societal injustices, all in a way that makes us laugh and makes topics a bit more palatable and approachable. Even scorching criticism can be made to seem charming in the right hands; Fey’s Palin is a good example. In some ways, so is Jimmy Fallon’s Trump impersonations, like when he played Trump with the cast of Full House.


Or back in the 90s when Phil Hartman’s Bill Clinton stopped in McDonald’s to sneak food off of customers’ plates:


In this way, humor invites a larger audience into important discussions. Upon taking over The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon was advised by his predecessor Jay Leno to lengthen his monologue because it isn’t just a source of laughter, but also as a way to inform people about the news of the day. And the same can be said for other famous sources of political humor like The Daily Show and The Onion.

However, I wonder if our round-the-clock access to social media, communication, and information has created a detrimental excess of political humor.

This week provided one possible example.

On Monday night, Donald Trump’s wife Melania spoke at the Republican National Convention. By the time I woke up early Tuesday morning, reports were posted everywhere that she had plagiarized a portion of her speech from a Michelle Obama speech. By the time I arrived at work, I had already seen countless posts across social media making fun of Melania and the situation. When I checked social media at lunch, the flood of jokes had not even slowed, nor had they when I checked social media again in the early evening. The jokes were coming from all levels: from regular folks to major publications and shows.

Not even 24 hours removed from Melania’s speech, I already thought, “Okay, the jokes have been absolutely beaten to death.”

Just to be clear, I have no allegiance or affiliation to either political party or candidate, and my example is not a veiled defense of Melania or the situation. I am all for anyone and everyone calling out any politician or any of their associates who do or say anything wrong, and I want people to be able to have productive dialogue about important issues. And that’s really a major part of my concern with the excess of humor.

Political humor, when done well and delivered in the right doses, inspires productive dialogue. But the well done doses are now surrounded by floods of other material, much of which is unfunny, and some of which can even be insulting and inflammatory, which just serves to shut down dialogue, not inspire it.

Partly, the poor material is a product of the “writers”; there is obviously a world of difference between John Q. Facebook trying to be witty and the professional writers developing material on shows like SNL, The Tonight Show, and The Daily Show.

Plus, on social media, many of the posts are just playing to the lowest common denominator to get attention and more ‘Likes’ while having zero concern for promoting thoughtfulness and dialogue.

Ultimately, the comedic congestion can turn important issues into white noise, meaning the inspired political humor that is aiming to be informative and transformative is getting partially (or completely) lost in the buzz. And if the flood of voices “kill the joke” so quickly, are people burning out on subjects before ever taking time to give the subject some proper thought and conversation?


By Jane Wendorff-Craps, English Faculty.

When the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts began our curriculum meeting one winter’s morning with a kitty meme from the internet, I thought, “No, no, not here, not now…” though internally I was clapping vigorously with my fingertips. It was so stinking cute I could puke right there in my auditorium chair with the pull up desktop, which strangely (and totally from a 70s timewarp) had a pencil etching of Kilroy.

Coincidentally, or not, our CLA (College of Liberal Arts) team put it upon themselves to have running jokes about kitties, their cuteness, and the sometimes pathetic human need to share and overshare this trendy feline phenomenon: cat memes. It is worse than the cute baby memes, in my opinion, because the baby pictures and videos are real time cuteness, and who doesn’t like to see babies doing what they do best: smile, burp, pass gas, and giggle.

It seems kitty memes have no proverbial line drawn in the sand. Each day on social media, and the televised news programs nonetheless, kitties are doing more than what kitties do. People are setting kitties in baskets of fruit with a title of “Still Life Cats.” Or, kitties are playing the piano with phantom human hands from underneath guiding poor Garfield’s paws as he tickles the ivories. Or, good ole Rover is curled up for a nap in the sunbeam with little tabby furball scrunched under his slobbery jowels… aw, ain’t that cute.

But oh, that is the least of our perturbed psyche expose; animal memes date way back… even before the invention of the internet by Al Gore. When I saw, as the article describes it, the “morbidly adorable work” by 19th century Walter Potter of Sussex, England, I had the Roger Rabbit double-take, eyes bulging out of sockets then springing back on coils, OMG WTF is this kind of reaction. I’ve heard of taxidermy, and I know many people with deer heads on their walls. I’ve read of people who stuff their pet dogs to have a continual remembrance of them after they pass. Heck, every museum I’ve ever visited had stuffed animals on display for whatever exhibit in whatever section, you know, as a learning tool for patrons. However, let us think about what Mr. Potter had to be doing in this image.


Tea Time for Kittens?

We have what looks like 12 cute and adorable kitties having tea. No, those are not Beenie Babies set upon Barbie chairs. This is Victorian era craziness at its finest.

It makes one wonder… If the kitties are real, albeit stuffed, are the tiny foods real too. Did the “artist” bake mini crumpets, pour drops of tea in the miniature china tea service, and are those real biscuits on that diminutive Wedgewood?

The worst pursuit of realistic wonder would have to be where he found 12 kittens, all of the tiger variety, and what kind of person would expire a tiny living creature and then stuff it for a bizzaro tea party only more out-weirded by Louis Carroll. Is it a coincidence the two men are from the same era, and even lived their adult lives just miles apart in Surrey and Sussex? Just what is it about south England residents in the Victorian era?

I imagine psychologists are having a hey-day over this one. I’m searching for an article by Freud to show the connection of sexually repressed Victorians and stuffing animals. Or not, I’m not sure I could sleep well after that enlightening read.


Fluffy bunnies exhibiting test anxiety.

What is it that humans are fascinated by in the “recreation” of a dead animal and posing it in some form? Hunters do it with their prey, saying something to the extent of “I killed this animal, and it was great, and I am great, let’s show this greatness to all who come into my living room.” Yet, what Mr. Potter did is a step further down the yellow brick road. He didn’t pose the animal in its natural form but in human situations. Was he the perverse(er) version of “the cat lady” who needs companionship of herds of animals in her living quarters? But dead ones. That’s the key point here. I’m alive, you’re dead, therefore I have power over your domain? Could it be the simple reason that Potter wanted to show how humans and animals are so similar? Yet when do cats ever elect to have a tea party? Or bunnies go to school to learn their ABC’s?

I’m having a hard time understanding how Potter is paying homage to the natural world by repositioning tiny animals in typical human activities. For some reason, when men of the past stuffed the now extinct dodo bird for posterity, I feel like that might have been of some service to the human race. Having a museum of kitties, bunnies, and hamsters eating and playing like they were the maker’s faux children seems a bit off (a bit Victorian cray-cray, so to speak). But that’s just one gal’s opinion.

By Blake Whitmore, RMU Student.

With Obama’s approval rating at an all-time low and serious issues like raising minimum wage and Obamacare being hot topics, people are flocking to Facebook to voice their opinions. Inevitably, debates begin. Friends are lost, family members are enraged, and rarely is a solution ever met. But with these 5 easy steps, you can win every Facebook argument ever.

1. Copy & paste EVERYTHING into Google
Research to find out if anything your opponent said is inaccurate or from a terrible source, like Joe Shmoe’s blog or Fox News. Chances are your opponent has done little to no research on this important political topic, just like you. So find all of their errors, manipulate them to your advantage, and finally exploit them!

duty_calls2. Present data & numbers
It does not really matter if your data has sources; people like numbers. List dollar amounts and percentages so people will think you are smart and informed. Be specific too. Throw in a few decimal places to make is all look legit.

3. Repeat yourself over and over and over and….
If your opponent did not respond the way you hoped just rephrase your statement and comment again. Eventually you will get the right wording that they will understand and ultimately you will change their opinion.

4. Expand your vocabulary
Make sure to use large words that you only vaguely understand. Your opponent will think you are more educated than them. Make sure to hit on all the hot button words you heard on the news while walking by the television this morning: socialized healthcare, debt ceiling, deficit, and economic inflation. We are all unparagoned, so you have to assert that you are smarter. You want to make sure to nidificate the situation. Throw in a excogitative statement about Bitcoin, because no one actually knows how that works, but you can sound like you do!

5. Put your foot down
Your opponent is definitely wrong. Make that very clear throughout the argument. Start your statements with, “The cold hard fact is…”. That makes it sound super serious and really important. It will terrify your opponent and make them cower in fear behind their keyboards. They will eventually submit and tell you that you were right. You knew you were right from the beginning, but there’s nothing like validation from Facebook friends you haven’t seen in years.

Congratulations! You now have the skills to win any political debate on Facebook!

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty. 

In high school, my indefatigable math teacher, Mr. Sycz, informed me and the rest of his unsuspecting students that the majority of adult life is spent at work. As such, he wisely advised us to choose our careers carefully. What he failed to mention was that all those hours at work will be spent with other people. Regrettably, there is no way to select our coworkers; the only recourse is to cross your fingers. How fortunate, then, that I love both what I do and the people with whom I work.

I’ve always liked working cooperatively with others, a natural result of growing up with six siblings. At every job I’ve had in my 25 years of RMUILsealwork (Cowgill Printing, McDonald’s, Dimitri’s Restaurant, Mr. Todd’s Cleaners, Royalview Manor, First Community Village, The Courtyard, Country Counter, Dick’s Last Resort, Cleveland State University, Kent State University, Cuyahoga Community College, Grafton Street Pub, Lakeland Community College, Academy at the Lakes, Hillsborough Community College, Harold Washington College, Columbia College, and RMU), I’ve met and worked with fantastic people who’ve helped make any work less tiresome. The same is true here at good ol’ RMU, where I have worked since arriving in Chicago in 2007.

My RMU colleagues are tremendous people, and we know each other incredibly well. Since my coworkers are diligent and dedicated teachers, I am already predisposed to like them and admire their efforts. They are all CLAwonderfully smart, too, of course, each in his or her unique way. Everyone I work with will stop to help a fellow teacher or student. Everyone will devote his or her expertise to our shared purpose: the endlessly worthwhile endeavor of education.

Most importantly, my co-workers at RMU, specifically the CLA members (many of them Turtle writers, too) are generous and thoughtful. What follows is just a small sampling of the everyday—but in no way ordinary—kindnesses my colleagues show to one another.

Paula provides lunch when Fridays involve the dreaded all-day meetings.

If there are cookies next to the coffee pot, they are probably courtesy of Turtle father Michael.

Jenny supplies us all with fresh vegetables from her considerable garden.

Pyle created the “cabinet of wonders,” a repository of free books, Cd’s, and DVD’s to share.

I’d be surprised to find a more sympathetic listener than Ellen.

Cynthia keeps the refrigerator stocked with fancy flavored creams to augment the free coffee.

Pat McNicholas brings homemade fudge every finals week.

Paul jots down the best zingers on his whiteboard to highlight the general goofiness in the CLA suite.

If Peter does anything, you can bet it will be done with “alacrity and aplomb.”

Like any good family, we endure each other’s idiosyncrasies, often turning flaws into perfections of a different kind. Mick tells the same Irish jokes every St. Patrick’s Day, year after year: how excruciatingly wonderful.

When my colleagues aren’t busy conducting research, planning curriculum, teaching classes, grading papers, or attending meetings, we can be found in the CLA office giggling like teenagers. We pretend that we are in a workplace sitcom called “RMU Kiddin’ Me.” We’re all certain the show would be hilarious, of course, which illustrates my good fortune in both terms of my job and my coworkers.

There is nothing quite as delightful as laughing at work, something I enjoy every single day. The funniest line or exchange will be added to Paul’szipper white board. If a joke is too inappropriate, it is designated as “Invisible Whiteboard” material and will remain a joke amongst ourselves.


Paul, “I’ll send you the ZIP file.”

Me, “I can never remember how to unzip things.”

Paul, “Then how do you get dressed in the morning?”

Insert the cutesy sitcom title here.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Anyone who knows Peter Stern, knows that he has a way with words.  As you can tell from many of his Turtle posts, and as many of his coworkers would readily admit, Peter can be quite loquacious.  But, that does not mean Peter is not wisely pithy when it suits him.  So, for your reading enjoyment, I give you some of the best Peter Stern-isms of the last year, as witnessed by myself and my fellow Turtle-ite Paul Gaszak.

Peter is the master of analogy:

 On the idea of Wrigley Field adding a jumbotron: “It’s like someone whipping out their genitals in Holy Name Cathedral.”

Peter does not view the world in simple dualistic catagories:

RMU Student: I’m a failure.

Dr. Stern: That’s not true. You’re just not a success.

Peter displaying his Socratic wisdom:

Gerry Dedera: Peter, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Peter Stern: I couldn’t be more wrong? Just wait a minute.

Peter contemplating his own photographic image:

I don’t believe that’s me at all; I think it looks much more like Marcel Proust after letting his hair grow out a bit and turn gray.

Peter using humor to illustrate society’s prejudices:

Carol Bivin: Why is it that a woman has never been elected President?
Peter: Well, let me tell ya, sweetie pie….

Peter as instructor:

Paul Gaszak: I told your students to move to the back row, because you educate with such force that there is a blast radius.
Peter: The force was so great that it actually pushed them out the door.

Peter as critic of our society’s obsession with physical beauty:

Paul Gaszak (A runner extraordinaire): Did you make a big deal of Cynthia’s birthday yet?

Peter: We are going to celebrate later when you’re out narcissistically jogging or whatever it is your selfishly do.

Peter being Peter:

Paul Gaszak: I thought we’d be the birthday strippers (for Cynthia’s party). You want to be the policeman or the fireman?

Peter: I can do both.

Happy Holidays, from the Turtle!

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

Thanksgiving is here! It’s time to eat as much as possible and then do some Black Friday shopping for bigger pants. But this holiday isn’t just about giving your cholesterol a boost; it’s also about giving thanks. So, allow me to give thanks:

  • I am thankful that Jesus invented Thanksgiving.
    • I just wonder where he plugged in the electric carving knife.
      • Never mind. I forgot. Jesus doesn’t need an outlet.

Last Supper

  • I am thankful that the Pilgrims brought turkeys to America on the Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria, and Titanic.
  • I am thankful that Europeans and Native Americans got along so well that not even a trace of of tension or racism exists to this day.

Redskins logo

  • I am thankful for cornucopias: the classiest way to spill produce onto a table.


  • I am thankful for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, because no one gets tired of seeing gigantic, inflatable versions of culturally irrelevant cartoon characters.
    • I am also thankful for C-rate musicians who lip-sync on floats.

Woody Woodpecker

  • I am thankful that a turkey’s body cavity was specifically designed for stuffing.
    • I am thankful for the wishbone, which can grant anyone’s wish except the turkey’s.
  • I am thankful for ham, which like turkey, ends up on our plates only out of obligation.
  • I am thankful for Pillsbury crescent rolls, which are half doughy deliciousness, half pipe bomb.

pillsbury rolls

  • I am thankful for potatoes au gratin, ’cause au damn they’re good.
  • I am thankful for casseroles, all of which are absolutely “secret family recipes” and not at all taken from a Campbell’s soup label.
  • I am thankful that Ocean Spray cranberry sauce doesn’t have the shape and consistency of dog food.
Ocean Spray, Purina? Purina, Ocean Spray?

Ocean Spray, Purina? Purina, Ocean Spray?

  • I am thankful for the family and friends who think “Can you please pass the mashed potatoes?” means “Can you please pass along your unsolicited views on politics and religion?”
    • “Also pass the gravy boat of self-righteous anger and ignorance. Thanks!”
  • I am thankful for alternative recipes to classic dishes, because every gathering needs one item we can all agree not to eat.
"Everyone grab a spoon! I brought mashed beets! It's so much better than the normal people food that you all would rather eat!"

“Everyone grab a spoon! I brought mashed beets! It’s so much better than the normal food you all were expecting to eat and enjoy.”

  • I’m thankful for the NFL tradition of having the Detroit Lions play on Thanksgiving. There’s nothing better than eating dinner while watching a perennial Super Bowl contender.

  • I am thankful for jello molds, so that even the laziest relatives can contribute.
  • I am thankful that pecan pie is both tasty and low-cal.
  • I am thankful for pumpkin pie, whose pushy, narcissistic ways have earned it a starring role in two major holidays.
    • On a related note, I’m thankful for whipped cream.
  • I am thankful to tryptophan, the official amino acid of Thanksgiving, for making it biologically acceptable to say, “It sure is getting late,” shortly after dessert.
  • I am thankful for Tupperware, which keeps Thankgiving going all weekend long, like a drunk, lonely buddy who guilt trips you into having “just…one…more.”
Tupperware: In use for only days, yet dirty in the sink for months.

Tupperware: In use for days, dirty in the sink for months.

  • I am thankful for giving thanks, because thanks giving makes Thanksgiving the prime time for thanks. So, thanks for that. Happy Thanksgiving!

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

The 2013-2014 NFL season is here! Like many Americans, I can’t wait to watch all the action, follow all the stories, and waste valuable time over-analyzing my fantasy football teams. My boldest prediction for the season is that the Miami Dolphins will defeat the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl. Beyond that, here are other bold predictions:

—Our nation will witness a steep increase in wildlife-based profanity, like, “WTF, Bears?”

—Chicagoans will whine all winter about the cold, all while proudly proclaiming it “Bear Weather” every Sunday.

—Someone will say “Buccaneer” without being drunk on Captain Morgan and speaking in a Pirate-y voice.captain-morgan-pic

—At halftime of a Sunday night game, I will realize that I’m still wearing the same clothes I woke up in, which will prompt me to reevaluate my life as I eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch with my only clean dishware: a mixing bowl and a serving spoon.

—Detroit Lions fans will finally question why their team name is so geographically inaccurate. “Are there lions in Detroit? And are they blue? What have we been doing with our lives…?”

—At least one man will finally realize how sad it is for an adult to walk around in public wearing a team jersey on non-gamedays.

ickey—Someone under 30 will think the “Ickey Shuffle” is another name for the “Walk of Shame.”

—The Miami Dolphins will sign Tim Tebow, prompting the media to nickname the team “The Jesus Fish.” fish_black

—After Tebow is cut by the Dolphins, he will be hired by the Saints as a holy water boy.

—Someone will say “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore,’” after a Baltimore Ravens sack and then act all smug like that just earned them their Ph.D. in American Literature.

—It will be revealed that Terry Bradshaw and Hulk Hogan are the same person.terry bradshawhulk hogan

—Jerry Jones will become dissatisfied with the size of his current stadium jumbotron and deciaaron-rodgers-cheddar chexde to project Cowboys games on the face of the moon.

—Aaron Rodgers, State Farm, and General Mills will team up to make Discount Double Chex Mix.

—For the first time, a professional athlete will actually be spotted eating a Subway sandwich.

—Tom Brady will continue to be annoyingly handsome.

—In a stroke of tactical genius, Bill Belichick will confuse his opponents by ditching his schlubby hoodie for a full tuxedo complete with top hat, cane, and monocle.bellitux

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

Every Thursday night as I walk across Robert Morris University’s Chicago campus to my night class, I stop to get a cup of free coffee – or as I call it, liquid supplemental income – from one of the faculty lounge areas.

I didn’t drink coffee regularly until I was 21 when I started management training at the Chicago Tribune to run a Distribution Agency. This required me to be up through the night, seven days a week. My bosses offered me coffee the first night and I politely declined, but like java-pushing drug dealers they said, “Oh, you’ll be drinkin’ coffee by the end of training.”

I said, “No chance!”

A week later, they found me outside a 7-11 in the fetal position, jittering and surrounded by empty styrofoam cups, my nose caked in powder creamer.

These days, I have coffee only a few times a week at most. On Thursdays, the coffee is more for routine than effect, because it no longer perks me up. It’s one of the few beverages that doesn’t have a measurable effect on me. For example, milk makes my bones strong, Gatorade rehydrates me, and tequila makes me think I’m attractive to women.

I get my coffee from a delightful, space age coffee machine with a digital screen, fancy buttons, and coffee packets that look vaguely like birth control pill cases. I always select the “Donut Shop” coffee, and consequently feel saddened and misled when it doesn’t also produce a donut.

After adding a packet of creamer, I come to the hard part: the sweetening options.

Morpheus SweetenersI have convinced myself that I have a preferred artificial sweetener, though I can’t tell you which one, partly because I don’t identify the options by name, but by color. There’s the blue, the pink, and the yellow. They’re probably all the same, and they may not even be sweetener. There’s a good chance it’s just drywall dust from inside the Blue-Pink-Yellow factories. But I’ve convinced myself I need to select the correct color as if it won’t just determine the outcome of my coffee, but of my entire night. It’s like having Morpheus as a barista.

I consider using regular sugar to avoid this problem. It would be the healthier option, after all. Recent studies have shown that regular consumption of sweeteners will gradually turn you into something artificial and overly sweet.

We get it, Rachael. You're chipper and happy. Now stop it.

We get it, Rachael. You’re chipper and happy. Now stop it.

This explains Rachael Ray.

The problem with real sugar is that it is antisocial. The coffee and creamer mingle with ease, but the sugar granules just want to hangout together at the bottom of the cup. Stir all you want. You have a better shot of mixing the boys and girls at a Bayside High dance after a Zack Morris prank.

Limbo brought Bayside back together. You might even say Tori got "Sweet n' Low" to win.

Limbo brought Bayside back together. You might even say Tori got “Sweet n’ Low” to win.

That’s why I like the artificial sweeteners – they’re the social butterflies of the beverage world. They come dressed in colors and fit right in.

By the way, have you ever thought about how someone had to discover that stirring coffee was the most effective way to equally distribute sugar and cream throughout a beverage? There had to be unsuccessful early attempts to mix components, like drinking without stirring, or shaking, or blowing bubbles with a straw. Somebody had to be the first to tell his friends, “No, no, no. You’re doing it all wrong. Check THIS out….”

Fun fact: The person who discovered it was Alfred B. Stirrin of Bournemouth, England in 1610. Share that with your friends.

During the short walk from the lounge to my classroom, I inevitably spill some coffee on my hand. I wipe it off with handouts or quizzes when I get to the lectern, making sure to pass those soiled versions out to create the illusion that I stayed up all night preparing for class.

Is this a scene from Office Space or me lecturing on Thursdays? It's hard to tell.

Is this a scene from Office Space or me lecturing on Thursdays? It’s hard to tell.

For the first half of class, I lecture with Bill Lumbergh breath and even continue to take a few sips from the cup after it’s empty, just because I feel I teach better when I have a prop.

And a week from now, this will all happen again, because routines are hard to shake, particularly when coffee is involved, and my Thursday nights are already set to brew.