May 10, 2006
I never liked Erma Bombeck. I always resented the fact that she was called "one of America's great humor writers" and that she had a syndicated column and sold a lot of books.
I didn't resent her because she had achieved a level of success that eluded me, I resented her because she was a no-talent.
Her schtick — her entire act — was that a matronly fiftyish woman with graying hair could talk about unfunny things like wrinkles and raising children and millions of other matronly women would swoon with glee.
That said, I entered the Erma Bombeck writing competition nonetheless, my eyes on the $500 cash prize.
I had gone back and read some previous winners, and they had that typical cute, smarmy writing style that lots of people mistake for true humor (regular "Low Tidings" readers know real humor invariably involves genitalia, body fluids, and infected cysts and boils).
I turned in what I though was a pretty strong entry. Naturally, I didn't actually create anything new, I just culled some excerpts from "Low Tidings" about cage-free eggs, one percent milk, and 12-grain bread and combined them into a column about healthy eating. I spent a good 15 minutes on it, so imagine my shock when I found out today that I didn't win! (I have, after all, won four of the six humor writing contests I've been involved in.)
The winner was Jennifer Brown. Her "hilarious" essay was about cooking biscuits for her children. A runner-up wrote about finding a Band-Aid in the stuffing of her Thanksgiving turkey during family dinner. I read down the list of honorable mentions: Rita Lussier, Wendy Sang, Rae Frazier, Gabriella Papic, Beth Tucker Graves, Jennifer Wagley . . . Hmm, I realized all these "winners" have one thing in common — a vagina.
In fact, 15 of the 16 "humorists" recognized were female. Ever the investigative reporter, I tracked down who the judges were. Marybeth Hicks and Leigh Anne Joshaway-Bryant were the culprits. Hicks writes a column for The Washington Post and started her career writing "special correspondence and talking points for President Ronald Reagan" — we all know how funny Ronnie was. She's "under contract to develop a parenting book." Those are her qualifications to judge humor. I don't know her, but I submit to you this woman wouldn't know true wit if it were presented to her on an infected boil.
Leigh Anne Joshaway-Bryant has too many names and thus it can safely be concluded she is a self-obsessed cow.
But I looked her up anyway, just to be sure. Her hilarious works include the side-splitting book Bedside Stories For Dogs and the play Are We There Yet, which I'm sure we've all seen and roared through. Then I saw the real reason she is qualified to be the judge: she won the Erma Bombeck humor writing competition in 2003.
So this is how the contest works: a couple of cows who write about parenting pick other vaginas who write the same boring swill as they do and exclude anyone with a penis.
I wouldn't mind, except — and I know this is going to offend some of you vaginas out there — MEN ARE FUNNIER THAN WOMEN. When you think about the great comedians of all time, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, and Rodney Dangerfield, they all have penises. When you think of the great humor writers, like Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen, yep — they got 'em.
Oh sure, there are some funny women, gals like Ellen Degeneres, Paula Poundstone, and Rosie O'Donnell, except they are lesbians. In other words, to be funny you must either have a penis or want a penis.
Let us now examine, in some detail, Brown's winning essay. Remember, it is a humor essay and thus designed to be funny:
"In the midst of baking birthday brownies, ferrying every teen in town to the mall, and scrubbing PlayDoh off my ears, I have this dream of finishing the romance novel I began writing before the kids were born . . ."
That's how this hysterical thing
begins. Right away we learn, yes, she's a parent. It seems she can't write because her kids want biscuits for breakfast. We learn this when the five-year old delivers this riotous one-liner:
"I want a biscuit for breakfast."
Later the kid clinches the humor prize for his mom when he utters the now classic, "and cheese, too."
At this point you have to wonder what the judges are thinking. But when Brown delivers her next line, the cows with vaginas realize she is indeed a comic genius:
"Okay, honey. Just give Mommy another minute."
That's as good as it gets, honest (you can read all this shit yourself on line, by the way.)
Based on the evidence before you ladies and gentlemen, I have no choice but to conclude I should have won the award, and ergo I am publicly calling on Jennifer Brown to give me the 500 bucks she stole from me.
The one man named, by the way, Dennis Roddy of Pittsburgh, won an honorable mention in the human interest category. Here is an excerpt:
". . . he had two options as a man: to live life indifferent to the misfortunes of others, even when he was a tangential player in their tragedies; or to embrace mankind and feel for others, an act that at once has made him more alive and more prone to the wound that must be bleeding somewhere in his spirit now."
God, us wacky guys. That's funny shit, isn't it?