Posting part of an old standup routine last week reminded me to be on the lookout for people developing their own comedy bits as I went through my inbox over the weekend. Sure enough, I found plenty of them. So here’s a version of From the News in which we pay homage to the funny, funny people out there.
‘Simpsons’ creator giving away his fortune to … ?
One of the co-creators of The Simpsons is giving away a lot of money:
Since word got out about Sam Simon’s cancer, this co-creator of “The Simpsons” and fervent philanthropist has heard from many people online asking to help rid him of his sizable wealth.
“Some people just want a million dollars. Or help with college tuition. And the rest have business propositions,” he chortles. “Like that should be my legacy: to lose money on your movie or your moisturizer line.
“I’m bedridden,” says Simon, milking the scenario for all its tragicomic worth, “weighing whether to dole my money to people lined up outside the house!”
He laughs, flashing a piano-keys grin. Then he gets serious.
“I’m supporting the charities that I supported during my lifetime,” he states, “and I want to continue to do that.” With every cent of his fortune.
Sam Simon has had much to think about since his advanced colon cancer was diagnosed last November after a year of inconclusive tests and mysterious discomfort.
Sam Simon sounds like a great guy and I sincerely wish he could pull off a miraculous recovery. I don’t think it’s funny that he’s dying. But this is:
In March, the headquarters of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in Norfolk, Va., was christened the Sam Simon Center in recognition of his support for that organization. Simon’s largesse carries over to humans, too, including a Los Angeles food bank that feeds 200 families each day in Simon style: with a vegan menu.
Sam Simon has been a vegan for decades, but he’s dying of colon cancer at age 58. So naturally, he supports a vegan food bank and is giving a huge chunk of his fortune to PETA – the same people who post billboards around the country warning people that eating meat causes colon cancer.
Good joke, Sam.
McMedia McWarnings over McVeggie wraps
Speaking of PETA, did you hear the one about the vegan who ate lunch at McDonald’s? Okay, neither did I, but perhaps that will change if McDonald’s has its way:
The new Santa Fe and Mediterranean Veggie wraps from McDonald’s, prepared at the head office in Toronto for a select audience, are delicious, brimming with flavour and texture.
Nice setup. Let’s see where this is going.
Finally, something new that adults can order when picky-eater offspring insist on Chicken McNuggets and fries: the restaurant chain announced Tuesday that it’s introducing the two new meatless items to its menu Canada-wide.
You’re suggesting adults are delighted they can finally order veggie wraps instead of cheeseburgers? Good one.
But consumers need to understand what they’re eating: The Santa Fe Signature McWrap contains 490 calories, 24 grams of fat, 56 grams of carbohydrates, 980 mg of sodium, 8 grams of fibre and 15 grams of protein.
A Big Mac contains 540 calories, 29 grams of fat, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 1,020 mg of sodium, 3 grams of fibre and 24 grams of protein.
So compared to a Big Mac, the veggie wrap has less protein, less fat and more carbohydrates. And people are going to order this as the “healthier” option. Okay, that’s worth a chuckle. But I had to glance up at the headline to see the real joke:
McDonald’s new veggie wrap: Delicious but high in fat, calories
When McMedia types look at a McMeal high in refined carbohydrates and warn readers about the fat, that just cracks me up.
The first two articles were one-off jokes. I like one-off jokes, but I always admired comedians who could weave together extended routines. (Bill Cosby was a master of the extended form.) So let’s move on to the long-form comedy routine, which was developed largely by the U.S. government.
The first part isn’t funny, but it’s part of the setup, so bear with me.
More kids getting fatty liver disease
Remember when Dr. Robert Lustig said giving your kids sugary drinks is like giving them alcohol minus the buzz? That may explain this:
A type of liver disease once thought to afflict primarily adult alcoholics appears to be rampant in children. Some 1 in 10 children in the U.S., or more than 7 million, are thought to have the disease, according to recent studies.
The condition, in which the normally rust-colored organ becomes bloated and discolored by yellowish fat cells, has become so common in non-drinkers that it has been dubbed nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
“Sir, I pulled you over because you were weaving into the oncoming lane. Are you drunk?”
“No, officer, I swear! I’m not drunk.”
“Yes we are!”
“Sir, who said that?”
“Uh … my liver. But he’s not drunk. He just acts like it.”
The condition’s rise is tied to the obesity epidemic—about 40% of obese children have it—but isn’t caused solely by being overweight. The disease appears to be growing among normal-weight children too, experts say.
And even though obesity rates are starting to level off, the prevalence of fatty liver disease continues to rise, they say.
It’s likely there are multiple factors that worsen fatty liver disease. Early research shows that the disease is partly genetic but likely needs to be triggered by environmental conditions, like obesity or insulin resistance. Much of the current research has focused on genes and specific nutrients in the diet that might cause the disease. One culprit is fructose, a type of sugar found in corn syrup and fruit juice, which are widely consumed in western diets, according to Dr. Vos’s research.
So adults, obese kids and even normal-weight kids are getting fatty liver disease at records rates. Corn syrup – which is dirt-cheap because it’s subsidized by the federal government – is part of the problem. Okay, that’s the setup. Moving on …
My health-insurance premiums are going to skyrocket
This one wasn’t from an online article or an email, so there’s nothing to link to and I’ll paraphrase instead of doing my usual copy-and-paste.
Remember when the Affordable Care Act was being debated and Obama promised that if you like your current policy you can keep it and insisted that rates in the individual market won’t go up?
Man, what a comedian he is. I received a letter from my insurance carrier last week informing me that the Affordable Care Act will ban my current high-deductible plan, that I’ll be required under the law to buy a “comprehensive” plan (meaning way more coverage than I want or need), and that my rates will rise “sharply” as a result. So the Affordable Care Act will force me to buy a much less affordable policy. Joke’s on me.
(Quick joke within the larger routine: how do you know when a politician is lying? His lips are moving.)
Moving on again …
Schools dropping out of USDA’s “healthier” lunch program
Some schools apparently don’t like being part an extended comedy routine:
After just one year, some schools around the country are dropping out of the healthier new federal lunch program, complaining that so many students turned up their noses at meals packed with whole grains, fruits and vegetables that the cafeterias were losing money.
Federal officials say they don’t have exact numbers but have seen isolated reports of schools cutting ties with the $11 billion National School Lunch Program, which reimburses schools for meals served and gives them access to lower-priced food.
Districts that rejected the program say the reimbursement was not enough to offset losses from students who began avoiding the lunch line and bringing food from home or, in some cases, going hungry.
The food is so bad, schools participating in a lunch program subsidized by the federal government are losing money. You can’t write this stuff.
Kids in Kentucky were a little more colorful in their contributions to the routine:
Students in a rural Kentucky county — and their parents — are the latest to join a growing national chorus of scorn for the healthy school lunches touted by first lady Michelle Obama.
“They say it tastes like vomit,” said Harlan County Public Schools board member Myra Mosley at a contentious board meeting last week, reports The Harlan Daily Enterprise.
Not bad, kids, but here’s a lesson from a former pro: it’s funnier if you imply the gross thought instead of saying it. Next time, try something like, “I found this grey, smelly stuff on my lunch tray and thought one of the cafeteria workers must have gotten sick on it. Turns out it was the main course. Oh, and we’re not allowed to have seconds anymore. Yeah, that’s a big disappointment. Like we were all thinking, Hey, the guy flipping the veggie wraps looks like he has the flu. Maybe we’ll get dessert today.”
The growing body of USDA meal regulations implemented by the Department of Agriculture under the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010″ has long been a signature issue for the first lady.
Denizens of Harlan County don’t much care, though. Their primary concern at the board meeting was a bevy of complaints that local children are starving at lunch — and for the remainder of the school day — because the food on offer in the cafeteria is crappy and there isn’t nearly enough of it.
This is what comedians call a trap-door joke or a switch. The idea is to set up an expectation with words and then defeat the expectation. Politicians are brilliant at coming up with switch jokes. They pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and the result is kids who are hungry despite drinking sugary milk that will help give them fatty liver disease. They pass the Affordable Care Act and the result is a spike in my premiums. Just wait until they pass something called the Citizen Privacy Act or the Debt Reduction Act. Then the laughs will be huge.
Good comedians also know how to follow a joke with a second punchline called a tag or a topper. Here’s someone from the USDA demonstrating the technique:
Dr. Janey Thornton, deputy undersecretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, which oversees the program, said she is aware of reports of districts quitting but is still optimistic about the program’s long-term prospects.
“Many of these children have never seen or tasted some of the fruits and vegetables that are being served before, and it takes a while to adapt and learn,” she said.
Friggin’ hilarious, Dr. Thornton. Great topper. Let me toss one into the routine: I’m aware of the letter from my insurance company warning me that that Affordable Care Act will cause my premiums to increase “sharply,” but I’m still optimistic that my insurance will be more affordable in the long run. It’ll just take awhile for me to learn and adapt.
Thank you. I’ll be here all week.
So the USDA mandates low-fat, low-salt, low-calorie foods in schools and – surprise! — kids don’t like them. Hmmm, how is the USDA going to justify subsidizing the big food producers if parents, students and local schools don’t want to buy their products? Let the routine continue …
USDA giving away free school meals regardless of need
“Why are the kids all laughing over there?”
“Some smart-ass senior is cracking jokes about how awful the new lunches are.”
“Geez … Do you think maybe they’d be interested in eating breakfast here too?”
Exactly what a government that’s almost $17 trillion in debt should do … start giving every kid two “free” meals per day:
The nation’s oldest school system has joined a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that has spread to 10 states and the District of Columbia that offers students two free meals every school day, whether or not their families can afford them.
Known as Community Eligibility Option, the program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that authorized $4.5 billion in new program funding.
“It’s one less weight and one less burden for parents,” said Joshua Rivera, whose son is a second-grader at the Maurice J. Tobin School in Boston’s Roxbury section.
Efrain Toledano, principal of the Tobin School, said he expects the program will cut down on potential disruptions at the K-8 school by easing hunger pangs that could be linked to classroom misbehavior.
Brilliant bit. They’re going to ease hunger pangs by encouraging even more kids to eat the “free” meals that kids all over the country say are leaving them hungry. I wonder if we’ll get a topper for that one.
And, officials say, serving more kids actually saves them money.
Okay, it’s technically a topper, but as a comedian I’m a bit offended because it’s also a very old joke. Lyndon Johnson came up with the first version of that joke when he claimed that Great Society programs costing trillions of dollars would save money in the long run. Unfortunately, Johnson’s delivery was so dry, people didn’t know he was joking. Frustrated by his inability to get a laugh with what he considered his best punchlines, he dropped out of the presidential race in 1968. Richard Nixon won the election and went on to entertain the public with lines like “I have a secret plan to end the war” and “I am not a crook” that people at least recognized as jokes.
Among the many jokes buried in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is a line that goes something like this:
We don’t want kids to be fat, so we’re going to forbid schools from serving them whole milk but allow chocolate skim milk and strawberry skim milk.
The joke is that ounce for ounce, those milks have as much sugar in them as Coca-Cola Classic. The topper is the part where the USDA offers to give kids “free” meals that include sugary milk twice per day – regardless of need! – and government officials claim this will save money in the long run. You know, because it’s so cheap to treat kids for fatty liver disease.
I swear, they’ve got a million of them.
It’s quite an extended comedy routine we’ve witnessed over the years, so let’s review:
The federal government discourages people from eating natural fats and encourages them to suck down processed vegetable oils and refined carbohydrates. To help ensure that people follow the advice, the federal government subsidizes those foods with our tax dollars to make them dirt cheap. High fructose corn syrup ends up in almost everything people buy at the grocery store.
As a result, people get fatter and sicker. Both kids and adults start coming down with type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease at record levels. The federal government responds by spending more of our tax dollars to subsidize school lunches and encourage kids to eat more of the foods that made them fat and sick. Strangely enough, kids continue to get fatter and sicker, so the USDA doubles down and mandates even less fat in their school meals while encouraging them to drink sugar-laden fat-free milk. When kids say they can’t stand the low-fat meals and rebel, the USDA responds by announcing it is optimistic about the long-term results and begins giving away the food twice a day for free — regardless of need!
Meanwhile, the rise in obesity, diabetes, and other conditions caused by consuming too many federally-subsidized sugars, grains and processed vegetable oils causes health-care costs and therefore health-insurance premiums to skyrocket. Wanting to participate in the extended comedy routine, the voters demand the federal government step in and DO SOMETHING about this problem. So the federal government passes the Affordable Care Act, which makes insurance more affordable by forcing people to drop their inexpensive high-deductible polices and buy “comprehensive” coverage they don’t want or need. As a final topper, the agency in charge of fining people who don’t participate in the Affordable Care Act has asked for its employees to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act.
All of this will, of course, save us money in the long run.
Pure. Comic. Genius.