The independent news organization of Duke University


It’s funny, ‘cause it’s bigger than a normal hat.

—Turd Ferguson

I was not particularly upset when I saw that our most recent Monday, Monday columnist(s), TOMMY SEABASS, had been dismissed. Perhaps it had something to do with a small grudge I held against him (them) for calling me a “no-talent ass clown” and telling me that I could “go f*#%” myself in print. Perhaps it was because he (they) was (were) terrible.

But TOMMY SEABASS forces us to examine why we here at Duke have such a problem finding worthwhile humor columnists. There is either a serious problem with Duke students or there is a serious problem in the nature of the Monday, Monday column itself. In any case, the situation is serious.

This column was written on a napkin over lunch in the Great Hall. I had Subway. By myself. It was delicious.

The first possibility is perhaps the most alarming: Duke students just may not be funny. For proof of this, I turn to myself. I am not funny. I rely on quoting funny things that other people have said because I lack the ability to produce anything original.

Duke students (including me) do tend to take things a little too seriously. We take ourselves seriously. We take academics—grades more so than learning—seriously. We take basketball seriously. We take fashion seriously. We take drinking seriously.

Are you Serious?

But this argument does not really seem to hold up. My friends are hilarious. Some are clever and witty, some are (were) willing to pose for prom pictures in a male thong, some interpret a new meaning in Beck’s phrase “two turn tables and a microphone” and some are so sardonically rude that you can’t help but laugh. Yet none of these friends have written a humor column.

The funny and original students that we have at Duke might simply lack the motivation to submit applications to be Monday, Monday columnists. Those who take life less seriously also tend to take deadlines less seriously. If you are funny, start writing a sample now. I don’t care if you hate The Chronicle or don’t want the responsibility of writing something every week. This is for the greater good.

Passersby were amazed at the unusually large amounts of blood. Passersby were amazed at the unusually large amounts of blood.

The problem, however, could just as easily be with the nature of the Monday, Monday column itself. The format to which humor columnists at Duke traditionally adhere—an alter ego that refers to himself in the THIRD PERSON with CAPITAL LETTERS who walks around Duke and interacts with various campus figures in compromising situations, making references to B-level movies and sitcoms from the early ’90s along the way—is no longer funny. Stop it.

Perhaps the fact that most Monday, Monday columns have been co-written by two members of the same sex—usually males—works to their disadvantage. In Textual Intercourse (Cambridge: Cambrige UP, 1999), Jeffrey Maston associates collaborative writing during the English Renaissance with a certain amount of homoeroticism. With the continued presence of homophobia in our community, it is reasonable to think that columnists have been dissuaded by the homosocial nature of co-authorship.

Our culture needs to move in the direction of fewer, rather than more, strawberry-banana flavored products.

It would be just as easy, however, to blame the editors, who have the final say in the selection of Monday, Monday columnists. One must not discredit this argument too quickly. At the risk of losing whatever esteem I may have (or more likely, have not) earned in their eyes, the editors come across as remarkably unfunny people. That isn’t to say they are bad people. But maybe the amount of time they spend at the top of the Flowers Building (the ceilings are low, there are few windows, everything is a mess) makes them unqualified to adequately evaluate humor.

Perhaps, then, the selection process needs to change. Make it a little bit more democratic. Choose three or four candidates out of the pools of applicants and allow the people who actually read The Chronicle (what few remain) to vote. This way, if we ever got another TOMMY SEABASS, it would be our own fault.

Eric Vivier is a Trinity senior. His column appears every other Friday.


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