How to be funny on Instagram

Now that you’ve been schooled in the art of writing a funny tweet (the original fun-size and the updated Costco-size version), let’s take word counts out of the whole equation. If you’re building your comedy brand, you’ll want to think seriously about Instagram. It has more users, and its platform boasts higher engagement than Twitter. Translated into human-speak, that means more people, particularly people your age, are going to see you there.

Of course, if you’re like me, and you’re happily neck-deep in social media addiction, you’ll have several platforms running at once, each with a slightly different flavor. (For the love of God, don’t do that thing where you cross-post the same joke on every network. People are seriously allergic to that much déjà vu.)

The basic setup-punch

So. You’re on Instagram, and you’re funny. What do you do? There are a few different options: You can use it to showcase your cartooning talents, which is great. You can use it as if it were Vine 2.0, creating short snippets of video hilarity. Also great. But what I want to dig into here is how to create a joke that depends on the image, and is deepened with your commentary. This is different from a meme: Memes have text written write on top of them. Boom. Instagram comedy is a little more nuanced, and takes a little more time; viewers will look at the image, which is the setup. Then they click, and get the punchline. See? It’s a joke.

Chelsea Peretti of Brooklyn 99 is great at these. In this one, she’s copping to being that person who cannot be told not to do things, because that will just make her do the thing even harder. It makes me laugh and it makes me identify with her.

The collection of oddities!

Another kind of joke: The collection of oddities. There are lots of these on Insta, but my personal favorite is called “Sad Topographies.” It’s as simple as it is brilliant: Images of real place-names in  that are totally devastating. Anything you’re fascinated with, you can collect and reproduce in this way, as long as you credit the source and honestly, enthusiastically adore your subject. I’ve got a file of lamps from David Lynch movies and TV shows waiting for me to have the time to categorize and upload them one by one. What’s your obsesh? Share it.

This account, @poundlandbandit, creates composite images that illustrate a concept. It can take a minute to get into it, and some of the jokes thud with Americans because the ideas are Brit-based, but goddamn, when it works – as in this joke, about that one girl who goes out to the club and just acts miserable, but for why? But she does – plays on common experiences that connect us all in misery and hilarity.

Snap now, caption later

If you’re thinking of getting started being funny on Instagram, I would love to give you some pointers. When writing a joke, you walk around with a notebook and write down things that strike you as funny, so that you can think it over later and develop it into a bit. Visual bits work the same way: I take pictures of things that strike me as odd, ridiculous, incongruous, or just plain amusing, and later, I look them over and try to think of how I can deepen the joke with words.

Here’s an example. My synagogue has this odd little door in a wall high above anything that could possibly serve as a floor. (Never mind that I clearly snapped this photo in the middle of Rosh Hashonah services. Obviously I apologized on Yom Kippur.) So the image itself is surreal and amusing, and would have been fine on its own. But I thought it over, and first typed “This is where I go when I want to get high.” But 420 jokes are kind of stale. Next, I thought of “I really hate visitors.” Still didn’t do it for me; I’m a little tired of introverts announcing what introverts they are every other minute. I thought about a Rapunzel joke, but I finally settled on “I said where’s my pizza?” For me, this hit a sweet spot and told a tiny story about a woman who is sick and tired of people not being able to reach her unreachable home. I love thinking about that woman. I think that sometimes, we are all that woman.

Rewrite!

I should mention here that I have a hard-and-fast rule: Never use the first version of a joke. In fact, the first three versions are garbage. I held to this rule when I was writing headlines for Cosmopolitan and when I was doing standup, and I stil hold to it when I’m texting my dad. Never settle for that first version. That first version is for the bro in the backwards baseball cap who says “I’m hilarious, right?” and “People say I should do standup.”

There used to be a game we played at UCB called “stab the joke in the face.” I don’t know if they still play it, and I can’t remember what it consisted of beyond flogging a dead joke until it was pulverized dust. From that dust, you often find gems forged of pure desperation. And that, my friends, is comedy.

Don’t fear the dad joke

Speaking of texting my dad, my next example is pure Dad Joke. I know for a fact that my dad would love it because I did, in fact, text it to him. I snapped the picture because I just thought it was bizarre to see all those fours in a row like that. But what to say about it? A 2/3 of Satan joke? I was stymied and about to fall back on just being plain-old stunned into wonderment, when I realized that “what’s it all for” could so easily become a painful pun. Sometimes the jokes are so bad, they’re good. You be the judge.

Kids do the most ‘grammable things

Apparently this article is mostly just me going through my Instagram and bragging on it. I’m okay with that, despite my dismal numbers. (I am no longer performing standup and don’t need a platform. Yours will be different!) A major theme in my Insta-stream is “random stuff my kids leave around that is disturbing/odd/amusing out of context.”

In this case, I found a worry doll in the kitchen and noticed that it had a baby, and the baby was giving me side-eye. I am ALL ABOUT babies giving me side-eye. If I were a baby (and some might argue that I totally am a giant baby, and where, I ask you, is the lie?), I would give everyone the side-eye, because being a baby is 100% bullcrap.

Actually, this particular pair of worry dolls tells a story, too: The mom is giving side-eye to the baby, who is giving side-eye, or disdainful front-eye, to the viewer. I simply titled it “This worry-doll baby has zero time for your nonsense” to let the viewer know that (a) I know they are worry dolls, (b) The worry dolls’ expressions amuse me, and (c) I know exactly how that worry doll feels.

Now that I look at her again, the worry doll might be flinging herself in front of her mother to protect her from an errant laser beam, something she is very tired of having to do. Also, the mom might be Beyonce because her hair is blowing back for unknown and obviously glamorous reasons.

In sum: If you don’t feel like your Twitter jokes are landing, try another platform, and another form of joke. Your voice might need a different kind of mic.

What’s your favorite visual joke? Send us a thousand-word image.

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#AwkwardThanksgiving: At least you aren’t attending these family dinners

If you feel like you go over the river, through the woods, and up the freakin’ wall on Thanksgiving, you’re in good company.

It’s a cliché for a reason: Thanksgiving is the one holiday most likely to force people connected only by blood – not common interests, beliefs, or even feelings of kinship beyond the most basic DNA – to sit around a table together, probably drink too much, and burst the social bubbles we so carefully construct for ourselves the rest of the year.

That means weird distant relatives, random holiday orphans invited out of federal-holiday-induced obligation, and oh yes, your nearest and dearest, in one bilious, boundary-less jamboree.

Which means we all have stories to tell. And I have gathered a cornucopia of them for your Thanksgiving schadenfreude!

Now, my sister and I lit out for the West Coast after thirty or so of these joyful occasions, and now we just hole up at her house with a turkey and Wild Turkey and let the kids play soccer with throw pillows. Lest you think we took this action without due diligence, I will include my own anecdotes first, then proceed to embarrass my friends by sharing their formerly-secret shame. (Yes, the names are fake! Come on! They’re fake because the stories are all too real. Except mine. That’s me, Amy K.)

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“My marriage of two years had just gone belly-up; my husband had moved out in October, and we gathered for Thanksgiving about a month later. My mother placed a steaming dish of pilaf on the table, said she was thankful we were all gathered together, “only I do so wish that Josh were here.”

FOX

“Deep, martyred sigh. I spent Christmas with my friend Rebecca’s family.” – Amy K.

“My dad is the kind of guy who can’t walk through the clearance section of a store without picking up some weird thing and then showing it off. This is how we acquired a radio shaped like a knight’s helmet, a small electric crumb-roomba, and a pint-sized pink flashlight that looked, for all the world, like it was “ribbed … for her pleasure.” My sisters and I would leave it on each other’s seats; we’d replace each other’s forks with this thing. Basically, you don’t get out of any family gathering without it ending up on your person.”

NBC

“The frozen rictus of forced smiles from our more proper cousins are worth every baleful glare from our mom.” – Amy K.

“We were standing around the buffet table at my aunt’s house when our uncle said something about how we all get together once a year to stand in a circle and stare at the food. My sister meant to just say we were all going to do some kind of circular dance, but it came out like this: ‘And then we all do the circle-jerk dance!’”

ABC

“There were beets on the table that looked paler than her face.” – Amy K. again. Let’s move on from my family, shall we?

“We were at the home of some friends of my parents’ when the hostess went off on how trashy tattoos are, especially on women. I looked across the room at my dad, who gave me the raised eyebrow of approval; I then lifted my shirt to ask her if she thought the most recent of my three tattoos, done in memory of my deceased friend, was trashy.”

FOX

“She backpedaled like a champ and probably hocked a loogie into my stuffing.” – Shannon

“My mom was remanded into the custody of the local psychiatric hospital just before Thanksgiving one year. My brother and I brought her a very nice stuffed turkey roll and mashed potatoes, which we were allowed to eat with her as long as we used the facility’s sporks.”

NBC

“Honestly, everyone was perfectly pleasant, from the staff to the other patients, making it probably the least awkward Thanksgiving dinner of our childhood.” – Randy

“My aunt was making conversation about the new tenant in her condo, a young-ish schoolteacher. My grandfather: ‘Is she stacked?’”

ABC

“Everyone else: Deep breath, averted eyes, long sip of wine.” – Emily

“I brought my stepdaughter back East for Thanksgiving one year – we live in the liberal bubble of the San Francisco Bay Area, and my family lives in a Trump-voting section of Long Island. My stepdaughter is tall, blonde, and athletic, and my drunk aunt lit into her about how important it was for her to make sure she populated the country with white babies fathered by white men.”

NBC

“My stepdaughter smiled politely, then excused herself to call her boyfriend – a sweet, loving fellow student from her AP history class who happens to also be African-American.” – Meg

“We all sat down to the dinner that my mom had spent most of the day preparing. It looked amazing. 10 minutes into the meal, my sister made me laugh so hard I literally barfed.”

NBC

“To this day, she repeats this story at the beginning of every Thanksgiving meal in lieu of grace. Fam!” – Melinda

“I brought my Jewish husband to dinner with my mom’s family. My cousin had just begun work at a garage. My aunt asked if he got health insurance as part of the job. He said, ‘Of course not, Mom. I work for Jews.’”

NBC

“My husband and I quietly packed ourselves up and slipped out the back, heading to my dad’s house. The kicker? My mom left an angry voicemail excoriating me for making my cousin feel awkward. Sorry, snowflake!” – Suzanne

“I’m not a native Mandarin speaker, but I try to learn it for my extended family’s sake. One Thanksgiving, I found out that if you think you’re saying ‘turkey,’ but you mangle the pronunciation just right, you will actually end up saying ‘big chicken vagina.’”

NBC

“And by ‘you,’ of course I mean ‘me.’” – Ken

“Thanksgiving in Florida in the early ‘90s — my now-wife and I had been together only a year or two, meaning were only about 23. Her brother, Andy, was still in college. Her mom spent the whole dinner trying to get Andy to agree to be our sperm donor.”

HBO

“#Awkward!” – Ellie

“You know it’s awkward when someone brings out Cards Against Humanity for a rollicking round of complete inappropriateness after the pie.”

Universal

“Yep, that was the year I watched my sister explain to my 14-year-old nephew exactly what a ‘queef’ is.” – Clay

“My brother brought a surprise guest one Thanksgiving: His new girlfriend! Who, it turned out, was a vegetarian! We all went around the table saying what we were thankful for, and she said, ‘The non-flesh portions of this meal.’”

Netflix

“I thought my mom’s looks could kill, but this woman managed to survive somehow.” – Ellen

“Which reminds me of one of my ten vegetarian Thanksgivings. This one was spent at my then-husband’s family home, where there was literally nothing I could eat other than cornbread stuffing and red wine.”

NBC

“My poop was pink!” – Amy K, again, breaking her promise that she was done

“Well, there was the year we all found out two of my great-aunts, Anna and Stella, had had a burlesque act together. It started when one of them brought up one of her husbands, who’d been a rum-runner, and before you could say ‘Eliot Ness,’ they were both standing on the coffee table, recreating their number. Just as they were performing a perfectly synchronized removal of their cardigans, Stella fell backwards onto the couch, revealing long-line leopard print underwear with garters.”

NBC

“Wait, you said awkward? Really, this was just awesome.” – Audrey

“My mom tried to recreate her mother-in-law’s turkey on Thanksgiving (the secret: basting with orange juice) and she was so nervous and stressed out about it. I was in grade school, maybe 8. She had a milk carton that was acting as her ‘junk bowl,’ full of unidentifiable turkey blobs and carrot-ends and every other gross thing you can imagine; in a hurry, she hucked it across the kitchen toward the garbage can. She missed the can. It hit ME. I was covered! She did what anyone would do: laughed so hard she peed all over her avocado-green kitchen rug. I cried, till she peed; then I had to laugh, too.”

Netflix

“My parents got divorced soon after that, and my mom became a vegetarian.” – Susan

“I invited my mom to my Thanksgiving, and she showed up and got so drunk we had to put her to bed.”

FX

“But it turned out that was the least awkward option; when she woke the next day, she said, ‘I didn’t know your friend Lisa was BLACK.’” – Dawn

“We usually had Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house, but one year my mom decided she wanted to host. She did a fantastic job – slaved over the turkey, which looked delicious! Sadly, we never got to taste it. Just as we all closed our eyes to say the blessing, our German Shepherd, Garbo, galloped into the kitchen, leapt up to the table, and stole the entire bird before any of us could stop her.”

NBC

“I guess she wanted to be alone … with the turkey!” – Joe

“Thanksgiving in Brooklyn, a one-act play:

My brother’s wife, Sheila: I don’t eat turkey.

My dad, henceforth known as Pops: Whaddya, some kind of … vagitarian?

My brother, Sheila’s Husband: Pops …

Pops: I’m just askin’!

Bro: Pops …

Sheila (in a rational voice, speaking to the rest of us): You know how there’s a chemical in turkey that puts people to sleep? Well, it gives me the total shits.

Bro: Sheila…

Sheila: He asked! I’m answering! Last year, I shit my pants on the ride home.

Pops: Awright, awright …

Sheila: Like giblet gravy.

Pops: Jesus Christ! Enough, already!

Sheila: You asked!

Long, silent pause.

NBC

Mom: Anybody want coffee?

— Patrick

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9 alternatives to PowerPoint that will really make your presentation sparkle

Groan! PowerPoint again? I don’t know about you, but I just hate the sinking feeling of walking into a conference room expecting something exciting to happen, and instead getting a bunch of slides telling you how much stuff costs and how that affects your company’s bottom line. Yawn!

Rather than trying to spice up your PowerPoint with comedy tricks and technical ka-zowie, why not look at alternatives to this purgatorial format? Marketers and business types across the globe are finding new ways to get information into the medulla oblongatas of meeting attendees. Now you can, too.

Power-Point Alternative #1: Mass Hypnotism

You want your information to have sticking power, right? Well, a little-known trick to successful implantation of thoughts, feelings, and impulses is the power of mind control. It’s easy: Simply have your meeting attendees kidnapped by Soviet and Manchurian operatives who brainwash them into believing every word of your presentation. If they ever forget, just show them the Queen of Hearts. (Am I the only one who saw this movie? Angela Lansbury. Not the remake. Classic. #TCMParty)

Power-Point Alternative #2: Scent of a Budget

Smells are a powerful memory tool. The reason for this is the location of the olfactory … things … in the hippocampus, which is in the … brain … part. Anyway! Science!

So: During your presentation, don’t bother with visual assets. Instead, pass out individual-sized jars of Carmex and instruct everyone to open them up and inhale deeply while you speak. Whenever you need them to call up the information you’re presenting to them, open your own jar of Carmex and wave it under their noses. The scent will immediately call up every precious word you presented to them.

Power-Point Alternative #3: Hand-Written Sticky Notes

Just yesterday, someone said to me, “I’ll never forget those invitations you made for your thirtieth birthday party. They were so funny!” Hm, did someone say unforgettable?

Instead of pouring your energy and time into a soulless and sterile tech solution that will vanish with the click of a mouse, ladle it instead into individually-crafted artisan creations that your attendees can take back to their desks and cherish forever. What’s more likely –  that they’ll go hunting for the data using command-C, or that they’ll look up at the Post-It pinned next to their picture of their duck-faced friend, thereby cementing the info contained therein?

Don’t answer. It’s rhetorical.

Power-Point Alternative #4: Create a Mind Palace of Your Marketing Plan

Fans of Sherlock, starring Schmendrick Mahumperback, might know that the classic detective character – played by Humperdink Tunnelwreck in the BBC version – employs a memory trick called the “mind palace” that harkens from ancient Greece.

The idea is to place every item you want to remember in an imaginary room of an imaginary house; to recall these items, you would “walk through” the path you created and peek into each room to “see” the item ensconced there. Just like Hammerhead Flagglerock, you can “walk” your meeting attendees through a mansion created solely out of your sales targets and associated assets. Easy-peasy benedy-cumberbeedy!

Power-Point Alternative #5: Take 8 Seconds to Make Your Most Important Points

According to unsubstantiated rumors, it takes 8 seconds to commit an important fact to memory. For instance, you will remember where you parked if you pause for 8 seconds to focus on your car before racing into Target.

8 seconds! C’mon! If Luke Perry can stay on a horse that long, you can focus on a … what was I saying? Anyway, try this: Give out an important bullet point, such as “Tablet users surpassed both desktop PC users and notebook PC users in the second and third quarters of 2012, respectively.”

Rather than providing a visual cue for this information, stop and let it sink in. Lean in to your meeting. Put your knuckles on the table, then rap upon it in a staccato fashion as you repeat that fact, slowly, for eight seconds. Then move on to the next bullet point. Who could forget that?

Power-Point Alternative #6: Break The Ice – Literally

Ever been to one of those super-classy weddings with an ice sculpture of a couple embracing next to a pair of swans lit with mauve light from below, so that after a half hour the whole thing looks like the nazi-melting scene in Indiana Jones and the floor is so wet you have to cordon it off with yellow caution tape? Good times.

With that in mind, go straight to the head of your department and demand a budget big enough for a really memorable presentation. Have your power point slides etched into ice. Have that ice placed at the center of the conference table. Then, when everyone is seated, turn your iPhone on to “Eye of the Tiger” at top volume, run in, and smash the whole thing with a meat-tenderizing mallet. Think anyone will forget that meeting? Bam.

Power-Point Alternative #7: Serve Brain Food

People looking to improve their memory are encouraged to eat foods high in Vitamin E, folic acid, and Omega-3 fatty acids. So instead of donuts, serve bowls of tuna fish, spinach, and sunflower seeds at your next meeting. Your attendees’ cardiologists will thank you – and so will they, when they see how well they remember everything you said.

Further research shows that increased exercise also has a beneficial effect on memory retention, so go ahead and have that meeting at the gym, with everyone walking on treadmills arranged in a circle. Stand in the center and spoon tuna into everyone’s mouth as you give your PowerPoint-less presentation. Oh, they’ll remember it, all right.

Power-Point Alternative #8: Tell Your Story Entirely In Emoji

Many companies are pivoting to a millennial model – providing vertical assets to digital natives in a collaborative environment. Obviously, the ideal “meeting presentation” would be a Snapchat story shared with your team, but we all know there are certain fuddy-duddies who still can’t hang, amirite? So harness the power of visual stimulation to make your attendees think – which will amplify your points by requiring multiple senses to understand them.

👀 ➕🗣🔝🤔🌟

Power-Point Alternative #9: Use an Actual Slide Projector

What was more riveting than seeing Don Draper deliver an impassioned defense of the slide carousel? Everyone wants to be Don Draper. Even Jon Hamm wishes he were Don Draper, for crap’s sake. So create PowerPoint slides, sure – but then send them to an online vendor (oh, they exist) to be printed on acetate slides suitable for projection. When they arrive, call your meeting and give your presentation using your smoothest, most patriarchal tone. Then fly into a rage and shove everything off your desk because RAAR DON DRAPER!

With these amazing strategies in your quiver, you’ll be sure to hit the bullseye at your next corporate presentation. If not, don’t blame me! I work from home for a reason!


Read Amy’s bio here.

10 ideas for YouTube channels no one has thought of yet

You know what’s fun? Watching homemade YouTube videos, especially the ones that start out with someone perkily saying “Hey guys!” and then taking three and a half minutes to explain that they’re so sorry they haven’t made a video in a while.

Anyway, you’ve probably been wanting to make a YouTube channel of your own. I know I have! But where to start? I mean, I was listening in on my kids as they watched YouTube this morning, and one of them said “Wow, fur fingernails? I never thought of that!” and I was like “time to shut down the internet, folks. Fur fingernails.”

But that got me thinking. I hadn’t thought of fur fingernails, it’s true, but that must mean there are other things I haven’t thought of, and they would probably make good YouTube channel ideas! And so, with no further ado, here are my big ideas free for you to use for yourself or someone you dislike intensely.

1. A family that stops at convenience stations instead of theme parks and makes the best of it.

2. Old episodes of M*A*S*H but dubbed so that “hawkeye” is always replaced with “fanny pack.”

3. Reboxing Shopkins.

4. Beauty hacks for those retainers you used to have to wear overnight that strapped around the back of your head.

5. Game-play watch-along of me doing the NY Times crossword puzzle on a Friday.

6. An undertaker “unboxes” the stuff in people’s pockets (like a blind bag, but pants).

7. The Neener Channel: Neener neener, I have a thing that you don’t; let’s look at how great it is and how much you stink for not having one.

8. My Dog Has a GoPro: Live feed of everything my dog gets up to during the day. Like the Panda Cam, but much more banal, yet active.

9. LaproCam: A live feed of the camera-eye view of every laparoscopic surgery being done at a hospital in Nebraska that really needs cash.

10. DIY hair removal (comparing Nair, wax, and shaving) for furry fingernails.


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Unsuccessful portmanteaux

MEMO from the International Ministry of Wordthings 
Head Minstress Amy Keyishian

It has come to our attention that many of you are overusing the portmanteau option. Please be advised that we are limiting use of the portmanteau until you all get this under control. This means you.

To review, “black” + “actor” = “blacktor.” This is the Platonic ideal of the portmanteau. It takes up less space, it is efficient, it contains no internal caps, and it is pleasing to the ear. Please note the final bullet on this list: pleasing unto the ear, fellow citizens. Ugly portmanteaux are not helpful and are therefore an abomination.

Peruse this list of verboten word combinations and consider them with sober aforethought before bandying about this most precious and vital linguistic resource.

  •      Flow + chart ≠ flart
  •      Book + club ≠ blub
  •      Chardonnay + party ≠ chardonnarty (this will get you expelled.)
  •      Party + hardy ≠ pardy  (are you kidding us?)
  •      Vaginal + atrophy ≠ vatrophy
  •      Cranberry + applesauce ≠ crapplesauce
  •      Peanut + butter ≠ peabutt
  •      Mango + chutney ≠mutney
  •      Elevator + operator ≠ elevoperator
  •      Canada + Washinton ≠ Canoshington
  •      CD + single ≠ C-dingle
  •      iTunes + playlist ≠ iTunafish  (now you’re just off the chain)
  •      Twin Peaks + freaks ≠ tweaks
  •      Palpebral + fissure ≠ palprissure

Addendum A: These are allowed only if used ironically. If we can’t detect a wink, you must rethink.

  •      Granny + panties = granties
  •      Presidential + pardon = prizzardon
  •      Hogwart + nerd = Hogwerd = HAGRID REALLY IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT

Addendum B: Verboten Portmanteaux of Celebrity Couples:

  •      Jared + Ivanka ≠ Javanka
  •      Brad + Sienna ≠ Brienna (just sounds like the most popular baby name at the trailer park)
  •      A-Rod + J-Lo ≠ AJ, RodLo, A-Lo, or any other combination
  •      Kylie + Travis ≠ Kylass
  •      Dev + Tilda ≠ Dilda
  •      Rooney + Joaquin ≠ Roonaquin (willing to reconsider)
  •      Selina + The Weeknd ≠ Seliknd
  •      Ellen + Portia ≠ Ellortia
  •      Goldie + Kurt ≠ Goldirt

ADDENDUM C: TOTALLY ALLOWED CELEBRITY PORTMANTEAUX:

  •      Jenny Slate + Jon Hamm = Slamm (OBVIOUSLY HOLY GOD IS THIS A THING?!)
  •      Beyoncé + Jay = BeyJay (WHAT WHY HAS THIS NOT BEEN DONE BEFORE NOW)

Please contact the ministry via owl or smoke signal if you have any questions.  

Read Amy’s bio here. 

20 things to worry about instead of that thing you’re worried about

Hey, I get it. It’s the season for worrying – meaning it’s between January and December, inclusive, of any calendar year. Fretting is a national sport lately, and for women, there’s often lots more to fret about: Will health care cover me, even though I have the preexisting condition of lacking testes? Do I make as much as a man for doing the same work? Are my kids okay? Am I pregnant? Am I infertile? Do I want kids? WHY ARE BOOBS?

Put down that chamomile tea! It’s nasty! Instead, peruse this list of alternate things you could worry about to distract yourself from your perfectly reasonable, but possibly obsessive, perturbation.

  • What if, one day, you go to pull off your sock and it’s a bag of toes because they all just fell off unexpectedly?
  • What if dogs are judging us?
  • What if autism causes vaccines?
  • Does the cheese want to stand alone?
  • Why is the middle finger the troublemaker? Is it proud of this or is it a source of shame? Does the ring finger act all sanctimonious?  
  • What if boobs are actually full of snot and every time you blow your nose you’re making them smaller?
  • What if your middle name is a lie?
  • What if Taylor Swift runs for office?
  • What if the astronauts left something important on the moon, like their credit cards or that sandwich they brought for lunch?
  • Dust mites!
  • Why is it wedge heels, not wedge toes?
  • What if Corey Feldman does a whole album?
  • Does anybody remember laughter?
  • Am I supposed to care if things make my butt look fat?
  • Why does Sam care so much whether someone likes Green Eggs and Ham? Like what’s his deal?
  • Why do spice bottles have holes too small for the spice to get through?
  • At what point do I just give up on my pinky toenail?
  • Sidewalk grates!
  • If the pointy part of a fork is a tine, and the pointy part of a knife is a blade, what is the spoony part of a spoon?
  • How did anyone figure out how to eat artichokes?

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Wedding reception bingo

There’s a certain time in every twentysomething’s life when there are just so … many … weddings. After a while, it may seem like there’s nothing to do but get hammered and make flawed makeout decisions. Fortunately, here’s a printable activity chart for you and your other troublemaker friends, which is why you were all seated together out on the patio in the first place. Happy hunting!


Read Amy’s bio here.

Flirt techniques from your socially awkward friend

Are you flummoxed by social niceties? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Tip #1: Drop your phone into his drink

Pretend you are taking a selfie that requires you to stick your arm into a handsome fella’s personal space. While there, ploink your phone right into his artisan cocktail. Now you have an amusing ice-breaker, plus you can ask him to google up “dropped phone into cocktail” for what to do next, which will keep you conversing all night long.

Why It Works: It doesn’t. Sorry. This ended up being so embarrassing, and to make it worse, he was completely married AND asked for my number, and I couldn’t even give it to him because, I mean, no phone, right? God.


Tip #2: Surprise him by turning up in his bed

While your crush is having a nice nap, slip into bed beside him and snuggle up. When he unconsciously pulls you close, scoot your head right onto his shoulder and whisper into his ear, “You’d better be dreaming of me, or you’re in so much deep shit right now.”

Why It Works: Wait. I forgot. This only works if you’re volunteering at an old-age home or something, and really, it’s probably a bad idea. Anyway, never mind. La la!

Tip #3: Go to a baseball game wearing the opposing team’s jersey

A great way to meet guys is to wear something eye-catching that will get their attention and act as a conversation starter. Where are the guys? At the ballpark, of course. And what’ll really make their heads turn? Why, of course, a fan of the team their life-long favorite is locked in combat with – particularly if that other team is winning!

Why It Works: Honestly? This will get tons of attention, but um – it’s not really – it doesn’t convert? You know what I mean? Into, like, actually meeting someone nice? You mostly just learn really creative new swear words. Which is not nothing, by the way. Everyone needs to freshen up their cuss-factory now and then.


Tip #4: Disagree strongly with everything he says

You know what men really love? A challenge. You know what arouses their passions? Arguments. And you know what aroused passions lead to? Angry hate-sex. So go ahead! Walk into that urban-chicken-farming workshop, sit next to the highest man-bun you can find, and chatter incessantly about your friend who works at Monsanto and says it’s really not all that bad!

Why It Works: I read this in a women’s magazine, and I have no idea who writes that horse-shit, but it’s not women who want to meet men, let me tell you that. God. Ugh. I wish I had a forgettoblaster.

Tip #5: Mirror his movements

Psychologists have shown that when we subtly imitate someone’s movements, they get a deeply comforting subconscious sense that they are understood by someone totally on their wavelength. The trouble is, men have a weird thing where they don’t notice a lot of stuff, so what you think is subtle might be completely lost on them. So really go for it: he reaches for a pencil, you reach for a pencil. He clears his throat, you clear your throat. He subtly re-adjusts his junk inside his khakis, you do that too. By the end of that big company meeting, he’ll be following you to the staff kitchen and asking if you want the last bit of coffee before he makes a fresh pot!

Why It Works: Remember when I told you I got laid off? I didn’t get laid off. I got fired and slapped with a restraining order. Anyway, don’t try this.

Tip #6: Have something stuck in your teeth

A really great way to get someone to notice you is to have something gross half-sticking out of your mouth, to such an egregious degree that he really can’t help but say something to you, especially since you’re up close and in his face during your convo. The payoff here comes from the fact that you’re signaling him sexually – mouths are for kissing, after all – and simultaneously activating his caregiving instincts. Fun!

Why It Works: Yeah, I don’t know either. All I can say is that it made sense at the time.

Tip #7: Secretly meet him online when really you are business rivals and watch the sparks fly

This one really works best if you are Meg Ryan, though. Are you Meg Ryan? Or like maybe also Catherine Heigl. Otherwise, hm.

Why It Works: Can we just have Girls’ Night Out with no flirting? And also no “out?” I will literally pay for the entire pizza if you just come over with a six-pack of Mike’s and neither of us talks about dudes and we can watch Top of the Lake from the beginning. Right?


Read Amy’s bio here. 

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Five powerful women who are unexpectedly hilarious

This we know: women have to work harder to be taken seriously. AND to be taken funnily. And usually you don’t get to do both. So to me, the best is when we get to see the “serious” ones be hilarious.

TAKE FOR EXAMPLE…

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

When I say “hilarious,” I’m leaving a bit of wiggle room, OK? Because Ginsburg is an 80-year-old lawyer-lady from Brooklyn, and when I read her bon mots, I can almost see my grandpa pursing his lips in amusement at his own dad-jokes.

But the fact is, Bader Ginsburg is er-mayzing in a lot of ways. Look at her river-rafting and riding an elephant! (With my least favorite Supreme, which is weird. It’s like this elephant contains the best and the worst and a trunk and a flower.)

And check this seriously witty shade in her dissent in Shelby v. Holder:

“Throwing out [the Voting Rights Act[ when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”


And then there’s the meme that took off a couple years ago, calling her Notorious RBG. She told NPR’s Nina Totenberg that “…a law clerk told me about this tumblr and also explained to me what Notorious RBG was a parody on. And now my grandchildren love it and I try to keep abreast of the latest that’s on the Tumblr.”

THE TUMBLR, YOU GUISE. #ginsburgsqueeeeee

And then she wrote to a little girl dressed like her and I died THE END.

Madeleine Albright

As the first female Secretary of State (under Bill Clinton starting in 1996), Albright walked some incredibly delicate lines and made incredibly tough decisions—the kind that give most of us nightmares. And she’s an incredibly tough dame, who responded to a shocking, heartbreaking divorce by re-starting her career at 45 and becoming SoS a dozen years later. Damn, girl! Who could blame you if you became a steely-eyed virago? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Ah, but one of Albright’s great gifts as an international diplomat and negotiator was her ability to poke a hole in the massive hot-air balloons of world-leader egos. First proof: See her collection of giant, bejeweled pins, which she chose carefully to send not-so-coded messages and start difficult conversations.

She, too, appeared as herself on The Gilmore Girls, as Lorelei’s dream mom (hilarious in itself) and played the role with as much quirky lovability as Lauren Graham. In fact, any close follower of Madam Secretary (she appeared on that show, too) already knows how magnetically charming she is.

Oh, and then there’s the time she tweeted back at Conan O’Brien.

Condoleeza Rice

It’s a testament to just how seriously I take George W. Bush’s Secretary of State is that I’m kind of embarrassed to talk about her being funny or sexy. She kept it on the down-low. But when you read about her, the articles are all “OMG she is a concert-level pianist and she runs marathons and she dates sports celebrities.” And I’m like “is it okay to talk about this? Because I want people to know her for being Secretary of State erg erg erg am I hurting feminism?”

But then she goes and appears on 30 Rock as Alec Baldwin’s ex, and I’m like STOP THAT MS. RICE. YOU JUST STOP THAT RIGHT NOW. And by stop I mean CONTINUE.

(Sorry about the state of that clip. It’s hard to find and keeps getting scrubbed.)

Now, is she a natural on camera? No. Do I have any immediate proof that she’d crack you up if you ran into her in the ladies’ room? None. What I do know is that every time I find out some new fact about this woman, she becomes more and more compelling.

We’ve established that we have to run farther and faster than the average dude to get to the same finish line. And in order to do that, we often take on the mantle of something that comes across as the opposite of frivolous. And if that’s true to us, fine. But don’t ever, ever let anyone tell you that cracking wise, making a joke, or having a sly, offbeat take on something serious is professional poison. It’s not. In fact, it’s often the magic ingredient – the Chemical X, if you will – that can propel us up and over the top. Or at least keep us sane when the world turns upside down.

Ann Richards

When we talk about powerful women using humor as a combined shield and weapon, well, there’s really just one O.G.: Ann Richards, Southern woman, Texas governor, cultural icon. Being a Democrat in Texas is no picnic, and she worked her way up, even running training sessions for other women seeking office, throughout the ‘70s. She became state treasurer in the ‘80s, and began attracting attention for her combination of sass, smarts and more sass.

Her keynote at the 1988 Democratic convention was when she burst upon the national scene. Watching it now feels like you’re watching a late-night talk show host deliver a flawless monologue before she gets into the meat of her message. In fact, her life made for a fabulous one-woman show, written and performed by the also-faboo Holland Taylor, that seems to be touring constantly.

“Poor George,” she famously said about George Bush Sr. “He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

People will tell you that you have to be super tough to succeed in business, in politics, in this kooky ongoing Bonnaroo festival we call life. But Ann Richards didn’t turn every insult upside down and force it to work for her because she was tough. She did it because she felt the sting of every pointy word hurled at her, and this was the way she knew how to neutralize an enemy. And that’s the takeaway: Find your tender spots, and come up with your own, unique defense shields. One size does not fit all.

Michelle Obama

Make no mistake: Being America’s First Lady is a job. Not an easy one, and not one that would naturally to most people: You’re suddenly in this national (and international) diplomatic role, and everything you say and do is scrutinized. And you’re expected to pick a charity or cause and run with it – without making people mad.

Well, Michelle Obama ran with it – and danced with it, and did karaoke with it, and did Funny or Die videos with it. She gently made fun of her husband and even charmed former president George W. Bush, who has cited her sense of humor – well, her appreciation of his sense of humor, bless his heart – as the reason they get along despite ideological differences.

Maybe that’s the best part of being a woman of funny. Connecting. Even with dudes who get it, even when they don’t seem to. You laugh, and then you talk. It’s worth a try. From now, your power pose is mid-guffaw.

Read Amy’s bio here.

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How to “open with a joke” that’s actually funny

They always tell you to open with a joke. They never tell you how to open with a joke. They certainly never tell you how to open with a good joke.

So I’ll open with a joke…that bombed. Remember the scene in Say Anything where Diane (Ione Skye) opens her valedictorian speech with a joke? She’d workshopped it (good call) on the way over with her adoring dad, who guffawed. But at GO time, it’s CRICKETS.

GUH. No wonder public speaking is the number one most-cited phobia. (Well, not for me. I’m a middle child; I’ll take a mic at a funeral.) How to do better? For an expert take, I interviewed the fabulously-named Vinca LaFleur, a speechwriter for Bill Clinton in the 1990s and now a partner at speechwriting and media training firm West Wing Writers.

First, I made her watch Diane’s speech. “Ouch,” she said. “But you know what? That line—or the concept—worked elsewhere.” She noted a celebrated speech by the writer Russell Baker, who said, “The best advice I can give about going out into the world is this: Don’t do it. I have been out there. It is a mess.” He nailed it. What makes the difference?

Sell it.

“Whatever you do, sell your joke,” LaFleur said. “A lot of humor is the delivery. And a lot of a speech is performance. That’s what makes it different from an article or a blog post: The audience experiences it in real time, and you have this message and moment together.” There are standup comics whose jokes are not funny, or that were already as stale as matzo when they were told during the Exodus. But they tell them with the rhythm of a joke, they deliver the punchline with confidence, and they pause for a laugh—which they nearly always get. You learn this skill on the road. In the absence of actual humor, it works.

Follow joke structure.

Setup…punch. Expectation…whuh? The key here—and to almost any joke—is surprise. Write and sell THAT. It’s not all buh-DUM-bump. You can give advice from an unexpected source, like SpongeBob Squarepants (always funny), and give that unexpected source an equally unexpected title, like “The great philosopher [setup]…Miss Piggy [punch].”

Also tried and true: what GOLD ComedyTM calls “triple”—and what what LaFleur, fancily, calls “the triad formulation.” Her beginner example: “…three strategies for getting ahead at school or work: “Hard work, persistence, and chocolate.” (Look, we’re not trying to make everyone pee their pants here. We’re just trying to kick off a speech with a chuckle.)

via GIPHY

Know your audience.

“Think not only about your message, but also about your audience and what matters to them,” says LaFleur. Your best line about YikYak, for one, will bomb at the senior center. This is also why an opening joke you found on Google will likely fizzle: it was written in a vacuum. Pro tip: research and refer to something specific about the audience: their biggest sports rival, the fact that they serve waffles the first Wednesday of the month. Drop a reference to that—especially one that’s appreciative and complimentary of your crowd—and they’ll love you all speech long.

Limit self-deprecation.

Normally, LaFleur might tell a client that making fun of herself is a great way to “win people to your side: It humanizes you. George W. Bush would get a lot of mileage out of what a bad student he was at Yale,” she says. BUT! “I would not encourage a woman to do that,” she adds. “Because there are fewer women in leadership roles, we have the extra burden of making sure we don’t undermine our own credibility.” It’ll change, she says. But right now, that’s the deal.

Unless! You’re in the right room. Like when Arianna Huffington gave a TED talk on the importance of getting enough rest at night and said this was the way for women to (literally) sleep their way to the top. Result: raucous laughter, in a roomful of women who’d gotten to the top the Peggy way, not the Joan way. It was a double entendre of singular proportions. In other words, self-deprecation is an advanced move. Don’t try it without a spotter.

Relax! They want to like you.

The best advice I ever got for auditioning was this: Remember that the casting director wants you to be the right person for this role. She’s hoping you’ll do well. She’s not there to be critical or awful; she is as full of hope, as you walk through that door, as you are. Same with your audience. So if your joke tanks, smile and—in the words of the great philosophers ABBA, “Move on.”

Read Amy’s bio here.