I always resented Erma Bombeck and the fact that she was called “one of America’s great humor writers.” She had a syndicated column and sold a lot of books.
Her schtick — her entire act — was that a matronly 50ish woman with graying hair could talk about unfunny things like wrinkles and raising children and millions of other women would swoon with glee.
Of course, many of you are too young to remember her. Let me put it another way: If you think Samantha Bee is matronly, you wouldn’t have gotten Erma. When Erma said “Me Too,” it was in reply to “Are you making cupcakes?”
I guess you are wondering at this point how someone young like me would be concerned with Erma Bombeck. The answer, plain and simple, is money. Even though she died 26 years ago, there is an annual Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, my agent pointed out, that pays the winner $1000.
“Easy pickings for you,” my agent promised.
I went back and read some copy from previous winners, and they had that typical cute, smarmy writing style that lots of people mistake for true humor (regular “Space” readers know real humor invariably involves genitalia, body fluids, and infected cysts and boils).
I turned in what I thought was a pretty strong entry. Naturally, I didn’t actually create anything new, I just culled some excerpts about cage-free eggs, one percent milk, and 12-grain bread and combined them into a column about healthy eating
If you think Samantha Bee is matronly, you wouldn’t have gotten Erma.
It is quite possible in the annals of literature there has never been a writer who has spent more time delving into the nuances of cage-free eggs than I — what drives them, their hopes and fears, their dreams. I learned eggs are like people with an overdeveloped yolk, or as we call them in today’s politically correct culture “Limb Challenged.” On the other hand, you can call an egg “Slimy” without insulting it.
I spent a good 15 minutes on it, so imagine my shock when I found out that I didn’t win! The winner was a lady who shall remain nameless. Her “hilarious” essay was about cooking biscuits for her children. A runner-up wrote about finding a Band-Aid in the stuffing of her turkey during family dinner. Hmmm . . .Thanksgiving dinner seemed a theme. Hell, if I’d have known I could have broken out my collection of gizzard jokes, you know the ones that always go over so well around here at funeral homes . . .
I read down the list of honorable mentions: I realized all these “winners” have one thing in common: a vagina. Me, no. Hell, I don’t even have a yolk or a gizzard. In fact, 15 of the 16 “humorists” recognized were female.
Ever the investigative reporter, I tracked down who the judges were. One writes a column for The Washington Post and started her career writing “special correspondence and talking points for President Ronald Reagan.” She wrote, “There you go again,” which Ronnie used to say when his son talked about hell or the lack there of.
In the interest of fair play, I did find one pretty funny joke. Reagan was asked if his room was bugged at one of the summit meetings. He answered, “Every time I sneezed, the chandelier said, ‘Gesundheit!’”
It turns out before she was a judge she was, wait for it . . . an Erma Bombeck Competition prize winner. The deck was stacked against me.
Here’s the thing: It could be argued that men are funnier than women. I’m not saying that so don’t #MeToo me. I’m just throwing it out there.
By the way, here is another funny Ronald Reagan story, this one undoubtedly written by a man.
He said the economy was so bad that in the Soviet Union it took 10 years to get a new car.
So, a guy orders a car and the salesman says, “OK. You can pick it up in 10 years.”
The guy says, “Morning or afternoon?”
“What’s the difference?” the salesman asks.
“I have to tell the plumber.”
But I digress.
It seems to me that if there is a contest, each entrée should submit his or her best and the funniest column should win first place. Period. Next year I’m going to submit the same essay as this year, only I’m changing the name to “My Vagina” by Renée Murphy.
I feel the sands of time are shifting. We are all persons. And it is time we all recognize this fact. That’s why I am proud to announce today my candidacy for “Miss Petticoat Junction 2021.” This is NOT a yolk, folks.