2017-12-07 / Viewpoint

The VIEW from here

Sarcasm lost in print


Alex Petrie Staff Writer Alex Petrie Staff Writer I rely pretty heavily on sarcasm. I lean into it hard. As a tool, a weapon, a toy, a remedy. Name it.

It’s a default setting in my mind for all manner of circumstance, and may well be a defining trait used by others to describe me.

Top five, I’d say. Right after dainty.

Obviously I’m biased, but I’m inclined to think that my sarcasm comes through in my writing. I tend to lay it on pretty thick. However. The last column I wrote was about growing up, about struggling with the realities of adulthood. I joked about the unfairness of it, the tedium and the ennui. I assumed that the mordant sense of humor and sledgehammer sarcasm were evident. Evidently, they were not.

The day after it ran, my publisher, Wes, called me into his office.

“I read your column,” he said with a telling grin.

I waited to respond, standing in the pregnant pause and dead air between us.

“Might’ve been a little morose, huh? Do you think your readers understand that it was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek?” he asked.

“I mean, I would hope so.”

He smiled again. “You think you might want to clear that up for them?” he asked, wondering aloud more than actually making a suggestion.

“With all due respect, I don’t think I do. If a joke requires explanation, it immediately ceases to be funny. And, I’m not sure how this may sound, but if someone doesn’t understand or enjoy my humor, then it’s probably not written for them.”

He smiled again, unperturbed. It’s the same look I get from my dad that lets me know I should be thinking harder about what I’m saying.

“Just something to consider,” he said flatly.

And I did. For the next three days.

On that third day, my sister called me. “Hey, some lady just asked me if you’re okay. She said your last column was really depressing and asked why you’re so sad.”

I laughed, with the words of Wes running through my mind. I went out for drinks with him the next night and told him about my sister’s encounter.

He gave me another knowing smile, and in his signature verbally economical way, he proved his expertise without having to say, “I told you so.” Without having to say anything.

I gotta admit I’m a little torn, though. I’m not about to start finger painting broad strokes, primary colors and feelgood schmaltz, pandering to the masses. Sarcasm is a major part of my voice, used to both entertain and ridicule you guys and myself alike. I’m not trying to be Andy Kaufman, majoring in the art of avant-garde alienation. I’m just having a little fun, people.

So, for those of you that read my last column, I’m okay. I promise. But it still feels gross to be 30.

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