Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Common Mistakes, White People & Why I think Jane Austen is Funnier than Seinfeld

People sometimes mistake me for well read. This happens for two reasons.

Reason one: I’m a prolific quoter. If you tell me you just boxed a rhinoceros on pay-per-view, I’ll reply with an appropriate Oscar Wilde quote. This doesn’t mean I’ve read everything the man wrote. It just means I have an epithet for most moments. (My quotes also allow me to sound clever without being original.)

Reason two: I often bluff and pretend I’m better read than I am. (You’ve done it too, so stop judging. I’d guess 99.85 percent of you never read a Marcel Proust book; and, if you are one of the .15, then everyone you’ve ever discussed Proust with has been bluffing. The only exception is if you and your companion are English professors.)

Regardless, people sometimes ask me to recommend books because I am fake well read. More often than not, people ask me to suggest something funny.

I never have a good reply for a couple reasons. Reason one: Funny is malleable. What amuses me may have no affect on you. For example, I don’t find Seinfeld funny. If I wanted to hear a group of neurotic people talk about life’s inanities, I’d spend more time at work. (I say that with affection.)

Reason two: Literary humor is very different than most modern humor. If you ask me, I’ve never read a book funnier than “Pride and Prejudice.” Of course, I didn’t realize that until I read it for the third time.

But I don’t think people are looking for “Pride and Prejudice” when they ask for something funny.

However, I now have a proper response, thanks to my sister, Erin, who gave me “Stuff White People Like” by Christian Lander for my birthday.

“Stuff White People Like” — brought to you by the same people who operate the identically named Web site — catalogues, well, stuff white people like. (Apparently, making fun of white people is also something white people like.)

It takes a keen eye to notice “white people love ethnic diversity, but only as it relates to restaurants” or “white people love Wes Anderson movies more than they love their kids.”

Sure, he misses the mark a few times. (I’m pretty sure other racial populations also enjoy coffee, graduate school and Asian women.) But even when he’s wrong, he’s funny.

And I don’t need to worry about recommending this to someone one who won’t find it funny. Here’s an easy litmus test. Go to If you don’t find it funny, don’t buy the book. If you laugh so hard your coworkers think you’re finally having that meltdown, get a copy.

-- Jason Lea

As a bonus, here are some blog titles I suggested that my superiors rejected: Central Booking; Writers Block; and The Blogs of War.

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