Mary Hart Failure

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Idon’t wish to cause alarm or panic or rioting in the streets, but it would appear that Mary Hart, hostess of “Entertainment Tonight,” can cause seizures just by speaking aloud.

This alarming piece of news came to us a few weeks ago in an Associated Press story printed in the Press-Enterprise (motto: “We Have Dan Bernstein, and You Don’t, So Nyah Nyah Nyah”). Apparently, a neurologist named “Dr. Venkat Ramani” (whose name can be rearranged to spell “Martian Knave”) concluded that some unidentified woman’s seizures were triggered by the voice of Mary Hart. Every time she watched “Entertainment Tonight,” she would have a seizure, so after a while, she finally determined that maybe she should stop watching it. She has not had any seizures since.

I think we can all agree that Mary Hart’s next step, now that the woman has stopped watching “Entertainment Tonight,” should be to start doing commercials. That way, when the woman least expects it — perhaps when she’s sitting on the sofa, engaged in a private moment with her husband, watching a romantic movie on television — all of a sudden a hemorrhoid commercial comes on with Mary Hart doing the voice-over, and boom! The woman starts up. Then, when she stops watching television altogether, Mary Hart can show up at her house with a bullhorn and send her into oblivion. All of this would be very mean, of course, but it would also be very funny, which would cancel out the meanness.

Another alarming story I saw was accompanied by the alarming headline “Loud Music May Bring Loss of Hearing.” Naturally, I kept reading, wanting to know just how this alarming suggestion — that loud noises might cause hearing loss — could possibly be true.

Apparently, the National Institute on Deafness (motto: “What?!”) delivered a big spiel to the House Committee on Children, Youth and Families. The House Committee, I would imagine, probably had a difficult time stifling its laughter and sarcastic cries of, “You’re kidding!” when the Institute said things like, “Of special concern is the use of personal stereos, which are capable of reaching high decibel levels.”

But the really alarming part of the story was where some military guy said that U.S. military services have had to lower their standards for hearing because so many people applying for induction have suffered hearing damage. I can just hear the conversations coming from fox-holes a few years down the road:

SERGEANT: Alright, men. Jones, you and Finkle go down to the south end of the river and cut across. Schwartz, take your platoon straight toward the enemy lines, but duck the whole way. Washington and Lincoln, go to the Denny’s back in town. Meet us back here at 0200 hours.

SOLDIERS: (Simultaneously have seizures, because the sergeant sounds like Mary Hart.)

I don't know why, but in publication, this part was cut out: "Then, when she stops watching television altogether, Mary Hart can show up at her house with a bullhorn and send her into oblivion. All of this would be very mean, of course, but it would also be very funny, which would cancel out the meanness." I wish it had been published, because that last sentiment -- that it doesn't matter how mean something is as long as it's funny -- is a great one, and it's been at the heart of some of the meaner things I've done in my life.

The practice of rearranging the letters of an odd name to spell something else is standard Dave Barry procedure, and I stole the idea. I had to rearrange the letters myself, though, and I did a good job, with no letters left over or anything.

I refer to Dan Bernstein in this column. He's a columnist for the Riverside, Calif., Press-Enterprise, and he's pretty much THE columnist for Riverside County. He writes three days a week, sometimes about local matters, and sometimes just about stuff in general. It's fairly typical for all humor columnists to be accused of trying to imitate Dave Barry -- as if he has a patent on the idea of writing humor columns -- but Dan Bernstein doesn't really bear much resemblance to Barry. He's not as funny, nor does he try to be. He's a nice guy, as far as I can tell, and I enjoy reading his column when I'm in California.


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