The Best of ‘Snide Remarks’: 1997-2007

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[The first “Snide Remarks” column was published Sept. 29, 1997 — 10 years ago this week. In honor of that, Eric has been going on and on about it all year, like it’s some kind of milestone or something.]

Earlier this year, I spent a few weeks re-reading every “Snide Remarks” column I’d ever written. You’re not supposed to laugh at your own jokes, of course, but in many cases I had completely forgotten the details of these columns, and the jokes were as fresh as if someone else had written them. In many instances, even after reading them anew I still had no recollection of having written them.

In other cases, the jokes didn’t make me laugh. Some made me wince. Some columns made me think, “What is this garbage?” I’ve already shared with you my candidates for the worst “Snide Remarks” columns ever.

And now I hope you will indulge me as I seize my own horn and toot it, fervently and at great length. As I re-read those 550-plus columns, I kept track of the ones that struck me as being particularly good: funny, memorable, inventive, clever, and well-constructed. Then I re-re-read them, and re-read them some more, and eventually whittled the list down to the 10 best. Plus 10 more than almost made the list. So … the 20 best.

I hope you like them. Feel free to post comments indicating which ones you would have included if you were making the list.

Oh! And there is also a special treat. I’ve recorded SnideCast audio versions of the top 10! That way, if you’ve read them before, now you can hear me read them to you, as if they were brand-new works. (The exception is #3, where the format made an audio recording unfeasible.)

THE 10 BEST “SNIDE REMARKS” COLUMNS OF THE LAST 10 YEARS

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1. “Letter to the Editor” (Nov. 10, 1997)

“I thought I was safe from such purveyors of smut….”

Many of you will not agree with this choice, I’m sure, because so many of the specifics of the column don’t hit home as well as they did when it was published. It is a parody of the letters to the editor we received at The Daily Universe, which were widely read by most students (along with Police Beat and, um, “Snide Remarks”) and hence familiar to the readers. What’s more, every single line of the column refers to something that had been discussed in recent actual letters, or else to the phraseology employed by letter writers. (“I thought I’d get away from _____ when I came to BYU from _____”; “I am ashamed to call myself a BYU student today”; etc.)

Plus, look at the different types of BYU students (and Mormons) that get made fun of here: The straight-up holier-than-thou types; the ones who quote obscure passages from general authorities; the ones who insist on applying religious doctrine to mundane, everyday things; the ones who discuss their unorthodox practices and beliefs while claiming to be perfectly orthodox; the ones who choose one specific doctrine to harp on constantly; the Utah-Mormons-vs-other-Mormons debaters; the ones who prefer the letter of the law over the spirit of it; and so forth.

If you read the letters published in the Universe now, a decade later, you’ll find the same types. Many of the specifics have changed — the column refers to a controversial Rodin exhibit and the doomed Provo strip club LeMar’s, for example — but the general tone remains the same. Take my word for it, this is a great column.

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2. “A Formal Apology” (March 26, 2007)

“You know you my retard.”

If you’re a creative type, perhaps you’ve had the experience of stepping back from something you’ve just made and realizing, “Wow. I’ve done something magical here.” Such was the case with me and the retard column. I don’t use the term “instant classic” very often (and especially not in reference to my own stuff), but I knew right away that this was a particularly good one. On one level, it deconstructs the recent trend of celebrity meltdowns and apologies. On another level, it mocks the “let’s pretend we’re all the same even though some of us are obviously different” platitudes. And on a third level, it makes jokes about retarded people — even as it scolds society for making jokes about retarded people. I’m very proud of it. It’s a very strange thing to be proud of, but there you go.

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3. “The Blog Cabin” (Aug. 15, 2005)

“The south is bein a bunch of secessionist biznatches.”

The only “Snide Remarks” that required creating a separate webpage to make the joke work! I made an actual Blogspot page for Abraham Lincoln’s blog, complete with teenage-girl-like colors and links. (I’m sorry, linkz.) I’ve always wanted to write more entries for Abe’s blog and update his site, but I haven’t gotten around to it. In the meantime, enjoy this sampling — all of which is based in historical accuracy, by the way.

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4. “The Stupid Agenda” (June 14, 2002)

“…spreading stupid-people diseases like dyslexia and rickets…”

Like the “gay agenda,” but replace “gay” with “stupid.” We’re all tired of stupid people taking over society, aren’t we? For a glimpse into the future, when stupidity is the norm, see the excellent Mike Judge film “Idiocracy.” In the meantime, read this column, and marvel at the many various ways people could fail to understand it.

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5. “How to Do Stuff Better” (Nov. 24, 1997)

“Kill the monster!”

This was the quintessential “Snide Remarks” from the Daily Universe era: jokes that my 18-25-year-old audience of Mormon BYU students could relate to, and a few beloved tangents. Also, I stand by both of the solutions proposed in this column. If they were implemented, they would revolutionize the world.

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6. “The Rainbow Correction” (May 30, 2005)

“…newly deceased mothers can barge into heaven and start flinging rainbows around willy-nilly…”

Though written long after the Daily Universe era, this column reads like an entry from that period, both in subject matter (Mormon pop culture) and style (tangents, derailments, and a really, really high word count). I’m quite pleased with the entire section on “I’ll Build You a Rainbow,” and fairly surprised I’d been doing “Snide Remarks” for eight years before it occurred to me to write about it.

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7. “No Need to Get Crabby” (July 20, 2003)

“Sweet Hitler’s handbag!”

What I like about this column is the use of refined, elegant language to describe people’s vulgar and common behavior. I sound like a prim old woman, like someone who would be harassed by the Marx Brothers at an opera.

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8. “Amana from Heaven” (June 20, 2001)

“A-ha! Now there was a great ’80s band.”

This one has no tangents, no sidetracks, and is shorter than many columns — and yet it’s a great example, I think, of being pithy, punchy, whimsical, and surprising. There’s barely a wasted sentence in the whole thing.

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9. “Rumspringa” (March 28, 2005)

“My sleeping quarters were fearsome chilled yesternight.”

I have a fondness for the columns that are purely fictional pieces, like little first-person short stories. (Item #2 on this list is another one.) This entry, about an Amish teenager’s experience with MTV Spring Break 2005, has the added bonus of being kind of sweet, too, which is not something that “Snide Remarks” is very often.

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10. “Goose Encounters of the Bird Kind” (July 26, 2004)

“…not dealing with one of your smarter members of the goose family…”

Telling stories from my personal life is a common theme in “Snide Remarks,” and there are two ways of doing it. One is to be breezy and conversational, like #8 on this list. The other is take a more literary tone, almost ponderous, which I think can make the situation seem funnier. I didn’t really experiment with this type of “Snide Remarks” until the goose story, and I was much pleased with the outcome. (See also #18 below.)

THE SECOND TOP 10:

11. “The Bauers (or 24: The Sitcom)” (April 24, 2006) If you don’t watch “24,” trust me, this column is hilarious.

12. “One Fateful Day” (Aug. 24, 2001) A bizarre combination of personal anecdote and fiction. I like the oddness of it.

13. “Hello Dalai” (May 11, 2001) If I did interview the Dalai Lama, I’m pretty sure it would actually go approximately like this.

14. “Some Book Reviews” (May 31, 2002) Some fine MAD-style humor writing, if I may say so.

15. “Scream of Conscience” (Aug. 21, 2002) The anthropomorphization of the elements of my psyche is amusing to me.

16. “Police Beat: Beaten” (Dec. 8, 1997) An acknowledged classic from the BYU era, and possibly (after the “Titanic” column) the most-remembered one.

17. “Spider Remarks” (Sept. 11, 2006) This column’s follow-up, a year later, got much more favorable feedback, but I prefer this one. I am more proud of the ballerina line than almost anything I’ve ever written. I was so proud, in fact, that I used it again in the follow-up.

18. “The Curious Incident of the Moron in the Night-time” (Dec. 13, 2004) Another personal anecdote reported in detached, unemotional language.

19. “Comfy KOSY Are We” (Dec. 12, 2001) Like #8, this is an example of an efficient column where nearly every sentence is useful.

20. “Boise in the Hood” (July 3, 2006) I like to think the reason Fate spared my life in this story is so I could share it with you and we could all make fun of the desk clerk together.

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Other 10th anniversary features:

My favorite angry letters.
The 10 worst columns.
A timeline of important columns: part 1, part 2, part 3

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