Comments I Made While Hosting My First — and Last — Public Radio Pledge Drive

Valued listeners, you’re all no-good, freeloading scum. For shame, for shame.

NPR means listener-supported radio that’s made possible by listeners like you. Except for you, Mary L. Atkins on 1434 Guilford Avenue. That’s right, we’re naming names and we’re going to call out every last one of you deadbeat scoundrels. Don’t think that you can just get away with listening without making a pledge today.

If we don’t meet our goal of raising $3,000 this hour, the lights are going off. We won’t be able to pay the electric bill. It’s over. Oh God, oh dear God, it’s all over.

Go ahead. Go to the library and rent an audio book this week. Listen to some podcasts. Sign up for a free trial of Audible. You can escape our repetitive pleas for the contributions we depend on, but you’ll never evade that needling thought that you’re a horrible person who fails to pay your fair share.

Let’s try a thought experiment. Remember how you listened to NPR programs every day for the last however many years and how our insightful news coverage was only thing that made your billboard-littered, buttocks-deadening commute tolerable? Then recall how you contributed nothing to pay for all the distracting content your public radio station provided day in and day out. Then think about what that makes you. Well, what does that make you?

Faithful listeners, have you ever tuned into commercial radio? Two guys prattle on about how satisfying their bowel movements are and laugh at the same aborted jokes they’ve been repeating since Tip O’Neill was Speaker of the House. And, of course, there’s five minutes of commercials after every minute of programming. And those commercials are all about the shouting. The half-drunk and aneurysm-inducing announcer shrieks that there’s zero percent APR financing at least five times, then repeats the phone number to the dealership another five times. That’s the way those clowns operate 365 days a year, and it’s like plunging a fondue fork into your eye socket and scraping out your frontal lobe. We can switch to that format right now if you people don’t feel obliged to contribute. We have to pay the bills somehow, people. Make a pledge today.

For a contribution of just $250, you can get a plastic water bottle with our station logo and a plastic drinking straw. That’s a great value. That’s not something you can just find in stores. Show your support.

Maybe you’re poor. Maybe you’re just too much of a failure in life to contribute to the National Public Radio programming that you enjoy every day. Maybe the kids who loiter in the gas station parking lot make fun of you for being an empty-pocketed loser who hasn’t yet made a pledge to your local public radio station. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can better yourself. Call now.

This hour we’ve got a two-for-one match going. For every dollar you donate, that’s two fewer times I’ll punch you in the temple when I see you splurging at Starbucks without our station’s tote bag.

I just combed through the entire Emancipation Proclamation, and there’s no exemption made for reporters, even in radio. By the executive order of the 16th President of the United States of America, we have to pay them something and that’s why we’re asking for your support. We don’t have to pay the reporters a lot or even enough so they can eat out at fancy places like that gyro joint on 42nd Street that has the Metal Slug arcade game and mysterious stains on the walls, but we do have to pay them something.

National Public Radio is like an oxcart that depends on valued, faithful listeners like you. As the proverb says, many oxen make light work. But you’re not pulling your weight and now the cart is broken down in the river. Glug, glug, glug. Hear that? We’re drowning. Unbiased not-for-profit journalism without all the hype and sensationalism is drowning. Consequently, America is drowning like a wet, frightened ox that couldn’t ford the river. Asphyxiation will be the official cause of death if you don’t help now. No, not when you get to work, now!

People Who Get To Board the Plane Before Me

First Class Cabin, carried to their seats by Flight Attendant Brayden

Priority Members

Less of a Priority Members

Gold Platinum Elevate SkyTravel Star Power Members

Anyone who is a member of anything

Families with small children, beginning with the criers and ending with the screamers

Businessmen who got their shoes shined at the terminal (must show receipt)

Group A

Section 3

Zone XII

Passengers seated in rows 1-27

The gentleman in seat 28F who thinks rules do not apply to him

That woman holding a loosely wrapped tuna fish sandwich

Those travelling with emotional support dogs or cats

Now the ones with emotional support birds

The touring company of The Lion King

18th Century Tinder Message

O’ Sweetest Sight,

As first I beheld your pleasant visage, a thunderous pulse ran through my veins, and left me shaken, as if by earthquake or long-suffering peasant mother.

The fleeting faces I had held but moments before aloft as if precious baubles became but trinkets then, befit a gypsy or an American.

I read the charming lines you had arranged with a scholar’s care, and smiled at each clever conjunction. I knew at once I wanted thee.

I fear not your likely rejection for I hold fast the hope that that which moves me shall soon move you, like some walkway not yet devised which shall bear dandies from shop to shop at an easy pace.

And should you feel a twinge of kind, fear not that our connection shall fail at the commonalities. I, too, am fond of Bach and penny dreadfuls.

I have stated my case, however poorly, and leave it to thee to solve. I shall anxiously await my manservant, and the letter I hope he shall soon be able to read to me.

Your newfound admirer,

Reginald Burke

P.S. I have included an etching of my schlong.

Batman Villains Against Trump

My name is Two-Face, but you may know me as Harvey Dent, as I was called before my little accident in the facial region. As the only member of Gotham’s criminal community who is — as these guys put it — half-normal, I’ve been asked to speak on their behalf.  I speak for the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, Bane, Hugo Strange, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, the Calendar Man, and even that guy with the ventriloquism gimmick. What’s he called? The Ventriloquist, of course he is. Anyway, we have joined together with one goal: stopping Donald Trump before it’s too late.

It’s unusual for any of us to take an interest in politics, except for that time the Penguin ran for Mayor of Gotham. We like to stay above politics, spreading death and madness in a bipartisan rampage. We don’t have much time for politics, since we spend most days trying to kill Batman. The Joker alone has created thousands of death traps over the years, and the Riddler isn’t far behind. Hey, those guys got it easy: all my traps have to involve the number two, or a half, or fifty percent, or the rapper 50 Cent. I like that guy.

Anyway, we believe that some things are more important than dangling Batman over a vat of acid or strapping him to a slow-moving gear: namely, keeping a flat-out racist and borderline fascist out of the White House. We murder, steal, and terrorize, but we have standards.

Let me tell you about my standard, which I’ve always thought is very fair since half my body was scarred with acid: the coin flip. Heads I kill you, tails I don’t. Keeps things simple. I also use this method to decide if I want pizza or a hostage. Is that a double standard? Yes, that’s what I like about it. This little, shiny, round fella here is how I make all my decisions, including whether it makes more sense to slice Batman in half lengthwise or at the waist — and even I think a Donald Trump presidency would be crazy.

Traditionally, our community has leaned toward the Republican Party during those semi-lucid moments when the quacks at Arkham Asylum hit the sweet spot with our medication. Why? For one thing, we hate taxes. I didn’t like paying taxes before my accident, and I don’t like it now, though I think a fair rate would be fifty percent. We also support the Republican Party’s tendency to start unnecessary wars, which can create a helpful diversion from our, whatchamacallit, criminal activities. When troops are dying overseas, it’s hard for the public to get excited about a guy knocking over banks and leaving riddles — no offense, Riddler. Lax environmental policies are great too. When Republicans lower standards for drinking water, it’s easier for the Joker to stock Gotham Harbor with mutated, smiling, killer Joker fish. Those even creep me out. But not as much as Trump.

Stopping that orange fella is also essential to our unity. God knows we don’t always get along, but sometimes we need to team up against Batman, especially when he brings his buddies like Robin or that damned Justice League. Our dames — excuse me, female members — such as Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy have threatened to dump us if we don’t dump Trump. Harley said Trump’s skin reminds her of pumpkins, and she’s pumpkin-phobic. Poison Ivy scares me, frankly, due to her freaky control of plants. It’s bad enough I’ve got Batman and the cops on my case. I don’t need a head of broccoli turning up in my bed.

We expect this announcement to cause a stir, because most Americans, for some reason, just assume that Batman villains would automatically support a potential President Trump. Some ignoramuses even assume Trump — because he’s called “the Donald” — is actually one of us. Let me clarify: the Donald is not one of us, but if you need further convincing, send me your address and the Penguin will send a horde of penguins strapped with missiles to persuade you. Or Bane will show you what it’s like “in the octagon,” which is not an octagon at all. It’s just a regular room where Bane punches you in the face. I’d also be glad to kill half your family, friends, or co-workers — but only if you have an exactly even amount.

That’s the difference between a guy like Trump and a guy like me: I’m not a monster.

An Anxious Introvert’s Pinterest Boards

Places to pace back and forth while nervously talking on the phone

Nice bathrooms to have nervous diarrhea before a social event

Inspirational quotes to remind yourself that you aren’t a reclusive monster

Famous introverts who made a successful living while you’re hiding from the person who is knocking on the door

Boo Radley fashion inspiration

Books to read in public and then feel self conscious about reading because you are alone and a freak and everyone is looking at you

Coffee shops to go to alone and then question why you left the house

Antique mirrors to give yourself pep talks before going out to a social event and regretting it

Best corners to stand in at a party

Cool dogs to nervously pet while you’re standing in the corner at said party

Clothes to regret buying because you could never pull that off

Calm places you can pretend to meditate

Dr Pepper, Adjunct for Hire

Dear Search Committee Chair:

I am writing to apply for the Humanities Instructor position announced last week’s issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. I recently passed my doctoral defense at the University of Georgia, specifically in the Tate Student Center Café, where I studied under some of the world’s top Snapple lids. My dissertation was both a personal and critical exploration, entitled Why There’s No Period in “Dr”: The Semiotics of Absence.

I have a broad range of research interests, drawing from twenty-three unique academic disciplines. I am currently in the exploratory stages of a paper examining Baudrillard’s simulacrum through the lens of Diet Berries and Cream, tentatively titled “Has ‘Berry’ Lost All Meaning? Yes, It Has.” I also coedited Sweetest Scriptor: Collected Essays, a forthcoming anthology examining the extent to which the Death of the Author can be linked to high-fructose corn syrup. Your bulletin mentions a lecture course on American Thought and Culture in the Twenty-First Century; I would be a natural choice to lead such a class, as my areas of study encompass everything from the Red Fusion Era of 2002-2004 to the 2014 advent of Vanilla Float.

I believe in the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, that the intangible benefits of education endure beyond the commercial value of a diploma. Such is my conviction — otherwise I would have simply gotten an MBA like my cousin Justin Pibb. I base my teaching philosophy on the premise that if I approach learning as an end in itself, I will inspire my students to do so as well. Or put more succinctly: I’m a Pepper—wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?

While I am a carbonated beverage and not a human, it is my understanding that your institution is an equal-opportunity employer. Furthermore, my lack of either dependents or a mortal body makes me ideally suited to live on your advertised salary and benefits package of eight thousand dollars and a parking pass.

I plan to attend the MLA convention next January and would be happy to meet with you for an interview at your earliest convenience. I will be on the fifth floor of the downtown Marriott and can be reached by pressing E4 or by shaking the vending machine vigorously.


Leslie Pepper, PhD

The Eight Limbs of Brazilian Waxing

Pratyhara (Sensory Withdrawal) – Prior to Appointment

In utter fear you read about the procedure, research the salon, and try to find information about how to decrease if not eliminate the pain. Then wonder if you can combine all the pain relieving mechanisms together. In essence, you plan to achieve complete sensory withdrawal by eating pineapples (for their natural anti-inflammatory qualities) three days in advance, rubbing numbing cream on the site an hour before, and taking Motrin twenty minutes prior.

Pranayama (Breath Control) – The First Time

You arrive early having forgotten all the pre-appointment pain relievers, probably out of fear — and wax wouldn’t adhere to cream anyway, would it? You approach the desk and whisper to the receptionist why you’re there. While waiting, the epiphany of what was I thinking hits. Unfortunately, as soon as you get up to leave they call your name. Shit! You enter with the notion of maintaining ujjayi breathing, a classic yoga practice to provide focus, clarity, and the proper movement of energy throughout the body. During the actual procedure, however, you spastically alternate between Lamaze breathing and no breathing.

Yama (Nonviolence) – The Esthetician

As this woman puts hot wax on your privates and rips off the unwanted hair, you must set aside your violent reflexes, practice continence (in bladder and behavior), and learn to honestly accept and forgive her.

Asanas (Postures) – Positions

Savasana (Corps Pose): Your first time in every way. In preparation for your wedding night, Mom leaves you to the care of the Pakistani woman and says: “Give her the works. I’ll be back to get her in a few hours.” Here, your virgin body simply flops down on its back and lies there awaiting its unknown fate.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Butterfly): Feet together, knees fall apart, with a slight modification. Rather than having one hand on the heart and the other on the belly, you have one hand on your gaping mouth and the other on your jewels. The latter is for the wax woman’s sake. She needs help pulling the skin taut.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog): The pose is typically achieved on hands and feet. In this case, the folding table assists the position as you lie face down, just one of several options for easy access to the derriere.

Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose): Lying on your back, you bring your legs up and hold them open, souls of the feet pointing to the sky. It provides a second option for accessing the hindquarters.

Goasana (Table Top): Option three for the backside bonanza happens with you on all fours. A helpful modification here is done on the forearms, which facilitates access to your posterior while requiring a very tight sphincter or else.

Apanasana (Hugging knees to the chest): Just when you thought you had seen it all, a new waxer wants to know if this position is ok. You nod, too focused on suppressing the air your body is about to expel. She rips and so do you. Oops.

Samadhi (Ecstasy) – Post Waxing

Staring at your prepubescent looking honey you experience a newfound joy and wonder. The second Brazilian, a few years after the wedding night, even reawakens your disconnected (now ex-)husband. The missing hair allows the nerve endings in your down-there skin to magnify the pleasure and yes, yes, yes. Post divorce, when freedom returns, you never get tired of your latest lover’s eyes widening at the moment of reveal.

Niyama (Self Discipline) – Deciding to Upkeep

All that positive reinforcement makes you promise to make Brazilian waxing a part of your life. Forget the wincing pain, itchy feeling as the hair grows back, and the embarrassment of putting your unmentionables in the hands of a complete stranger. You even become an evangelist for this strange form of torture, a torture that comes with a payoff of course.

Dharana (Concentration) – DIY

You attempt to do your own waxing, because a spontaneous date came up. How hard could it be? If those women can do it, so can you. You’ve got this. You sit in Malasana (Yoga Squat) with a mirror directly under your lady bits. But soon you realize you don’t got this and you are back on some esthetician’s table, half-waxed, in their position of choice.

Dhyana (Quieting the Mind) – Today

By now, the process has become a part of you. After making the appointment your mind goes completely quiet and the poses just follow. Amid this quiet, you become aware of a glaring difference between the two practices. Whereas in yoga one flows in sync with breath, in Brazilian waxing she is stiff and breathless.

Food Applies to be a Deity

To the Divinity Resources Department,

I, Food, am applying for the position of Deity in Firmament.

I understand that there is an anticipated vacancy due to the weak job performance of a current post-holder, God (Judeo-Christian version).

God has recently struggled to fulfill his responsibilities of inspirer, prayer-answerer, awe-striker and vengeance-wreaker. Let’s face it, God’s KPIs are in the dumper. Look at church attendance. I mean, isn’t it Deity job requirement numero-uno to attract devoted worshippers? God just doesn’t get the butts in the seats anymore.

You can be confident Food will reverse this trend. Indeed, Food is already fulfilling many of God’s job responsibilities without commensurate title or compensation. For example, on Sundays, Food’s temples — Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans (Northeastern congregation) — are filled to capacity. Bottom line, I’m eating God’s lunch.

The Religion of Food has ready-made denominations. I’ve got your Vegetarians, your Vegans, your Low-Carbs, your Clean-Eating, your Paleos, and your Gluten-Frees. And that’s just the main-stream communions. Alimentation only knows how many more there are! Like proper sects, they demonize one another, averring they alone know the true path to Me.

I command legions of priests, from the brainy and Jesuitical (Michael Pollan) to the free-wheeling and evangelical (Guy Fieri). You think seminary is tough? Try Chopped.

It is the responsibility of any legitimate Deity to offer a dark and a light side. Got that too. Present occupants of Food Perdition include the following demons: High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Trans Fats, Partially Hydrogenated Shortening, Aspartame, Salt, Soda, and GMOs. The denominations mentioned earlier could add scores to the list (conflicting of course) concerning the occupants of Hell.

A true Deity must shift the boundaries of sin over time, as happened with gay marriage on God’s watch. Keeps adherents on their toes. I am no slouch in that department either. See “Cholesterol” and “Low Fat.”

Want punishment? Expiation for sin? One word: Diet.

As for Holy Scripture, Amazon currently shows 16,627 books containing both the words “Food” and “Bible” in their titles.

It is customary in a job interview to ask the applicant to reveal His greatest weakness. I therefore must state for the record that, unlike God, Food to date has not inspired far-reaching violence and bloodshed. I’m thinking Crusade-level here.

However, it is widely believed due to climate change, a war the likes of which the world has never seen will be fought over Food. (It is similarly customary for the applicant to turn His weakness into a humble-brag.)

I am aware you must be receiving dozens, if not hundreds, of responses from aspiring applicants for Pantheon inclusion. To name just a few entities in a similar position as Food to replace God: Spinning, Reiki, Malcom Gladwell, Airline Points, Landmark Seminars, Iron Man Triathlons, Colon Cleansing, TED Talks, Parenting, Social Media, Money, and Barcelona.

Against this list, I offer you one of my most powerful seraphs, Kale.

It will not be an easy decision for the Board to choose among these CVs. But no entity is in a better position than Food to respond to the current divine business challenge. With Food on your team, you will see a turnaround. Just imagine the PowerPoint slide showing how, by a mere change of personnel, Google searches have increased!

Current queries for God now stand at 784 million. For Food, 2.4 billion.

Please let me know at your earliest convenience when We may schedule an interview.

Yours Sincerely,


– – –

Like this piece? Check out Anna’s novel Saint Brigid’s Cloak.

We’ve Cast a Tiger to Play the Next James Bond

After a long and arduous process, the casting committee has finally chosen the new James Bond: Cybil the Tiger.

We realize this is an unconventional selection. We’re all used to a more, shall we say “anthropoid” Bond. The main aim of the casting committee was to identify a candidate who embodied the social progression that the James Bond franchise would like to help Hollywood to pursue. That vision led us to Cybil the Tiger, who represents almost every underrepresented minority group in Hollywood.

First of all, Cybil the Tiger hails from Asia. Yes, we stole her from her natural habitat, which defies ethics, especially since we’re discussing an endangered species, but it was important for us to bring an Asian actor into the Hollywood spotlight, and in a movie that isn’t about ninjas, Samurai, or how to travel the world in a decidedly dull 80 days.

Cybil the Tiger is also female. James Bond will still go by the name James Bond, but we felt that, at this time, we would generate far more opening weekend revenue from feminists if we used a female lead. A lot of feminists go to the movies. We’re simply trying to adapt our demographic so that young women can also grow up with dreams of becoming cold-hearted, ruthless, sex-addicted killing machines.

Furthermore, Cybil stands 3’6”. We received a lot of complaints that James Bond always stands somewhere in the range of 5’9” to 6’3”. A lot of people felt that shorter actors were not receiving realistic shots at the role. Cybil was the shortest candidate we auditioned.

To remain in aesthetics, Cybil weighs in at a whopping 357 lbs. That said, I should note that she will be placed on a strict diet and a workout plan. James Bond will still appear athletic as ever, mostly because our writers do not possess the experience to write authentic storylines such as James Bond struggling with metabolism issues or losing confidence over his body type.

Gingers flocked to us with surprising ferocity during the casting process. They felt that James Bond was a prime opportunity to thrust a ginger into the Hollywood spotlight in order to show the world that gingers can be more than secondary characters such as Scooby Doo’s Daphne Blake, Harry Potter’s Ron Weasley, and the Rugrats’ Chuckie Finster. Cybil the Tiger is admittedly only part ginger, but we feel the casting committee made a suitable compromise given the opposing pressure from James Bond diehards to tune out all the complaints from underrepresented groups and either hire someone with the classic look of a Henry Cavill or send Pierce Brosnan back in time in order to give it another go at not screwing up all of his movies.

An obvious concern with selecting a tiger for the prestigious role of James Bond is that tigers can’t speak English, but that is precisely the point. Cybil the Tiger not only appeases the complaints of our foreign fans to finally have a Bond who did not grow up in an English-speaking England, but her inherent incapacity for language will help to ease the franchise’s transition into silent films.

Elephants were considered for the role. So were a few monkeys, one dog, and a particularly spirited mountain goat.

We do thank these and all other candidates for their effort and participation throughout the casting process, especially Idris Elba. Idris was phenomenal in his auditions, truly sensational, but the casting team felt Idris was too…how to put this lightly? Idris didn’t have the right look.

Surveys of our key demographic — white males ages 18 to 35 — told us that fans don’t want to see our movies get too dark. Batman dark. The good Batman movies. With Christian Bale and Morgan Freeman. You know, like a melancholy, sort of depressing movie that feels just a little too real. The presence of a tiger will help to keep James Bond light.

All things considered, Cybil the Tiger embodies all of the diverse qualities we were searching for in the next James Bond.

Thank you all for coming today. On behalf of the entire James Bond franchise, I sincerely hope you enjoy Cybil the Tiger in the upcoming installment of the 007 series, for which, if you’re interested, we’ve cast Alan Rickman as the villain. There were a lot of complaints from dead people that Hollywood has been ignoring them.

Signs That You Might Be Abe Froman

When you go to the grocery store to buy sausage — whether at Dominick’s at West Division Street or the Jewel Food Store on North Pulaski — your face is on most of the labels in the sausage section.

After a Chicago Bulls game during 1992’s Eastern Conference finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, you hung around outside the old Chicago Stadium on West Madison Street and asked Michael Jordan to autograph your Jordan jersey. When he asked you what your name was, you said “Abe Froman.”

Your wife Sarah likes her friends to refer to her as the “Sausage Queen of Chicago.”

When you were a bartender at Butch McGuire’s, your name tag said “Abe” and you were famous for putting sausages in your Bloody Marys. And your mimosas. And your cosmopolitans. And your margaritas. In fact, you were a bit melancholy when the Sausage Margarita didn’t catch on.

You frequently ask Governor Bruce Rauner to officially change the State Nickname from “Land of Lincoln” to “Eat More Sausage”

When Chicago native Scott Turow wrote a legal thriller loosely based on that time you got kidnapped, he called it “The Sausage King Disappears.”

When you deliver sausage to Ed Debevic’s restaurant, Mr. Debevic greets you by saying “Hello, Abe.”

You applied for a job to be a stock boy at Marshall Field’s one summer while you were a student at Northwestern and on your job application you wrote “Abe Froman” under “Name” and in the space where it asked for your “Work experience” you wrote “Sausage King.”

Bob Fosse consulted with you when he was choreographing “Chicago.” You suggested that he call his signature move — involving the performer extending her hands with palms toward the audience and fingers splayed and waving exuberantly — “sausage fingers.” He did not take your suggestion but you and Bob Fosse became fast friends nonetheless.

You once had a fling with Deborah Calhoun, the Peppers and Onions Queen of Chicago.

When Oprah was doing her show on “Sausage Kings from Around the World” she invited you to represent Chicago.

When you got the high score on the video trivia machine at the Navy Pier Beer Garden and the machine asked for your name, you wrote “Abe Froman.”

Your Illinois license plate reads “SAUSAGE.”

On Wednesday June 5, 1985 you went to have lunch at “Chez Quis” and your reservation had been snatched by three high school kids led by a young man named Ferris.