Suzy Lee Weiss, Tina Fey and the Art of Satire

First, a note on weather. It is spring, right? Perhaps it is the recurring cold snaps that keep coming around and I keep getting the same sinus infection over and over like Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day waking each day only to repeat the same tired day that has me confused. Ugh!

So, being under the weather and relegated to spending the last few weeks suffering with a terrible sinus headache that wouldn’t go away, I wrapped my head with a heating pad and tried to catch a few news bites. I caught the interview on the Today Show with Suzy Lee Weiss concerning the criticism of her bitingly satirical op-ed for The Wall Street Journal about the day in which she received four refusals for admission to four Ivy League Colleges.

First, everyone lighten-up! The article is satire. Have we gotten so politically correct we can’t enjoy a good piece of satirical writing without going overboard about how insensitive and whiny this gifted young writer is? So what if she said she would have written her essay about her “two moms” or gone to Africa to do social work for the photo-op if it would have afforded her a better opportunity to get into Yale. C’mon people, it’s SATIRE. Would that more high school seniors had the gift of hyperbole.

Who hasn’t, when faced with a great disappointment and reached the end of their rope, sat around and bemoaned their fate while spouting a list of grievances aimed at the one who got the job, the guy, the girl, the promotion, the spot on the team ….. (I once wrote a wonderful sonnet about how many f-bombs you have to include to be published in The New Yorker.)  Ms. Weiss has at least created a wonderfully funny and biting piece of writing out of her anguish, and for that, we should applaud her.

What has gotten me so riled about the reaction to Weiss’ piece?

Maybe it’s the Today Show viewers. Fifty-three percent of the people surveyed agreed Weiss’s editorial was: “A whiny, one-woman pity party.”  I, however, have never been so eloquent in the middle of a “whiny, pity party.” And believe me, I can let the pity party roll on occasion. Just ask the kid standing next to me last Mardi Gras when they threw the giant teddy bear from the Mystics of Time float. Despite a valiant struggle, he grabbed the thing right out of my hands. (Sorry kid, but I had it first and you catch like a girl.)

Maybe it’s Tina Fey. I had just read Bossypants when I saw the piece about Weiss. After reading the ins and outs of Tina Fey’s career in comedy and how far we’ve come in breaking the glass ceiling in her field, I still find myself wondering if Weiss were male, would the piece have been called, “a whiny one-man pity party”?  I think not.

To Tina Fey: Please feel free to weigh in on this one.

Maybe it’s me. I was in high school when the first episode of Saturday NIght Live aired. I was a devoted All in the Family fan. Give me The Smothers Brothers any day of the week. Today, you will find episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report in the DVR waiting to be viewed (usually in catch-up marathons on sleepless nights). I love the play on words, the slight lilt in the voice when the point is hit home, the “truthiness” of just the right combination of metaphor, hyperbole and sarcastic wit, and I still think Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” to be one of the best satirical pieces I’ve ever read.

So where are we today in the world of equality and political correctness? Well for one thing, survey questions seem to be written to evoke sexist reactions. And many of us are just too sensitive to appreciate good satire and let it be what it is without reading all kinds of anti-fill-in-the-blank ill-will into it.

I say we need more Suzy Lee Weiss’s in the world. Those who can take lemons and make a meringue pie out of them. And for that, and a good laugh, I thank you Suzy Lee. Plus, I like your name. It sounds Southern. So if you’re ever down this way, look me up. I’ll bake you a Lemon Meringue Pie, and we’ll have a nice glass of iced tea and talk about our favorite 30 Rock episodes.

And Tina Fey, I make a cheese biscuit that will put Red Lobster to shame.



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