Mail Call

Don't you just hate it when columnists get lazy or run short on ideas and resort to answering their mail in print? You do? Well, turn the page, bub, 'cause this week, Buzz gots a letter.

Joan Covici of Dallas didn't appreciate our item last week where we purported to report a series of messages Mayor Laura Miller left on local zillionaire Tom Hicks' voice mail.

"Is this legal???" Covici wrote. "To listen in on and then publish private voice mail messages? I think you are playing down and dirty. I'd love to see you taken to court on this one."

Joan obviously didn't pick up that this was a spoof based on the movie Fatal Attraction, or note Buzz's admission that we're willing "to lie through our teeth." Our claim that Miller left Hicks a hot dish of hasenpfeffer didn't register either. Hasenpfeffer is rabbit stew, as in boiled rabbit. Don't get it? Rent the DVD.

So the answer, Joan, is no, listening in on private voice mail is probably illegal. Humor, such as it is, may or may not be legal in Texas; we're awaiting a court ruling on that one.

Still, Joan's letter points out a thorny issue for Buzz. Sometimes readers take us seriously. God knows why. Of course, we're not all jokes, and sometimes when we are, we aren't...if you get our meaning. This week, as a helpful guide, Buzz offers a straight-up, honest-to-goodness sample joke, followed by hints to help you, the reader, recognize when humor is being assayed:

A distraught man walks into a bar and orders a glass of milk. The bartender asks him if he doesn't want something stronger. The man says he's on the wagon because he drank so much the night before that he "blew chunks." Bartender says, "So what? Many people do that." Man replies, "You don't understand. Chunks is my dog."

Here are the clues:

1) Forty-seven percent of all jokes begin with a man in a bar, according to MIT researchers.

2) Corollary to No. 1, humor often involves fake, absurdly precise statistics. For reference, see any publication from the current White House budget office.

3) Helpful, concerned bartenders seldom exist in real life. Most working bartenders display a level of stress you might expect from someone manning a runaway nuclear reactor.

4) Bestiality is, we hope, rare outside the Internet and certain agricultural districts but is widely considered funny among males 18 to 35, i.e., our target demographic.

Remember, Joan, funniness is liable to break out where you least expect it--when reading Buzz, for instance-- so stay alert.

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