Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash Vol. XXXIV: Chilean miner publicity sluts, Willie Geist’s American Freak Show, and a reader execution

Matt Labash Columnist
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I’m the author of the new book American Freak Show, a work of satire that some are calling “a classic in the genre.” My problem is that the Chilean miners have completely stolen my spotlight. I guess we know what they were digging for down there: publicity. – Willie Geist, New York

Wait a second. You’re the Willie Geist? Star of stage and screen? Trusty sidekick on MSNBC’s Morning Joe? Host of his very own Way Too Early with Willie Geist? What a surprise! Welcome, Willie. While lamestream media viewers know you as an all-around-entertainer, as a decorated war hero, as a lion in the boardroom and a tiger in the bedroom, I know you as my former dance partner in the drunken-birthday-party Caucasian reenactment of Kid’n’Play. And in all the hours we’ve spent together practicing in the dance studio, I’ve never known you to subscribe to batty conspiracy theories. I mean, sure, you claim that Oswald didn’t act alone – that he had help from Teddy Kennedy on account of the Kennedy brothers’ sibling rivalry. You insist that Tupac is alive and well and running a check-cashing store in Crenshaw. And you wrote a monograph about how 9/11 was an inside job orchestrated by Dick Cheney, who desperately wanted the World Trade Center to come down, so that his Halliburton cronies could win the construction bid for the Ground Zero mosque. So actually, scratch what I said before. You’re nuts.

Still, I can’t help but concur that you’re on to something with these Chilean miner publicity whores. Yes, their story was a triumph of the human spirit, if you go in for that sort of thing. (As a trained media professional, I much prefer to see the human spirit defeated – it’s better copy.) But the timing of their emergence is just a little bit suspicious. For two long months, we heard story upon unceasing story about the miners down in that hole. Our heartstrings were plucked, our sympathies worked like sock puppets, as they sat despondent in the dark, taking naps, playing rock-paper-scissors, calculating who they would eat first when they ran out of canned tuna. To which I say: boo-hoo. In my house, that’s not called “being trapped,” that’s called “Sunday dinner.”
But then, Willie, just as your “American Freak Show” is released, a book which – spoiler alert – shows Americans at their freak-showiest — the Chileans decide to spring the miners and suck up all your oxygen, drawing half of our media crews down to their God-forsaken country. Why? It’s obvious:  jealousy. I mean what else does Chile have besides their trapped publicity-seeking miners? Yes, they make a good Chile relleno – I just had one at Chevy’s. But then what? Chilean sea bass? Nice try, Chile. But most of those aren’t caught near Chile, aren’t bass besides, and are actually called Patagonian toothfish, which are now endangered, as the species spent the better part of two decades getting served up to jowly gringos willing to pay 40 bucks an entrée for your cynical marketing gimmick.

So what else do you got, Chile? Overrated magic-realist writers like Isabel Allende? Well move over, sister. There’s a new magic realist on the scene, and his name is Willie Geist. I don’t think his book has much realism in it. But there’s magic in every sentence. Like this one: “What’s up Heather, you tasty little tomcat?”  Or this: “Busted! Yes, I am God. Guilty as charged.” Or this one:  “F**k you!  Just send over the motherf**kin’ pizza.”

So I am now going to do something I don’t often do in this space. I’m going to give a plug. If you buy one book this upcoming holiday season, buy “Fly Fishing with Darth Vader,” by Matt Labash. It’s not my place to say it’s a life-changing literary event, so I’ll quote Willie saying it instead. “It’s a life-changing literary event,” says Willie Geist. (So kind of you, Willie, thanks.) But if you buy another — and two books a year is usually my outer limit (I don’t care for books, they’re so wordy) — then buy Willie Geist’s “American Freak Show: The Completely  Fabricated Stories of Our New National Treasures.” I don’t want to call it my new Bible. Because that would be sacrilegious. I will, however, call it my new Qur’an, since I’m trying to appear pluralistic after having just maligned the Chilean people. Like Willie himself, it’s funny, it’s zeitgeist-y, and it tells the truth through lies. Because you can’t trust the lies. Which is the only truth Willie knows.

But don’t buy this book for Willie, or me, or even yourselves. Buy it for America. As a country, we don’t make anything anymore, except for publicity sluts. So do not allow our last remaining growth occupation to get outsourced to South America.
Has a seal ever fallen off a piece of furniture you use? (I know writing is hard, so I provided a couple possible answers) A. No. I only work with sea lions. 2. No. Everything I do is on porpoise – Noah Pology

I’m not the kind of advice columnist who believes in gratuitously abusing his readers. I try to give mine a wide berth, and edit their questions only for grammar or clarity — and often, not even for grammar. Because I want real people to have a real voice, one that is spoken in their native dialect. So if  you want to be roughed up, I suggest sending questions to Mistress Rowena, a dominatrix advice columnist over at (I’m never too proud to write referrals.)

But on occasion, I have to take a reader out behind the barn, and put a couple bullets in his brain. Noah Pology is just such a reader. Yes, Mr. Pology, writing is hard. So let’s not make a mockery of it. Writing is not like working in a mine or anything, but these days, neither is working in a mine (see Chilean miner publicity sluts, above). I have set this column up to operate very much like the Outback Steakhouse – no rules, just right. But there are a few unspoken rules, and in one question, Mr. Pology has violated all of them. So now, I am forced to speak them:

  1. Feel free to josh and jive and tap dance in a question. Follow your muse. But do not send questions merely to supply your own answer. You don’t go to the doctor to write your own prescription. Don’t come to the advice columnist to give your own advice.
  2. Never, ever send me canned jokes. I hate canned jokes, almost as much as I hate puns.
  3. Under no circumstances will puns be tolerated. Anyone who puns is banned for eternity from this column. Punners are several life-forms below even haikuists. And I think you know how I feel about haiku. So no puns. No exceptions.

Establishing rules cuts against my libertarian grain. But if we all observe a few basic ones, more won’t become necessary. This will then remain a safe space. And we can continue to walk arm-in-arm down the path of enlightenment, as co-equal partners in the search for truth.

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” was published this spring by Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.