Miscellany

Beware Attempts At Edgy Humor

bored guy in glasses

Blah blah blah: "Please send money, etc. etc. etc." iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com

It's always extraordinarily hazardous to make a specific attempt to be edgily humorous, especially when you aren't well-positioned to pull it off credibly.

Just ask the fundraisers at Framingham State College, who recently sent out an appeal for donations that included 137 uses of the word "blah." You may have heard the story yesterday on All Things Considered.

How did it happen? Like this: "Today, the fact of the matter is that deserving students need help to finance their education. Blah, blah, blah, blah blah..." And it went on from there, covering the page with "blah blah blah" until the "and so, please send your money here" section at the bottom.

Blah blah blah, after the jump...

Those involved with the letter have been forced to apologize after alums complained, and perhaps rightly so. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that although it may have misfired, I do understand what they were going for. Recent college graduates are so stingy and so broke that I can imagine someone thinking, "We'll try to make them laugh, and what are they most likely to laugh at? The way fundraising letters always say the same thing.

In all honesty, perhaps it looks boneheaded now, but don't many of us, truthfully, treat fundraising mail as if it does say "blah blah blah" through most of the middle section?

It may be a simple matter of pop-culture-appropriate humor applied to a non-pop-culture situation. To a certain degree, you can stretch sarcastic, eye-rolling jokesterism — the kind that has robbed the word "snarky" of all meaning — to serious contexts: witness John McCain's recent appearance with David Letterman, for instance.

But there are places where people don't expect to see you trying to be funny, and perhaps an appeal from their alma mater is one of them. Perhaps we all need to believe that seriousness reigns somewhere, and if not in the alumni office, then where?

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