'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
FUND RAISING FUNNIES
Sometimes comedy can be found in the most unexpected places. We all know if you’re looking for laughs, network TV sitcoms are the one place where you’re guaranteed not to find any. On the other hand, tuning into C-SPAN to watch fat cat politicians pontificate about how much they’ve sacrificed to serve their constituencies is like the first couple years of “Saturday Night Live”—you roll on the floor laughing so hard you’re afraid you might wet your pants.
I recently discovered some roll-on-the-floor comedy in a very surprising place: my junk mail. The other day I received my semimonthly appeal for donations from Bucknell University, the college I graduated from. (Where I learned not to end sentences with a preposition.)
Using conservative estimates, my alma mater (Latin, meaning “all-night keg party”) has spent at least $30,000 over the last twenty-plus years asking me to donate $500. Sometimes the fund-raising letter is from the university at large. (“We urgently need your financial support to mail out another round of fund-raising letters! Won’t you please help?” Yes, I’ll help—if you first assure me the money will be used to hire a math professor who can explain to the fund-raising office that 30,000 is a slightly larger number than 500.)
Other times the appeal is from the athletic department. (“Bucknell is on the verge of becoming a national powerhouse in football! Won’t you please help?” Yes, I’ll help—if you first assure me the entire University of Miami team wants to transfer to Lewisburg, PA, and the Admissions Department has dropped all academic requirements.)
And occasionally, such as with the most recent letter, the request for money is from my fraternity. I opened this letter and began to read: “Dear Brother Dunn: Remember your days at Bucknell when you joined Sigma Chi – the leadership opportunities, working with others, the spirit of community service?”
A half hour later, after I got up off the floor and changed my pants, I composed myself enough to read that sentence again. “Remember your days at Bucknell when you joined Sigma Chi…” Well, actually I don’t remember those days, since the main reason I joined that particular fraternity was because they gave me free beer 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“…the leadership opportunities, working with others, the spirit of community service?” Now, I suppose there are some college fraternities somewhere which emphasize leadership and community service (like on the planet Remulak), but when I went to school, the absolute only reason fraternities existed was to sidestep the legal drinking age of 21.
We had an understanding with school and town officials: if they promised to leave us alone, we promised to pump thousands of dollars into the local economy (as long as you defined the local economy as Tony’s Discount House of Kegs N’ Booze).
Back when I was in college, the movie “Animal House” hit the theaters. Having read in the newspaper that it was a comical exaggeration of fraternity life (yes, a couple of us could read), our entire house descended upon the Lewisburg Theater to check it out. (A day the locals affectionately refer to as “The Riot of ‘78”).
We were thoroughly unimpressed. The movie wasn’t an exaggeration. It looked like one of our more tame Tuesday night parties.
The fund-raising letter concluded with yet another comical question. “P.S. Would you be who and where you are today without the affiliation of Sigma Chi?”
It’s safe to say I’d still be who I am regardless of any college affiliation (except, of course, membership in the popular “Sex Change Surgery Club”). But who can really say where I’d be today if I had never joined that fraternity. I might have actually studied and received good grades. I might have even entered a real profession after graduation. Whoa, I’m glad things didn’t turn out that way.
When I finally stopped chuckling, I grabbed my checkbook and sent a donation. I also included a small note: “Keep up the good work. The world needs more comedy/fiction writing.”
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