Hello, patrons! It's the time of the year where we start tabulating our most-read articles of the past year. We'll countdown the full list on the Tendency between Xmas and New Year's. Until then, we're offering a Patreon-exclusive peek at some of the pieces that have made our "Top 20 of 2020," along with micro-interviews with their authors.
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Published February 21, 2020
I like my men like I like my commuter car: silent.
A guy walks into a bar. It’s a low one, so he gets a raise within his first six months on the job.
Did you hear the one about the woman who reported sexual harassment? Of course you didn’t; she was forced to sign an NDA.
My co-worker asked me why I seem so tense. I asked him why he was massaging my shoulders.
What’s completely original but said by two different people? My idea that Greg just repeated louder.
Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just actually that incapable of controlling yourself while in the presence of a female colleague?
On the inspiration for writing the piece...
This piece was all Ali’s brilliant idea. Way back in February, during the Las Vegas Democratic debate, the moderator asked Michael Bloomberg about the dozens of sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits filed against his company. When Elizabeth Warren pressed him to actually respond, he said, “None of them accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told.” We had all been watching the debate from our separate living rooms across New York City and cringed/raged at his answer. But Ali was the one who emailed us the next morning with the first joke, “A guy walks into a bar. It’s a low one, so he gets a raise within his first six months on the job.” Then, following in the grand tradition of writers everywhere, she asked the age-old question: “Is this even an idea?”
On the writing process...
After Ali’s initial email (at approximately 11:51 am), we knew we had to work fast before the debate was out of the news cycle. So for the next few hours, we added ideas to a shared Google Doc between meetings, subway rides, wedding dress fittings, and coincidentally, at least one visit to a Gregory’s Coffee.
By around 4 pm (okay, 4:16 pm to be exact, not that anyone’s obsessively keeping track here), we’d formatted our favorite jokes into an order that we liked, and then we spent the next couple hours adding in a few final jokes, reading and re-reading the piece for typos, and nervously hovering our cursor over the “send” button. At 6:47 pm, just four minutes shy of seven hours later (but who’s counting?) we sent our piece off to the McSweeney’s timely email address and were shocked and delighted to see at some vague time later that night (10:55, it was 10:55) that it was accepted.
This piece was a first for us in a lot of ways. We all knew and respected each other’s work, but the four of us had never collectively written anything together. (And though some of us had met before, we had never all been in a room together. This piece would eventually make that happen!).
Thankfully, we were pretty quickly able to find a writing rhythm that worked for us. And fortunately/unfortunately, we had more than enough source material to pull from in our own lives. We then just had to reacquaint ourselves with classic joke formats (“Is a riddle technically a joke?”) and finally, name our recurring character (shoutout to “Greg,” who was first a series of men’s names before we decided to go with one composite toxic man).
None of us had ever had a piece go viral before, so after the piece went live, we spent the day refreshing our phones nine million times in disbelief, and then all met up that night to celebrate at a bar in midtown. And yes, we all made the “Four women walk into a bar” joke. (This is an even more surreal memory given that three weeks later New York City would go into lockdown.) The four of us are now on a text thread and have officially achieved the status of “Good Friends,” which is truly the most magical by-product of collaborative humor writing.
On the audience reaction...
It was a weird mix of emotions seeing how much this piece resonated with people across all different industries. On social media, we heard from a lot of people who had dealt with their own Greg at work, and it was interesting to see him take on a life of his own in our readers’ imaginations. It felt wonderful to be able to provide some catharsis in the form of comedy, and to help readers (and ourselves) feel a little less alone. But it also felt disheartening to be confronted, once again, with just how common these experiences are.
We’d love for there to be a day when someone stumbles across this piece and doesn’t get what the joke is, because these issues are no longer a thing. In the meantime, we’ve been exploring whether there’s more to mine with this idea… this may not be the last you’ve heard of “Greg.”