Fat humor that’s actually funny

I was concerned when I read the first line of this week’s Shouts and Murmurs column in the New Yorker: “People say that obesity is an epidemic in America, but I’m determined not to become part of the problem.” Sure, it’s a humor feature, so I wasn’t expecting a serious account of personal weight obsession, but I had reason to expect a train wreck.

Imagine my surprise when I read on and the piece, “Looking Your Best” by Amy Ozols, turned out to be something we’d be proud to publish on this blog — along the lines of our helpful diet tips post, or any of Kate’s loftier flights of sarcasm. None of the underlying points about the all-consuming harmfulness of diets will be surprising to Shapelings, but it’s still a well-done satire that made me laugh out loud a couple times (“Try pouring water on your cereal or in your coffee. If you’re a baby, try pouring water into your mother’s breasts”).

The last paragraph is particularly sharp:

Step 9: Self-confidence is the most attractive trait a person can have. For this reason, strive to love yourself and accept yourself exactly as you are. This will be difficult if you are overweight, on account of your loathsome physical appearance and compromised value system, but do your best. And, if the going gets tough, remind yourself: every person is beautiful on the inside, provided that they are also extremely attractive on the outside.

Now that’s how satire is done! Again, the hypocrisies, fanaticisms, and contradictions Ozols lampoons will be more than familiar to readers of SP — but not to all readers of the New Yorker, and it’s always great to see skepticism about diet culture finagling its way into the public consciousness.

Enjoy, Shapelings! I’m spending the rest of my vacation reading humor in my fluffy new bathrobe (mainly James Thurber and the most recent Annals of Improbable Research), and I feel quite fortunate to be able to do so, so I am happy to be able to share something funny with you all.

23 thoughts on “Fat humor that’s actually funny

  1. It’s still Dec. 29 here, too, but I guess it’s Dec. 30 in WordPress-land. The daily stats cut off at 7 or 8 EST, so I guess maybe post dating changes then too. Weird.

  2. Step one is probably my fave.
    I love that this is in the New Yorker.
    My main sources of humor in the past few years have included the New Yorker, McSweeneys and This American Life, which have mainly been silent on weight-related stuff. They are relatively low on fat hatered, in my opinion, compared to other sources of humor, but they act as though talking about fatness is beneath them. So this is great that the New Yorker published this.

  3. Wow. A Shouts and Murmurs column in TNY that is 1) written by a woman and b) actually funny!

    OMG THE WORLD IS ENDING!

    *ahem*

    (With apologies to those of you who find the column funny on a regular basis. I have been irritated with the string of male writers who I do not find very amusing writing this column in the magazine for a while.)

    DRST

  4. I tend to find Shouts and Murmurs a little labored and pretentious on the whole, but I have to admit I giggled a lot at the one in the last issue. It’s been a good couple weeks — haven’t laughed so much at Shouts and Murmurs since Ian Frazier’s piece about Auden that included the poem “I sit in one of the dives / On fifty-second street / I am a sex machine / And I’m super bad.”

    Reading Thurber, though, is certainly reminding me that New Yorker humor had far to fall.

    SM, I just got mine today — you’ll probably get it tomorrow, if your mailman doesn’t freeze.

  5. I just read the article and it’s hilarious. I tried to pick a favourite point couldn’t – the whole article is just so damn good. :-)

  6. What a jolly start to my day that was! I especially love the part about not donating your plus-size clothes to charity in case it encourages underprivileged people to become obese. Put me in mind of those sanctimonious arses who object to restaurants widening the gap between fixed seating and tables to accommodate larger diners. Encouraging the fat to eat – and in comfort – the horror!!!

  7. Oh Fillyjonk, I love James Thurber. So hilarious one minute and so savage the next. My BFF from way back lives in Columbus OH, and next time I visit I’m going to drag her to the Thurber house. :-D

  8. Oh, and this?

    “that’s when baboons gained speech but only used it to make hurtful comments”

    Put me on the floor. :D

  9. “that’s when baboons gained speech but only used it to make hurtful comments”

    Ahh, that DESTROYED me last week. Intensified by the fact that last week I watched a David Attenborough special on monkeys and apes. ;-) Most of the time Shouts & Murmurs just pisses me right off, but apparently they’re on a winning streak this month.

  10. Put me in mind of those sanctimonious arses who object to restaurants widening the gap between fixed seating and tables to accommodate larger diners.

    Also accomodates parents with infants, people in wheelchairs, people with walkers, and people on crutches. The horror! A handicapped, disabled or injured person might get to *eat*. And babies aren’t banned.

    Very few accomodations help only one class of people. Pretending that it’s just for fat people makes it easier to discount everyone else who is hurt by narrow aisles and cluttered floors.

  11. Torrillin, no word of a lie, I once read a rant by some former fat person who went on and on about how lamentable it was that decent, upstanding citizens were sliding onto the floor and/or not able to reach their virtuous calorie counted dinners because of the Grand Canyon-esque gap twixt fixed seating and table. And how the Western World was going to Chubby Hell in a hand cart as a consequence. (‘cos, you know, if restaurants stop cramming human beings in like frigging sardines, I will personally take that as an invitation to go on a non-stop deep-fried triple- choc Oreo ice-cream bar binge with extra lard).

    Frankly I think there’s little chance anyone that obsessed with the world and his wife’s food intake would even give a passing thought to anyone else who might benefit from comfortable seating.

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