What We All Could Use These Days:
A Look at the Lighter Side of the News

Alexandra Petri

IF THE PHRASE “the lighter side of the news” seems to have lost all relevance to reality these days, we understand. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what we have on tap for you at our next Zoom event. It’s scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 17, and puts the spotlight on columnist Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post, our guest speaker.

Technically, Petri is billed as the Post’s “humor columnist.” While finding humor in today’s headlines might seem an impossible assignment for a working journalist these days — especially these days — that’s exactly what Alexandra Petri does.  It isn’t that she necessarily thinks that the stuff going on all around us is funny. It isn’t and she takes it seriously, but her satires and parodies can lighten the mood without losing the point.

In a profile in Cosmopolitan magazine, she said, “There are so many incredibly intelligent people writing a straightforward take [on politics]. I was trying to figure out what I had to add. My goal is to be weirder than everybody else and hope that no one stops me. So far, no one has.”

That was five years ago. It’s still true.

On Jan. 4, for example — two days after Donald Trump’s fruitless phone call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, exhorting (extorting?) him to “find” still undiscovered votes — Petri’s column was written as though she was Raffensperger recalling the incident:

“I should mention that I am the secretary of state of Georgia, and, as such, basically the absolute minimum of my job is to make sure we don’t just randomly pick the winner of elections and give all our electoral votes to them because they call and yell at me, so that was how I was coming in . . . I don’t think I was in the wrong here. I let him talk and talk and talk and tell me about these conspiracy theories he’d heard. I just didn’t agree to find him any votes, since I don’t think he understands how elections work.”

In 2017, she wrote an opinion piece sharply critical of Trump’s new budget, which had proposed deep cuts in environmental protections, health matters, and other areas generally considered vital to the well-being of most people. It was titled “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why.” Petri was kidding. White House officials, apparently failing to read past the headline, linked to her piece as part of its daily press briefing because they thought it applauded Trump policies. Here is some of what Petri wrote:

“Clean rivers and breathable air are making us SOFT and letting the Chinese and the Russians get the jump on us. We must go back to the America that was great, when the air was full of coal and danger and the way you could tell if the air was breathable was by carrying a canary around with you at all times, perched on your leathery, coal-dust-covered finger.”

Petri was raised in the Georgetown section of Washington. Her father, Tom Petri, was a Congressman from Wisconsin. Her mother, Anne D. Neal, is a former president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a non-profit dedicated to advancing academic quality, accountability and affordability. Petri graduated from Harvard College with a B.A. in English and a concentration in classics. In 2010, she joined The Washington Post as an intern in the opinion section and, at the age of 22, became the youngest person ever to have a column in The Post. More recognition soon followed. A National Press Club Award for Humor Writing in 2016. A Shorty Award for parody writing, the same year. Forbes put her on its “30 Under 30” roster in 2017, and Rolling Stone magazine named her one of its “Fifty Funniest People Right Now.” She is the author of the essay collections Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why” and “A Field Guide to Awkward Silences.” She has also written plays (some of which have been produced), blogs and short fiction, and has done stand-up comedy, appeared on “Jeopardy!” and won the O.Henry Pun-Off competition in 2014.

She’ll be all ours on Feb. 17 as the star attraction of our virtual lunch, so keep an eye on your incoming emails for word from president Michael Serrill, who will tell you how to participate.

The date:   Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.
The time:   Noon.
The place: Whatever you use to access Zoom.

Until then, be smart, stay safe.

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