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In the misfortunes of others, we find holiday cheer

By Mike Connor

IF YOU SEARCH YouTube for —Beyoncé— and —Don't put this on YouTube,— you'll find a video of Beyoncé tumbling headfirst down a bunch of stairs at a recent performance. It's a nasty fall—one that she specifically asked not be posted to YouTube—bit it's also hilarious. Why? In a word: schadenfreude.

In the play Avenue Q, a spoofy, adult take on Sesame Street currently touring around the country, the cast does a whole musical number around the German word —schadenfreude,— which describes the joy felt at the expense of others' misfortunes. Unlike Alanis Morissette's linguistic travesty, —Ironic,— which describes many situations that are actually just inconvenient, —Schadenfreude— actually does a good job reeling off examples of the concept. Figure skaters falling on their asses; a straight-A student getting a B; exes getting STDs—all cause for secret, malicious joy.

Or, as The Simpsons' Nelson Muntz would express it: —Ha, ha!—

And in that spirit, we present pop culture's Muntz moments of clumsiness, stupidity, misfortune and woe for 2007—each embodied by a single, idiotic quote, and all to make your day, by comparison, just a little bit brighter. Consider it our joyous holiday gift to you, at the expense of others.

'Don't tase me, bro!'

–University of Florida student Andrew Meyer

The tasing of University of Florida student Andrew Meyer was an Internet sensation, not simply because he got tased on camera (there are plenty of videos on the web of drunk people getting tased by police), but because it happened during a Q&A with John Kerry, and also because of his unlikely plea to the security guards about to tase him. Taken out of context, —Don't tase me, bro!— might be a phrase heard in a frat house during some hazing ritual (—Don't haze me, bro?—), along with other pleas like, —Don't eat my pizza, bro!— or —Don't puke on my rug, bro!— There's a strange dissonance between the familial language Meyer uses to address the high-voltage shock treatment he is about to endure. It's the frat boy equivalent of an old Southern lady saying, —Don't tase me, sweetheart!—

In the '60s, a video like this might have inspired protests and marches, but in 2007, —Don't tase me, bro— inspired T-shirts and remixes, the snarky, Internet hipster tributes of choice. Was Meyer shrill and kind of a schmuck? Yes. Could he have been handled without being tased? Definitely. Is the MC Hammer remix, —Can't Tase Me— one of the funniest things on YouTube? In some twisted way, yes.

'It's not right! Mom!' /

– Paris Hilton

The queen of the celebutantes wound up in jail for a DUI and two subsequent infractions committed on a suspended license. She was sentenced to 45 days in jail but only spent 23 days actually behind bars. Ironically, the most satisfying moment of the whole ordeal was not the post-jail interview with Larry King when she said, —So I just went with the motto, 'Don't serve the time, let the time serve you,'— or even the tear-streaked Hilton screaming —It's not right!— No, the best moment happened two days before her incarceration, at the MTV Video Music Awards hosted by comedian Sarah Silverman. —In a couple of days, Paris Hilton is going to jail,— said Silverman, the camera zooming in on Hilton in the audience, which cheered at the pronouncement. —I heard that to make her feel, like, more comfortable in prison, the guards are gonna paint the bars to look like penises,— she said, and then, feigning astonishment, continued, —I think it's wrong too—I just worry that she's gonna break her teeth on those things.—

'It's Britney, bitches'/

–Britney Spears

Speaking of spoiled rich girls slammed by Sarah Silverman, Britney Spears made an ass out of herself by phoning in her performance at the MTV Music Awards, to which Silverman responded, —She is amazing, I mean she is 25 years old and she's already accomplished everything she's gonna accomplish in her life.— And then Silverman moved on to Britney's kids: —Have you seen Britney's kids? Oh my God, they are the most adorable mistakes you will ever see ... they're as cute as the hairless vagina they came out of.— Those cute kids are also no longer in Britney's custody due her own driving infractions, including a hit-and-run. Britney was subsequently overheard telling her assistant, —I hate my judge. He is so mean. Just an old fart.—

'I believe that our education like, such as in South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S.'/

–Miss Teen USA contestant Caitlin Upton

Helping us segue out of celebutantes and into what seems at first blush to be utter stupidity is Caitlin Upton, who was supposed to explain why only one-fifth of Americans can locate their own country on a map. Here is her answer, transcribed in all its incomprehensible glory:

—I personally believe, that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some people out there in our nation don't have maps, and I believe that our education like, such as in South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., or should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for our children."

Those of us with a fear of public speaking know all about the peculiar disconnect that can happen between the brain and the mouth when an audience is listening. But the fact that she's a blonde running for Miss Teen USA makes her blunder particularly easy to laugh at rather than wince for.

'As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured.'

–George W. Bush

Really? I mean it's one thing for an aspiring Miss Teen USA to get flustered and flub a response, but the president of the United States of America should probably be able to put a sentence together. The popular series of —Bushisms— books clearly shows that is not the case, but so do some recent gems from this year, including the —childrens do learn— idiocy above as well as his Mandela gaffe, when he said, —I heard somebody say, 'Where's [Nelson] Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead. Because Saddam killed all the Mandelas.—

For Bush haters, it's kind of satisfying that knucklehead moments like these are caught on record, linguistically verifying their assessment of his leadership skills (or lack thereof). But the fact remains that he's the president, so ... is it still funny? At this point, it might as well be, so just enjoy the following poem, Make the Pie Higher, currently circulating around the internet, constructed entirely of Bushisms:

Make the Pie Higher

I think we all agree, the past is over.

This is still a dangerous world.

It's a world of madmen and uncertainty

And potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked

Is our children learning?

Will the highways of the Internet

become more few?

How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.

I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.

I know that the human being and

the fish can coexist.

Families is where our nation finds hope,

where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!

Knock down the tollbooth!

Vulcanize society!

Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!;

'My vajayjay is paining me'

–Oprah Winfrey<\i>

The New York Times wrote a whole article about the neologism —vajayjay,— which is widely credited to the Grey's Anatomy character Dr. Miranda Bailey, who, while giving birth and assisted by one of her interns, instructed him to —stop looking at my vajayjay.— In much the same way that Oprah's stamp of approval on a book makes its sales skyrocket, her use of the word —vajayjay— on her show—once in the studio and once while hanging from a zip line in a groin harness—caused the term to reach critical mass in pop culture. See YouTube for a terrible remix of Oprah's pained vajayjay.

'That's some nappy-headed hoes there'/

–Don Imus

Some what? Uh, you're fired—but don't worry, you'll be back on the air with another multimillion-dollar contract within the year.

'I'm not gonna take a chance ever in life of losing everything I've worked for for 30 years because some f——g n—— heard us say 'n——' and turned us in to the Enquirer magazine.' /

—Duane 'Dog' Chapman

Some what? Uh, you're fired—but don't worry, because ... well, actually, you're screwed. Your son secretly recorded you spouting off at the mouth about his girlfriend and sold it to the Enquirer magazine, and then A&E canceled your show. Ha, ha!

'You are a rude, thoughtless little pig, OK?'

–Alec Baldwin

Speaking of kids selling out their parents ... oh, Alec. You were such a nice guy in Beetlejuice. What happened to you? Too much to drink, maybe? Let's listen in on the rant he directed at his own daughter a little more: —You don't have the brains or the decency as a human being—I don't give a damn that you're 12 years old or 11 years old, or that you're a child, or that your mother's a thoughtless pain in the ass who doesn't care about what you do, as far as I'm concerned, you have humiliated me for the last time with this phone.— But at least you weren't as drunk as David Hasselhoff, whose daughter caught some prime footage of the shirtless former Knight trying to mow a late-night burger.

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