Deb Richard's stint as Guest Correspondent on Foreign Correpspondent, tonight 15 August at 8 pm.
ABC Foreign Correspondent
A curious fact about the giants of utopian literature: The authors' own lives are far more interesting than those they imagined... Insightful Story DR
columnist says strife can spur best work
Humor columnist Mark Harmon says the satirist Art Buchwald loved
the Watergate scandal, because there was so much bizarre material that he could
get his column done in an hour and be on the tennis courts by mid-morning.
“I think a lot of humor comes from being aghast at something,”
says Harmon, who earlier this week won this year's National Press Club
humor-writing award for his work with the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Harmon says he's been pretty much non-stop aghast for the past
year and a half. That's helped him imagine a column cited by award judges
about Mitch McConnell in hell. (“You have a lot of
admirers here,” Lucifer tells McConnell in the column.)
A similar inspiration prompted another column set in a
psychiatrist's office. Sergey Kislyak, Russia's former ambassador to the United
States, was complaining that no one, like Michael Flynn or Jeff Sessions, can seem to remember meeting him. Here's one
"Oh I didn't see you come in," said the receptionist.
"That happens a lot," replied Kislyak.
Press Club judges said Harmon has "a knack for taking
a simple idea or detail ... and spinning it into a highly creative
scenario.” Harmon, a journalism professor at the University of Tennessee, has
been spinning those scenarios since he was a columnist for Penn State's
Daily Collegian four decades ago. Harmon says he finds his search for
other, often absurd ways to tell a story to be satisfying, if not
Harmon's two-fold goal: Make people laugh. And help people
consider another perspective.
A liberal who has spent his adult life in conservative
northwestern Texas and eastern Tennessee, Harmon says he uses humor to bring
“There’s no margin in treating political opponents as enemies,”
he says. That doesn't mean, however, that he won't use a hammer — in the
style of one of his idols, the departed Molly Ivins — to show hypocrisy or a lack of courage by
local politicians on issues such as climate change.
The Press Club award comes at a bittersweet time for Harmon. The
Knoxville paper, like many nationwide, has had cutbacks, and in late June, he
was among four contributing columnists to get the ax.
On Wednesday, however, he got a new venue for his column
— the weekly Farragut Press, in western Knox County. The gig came just in
time, Harmon says.
"Have you seen all these stories about Bigfoot Porn?" he asks. "What a time
not to be writing a column. It's just sitting there."
Here is the full list of winners.
What you are getting wrong about mindfulness
"Companies are investing huge sums in mindfulness programmes for employees, but could these be having unintended results?" (BBC)