Funny Thing Happened To Harbaugh On The Way To The Forum

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CHICAGO (AP) — Presenting the pope with a Michigan football helmet and a pair of Air Jordans wasn’t the only highlight in Jim Harbaugh’s trip to Rome this spring.

The jaunt went so well you half-expected the Wolverines coach to pull out a map and show slides of his young squad sampling historical sites instead of answering the usual questions during his appearance at the Big Ten media days event Tuesday.

“The best thing I’ve ever done personally as a part of a football team,” Harbaugh said.

“We’re at the Colosseum, at the Forum, and you learn so many things along the way,” he marveled a moment later. “The Colosseum has been around for 600 years, it’s been active for 600 years. Around here, 30, 40 years as a stadium and they tear it down. Amazing, really.”

Whether Harbaugh asked the pontiff to bless Michigan’s fortunes this season wasn’t known. But it would be hard to blame him for asking.

After starting last season with nine straight wins, the Wolverines staggered home by losing three of their last four, including a heart-breaking, double-overtime clunker to Ohio State in Columbus and then a 33-32 loss to Florida State at the Orange Bowl.

On top of that, Harbaugh lost more starters than any major college team — 17, assuming Wilton Speight returns at quarterback — and all but one on what was the top-ranked defense in America. He’ll also be fielding one of the youngest team in the league.

On the flip side, after adapting to players brought in by predecessor Brady Hoke, Harbaugh will finally have a majority of his recruits in the lineup. Several members of last year’s highly touted class — Rashan Gary, Chris Evans, Michael Onwenu and Devin Bush Jr. — could be on the verge of breakout years.

“The amount of growth that you can have from doing something for the first time and then doing it the next time or the second time, can be the biggest leap they have their entire college year, going from freshman year to sophomore year,” Harbaugh said. “So I’m excited for that class.”

Whether Harbaugh’s sometimes-wacky bonding experiments will pay dividends soon enough to get past rival Ohio State and end Michigan’s 13-year title drought remains to be seen. But it should be evident whether the trip to Rome was a success in terms of team-building, since Michigan opens the season Sept. 2 with a stern test against Florida in Arlington, Texas.

No one anticipates the answer more than Harbaugh himself.

“Probably a good factor in giving us motivation and to get ready because we know just how good they are,” he said about the Gators. “And college football has always been unique.

“It’s the only sport that I can think of that doesn’t have a preseason or exhibition season. No spring training, no preseason game. So you go right into your first game,” he said, breaking into a wide smile, “and that counts.”

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Guy Williams: Offensive jokes can be funny. But are they worth it?

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OPINION: Like all good stories, this one starts in Palmerston North. A man queuing for Jono and Ben tickets asked me if I wanted to hear a joke.

He was filming on a selfie stick. Now I’ve learned from many horrific experiences that selfie sticks are a big red flag. They’re right up there with Red Peak profile pictures or two tickets to that anti-vax movie. I responded honestly, from my heart: “I can’t think of anything I would less like to do in my life!”

The poor guy was so sad, so I backpedalled quickly. “Ok say your joke… as long as it’s not racist or sexist.” Straight away he said “Ok don’t worry about it then”, and put away his camera. I laughed out loud; I wish he’d filmed it.

A sick part of me thought he should have exploited my accidental loophole and agreed not to say anything racist or sexist and then told a horrible homophobic joke to spite me.

This was my first day in Palmy, and it set off a weird trend of people wanting to A) tell me racist jokes, or B) complain to me about how you can no longer say racist jokes.

I’ve got great news for these people… you can! You can say racist jokes whenever you like, and you can say sexist or homophobic jokes often as you like!

Now be careful, there is a catch to this excellent comedy opportunity; an offensive joke could hurt people’s feelings, perpetuate negative stereotypes, and alienate some or all of your audience.

You have to be prepared for people to not agree with you, or to not like you for saying it. And then when you say “oh come on it’s only a joke”, I will probably think that you’re stupid or ignorant for even attempting it.

So an offensive joke is a risky joke to make. Take it from me, as someone who has alienated their audience hundreds of times, both intentionally and unintentionally. You can say whatever you like, but people might think less of you because of it.

Old crackpots love to complain that political correctness has gone mad, but if it stops a minority from feeling crappy about themselves, or slows down the perpetuation of a harmful stereotype about gay people then surely it’s a great thing?

I love shock comedy and offensive humour and I love political correctness. To me, political correctness isn’t a law or a rule, it’s a set of helpful guidelines which teach me how not to be an insensitive douchebag (my natural state).

I’ve learned that comedy would probably be a lot better off if people left out cheap racial material that punched down and focused their offensive comedy cannons upwards at the powerful instead.

“You can’t say anything anymore,” is something I hear a lot from comedians just before they go out and do a hack routine based on lazy stereotypes.

You can say whatever you want; it’s one of the great freedoms and privileges of living in New Zealand. Sometimes we take it too far! It wasn’t long ago that Brian Tamaki blamed the Kaikoura earthquakes on homosexuals!

Because if there’s one thing we all know about Kaikoura, is that there’s a huge gay scene down there. Gay friends would always tell me there were three gay capitals of the world: San Francisco… Sydney… and Kaikoura. You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced an all-male whale cruise.

On the flip side, it does surprise me when people try and say that offensive jokes aren’t funny. They can be very funny. Comedy is partially about surprise, and there’s no easier way to surprise or shock an audience like someone saying something that is horrifically offensive.

But is that cheap laugh worth it when it’s causing sometimes serious harm to its victim? Certainly not.

Unless it’s broken English, I always laugh at broken English… no… okay. I’ll stop.

As the majority, it’s often hard for me to appreciate the powerful effect jokes have on reinforcing stereotypes that Pacific Islanders are lazy, or that women are crazy. More and more when I tell a joke, I need to weigh up the potential laugh against the negatives: offence, prejudice, alienation, sky high chance of failure, and just struggling to find people who want to be my mate afterwards!

I’ve learned that if you can rise above the racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic jokes you might be able to get a friend to hold the camera for you, and you won’t have to use that selfie stick anymore.

How Jessi Klein Strikes A Balance Between Being Funny And Being Vulnerable

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From a tomboy childhood to breast pumping at the Emmys, the stories in Jessi Klein’s essay collection, You’ll Grow Out of It, are the perfect blend of hilarity and heart. First published last summer, and re-released in paperback by Grand Central Publishing this month, the collection was a People’s Best Book of the Year, a New York Times Notable Book of 2016, and a New York Times bestseller. Not surprising, since Klein will leave you in tears, laughing.

Beginning with the comedy writer’s early days as a self-described “Pippi Longstocking-esque tomboy,” the collection of essays takes readers through Klein’s first forays into the territory of traditional womanhood (lingerie, Calgon bath products, hair-brushing) and on her journey towards carving out her own space in a landscape of bad breakups, wedding dress protocol, the allure of Anthropologie, and the irresistibility of The Bachelor. She also writes seriously about ageism in Hollywood, infertility and pregnancy, finding her voice in comedy, and more.

The Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning humorist and head writer and executive producer of Inside Amy Schumer, caught up with Bustle just as the paperback edition of You’ll Grow Out of It was landing on bookstore shelves.

“I’ve always really liked comedy; trying to be funny and trying to make people laugh,” Klein tells Bustle. “I think at a certain point — maybe once I hit my tweens and it was clear I wasn’t going to be leaning on my looks — I definitely felt like: well, I have a lot more confidence in my ability to make people laugh than in my ability to turn heads in the hall of my junior high school.”

Klein’s humor reads both authentic and relatable — taking you from a tepid pool of bathwater (to Klein, there has “always been something vaguely miserable about bathing”) to a sweaty, tangled elastic mess in the dressing room of a Greenwich Village lingerie store (the “thong industrial complex.”) Most of us have been there, by varying degrees

“It took so much effort,” says Klein, of writing You’ll Grow Out of It. “So, so much effort — and for me a lot of food, and wine, and tears went into trying to write a book. Or at least this book, they did.”

Is it weird to cry over writing humor, I wonder?

“I don’t think it’s weird to cry at any time. I think anything could produce sobbing if the moment is right,” the comedy writer says. “Just lean into it. I wanted the book to be funny, but also really vulnerable and personal — not like I was dropping tears into my laptop in the moment of writing. But there were parts of the book that I think were more poignant or serious than others, and I was definitely delving into some things in my personal history and life that are not hilarious. Breakups that were really transformative and painful, the essay about trying to get pregnant — that was one of the darkest chapters in my recent life. But I’m really glad that I was able to put them out there for other people to connect to.”

Throughout the essay collection, Klein seems to take everything in stride — ill-advised relationships, wedding dress shopping, struggling to get pregnant. There are moments of embarrassment and confusion, moments of sadness and pain, but through it all Klein never seems to lose her sense of humor. I ask if she’s aware of her humor in the heat of a particularly uncomfortable moment, or if that part comes later, with distance.

“I think it depends,” she says, after some thought. “I’m so embarrassed to say this because it really couldn’t be stupider — I definitely had moments of crying [over her wedding dress, of which Klein tried on a hundred] but in the moment, I was also thinking: I can’t believe I’m crying over this nonsense. I’m a feminist. How am I crying over my wedding dress? This is embarrassing. And then that made my cry harder.”

But even through the more difficult moments Klein writes about: a significant breakup, fertility treatments, the writer says part of her mind was always vaguely aware of the absurd. “There were certainly moments during both of those times that did not feel funny at all, and I wasn’t really sure if they would. But I would also say that even in the darker moments — like in trying to get pregnant — there really are so many ridiculous things that you’re doing. I did have moments where I was like: I know this will become something funny, at some point.”

Klein, who now has a two-year-old son, writes unabashedly (and in all-caps) about her experiences with pregnancy and childbirth. One essay from You’ll Grow Out of It, titled Get the Epidural, was published in the New York Times last year. It begins with Klein and her husband sitting in a weekend-long childbirth education course, watching their instructor simulate a contraction. “I don’t think I want to do that,” Klein blurts out in class, much to the shock and chagrin of her fellow soon-to-be mothers. The essay is hilarious, illumining, thoughtful, and reads like a call-to-action for any woman struggling to suss out her own truth from the noisy, mothering fray.

“If there was one chapter I wanted to go out into the world, it was that one, because I felt that this could really help people; and I was really happy that people told me it was helpful to them,” Klein says. “But I think other people may have also misunderstood it. Birth and pregnancy are really hard, and I’m not judging anyone for any choices. I think I was just trying to say: I really wouldn’t want anyone to try to have this ‘natural birth’ because of a sense of being a failure if they don’t do it that way. I think so many women feel pressured to [birth] a certain way, in ways that are really insidious. If a woman wants to give birth in a tub of quinoa at Whole Foods, there’s nothing wrong with that, if it’s not harming anybody.”

I ask if motherhood has changed her sense of humor, at all.

“I wouldn’t say that motherhood has changed my sense of humor, but I would say that it’s definitely changed a lot about my life,” Klein says. “It’s changed the flow of my day and I think the things I want to put energy into. I will say — this is just my impression — I’ve become more aware of how writing about experiences of motherhood is viewed, and it can be extremely condescending and diminishing. There are all these spaces where women write about motherhood, and they’re all referred to as ‘mommy blogs.’ In a way, it feels like: ‘this is not important, this is just for moms.’ Ernest Hemingway wasn’t told he was writing a war blog. In some ways motherhood is the most important job in the world, because it’s producing the people. It produces the people. And the fact that writing about it is seen as so trivial is a really big clue to how much misogyny there still is in the world.”

And speaking of misogyny, it’s worth noting that Klein is a feminist woman, working in comedy, during a Trump presidency. In You’ll Grow Out of It, she writes about how being funny, in part, involves looking for holes in other people’s beliefs. And the book does poke holes — in a wholly refreshing way — in many of the overarching assumptions about how women are supposed to exist in the world.

“Being a feminist isn’t a stance I’m picking and choosing,” Klein says. “I just am that, and I feel like no matter what I do or what I say it’s coming from a feminist place. It’s like breathing air. I never want to be mean. I really don’t believe in being mean. But I do believe in standing up for what you believe.”

While You’ll Grow Out of It is not overtly political, it does tackle a number of personal issues that feel highly politicized right now: how women appear in the world, our bodies, our sexual decisions, the ways we do or do not choose to mother. I wonder if Klein’s position as a visible, feminist figure in the realm of comedy, comes with an added responsibility these days.

“I think my responsibility is to always be decent,” she says. “There should always be a decency about people and humanity. That said, I don’t feel a responsibility that every topic be political. Most of my book is not overtly political. The things I feel about my personal life are informed by the fact that I am a feminist. That’s just always there. Since Trump became the — sort of — the president, I do think a lot about the responsibility we have, even when we’re attacking something, to be aware of the tone of the discourse we’re creating. Because obviously the discourse we are now in is so horrendous. I always think about the tone of the discourse and my tiny, tiny, tiny responsibility in it.”

And maybe comedy — with its accessibility, relatability, and invitation to continually find humor in the absurdity of life — can help.

“The only way you can continue to move forward is by doing your work and continuing to be as amazing as you are,” Klein says. “I think always if you can make somebody laugh, you’re opening up a little space to soften people.”

Mum Who Said Childbirth ‘Broke’ Her Vagina Reveals Extent Of Ordeal

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First off, I’m a bloke, so I can’t really say I understand the pain.

On the television, we see the actors scream in agony, other mum’s say that it was painful, while some will get gassed up to make sure they don’t remember it.

Everyone experiences it differently, but I’m pretty sure nobody has ever described it as ‘breaking’ their vagina before. Except, Zoe George.

On her account, The Subtle Mummy, she talks about ‘exit only holes’ and ‘pelvic floors’ but she also described the birth of her first child.

Having been in labour for hours, it got to the point where the baby’s arrival was imminent, but there was no time for an episiotomy (where a surgical cut is made, intentionally, at the opening of the vagina to assist a difficult delivery).

“So,” Zoe explains, “They tore me. I remember the doctor leaning back, almost in a squat position, and pulling on those forceps that were around my baby’s head.

Out came baby Ari, in what seemed like five pushes, and off to work they went stitching up my tear.”

OK, so that’s the PG version, now, if you can handle it, the 18+.

“Later, when I asked my husband why he hadn’t taken any pictures with our new camera we had bought specifically for the occasion, he said there were too many people in the way,” she wrote.

“These days he retells the story of describing what he saw as similar to that of a massacre/blood bath type of scene.

“The midwives and doctors told me I lost a third of my blood and, even though I refused a transfusion, I almost didn’t have an option.”

After a short while, Zoe then got to see, for herself, what childbirth had done to her.

She said: “I was being given a sponge bath in bed by the midwife, oh la la, until she asked me to sit up and I caught a glimpse of my vagina!

“Describing it as looking like a hamburger, more like a whopper, would be putting it nicely.

“That imagine will be forever burned in my mind. I needed about four of those vajayjay poles and three overnight maxi pads to contain that Joker’s smile.”

It is, upon reading accounts like this, that I am glad I was born with a bloke.

Whereas many men, like myself, would never want to imagine the pain of childbirth, one vlogger did.

Chris Balmert, from Cleveland, Ohio, was attached to a ‘labour pain simulator’.

The dad cried: “Is this how I sound when you’re in labour? Because I honestly want to punch you in the face.

“If I rip this couch I’ll just buy a new one. I want to cry,” Chris added while his partner, Lindsay, told him to focus on breathing.