At today’s luncheon for the American Society of Magazine Editors, on the second floor of The Princeton Club and starring the former editors of Spy magazine, a Q&A session got complicated.
Susan Morrison–a former Spy editor, and so friendly with former co-worker Graydon Carter, and now an editor at the New Yorker–made a wee gibe about a new piece by Christopher Hitchens, which was just published in Mr. Carter’s magazine, Vanity Fair. That piece explains why women aren’t funny.
Salad and chicken and a roll were served, as well as a fluffy cheesecake.
The Huffington Post’s Rachel Sklar was seated at a table with Conde Nast’s director of public relations, Maurie Perl. Mr. Carter was talking about how it was difficult to grow up, and become friendly with people, and still manage to make fun of them. It was easier when we were young, he was saying, and when you’re older, you find people are people.
Rachel Sklar had her hand up and, in preface to her question, made a seque comment about women being people too.
She wanted Graydon Carter to tell her why Vanity Fair had published the article that Mr. Hitchens had written.
“You just proved my point,” Mr. Carter told her, according to people who were present. He meant that she was humorless.
And so Ms. Sklar had inserted herself into the big feminist bear-trap Mr. Hitchens had set. (The game, which dates to at least the mid-70′s, is traditionally played like this: You write an article like that, and those who humorlessly complain are then treated as the proof in the pudding of the article. Which doesn’t of course make the complainers any less humorless.)
(Oddly enough, the game doesn’t work on black people.)
“And I really wanted to hear him talk about why he published that because he’s sitting up there as an arbiter of All Things Funny,” Ms. Sklar explained later.
Graydon Carter didn’t know who she was. They weren’t friends. They’d never worked together. “Who are you?” he asked. She told him she’d already written about the Hitchens piece and offered to send him some links. He wanted to know if she was funny for the Huffington Post.
Ms. Sklar called the Hitchens piece “ungood.”
Mr. Carter did not in the end answer her question.
Kurt Andersen entered the fray. Someone present noted that people had gotten that look where they’re looking at the floor and smiling in an interesting way.
Mr. Andersen asked Ms. Sklar, what was Mr. Carter supposed to do? If a columnist wrote a piece, and if he’s supposed to kill it….? Ms. Sklar said she had thought that editors evaluated pieces before they ran.
After the exchange, the next questioner wanted the Spy alums to talk about Separated at Birth, a feature in which pictures of two or more unlikely people who are found to carry some noticeable physical attribute are juxtaposed.
“I always thought we’d bond over being Canadian,” Ms. Sklar said later, via Google Chat, of Mr. Carter. “Oh well.”