Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions: Journalism Educator edition

Despite my parents’ best efforts, I got addicted to Mad magazine as a kid and fell in love with Al Jaffee’s acerbic wit. I’m sorry, all my former, current and future students…

Al Jaffee probably had a bigger influence on me than most people wished he’d had. The longtime cartoonist for Mad Magazine who died earlier this month at age 102, was both a gifted artist and a gifted humorist.

During his time at the publication, Mad had an amazing collection of talent, and each artist brought their own special vibe to the publication. Paul Coker drew his “horrifying cliches,” movie parodies and single-panel pieces. Sergio Aragones literally filled the magazine with his dialogue-free sketches, as he drew in the margins of the various spreads. Don Martin did some truly ridiculous cartoons, of which my favorite was the detective-wannabe Lance Parkertip, Noted Notary Public.

Jaffee, however, wrote his way into history with his “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions,” which did exactly what the title promised. He’d present one of the dumber questions people tend to ask, and follow it with a series of sarcastic, snide or otherwise snappy responses, intended on laying low the idiot inquisitor.

As a kid, I took to Jaffee’s biting snap-backs like a fish to water, using his style of humor to keep bullies at bay in grade school and dabble in some class-clowning in high school. As I got older, I was told this kind of thing wasn’t age-appropriate for me but hey, if a guy can do this kind of stuff until he’s 102, I’ve got some time left on the clock.

In honor of Jaffee’s passing, here are a few Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions most of us tend to get as journalism educators:


“Sorry, I overslept. Did I miss anything important in class today?”

  • “No, we only did a bunch of unimportant stuff, like we do most days.”
  • “No, we just sat here and thought about how much we missed you.”
  • “Yeah, it was the best! We didn’t have to slow down and reexplain everything to this one kid who never pays attention and is constantly missing stuff while he’s Snapchatting the class period away.”


“Is this going to be on the test?”

  • “No, I enjoy throwing random facts at you for the sake of seeing how you react. It’s like my own little version of giving a lab rat an electric shock.”
  • “I’m not sure yet, but God forbid you be presented with information that might be valuable in its own right.”
  • “Probably not, because even though I said, ‘You want to write this down, because it’s going to be on the test,’ at least 912 times, I’m still debating how to handle this.”


“Why did I get an F on this assignment?”

  • “Because the university hasn’t figured out a way for me to give you anything lower.”
  • “Because given your writing ability, I figured this was as far as you ever got in learning the alphabet.”
  • “I understand that it’s probably a mystery, shrouded in the 20 or so sentences of feedback I wrote at the bottom of your paper, clearly outlining every point deduction.”


“Can I get an extension on this paper?”

  • “If you mean you want me to make the paper longer, sure.”
  • “Absolutely, because the six weeks I gave everyone else to accomplish it clearly wasn’t enough time for you to craft your incredibly expansive effort.”
  • “But what will I do in the meantime, as I wait to consume your exquisite prose? How will I pass the time as I await the dawning of your genius?”


“Can I do some extra credit to make up some points?”

  • “Given the effort you put into your ‘regular’ credit, giving you extra credit right now would seem to be an exercise in futility.”
  • “Sure, because when I said at the beginning of the year, and at least 12 times since, that the class will offer NO EXTRA CREDIT, I only meant that for other people who didn’t have the chutzpah to ask for it.”


“Do I HAVE to take the final exam?”

  • “I lack subpoena power and the university doesn’t equip me with a gun, so I can’t force you to do much of anything. That said, you probably won’t pass the class without at least a decent attempt.”
  • “Given that it won’t save your grade, no matter how well you do, I’d actually prefer you avoid wasting both of our times.”


“You know I’m graduating in two weeks, right?”

  • “Well, not if you need this class to do it…”
  • “That puts me in a quandary, as to pass you would mean I gave up on any standard I had for this class whatsoever, but to fail you would mean I’d need to tolerate your pointless presence again for a whole semester. Let me think about how much I hate myself right now and I’ll get back to you.”


“Is there ANYTHING I can do to pass this course at this point in the semester?”

  • “Can you invent a time machine and travel back to the start of the term when I told you to make sure you kept up with the reading and the assignments and kick your own ass to make sure you did so? If not, probably not.”
  • “Well, I’d ask for a bribe, but given your performance in class to this point, you’d probably screw that up, too.”


“Do you know who my father is?”

  • “Does HE know how to build a time machine to fix things for you? If not, I’m not sure how this is relevant to your grade.”
  • “No, but that’s probably because he found out how poorly you’re doing in school and immediately entered some form of witness protection.”
  • “No, but maybe a “23 and Me” kit could help.”

If any other pathologically stupid questions have come your way and you’d like some snappy answers, feel free to hit me up here and I’ll do my best to put together another list at some point.

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