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Justine Sacco: From one Public Relations Jokster to Another

We did it, ‘MURICA!! We ruined a woman’s life! And right before Christmas!! Let’s hope her South African vacation was ruined by thoughts of despair and suicide. There’s too many women in executive positions anyways. GO TEAM GO!

For those of you mobsters who helped destroy Justine Sacco, the words above is what we call “irony”. I don’t really mean them. In fact, I think the exact opposite. I used humor as a vessel to prove a point. And maybe Justine did the same.

We Americans still love to lynch people. It’s our knee-jerk reaction to everything. HANG’EM HIGH!! EYE FOR AN EYE!! THREE STRIKES AND YOURE OUT!! So embarrassing. No surprise we have 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s incarcerated population.

Sacha Baron Cohen was asked how Brits and Americans differ in their reactions to his Borat/Bruno characters. He said Brits will gradually become more agitated with his vexing, while Americans are calm and polite…then suddenly snap. Yup, that’s us!

What Justine tweeted was retarded. And I’m offending mentally retarded people by calling her that, because they’d never say something so stupid. Could she have been using irony and humor to prove a larger point about white people’s ignorance towards AIDS? Would she be in this situation if her tweet was reworded to, “Going to Africa. The racial differences amongst AIDS victims is alarming, and white people don’t care!” ?

Or maybe she’s just a racist asshole.

Canadian-Indian comedian Russell Peters, whose entire act is about race, once said, “Racial jokes and racist jokes are two different things.” And when a racial joke bombs, it just sounds racial.

I too work in public relations and dabble with stand-up comedy. I test out joke ideas on Twitter, and if they get some ReTweets, I turn them into jokes to test on stage. Most comedians do this. And all comedians tweet out some real stinkers. Especially myself. Unlike Justine, I keep my comedy and professional worlds separate. Writing “CorpComms at IAC” in her Twitter profile was almost as dumb as her tweet.

After my sister-in-law lovingly spent hours knitting me a Christmas present, I posted, “I feel guilty when someone knits something for me. Unless that someone is a 10-year old Taiwanese boy.” An idiot would think I’m mocking child slave-like labor. But I’m using observational humor to convey a serious issue. We’ve all felt guilty for receiving gifts. Yet we westerners feel zero guilt buying a child-made $20 sweater from H&M. I felt my humor and tight-editing would deliver this powerful message better than a 500-word rant.

“She’s a PR exec, she should have known better!”

You’re right, she should have known. …Known that “women aren’t funny“! Everyone knows that! Oh, and Justine is pretty. Pretty women DEFINITELY shouldn’t be joking around. It takes away from making babies and writing lame corporate communications materials.

If she was “Justin” instead of “Justine”, she’d still have a job.

Many assume humor is always used to mock someone or something. Humor is much more complex. I joked many times during the eulogy of my father’s funeral. Was I mocking the death of my father? Or was I using humor to cope with a difficult situation? Did I hope that my humor would help others cope with that difficult situation?

Some people cry to cope, some yell, some mope, some people abuse drugs and alcohol. I laugh. I joke. It’s how I’ve instinctively dealt with difficult situations since a child. Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah said about growing up poor, “We survived winters, snotty nosed with no coats. We kept it real, but the older brother still had jokes.”

The world was infatuated with Justine for several days, not because of her words, but because we all feared this could one day happen to us. We’ve all written or said something stupid. But like Jennifer Lawrence’s character in The Hunger Games, her number came up.

She was a nobody at a nobody company. According to her Twitter page she’s “Troublemaker on the side. Also known for my loud laugh”. So she’s a jokester amongst jokesters. She pushes boundaries. She’s no doubt beloved amongst her peers. Labeled by the media as an “executive” (probably for the first, and last time), but in reality she was a “Senior Director”. Middle management.

She worked for the least humorous website on the internet,, so she’s surrounded by wannabe-funny people all day where her lame tweet fits right in. No doubt a sense of humor is a job prerequisite. Her lame joke fits right in there with their website persona.

Little talk of US labor laws were discussed in the articles I read. Shouldn’t personal and professional lives be separate? Do we really want corporations to own us 24/7? Thanks for the US’s freedom of speech laws, no crime was committed here. Pornography is unacceptable in the workplace, but when it happens in your free time, is it your employer’s business?

Turns out Justine, like myself and most other comics, is a bleeding-heart liberal. I doubt she’s racist. Her situation has been compared to the firing of the Duck Dynasty dad for his rants against homosexuals. What’s worse, a joke about gays…or actually hating gays and wanting them banished to hell for all eternity? Big difference.

We’ll never know if Justine Sacco is a bigot or just had a 10-second brainfart. AIDS is a serious issue and I’m happy to see the internet discussing this once more. While I’m upset that someone could mock such a serious issue, I’m more upset at Americans in 2013. How we treat men and women differently. How some random person’s tweet is worthy of national headlines. How we misunderstand humor. How we skip compassion and rehabilitation to go right for the jugular.

Here’s hoping for a better 2014.

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Top 40 Electropop Albums of 2013



2013 was an incredible year for music, especially if you’re a fan of electro stuff. I’d argue there was more great albums in 2013 than all of the 00’s combined.


2013 was the year electropop artists became household names. CHVRCHES, Charli XCX, Lorde and Sky Ferreira can be found on local radio. Even my mom knows that Lorde is 16 and “from New Zealand or something”.

2013 saw the rise of “Electro R&B” like Alunageorge, Dungeonesse, DIANA and Autre Ne Veut. 20 years later, hipster kids are giving their own take on 90’s rhythm & blues.

2013 was the year I started using the term “Electro Hip Hop” thanks to Kanye West’s minimal, analog masterpiece.

2013 marks the year that a four-on-the-floor beat makes me cringe like fingernails down a chalkboard. Producers need to create interesting, rhythmic basslines instead of getting lazy with the BOOM-CHEE-BOOM-CHEE.

You no longer have to feel guilty for listening to “pop music” in 2013. Fans and bands are proud to use the word ‘pop’. Yet, the genre is attacked once more, even being ignorantly labeled “The Monogenre” by those who simply don’t like it.

I hope you discover something new in the list below – not everything is electropop – you’ll find some dreampop, retropop and indierock.

Though Spotify is now under attack in 2013, mostly by grumpy old white guys who haven’t enjoyed a new album since the 70′, here’s a Spotify playlist for your convenience. And be sure to check out my Best Electropop Albums of 2012 and Best Electropop Albums of 2011 playlists, as well as my Top 100 Electropop Tracks of 2013.


40. Ejecta – Dominae
Happy and hazy electronic sounds.


39. MIA – Matangi
Dancehall reggae.


38. Keep Shelly in Athens – At Home
Yummy analog synths.


37. Austra – Olympia
Haunting sounds.


36. Phantogram – Phantogram
A preview of their upcoming 2014 album.


35. Small Black – Limits of Desire


34. The 1975 – The 1975


33. Frankie Rose – Herein Wild


32. Shannon & The Clams – Dreams in the Rat House
The sound of the 50’s.


31. Goldroom – Embrace
An EP of chill house beats and dreamy female vocals.


30. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Not as solid as their previous two albums, but definitely some killer tracks on here.

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How a Writer Fails 9th Grade English

Failing 9th grade G&T English was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done. Well, right up until the dozens of more-embarrassing things I’ve done since then. Nineteen years later I’m finally comfortable telling this tale. I’m finally over it.

For those who aren’t familiar with Maryland Public Schools class hierarchy, G&T is an acronym for “Gifted & Talented”, only for the smartest, socially awkward kids. Below that, “Honors”, for wealthy kids who play lacrosse. Next was “Standard” for your regular dipshits. And below that various levels for what we kids called “retarded”.

Ninth grade G&T English was taught by Mrs. Ikeler, an unhappy, angry woman notorious for busting female students smoking in the lavatories. She narc’d on girls en masse to appease the school principal, because she too, was a smoker.

Between classes and lunch, she and another English teacher would escape the school premises in her Honda to inhale a few cigs at Bunker Hill. We know this because Bunker Hill was where students played hooky and often got busted by Mrs. Ikeler. Or vice versa.

Few alumni have fond memories of Mrs. Ikeler. Rumors circulated that an older kid entered her classroom during a school play and shit in her drawer. I was impressed! Impressed that someone can shit like that on command. I need 20 minutes of privacy in my own bathroom. Regardless, Mrs. Ikeler deserved it. Though our all-white school’s black janitor, who cleaned it up, definitely didn’t deserve it.

Before I continue, I must admit I’m worried Ms. Ikeler will read this. I’m not worried she’ll be offended by comments, I’m worried about my grammar. “THIS IS WHY I FLUNKED YOU!! AUTHOR MY ASS!”

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This is Why People Aren’t Buying Windows Phones

I’ve been in California for 18 months now, and I’ve yet to see a SINGLE Windows Phone in a consumer’s hands.


The few times I have, I’ve confronted and even congratulated the individual, only to find out they work for Microsoft, or they’re a developer paid to code for it. I do, however, see schizophrenic homeless people defecating on San Francisco sidewalks. But no Windows Phones. I’m not sure which makes me sadder.

3.2%. That’s Windows Phone’s marketshare. Third place in a two horse race. Windows Phone is currently on its eighth version and has arguably been in development since 2000 with the launch of Windows Mobile. They have the finest phone manufacturer in the world producing their phones, yet, thirteen years and billions of dollars later, all they can muster up is a measly 3.2%.

Why would God let this happen!?!

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Invite Phil to Your Party!!

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Comedy and Loathing in San Francisco

Thirty seconds after writing my name on last night’s open mic list, I scratched it off. I can’t go 25th. I can’t wait until 1am to perform six minutes in front of the last three comics waiting to go on. I need to find a better Wednesday night mic. At 33 I’m feeling way too old for this. I don’t have time for that shit.

If I ever had a catchphrase, it’s that. “I don’t have time for that shit.” I say that a lot. So much that my old comedy buddies in Northern Europe say the phrase and attribute it to me. I first coined it when I did some shows in Sweden. The other comics took the boat from Helsinki to Stockholm while I flew. Boats? I don’t have time for that shit. Why don’t I pack my monocle, top hat, and telegraph machine for that meandering trip back in time.

Maybe I should register that phrase as a trademark. My California sweatshirt did. Don’t you dare write “California” in a yellow font or else you owe someone a lot of money.


San Francisco is a magnet for America’s most insane people, and open mics are magnets for these people. The city has a long history of attracting artists and counterculture. Artists and counterculture have a long history of attracting mental illness. The mentally ill have a long history of attracting drug abuse. Mental illness + Drug Abuse + No Healthcare x 20 years = San Francisco.

Crazy people on stage is funny for about fifteen seconds until you realize they’ve prepared nothing and will not abide by “the light”. The host always has to rip the mic from their hands as they waddle back to their seat, often screaming the rest of their “material”. But to give them props – they have the stage confidence of a young Eddie Murphy. They have a unique voice. They work “clean”. And they’re still funnier than this blog.

Im writing this at 5:30am because my body no longer allows me to eat a heavy meal past 10pm. My body says, “You’re enjoying a good night sleep while I have to digest this slop?? Fuck that! We’re in this TOGETHER!” At age 27 I started losing my hair, at age 31 I could no longer eat late, at 32 I began to just “smell”, and at 33 I saw my first gray hairs. Can’t wait see what life brings me next!

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How I got a Handicapped Woman to Touch my Penis


I had a cyst on my penis.

Well, it depends on who you ask. I consider that part of my body to be my penis. If I was asked to measure my penis, like by the folks at Guinness, I’d jam a ruler into my crotch and the cyst would be between the black one-inch line and the painful red line created by the ruler. But if the Guinness folks measured it themselves, they may conclude the cyst is NOT on my penis, but instead on its base, thus confirming my record as the “Most Delusional Man in the World”.

By the way, if you need a tape measure to measure your penis, your penis is weird. Stop pretending like you have a bedroom advantage. But if you do use a ruler, watch for splinters. And for those who think girth is more important than length: I don’t think Ron Jeremy is known for his 11-inch girth.

Before this blog post turns into a series of less-than-clever dick jokes, you should know that this cyst isn’t a STD. I have a long history of skin problems. Eczema, allergic reactions to earrings, a cyst surgically removed from my face, acne, dry skin, and I once had to have my foreskin removed. So a “penis-cyst” (medical term) is no problem – call the dermatologist.

Finnish doctor offices are sterile and lifeless. The colorless white walls scream out, “Healthcare is free in Finland, quit complaining!!” And only the gentle hands of an Estonian could get a floor that shiny. Grab a number, sit down, take your pick of two Finnish magazines. For women – a magazine with a plump, dyed-red-hair feminist on the cover. For men – a magazine on boats. One of a plethora of boating magazines available in the country, in Finnish, in a land with six days of summer each summer.

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Phil’s debut humor book, “How to Marry a Finnish Girl” is out now on Gummerus Publishers.

About Better! Funner!


Better! Funner! is a blog written and curated by Phil Schwarzmann. You’ll find funny original pieces, some not-so-funny pieces, plus stuff that made Phil laugh from around them internets. Enjoy!