Opinion: Art of humor

Commentary by Dick Wolfsie

From my first day of college in September of 1965 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., I wanted to meet Art Buchwald. His office, on Pennsylvania Avenue, was just down the street from my dorm.

In 1967, I persuaded the editor of the student newspaper, “The Hatchet,” to give me my own weekly humor column. The feature, “Wolf’s Whistle,” ran in almost 100 college newspapers — possibly the first student syndicated humor column in the country.

Headstrong and naive, I figured I could just look up Mr. Buchwald’s home number in the phone book. There it was. When he answered the phone, I nervously filled him in on my own “rich” history of writing humor columns. When I told him I attended classes just a few blocks from his office, he invited me to come over for a short visit.

Two days later, I called Mr. Buchwald’s secretary. “Yes,” she said, “Mr. Buchwald said you’d be calling.” I stammered, “He did?”

I entered his office with a stack of “Hatchets” under my arm. He stole a glance at me and snapped, “Let me see one of those newspapers, kid.” I’d love to report to you that he burst out laughing. Instead, he just stared at the page, steely eyed. Not even a smile. Only a subtle nod of the head that made me think he saw a glimmer of potential.

He grabbed a pen off his desk and scribbled a few words over my byline. Then he answered a phone call, apologized and walked out the door. The entire meeting with him lasted two minutes.

Dejected, I shuffled back to my apartment and opened the newspaper to the page that Mr. Buchwald had read. I stared in delight at these words scrawled on the paper:

       “Wolfsie, stay out of my racket.”   –Art Buchwald

I was only 20, but it was the coolest thing that had ever happened to me.

I cut out the message and framed it, along with the photo I had snapped of Mr. Buchwald reading my column. It has been on my desk ever since.

You know, that may still be the coolest thing that has ever happened to me.

Next week, part 2 of this story…