The Death of My Wit

[Spoiler warning for last night's episode of The Office.]

Did anyone else watch The Office last night? And, if so, did you find it as upsetting as I did?

I don't even know why the hell I watch that show anymore, because it just constantly infuriates me, but last night's episode was just a whole new level of horrible.

The premise is that, ten years earlier, in yet another one of his fits of jackassery, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) had promised a group of elementary school students that he would pay for their college educations if they graduated high school. So, a decade goes by, and it's time to cough up—and of course he can't.

Eventually he goes to visit the students, known as "Scott's Tots," who put on a big show of appreciation and give speeches about what a difference it will make in their lives to have their educations funded, and, OMG, it's just unbearably painful as the plot builds until the moment when Michael will have to tell them he made an empty promise.

The moment finally arrives, and Michael spills the awful news. The students begin to shout angrily; cut to commercial. When the show resumes, Michael is outside the school, and one student has chased him outside and calmly asks what he's supposed to do now. Michael offers to pay for his books. Only his. And makes a big deal about how expensive they are—har har this guy can't even pay for one kid's books.

The denouement of this story finds Michael in the car on the way home, being driven by the receptionist, Erin. He is stewing about having "destroyed 15 young lives today." Erin tries to cheer him up; he insults her—"You're what? Like 12?" She tries again: "The principal told me that 90% of Scott's Tots are on track to graduate and that's 35% higher than the rest of the school, so, I think if you hadn't made that promise, a lot of them would've dropped out. Which is something to think about, I think." Michael then feels all better. Yay!

All of this would have been bad enough on its own, but—have you guessed the part that makes it extra hilaritragic yet?!—the promise was made at an inner-city school and Scott's Tots are almost all people of color.

It was...hard to watch. I actually felt physically anxious and upset watching it. The more I thought about what the (totes ironic!) punchline to all this was, the more I felt like retching.

A few days ago, Iain was sort of pondering aloud how he feels like his sense of humor used to be sharper, like he used to be wittier. I said, "Maybe you've just realized that some of the stuff you used to find 'witty' is really just cruelty wrapped in a joking tone."

He contemplated that for a moment. "Yeah. Yeah, I think you're probably right."

I have suffered the same death of "wit."

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