“Etiquette for the Insane,” by Jay Morris

Dec 29th, 2010 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

Dear Uncle Jay:

My friend Irwin’s favorite song is “Angie Baby,” sung by Helen Reddy. What he likes about it is the line, It’s so nice to be insane/no one asks you to explain… Irwin thinks that insane people have it made. He says that they are excused from the rules of conduct required from the rest of us, that they can be as rude as they want. Of course, Irwin’s idea of good manners is to raise his pinkies while chugging a 40 oz. of malt liquor at a PTA meeting, but is he finally right about something?

–B.W., Racine, Wis.

No. The insane are not exempt from the rules of etiquette. Just ask the professionals who run the most famous clinic where manners and maladjustment meet, The Emily Post Institute for the Criminally Insane. They have a saying there:

A diagnosis
of psychosis
is not good cause
to dis the hostess.

What follows is an excerpt from a Q&A portion of the group’s handbook, Manners for Maniacs (Skidmark Publishers), which you may find edifying:


My name is Sam, and I am the spokesman for sixteen other personalities, also named Sam, in the same body. Next week, we’re planning to attend a mixer for deranged singles. How should I handle introductions?

–Sixteen Worried Sams, Enid, OK


In a situation such as yours, much depends on the person you’re being introduced to. If you meet an attractive “multiple” with an equivalent number of personalities, the resulting 289 separate introductions would last longer than most marriages. Perhaps just saying, “Hi, we’re Sam” would be best.


Twenty-three steps to the bathroom. Twenty-three. Twenty-three steps to the bathroom. Germs on the doorknob. Germs. Germs on the doorknob. Twenty-three steps to the bathroom, germs on the doorknob. Steps, knob. Germs. Twenty-three steps to the bathroom. Germs on the doorknob. Wash, wash. Wash the hands, wash the hands. Twenty-three steps to the bathroom, germs on the doorknob, wash the hands. Kill. Kill the germs. Kill the neighbor. Wash the neighbor. Wash, wash. Kill, kill. Twenty-three neighbors. Steps? Germs? Kill? Wash?

–Twenty-three Steps From The Bathroom, Camden, NJ


Yes, it is important to wash one’s hands after using the bathroom or killing a neighbor. Wash thoroughly, but leave some skin on.


I was walking to my job at the Post Office the other day. A dog stopped me. He used mental telepathy to talk. I was impressed. He knew a lot. A big fan of musical theatre. Except for Cats. Today I saw him again. He snubbed me. If I shoot the office supervisor, will the dog find me interesting and be my friend again?

–Put Down By A Dog, Seattle, WA


The average patron could probably think of any number of reasons to shoot the people who run the Post Office, but a fellow postal worker doing so in order to rekindle a canine friendship based on a mutual interest in musical theatre and conducted through telepathy is just too common to be really interesting. Try a bone.

Jay Morris is a graduate of LaSalle University, where he was awarded a scholarship for creative writing. He has published dozens of stories in various literary magazines, including Philadelphia Stories and Zahir. He has also written one play, Rude Baby, which was recently produced, and worked for a time as a joke writer for Jay Leno. His new humor book, Uncle Jay’s Unreliable Almanac, is available at Amazon.

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