Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Lenny Hannigan, known as the "warm wit of Williamsburg," died at the age of 28. A lifelong student of jokes, Hannigan told Charlie Rose that he had an epiphany upon realizing that "all humor is based on someone being hurt or insulted. The joke is literally always on somebody else, even if it's the person telling the joke. Self- depreciation is just another word for low self-esteem." Vowing to become the first "cruelty-free, non-racial, post-religious comedian," Hannigan pioneered the art of jokes without punchlines. A typical Hannigan "remark," as he referred to his jokes, was "A Crayola crayon walks into a bar. The bartender says, 'Why so blue?' The crayon replies, 'Because I'm violet blue.'" Hannigan died after being struck on the head by a flying beer bottle one too many times at his gigs. 

Victoria Coulomb, 81, was unknown by name to most people, yet was responsible for one of the most iconic cultural touchstones of our time. While working in the P.R. department for Delta Airlines, Ms. Coulomb was asked to write and record a phone message for customers waiting for a live representative. In less than two minutes, she came up with the phrase, "We are expecting higher than normal call volume. Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received. Your call is very important to us; please hold." Ms. Coulomb suffered a fatal stroke while kept on hold by the emergency room.

The legendary Robert "Woody" Woodson, 77, was one of the most in-demand consultants of the business world.  Believing that "the best employees have the least personality," he decided that "conversational language" was anathema in the office space. Over the course of several years, Woodson created words and phrases that would soon become standard language on Madison Avenue and beyond. Starting with the suggestion to "think outside the box," he soon went on to coin "synergy," "crunch time," "bring to the table," "hitting our numbers," "outsource" and "at the end of the day," among hundreds of others. Woodson, however, was proudest of "downsizing," believing that it sounded like the managers were helping their companies rather than destroying their employees' lives. According to witnesses, Woodson, having a sudden heart attack, was trying to call for help but couldn't think of the right word.


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