I knew I would see my name in lights someday, and now it’s official: I am giving a humor talk at the annual meeting of the American Economics Association. My name’s even in the program and everything. (Do a search for humor and you’ll find it. And for the record, Caroline Postelle Clotfelter is the editor of On the Third Hand: Wit and Humor in the Dismal Science, and thus is kind of my hero.)
There’s only one problem with this- I’m not funny. Snarky, sarcastic, full of bad puns, cheeky perhaps…but funny? Ugh. But it’s not like I am one to pass up an opportunity, so off we go…luckily, I’ve got 3 months and the lovely people at ImprovBoston to help me. Too bad that I’ve already been upstaged by Samantha Bee on the econ front:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Cash Cow – High-Frequency Trading|
You know, I will give credit where credit is due. Yes, I said before that I wouldn’t turn down an offer to be the Daily Show’s Senior Economic Corespondent, but no, I am not sure that I would go so far as to wear a green and white cow suit with dollar signs on it. (Though my mom would be so proud that I was continuing on with the cow theme.) Clearly, Samantha Bee wants the position of “Cash Cow” more than I do, and I salute her for that. Maybe someday they’ll resolve the trademark issues surrounding the “Money Honeybee” and I’ll give it another go. After all, I may not have the appropriate name, but I look decent in black and yellow:
Seriously though, her piece on high-frequency trading was surprisingly educational. Also, her point that this activity doesn’t create any value is a valid one- high-frequency trading is a zero-sum game that results in a transfer of value from one place to another rather than a creation of value..kind of like if Robin Hood stole from the rich in order to give to other rich people. I am mostly agnostic as to whether this activity remains legal, but it’s important to see it as a fairly widespread by-product of market activity.
Lest you think that I am only getting competition on the humor from from people who do comedy for a living, I point you to a recent performance by Austan Goolsbee. Goolsbee is one of Obama’s economic advisers and a professor (on leave) at the University of Chicago. He was awarded with the (damning with faint praise) honor of being named “Washington’s funniest celebrity,” and he gave quite the acceptance speech.
This article points out that Goolsbee borrowed the sketch’s structure from SNL’s old Mr. subliminal character, which is pretty accurate. His schtick is also not so different from what I (inadvertently) do with the captions on the videos…or what Stephen Colbert does very intentionally in “The Word” segments. Maybe people will start paying attention if they learn that economists aren’t so terrible to listen to…though I’m not holding my breath.