That’s Intriguing #18: Bill Scheft Hits It out of the Park at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop

I figure I’ve attended more than a thousand conferences, meetings and workshops in the past 20+ years – and I’ve spoken at more than 500.

So, I’ve seen a lot of speakers.

Bill Sheft, writer for David Letterman, SI and ESPN columnist, Thurber Prize for Humor finalist and author of Everything Hurts (Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo marvels, “How rare it is for a novel to be both hilarious and profoundly moving.”) – was absolutely brilliant at this year’s Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.

One thing I learned while introducing Dave Barry for the first time at the Maui Writers Conference is to NEVER try to do a humorist’s material when they’re standing right there (thank heaven, Dave was nice about it) . . .

. . . so instead of me trying to tell you how witty, decent, profound and moving Bill was . . . let me just share an excerpt of the blog he wrote about his experience and then give you the link so you can read it yourself and draw your own conclusions.

(Context – this is the evening keynote for the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop held in Dayton, Ohio at UD.)

“Before we begin, can we show a little love for the University of Dayton, 2010 NIT Tournament Champions? I can only imagine the pride you must feel to have the 66th best college basketball team in the nation….

How many of you saw Gail Collins speak at lunch? I thought she was a little too funny, charming and rivetting for my taste. The bad news is there was no money in the Bombeck Workshop speakers budget after they hired Gail. So, it was between me and Dave Barry’s urologist. And I was a little cheaper….

Of course, I would be remiss if i did not pay tribute to the woman whose contribution is the reason why we’re all here, Erma Bombeck. During lunch, at each table there was a placard with one of Erma’s memorable quotes. At my table was one of my favorites: A friend is someone who’ll tell you she saw your ex-boyfriend, and he’s now a priest. Well, maybe not these days….

(Tag) Tough times for the church. Now, when a guy goes to confession and says, “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned,” the priest says, “YOU’VE sinned! Ha! Pull up a chair….”

Screams. And off we went. There were there all the way. Now, as I said, I had done all this stuff before and it all worked, but it had never ALL worked. Until tonight. Not a miss. And laughs, too. None of that half-laugh, applause. Clapter. Real laughs. Stunning.” – the previous 5 paragraphs from Bill Scheft’s blog –

If you’re a communicator on the page or the stage – do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to read his blog and then check out Bill’s site –

He’s a walking-talking role model that you can be side-splittingly funny, insightful and a decent human being . . .all at the same time.

  1. Not sure if UD being the 66th best team is a jab at humor or a sport’s comment – either way it’s a big FAIL.

    If was an attempot at humor, next you’ll be breaking ou the knock-knock jokes because they’re as current and funny; if it’s a sport’s comment then the old adage applies -better to be thought of as an idiot rather than opening your mouth (or in the case posting something on the Internet) that proves it

  2. Aaahhh . . . context is king.

    If you met Bill and had the privilege of being in that room – you would have gotten that there was no ill intent meant.

    In fact, there were several UD students in the room and they loved his sense of humor and understood that this is one of those “laugh-with-us-not-at-us” one-liners that was more of a poke at the nonsensical NCAA-NIT ranking system than it was at the superbly talented UD team.

    Anyway, please read Bill’s blog – because he explains that it was an edgy risk but that he hoped the crowd embraced it – which they did.

    Your reaction (and defense of UD) is yet more evidence that anty humor has its risks – as outlined in Bill’s excellent blog.

    Thanks for getting in touch with your feeeback . . .

  3. Sam: As one who was howling out there in the audience that night, I have to agree with your kudos for Bill Sheft. Not only was he hysterical, but he showed a vulnerability and tenderness that had us eating out of his hands. How does one do that in a room of 300 other writers? I think you have to be real, open, and self-deprecating. Bill’s cute little Dustin Hoffman grin was also endearing—and the perfect foil to set us up for his next zinger. Honored to have been there—a great subject for your blog!

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