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Jewish World Review Aug. 19, 1999 /7 Elul, 5759

Greg Crosby

Greg Crosby
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The Golden Age of Jerkdom --
ABOUT 25 YEARS AGO I read a wonderful piece in one of Steve Allen’s books that has stayed with me ever since. His premise was that everybody encounters jerks from time to time. The world is full of them. But what can be done to combat jerkiness in our society? The problem is, jerks don’t usually know that they are jerks. Certainly crooks know they are crooks and liars know they are liars, but no one ever thinks of himself (or herself, since this is an equal opportunity affliction) as a jerk.

As a public service, therefore, Steve decided to come up with a test that people could take to determine if they were in fact jerks. He called it “The National Jerk Test” and for the most part all the questions in it are as pertinent today as they were back then.

Our world, however, has become considerably smaller since the mid-seventies. Our cities are more crowded now -- giving us many more opportunities to encounter jerks. Our culture has become cruder, louder, and more obnoxious -- which allows for a fertile growth of bigger and better jerks. Advances in communications have given jerks new avenues to express their jerkiness.

The loss of good judgment, taste, and manners displayed in our popular culture and mainstream media has given a green light to anyone with a penchant for jerky behavior.

The jerk persona is celebrated in countless motion pictures today. Although the “jerk” character has always been a staple of movies from silent slapstick comedies to Jerry Lewis pictures, the big difference is, that up until recently the audience laughed AT the jerk on screen, never dreaming to be like him -- whereas now the audience is laughing with the jerk, and unfortunately, identifying with him. In short, we have entered into “The Golden Age of Jerkdom.”

So, in keeping with the spirit of Steve Allen’s original jerk test, I humbly submit the following new questions, added to reflect our current culture. To find out if you are a nineties jerk, simply answer yes or no to the following. Score one point for each yes answer.

1. Do you regularly have conversations on a cell phone (that are non-emergencies) in public places like restaurants, theaters and sports arenas?

2. If you are a male over forty have you had any of your body parts pierced? If you are a female over forty have you had anything other than your ears pierced?

3. Do you use obscenities as part of your normal speech pattern?

4. When walking across a street or in a parking lot, do you purposely take your time, even when you know cars are waiting for you to cross?

5. If you are over forty (and neither a rap musician or professional baseball player) do you wear baseball caps backwards?

6. Do you make a really big deal over second-hand smoke in large, open outdoor areas?

7. Do you drink, eat, brush your hair, make non-emergency phone calls, or apply make-up while driving a car?

8. When people say “thank you” do you respond by saying “no problem” instead of “your welcome”?

9. Do you often find yourself chasing after your toddlers in crowded places like supermarkets, airports and restaurants?

10. Do you walk your dog off the leash on public streets?

11. Have you ever not picked up after your dog when walking him on public streets?

12. Do you frequently try to “beat the light” or continue making a left turn through an intersection after the light has turned red?

13. Have you ever put your feet up on the seat in front of you in a theater?

14. Do you spend more than half a day on your computer (provided you are not a student, disabled or work on it for a living)?

15. If you are a bicyclist or a jogger, do you feel it is your “right’ to be out in the street more than say, three feet from the curb?

Okay, that’s it. Add up your score. If you scored more than 6 points, congratulations! You are now an official member of “Jerks of the Nineties Club.” For your own well being and for the safety of others I highly recommend that you move to Antarctica.

JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.


08/12/99: Dressing Down...and Out

©1999, Greg Crosby