PROVO Brigham Young University's sober reputation is cemented in the national consciousness more on that in a moment but 2006 proved that humor, if not alcohol, flows freely in the shadow of Y Mountain.
The biggest campus wits included the president of the Board of Trustees and the president of the university. Since those men double as President Gordon B. Hinckley, leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder Cecil O. Samuelson, of the church's First Quorum of the Seventy, students have strong ecclesiastical examples of drollery.Without further ado, then, let's hand out the 2006 "Sammies."
The first goes to three students who caused a ruckus after they printed and sold T-shirts with Samuelson's image and the phrase "Cecil Is My Homeboy."
The students Austin Craig, Landon Pratt and Roger Pimentel dropped off one of the shirts at Samuelson's office and said they would stop selling them if he wished it. Instead, his secretary sent them an e-mail:
"The president has no objection to you selling it. However, he wanted you to know that he probably won't be wearing it in public!"
Craig said that proved Samuelson has a sense of humor. So did the comment the president provided for this story: "I always enjoy my association with our students, even if I'm not up on the latest terminology."
The phrase became standard student jargon. One example: The campus comedy troupe Divine Comedy does a sketch where Samuelson is a Superman-like character who flies in to save the day. ("Faster than a Provo engagement, able to leap over the Botany Pond, more powerful than the combined testimony of the BYU Men's Chorus, he's President Samuelson!")
During the sketch at a recent show, a student in the audience yelled out, "Go, Cecil."Improvising, the student playing Samuelson/Superman turned to the audience and said, "Thank you. You're my homeboy."
The parents of a BYU public relations major named one of his older brothers Warren Tea for a few days, until someone pointed out the obvious and they changed his name to Jody. It took a few weeks to realize what they'd repeated themselves when they named Geren Tea, and it was too late to change it. People have presented lists of more potentially funny names to Tea throughout his life, but he says his wife Megan, also a BYU student, has been the most creative.If they have twins, her picks for names would be Hump and Dump. Megan actually is due to deliver the couple's first child in January, and she saucily suggests naming it Pace Pecan.
President Hinckley clearly enjoyed the laughter after he retold one of his father's favorite jokes to 20,049 people gathered to hear him speak at a devotional at the Marriott Center on Halloween. It was a story about a boy who came down to breakfast one morning and said to his father, "Dad, I was dreaming about you last night."
"What were you dreaming?"
"I was dreaming that I was climbing a ladder to heaven, and on each rung of the ladder as I went up, I had to write one of my sins."
His father said, "Yes, where do I come into your dream?"The boy said, "As I was going up, I met you coming down for more chalk."
The campus newspaper the Daily Universe regularly includes a Police Beat feature, which in the right journalism student's hands can, especially through brevity, provide a humorous look at what is considered crime or mischief at BYU.
Here's one from Nov. 21 that subtly refers some coeds' need for male attention "A female student attempted to get the attention of two male students passing by Fox Hall in Heritage Halls by tapping on the glass window of the lobby. The female student shattered the window with her tapping."
Earlier, on Sept. 19, there was an entry about the male need for attention: "An individual reported male students singing to female students outside of Hinckley Hall in Helaman Halls. The males were advised to leave due to complaints."On Sept. 23, Police Beat reported that a male student wouldn't sit down during the BYU-Utah State football game. A female student complained that she couldn't see. Then, "The male victim allegedly called the suspect a derogatory name and asked her, 'What are you going to do to get me to sit down? Slap me?' The female suspect then slapped the male victim. The victim did not press charges."
BYU-related humor is not confined to campus, of course. A reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer was looking for improbabilities to spice up a recent story about the unlikelihood that Seattle residents would elect a Republican:"Yes," Neil Modie wrote, "Seattle might well have some Republicans lurking here somewhere. A few rabbis might be living quietly in Tehran, too, and maybe some beer-swilling atheists are enrolled at Brigham Young University."
BYU's rep for sobriety got a pop culture seal of approval of sorts in November when a political science major at Southern Illinois University won $100,000 on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."Alyx Mark ran into trouble on the question for $25,000: "On the Princeton Review's 2007 list of top party schools, what college was ranked most 'stone-cold sober' for the ninth straight year?" Mark didn't know, so she used a lifeline. She phoned her father, Michael Mark, in St. Louis. He quickly told her it was BYU.
A writer for a North Carolina independent weekly newspaper wondered in November when sports teams would stop using Native Americans as mascots. Even though the University of Utah is the one whose teams are named for the Ute tribe, BYU somehow got mixed up in the column.
David Swerdlick mentioned the agreement to use the name struck by the U. with Ute tribal leaders, but he questioned whether the majority of Utes enjoy their status as mascots."Can anyone imagine the administration of a historically black college favoring a name change like the Runaway Slaves, or Brigham Young University changing its name to the Defiant Polygamists? Again, it would be in extremely poor taste."
Samuelson deserves a Sammie or two of his own. The president fields constant questions from students unhappy they can't park closer to class. At a question-and-answer session in November, Samuelson noted that students sometimes avail themselves of his reserved parking space.
"Sometimes I leave a note," he said. "I try to be kindly. One time someone took my spot on a Sunday thinking I would not be there, but I had to stop by the office. I left a simple note:"'You guessed wrong."'
In August, Samuelson conducted the opening business at the Annual University Conference, then reached for a glass as he paused to transition to his keynote address."Since I'm the only one who knows how dry this talk is going to be," he said, "I'm going to take a sip of water."
E-mail: [email protected]