Take My Job…Please!!! by Tom Sumner

Take My Job…Please!!! by Tom Sumner

Sunday, 21 May 2017
Blog Posts


The late comedian Henny Youngman was known for “one-liners” like his signature line “Take my wife – please.”

He starts out as if he’s going to say “take my wife, for example…” then realizes that whatever awful tale he’s about to tell could have been avoided if someone had just taken his wife. So, in essence, he’s pleading with someone/anyone in the audience to save him from future woes by taking his wife.

One of my favorites from Youngman is the story of a drunk facing a Judge that asks if the man knows that he’s been brought to court for drinking. The drunk replies “then let’s get started.”

But, in at least two of my own court appearances, I found myself telling the Judge to “take my wife…please.” It’s not as funny as Curly (from The Three Stooges) saying “I’ll take ham and cheese on rye” when the Judge bellows “order in the Court.” It is, however, appropriate and true.

In court, “pleading the fifth” is allowable under the U.S. Constitution to defend against being compelled to give testimony against yourself. But, taking the fifth is a “Catch 22.” If you don’t want to answer because it might incriminate you – you must be guilty of something incriminating.

It’s difficult to know what to say in some situations.

Lots of words and phrases have more than one meaning. Some have taken on connotations from being used too often, like moss gathering on a stone that stays in the same place too long.

“No comment” has been the default for public figures trying to avoid inconvenient truths but rarely works with the media or anyone else. Enter a new default line…

Last week the City of Flint’s top water plant manager, Jolisa McDay, resigned a little more than a year after being appointed. The resignation came on the heels of Mayor Weaver’s recommendation that Detroit should treat and supply the municipal water system for Flint long term.

I was a little skeptical when McDay reportedly said she was resigning to spend more time with her family. I used that line once. It was not one of my better moments.

It was a job I didn’t like very much. So, I was taken completely by surprise when a reporter called me to ask why I was resigning. Obviously, a very slow news day.

I didn’t want to say anything that might look bad for the organization, the people I worked with or me. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might need something to tell “the media,” so I defaulted to “so I can spend more time with my family.”

This is a line most frequently used by politicians trying to avoid scandal. It doesn’t really work.

Most people thought Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan nailed it when he used the line “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. He was a four-term U.S. Senator and served as ambassador, administration official and academic. But it was President Trump’s spokes-blond Kellyanne Conway that pulled a new one out of the box when she introduced the world to “alternative facts.”

I’m still scratching my head over that one. It made me completely forget about the Bowling Green Massacre. Sure. I’d like to say “alternative facts” = “BS.” But I’m not sure. I like the idea that she came up with something new.

We need some new default lines. Especially, in a world of communicating in 140 characters or less.

Instead of saying “no comment” or “I’m resigning to spend more time with my family,” we could try the truth. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if Ms. McDay had asked, “If Flint’s not going to be treating it’s own water, what do they need me for?”


Simply paraphrase Henny Youngman and say “take my job…please” and drop the mic.

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