How they laugh in Hell

Anyone who doesn’t think that government bureaucracy eventually destroys all it touches should read this solicitation by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for consultants to provide “two, 3-hour Humor in the Workplace programs.” You’ve never seen, I promise you, a more humorless treatment of humor. It specifies, among other requirements, that:

“Participants shall experience demonstrations of cartoons being created on the spot. The contractor shall have the ability to create cartoons on the spot about BPD [Bureau of Public Debt] jobs.”

I understand that working at the Bureau of Public Debt in the Treasury Department must be a soul-deadening endeavor. But then again, does anyone sign up for that job thinking it won’t be? If you apply for a position as towel boy in Hell’s sauna, do you really expect there will be air conditioning?

Years ago C.S. Lewis did a masterful job of rendering demons as bureaucrats. I imagine Hell must be filled with red tape, work requisition orders, union rules, and other such impediments to humanity. Perhaps even now, some low-level fiend is trying to liven things up in his own little corner of the Pit:

Solicitation Number: 666-ACKH-666666

Title: Request for Proposals, Levity in Limbo

Synopsis: The purpose of this announcement is to seek qualified contractors with the capability to provide presentations for The Department of Eternal Torment, Low-Grade Irritation and Annoyance Management Team with experience in meeting the objectives as described herein.

The Contractor shall provide eleven 43-hour Levity in Limbo programs that will discuss the importance of humor in close quarters, the relationship between humor and an ability to dream up fresh ways of tormenting our charges, and why humor is one of the best ways to stay grounded below ground. Participants shall experience how to develop short humorous skits of everyday work life in Hell. The presenter shall refrain from any reference to He Who Shall Not Be Mentioned, and endeavor to stay on schedule. This is a business environment and we need the presenter to address a business audience. As there is no leaving Hell, all Contractors must already be dead with their souls forfeit. Special preference will be given to post-1990 Saturday Night Live writers, morning drive-time radio personalities, and anyone responsible for employing Pauly Shore, Gilbert Gottfried, or Bob Saget.


  1. Gray Brendle

    I can’t believe that I am the only one who thought this was funny. Maybe because I am afraid that soon I will have to pay for all of my family’s health care straight out of pocket unless I want a bureaucratic soul to decide for us what should and should not be treated and how it should or should not be treated.

  2. karen


    Have you seen the movie “Brazil”? Saw it when it premiered back in 1985, loved it then and will see it again soon, I hope. This tag line about the movie reminded me of your post..:

    “A bureaucrat in a retro-future world tries to correct an administrative error and himself becomes an enemy of the state. ”

    Give it a look see. Best, Karen

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