While preparing for Home Energy’s 30th anniversary, we leafed through some of the earliest issues. Today’s issues are slick compared to those early years. It was amateur hour then because an untrained staff researched and wrote articles, prepared artwork, edited, typeset, proofed, and much more. Still, the topics have not changed much and—sadly—some of the editorials from the 1980s could easily be reprinted in 2014 without readers sensing anything was amiss.
But it struck us that one big difference between then and now is humor: those earlier issues were filled with cartoons, jokes, even stories. (See the cartoon to the left, which ran in a 1985 issue with the caption, "Insulating with Jello.") It was a special type of humor that you couldn’t find elsewhere because it focused on home energy. The cartoons were corny (and not terribly professional) because they portrayed stereotypical situations. Imagine the attic insulator’s leg poking through the ceiling. Yet they still provoked smiles.
Humor has value. A noted social scientist remarked that a dirty joke is sometimes the best way of dispensing sex education. We’re not claiming that raunchy humor should be part of the energy efficiency training curriculum, but humor—which might include an embarrassing situation—is a complementary educational route.
To make this happen, we need your assistance. Good jokes—and especially cartoons—don’t just appear. The earliest versions sometimes are only barely funny but, after considerable refinement, they hit the mark. So first you need to send us the idea, the punch line, the scene, the gut-busting incident (or even just a chuckle). Lord knows the energy efficiency industry has no shortage of fodder for jokes. Imagine a cartoon scene where an energy professional is standing at the front door speaking to a homeowner. There must be a thousand different hilarious two-liners to go with the picture. And probably 999 actually occurred. Or the scene where a guy is blowing insulation in a wall and something—you tell us what!—is popping out another hole. This won’t happen overnight; we will experiment a bit, exploiting the best features of the web and paper issues to solicit ideas and improvements.
So our 30th anniversary resolution is to “lighten up”. With the help of cartoons, sketches, jokes, and anecdotes interspersed through the magazine and website, we hope that we’ll make you smile. And perhaps learn a lesson or two.
- Alan Meier