Finally, A BETTER BEAN SOUP by Josh Fischel

Veteran Bean Soup editor, Josh Fischel, offers up a tasty serving of the Soup as only he can, recalling his years as an editor during the 2000’s…

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Greetings from the Bean Soup Emeritus Lodge on the sunny shores of Lower Baker Key in sunny southern Florida!  Here, every Sunday night through Monday afternoon, the gathered editors all curl ourselves into small, fetal balls and rock gently back and forth until the waves of post-traumatic stress recede.

What could still cause such anxiety in a group of otherwise stable and reasonable people: captains of industry, perpetual students/layabouts, and independent school teachers?  If I had to guess, it was the pressure of making the tenth decade of Bean Soup funnier and more inventive than the previous nine combined had been.  We had to make the audience forget the illustrious efforts of TRJR, Rob Grabill, Karl See, and Justin Thomson-Glover (oh, T-G, the man who could read a phone book entirely of people named Smith and make it funny, so we were told over and over).  It wasn’t enough to be merely as funny as our ancestors; we had to be funnier.

Our introductory remarks each week were required to be three times as long as normal.  We had to write and perform songs.  We were “strongly encouraged” to have TRJR win Director of the Week for nine consecutive weeks, or until Dottie convinced him to start wearing deodorant again.  There was the infamous ‘poop’ quota: the number of times we had to say that execrable word each week to ensure, it was said, that juniors would stick around through Things to Look For.  We could mention poop, sure, but we had to lay off any number of other actionable areas: age, weight, baldness, hobo killers, secret caches of candy hidden like horcruxes by Jon Fauver.  Even with all those proverbial hands tied behind our backs, we had to keep butts in the seats, so there was often a rotating cast of guest editors who had to appear just as funny as the regulars were.

A night of Bean Soup in 2003.  Editors Ben Olding, left, Josh center, and guest editor? Porter Hill, right

A night of Bean Soup in 2003 with Editors Ben Olding (left), Josh (center), and guest editor? Porter Hill (right)

Who knows if we succeeded.  The twelve editors of the 2000s—Sky Fauver, Roso, me, Ben Olding, Grabill Junior, Frilly Weidman, James Finley, Rob Verger, Conor Shaw, Ian Axness, Jack Stratton, and Dwight Dunston—did their best to answer the call and overcome the long odds, week after week, to make the ten years compiled in this part of the annals of history at least a tiny bit funnier than the previous ninety, admittedly funny years had been. There was an entirely musical week.  There was the annual positive spin on Tecumseh Day (“Our hair is intact!” “Our sportsmanship was without parallel—again!” “At least we don’t have to watch each other poop!”).  We edited a ton of superlative contributions, too. Among my favorites was Christian Ruf’s article about the Mess Hall Flood and the time that Lake Tent burned to the ground, set to the tune of a mash-up of ‘Wagon Wheel’ and ‘Gin & Juice.’ There was also Penelope Reed Doob’s infamous top ten of the bottom ten Gilbert & Sullivan musicals (Utopia Limited, anyone?); Rob Stenson’s incredible trip report about Upper 3’s 2-day hike up Mt. Guyot and down Mt. Mansfield; Sam Seymour’s diary entries from when he was the Power Table waiter; and who could forget Dan Bendett’s game report from ’06, ostensibly about the 15 & under hoops team’s performance against the chillboys of Lanakila, that wound up being a meditation on meditations and mediations and what the media shuns and meaty shins? During that time, our writing space—where we wrote each panicky Monday afternoon—shifted nearly constantly, because our overlords didn’t want us getting complacent.  We began in the Small Dining Room, shifted to the Sky Box, and from there to the Garden House, the Thunderdome, Rob’s House, the Satellite Lounge, the Clearing, the Landing, the Gravel Pit, Gummi Glen, Publisher’s Clearinghouse, Downton Abbey, and the Manor (not the one on 25A—the Aaron Spelling Estate).  We were angry about our nomadic existence, but we didn’t let that be widely known.  We kept our most biting humor vague, as misinterpretable as a Kosuke Fukudome jersey.

Really, though, in the end, all you’re left with is your deeds.  One can’t control how history will judge…one.  But let’s hope history has a broad and generous sense of humor.

Don’t worry about us; we’ll be fine.  Editors don’t lose sleep over whether you thought they were funny.  See, the secret of Bean Soup is that we thought we were funny.  Every article that made it to the Monday night table was one that made at least its author laugh.  Real belly laughs, I’m talking here.  (Verger’s high-pitched giggles counted, too.)    Egotism is what makes the Soup truly tasty, after all.  Deniers gonna deny and haters gonna hate, but I speak the truth.

Josh with his entourage, former campers and counselors who spent summers with him as a counselors.  Taken in 2000.

Josh with his entourage, former campers and counselors who spent summers, 1997-2001, with him as a cabin counselor. Photo taken in 2001.

Ben just reminded me that I’m on foot massage duty this evening, one of the perils of living for any length of time in the Bean Soup Emeritus Lodge. (Ethan—sorry, Dr. Ethan—likes to have his bunions planed, which is almost as unpleasant as wintering in Cleveland.)  The others are always planning to decamp, but then they wonder what cruel lessons the world has for them once they wander from the cocoon of like-minded comedians bouncing punchlines off each other, and they stick around.  Time will tell if any of this was useful or worth it.  Each time we think we were funny, we are reminded by higher powers than us that Justin Thomson-Glover was funnier, and we throw darts at his likeness, which Ian affixed to our front door with a hatchet. Really, though, it is you who can (and should!) read our efforts and decide if our Sundays and Mondays would have been better spent cleaning the toilets in the Intermediate Pagoda from 2001 to 2010; at least then you would have had a clean place to sit and contemplate what is truly funny, if not us.

Good luck, long life, enjoy.

– Josh Fischel

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The Bean Soup digitization project nears completion, with some of the earliest editions, 1910-1915, being carefully preserved this winter.  If you are interested in receiving one or more issues from your time at Pemigewassett, please let me know.  I will be happy to send you any given issue or issues in PDF form. Please contact me at alumni and stay tuned for future releases.

-Kenny Moore