Take This Economy -- Please
Professor Yoram Bauman has mixed scholarship with shtick to become, he says, the world's only stand-up economist. He performs at clubs and conferences.
As told to Marc. A Wojno
How did your family react to your doing economic stand-up?
My father told me I'd never make it because there was no demand. How did you respond? I said, "Don't worry, Dad. I'm a supply-side economist. I just stand up and let the jokes trickle down."
But seriously... What he actually said was—and keep in mind that he's a first-generation American, has never had a TV and is divorced from popular culture—"Come on, Yoram, be reasonable: Give me the name of a single Jew who's made it in stand-up comedy."
But an economist comedian? Don't you worry about bombing?
I worry more about bombing when I teach introductory microeconomics at 8 a.m. When things aren't going well, I just keep throwing stuff out. It's just like what the Treasury Department has been doing for the past year and a half.
How would you describe the state of the economy before the crash?
It was like a hamster that had been running on its little wheel nonstop for eight years. As a microeconomist, I think that the hamster needs rest. Macroeconomists, on the other hand, think that the hamster needs to be fed methamphetamines.
What's the difference between a microeconomist and a macroeconomist?
To paraphrase political satirist P.J. O'Rourke: Microeconomists are wrong about specific things; macroeconomists are wrong about things in general.
What can we do to boost the economy?
Shortly before the 2008 election I did a gig in Wichita, Kan. A woman at my dinner table told me she was afraid that if Obama were elected president she'd be wearing a burqa in five years. So after the election I sent her a catalog of them along with a note that said, "Look, I'm not trying to rub it in. It's just that the economy needs you to buy the burqa now."
Any tips on how to manage our personal finances?
One word: Vicodin. It maintains its value like gold, it's extremely liquid—just drive around town at 2:00 a.m. and you'll find a thriving market—and if stocks tank, just down a couple to feel good about your portfolio.