Guy at mike: In the words of Walt Whitman, do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
Guy next to me (stage whispers): Gay.
It’s deconstruct-jokes-day here at Librarian Avengers.
Walt Whitman’s status as an historical gay icon is key to this comment. His poetry is universal, but a Whitman reference in a different context is sometimes used to covertly signal homosexuality, a la “are you a friend of Dorothy?” The humor comes from the incongruity of the unfortunate speaker quoting Whitman in the context of a professional discussion, and having his comment sarcastically interpreted as a self-referential proclamation of his sexuality.
A similar situation occurred during the 2006 New York gubernatorial debates at Cornell University. Republican candidate John Faso inadvertently caused laughs among the student-aged crowd when he declared that he did not want to “force gay marriage down the throats” of New Yorkers.