Monday, June 6, 2011

When people tell me I'm not funny...

This happens to me all the time.

I’m at a party. I make the mistake of telling someone I casually meet that I’m a comedy writer. If they don’t launch into what they think is wrong with television (as if it’s all my fault), they’ll invariably say, “Really? A comedy writer. Say something funny”.  Just like I'm a trained seal. 

I want to say to them: “What do you do”? “I’m a doctor”. “Really?  Do a tracheotomy”.

(Alternate version: I tell the person I’m a baseball announcer. “Really? Let me hear you call something”. What I'll always say is, “Low, ball two”. What, I’m going to launch into a big home run call in the middle of a crowded room?)

These party people are always disappointed. I sure don’t seem that funny. I’ve even had one or two actually say that. I ask what them what do they expect. I’ll get answers like Robin Williams or Steve Martin.

I’ve met Steve briefly and used to do improv with Robin. And I can honestly say, these are two of the unfunniest human beings I’ve ever met – when they want to be – which is most of the time. Yes, they can turn it on and when they do there’s no one more brilliant, but those are usually reserved for TONIGHT SHOW appearances. After improv workshops when the whole class would go out for coffee, Robin usually just sat there, quiet as a church mouse.

And here’s the thing – when really funny people are not just constantly doing their schtick – they’re doing you a favor. A big favor.   Because even if someone is unbelievably hilarious and can make five great jokes a second, after about ten minutes you want to shoot him. There are some comedy writers and comedians who are always “on” and they are insufferable! The desperate need to be the center of attention and to be loved truly sucks all of the air out of the room.

Imagine being trapped in a Volkswagen driving across the country with Gallagher. You'd pray for The Rapture.

Mindy would have turned Mork over to the authorities in one week.  

If you’re really funny you don’t have to prove it. You don’t have to always “top” someone when they say something funny. You don’t have to fill up every silence.

So when I’m at a party and the person I’ve just met says I sure don’t seem very funny I usually say “thank you”. And then ask him for legal advice, computer tech support, or free plumbing supplies, whatever it is he does.

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