Thursday, December 10, 2015

Indignation vs. Communication

I was excited about a new bit of material I’d written because I’d only thought of it that morning; fleshed it out that day, and gotten it up on-stage that night. That’s my personal stand-up comedy trifecta. With some tweaking I think it can really be something.
In my excitement I shared the joke with a fellow comic. He liked the premise. But I was only midway through telling him the first part of the second joke (naturally I’d written several because that’s how I roll) when he interjected, “You know what would make that funny?”

I wasn’t asking. I was sharing. I already knew it was funny, not just because my ego said so but because I’d also done it on stage and seen it work. The kicker was that I was still speaking as he began talking over me like I was on mute. I was flabbergasted. He missed my punch lines because he was so busy trying to tell me his.

That’s one way to look at it. Here’s another.

A good premise fires the imagination. You know it’s good when two things happen. First it feels like a starting pistol goes off in your head and the jokes just start running out of every corner of your brain. The second thing that happens is you get mad at yourself if you didn't think of it first. Dammit!

Sometimes a third thing happens (another trifecta). An inspired and generous artist will start sharing the ideas your premise prompted because (even though it’s not theirs) they instinctively want to be a part of building something wonderful.

The second impression isn’t just a kinder interpretation of events but it’s actually much more likely given the source. I’ve known this comic for many years. And while his choice of words could have been better – no points for style and delivery – he’s always respected me, and my work, and is not normally given to ungracious behavior.

I also had the courage to say something. Yes, courage. My m.o. is to stew and brood. On the pretense of being non-confrontational I say nothing; instead replaying a perceived slight in my mind until I am Rambo and I believe the offender drew first blood. (If this were Game of Thrones I’d be a Lannister. Dune: A Harkonnen. The Hogwarts Sorting Hat would say Slytherin. Who knew the “n” sound was so diabolical?)

That’s how I was raised to deal with conflict; not overtly, but that’s how I saw my Mom do it. And so, that’s where I’m comfortable. But comfortable doesn’t always mean good, healthy, productive, or right.

A wise friend gave me some advice on how to respond to seemingly out of pocket folk on social media, and I find it works in real life as well. Before writing someone off ask yourself: Do you want to make a friend or an enemy? (Lannisters, Harkonnens, and Slytherins need not reply.)

So, I said to the other comic: “Do you know what you just did?” (Totally prepared to deliver a self-righteous tongue lashing if he didn’t because I’m good at that too.) He blinked at me and said, “Oh. I’m sorry. I just kinda jumped ahead to brainstorming.” Huh? I was ready to fight and he was ready to write. Huh! I can only wonder now how often this has happened; and investing more in indignation then in communication, I missed out. Maybe one of the reasons I don’t always work so well with others is because I’m still learning how to work well with myself. But I think with some tweaking I can really be something.

The Urban Erma, the longest running column on, was created and written by stand-up comedian Leighann LordListen to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Get her e-books on AMAZON


Mary Lu Strange said...

Dear Leighann, You are brilliant. This piece is a Great lesson for everyone. I hope I get a chance to shake your hand, dear Urban Erma, in March/April! I'm glad you will be a speaker this year. I can't wait to learn from you and see all the other Bombeckians

Mary Lu.

Leighann Lord said...

Mary Lou! Thank you so much for you kind comment. I hope we get to meet again as well! (Because of you I think I'll share this in the EBWW Group. :-)

Unknown said...

This is a great piece, Leighann. So many arguments and hurt feelings could be avoided if folks would just consider the source. When you took the time to think about this guy and realized that he had always respected you in the past, you gave him the benefit of the doubt and moved ahead with the conversation. Like Mary Lu, I'll see you at the EBWW in March. I'm looking forward to it. It's my first one and I'm excited!