Treasure the Humourless

If you are a stand-up comedian, you are certainly entitled to dislike the humourless. Glum audiences that do not respond are the worst experience. Only a little better are those who go and complain to the management – at least you know they were listening part of the time. They may get you fired but you’ll have been heaved out for a good reason.

On the other hand, if you are a sit-down comedian, the hard-of-smiling are an asset. And if you can get them to complain about you, you are into a vein of gold. Not just comedic gold, either – some sour critics can put money in your pocket.*

As you can tell by reading this sentence, I write weblog columns for fun – and even if you don’t have it, I do. I have been known to chuckle at my own work and one time I punched myself in the arm and winked at me. I welcome other people’s praise as well, though I sometimes distrust it. The internet and my email inbox these days are full of people who like things – and then turn out to be autobots who never answer the telephone when you ring up for a date.

I really do treasure those people who bother to write in and tell me I’m not funny. Or who find a typographical error in my column and spend five minutes of an otherwise busy-less day to write to me and point it out. It is like receiving a bouquet of long-rosed stems. Love on a different plane. And the planes aren’t flying much these days.

The truly serious are a wonderful thing. Sober, dignified, assured…they comment and criticise whenever their toes are stepped upon – or whenever they do not get the attention they feel they deserve. Too diffident to stand up and call for the natural adoration they feel is their due, they try to reflect it from the searchlights they play on others. Hint: at the base of every searchlight is an operator. Just shoot at the light and you’ll get ’em every time.

The very best of the grey complainers are the people who are dogged. The persistent, who feel that they must be the winner of the canine argument if they are the last to bark. You can make them do so by continued reply – and it need not be unpleasant at all. Kindliness will draw as much ire as malice, and you can keep them foaming with indignant rage with a blessing as easily as with a curse. It’s actually quite soothing.

*I found this out by reviewing the back-door statistics of a commercial column – when a persistent anorak wrote in and complained, the readership rose sharply and only fell after several days. It was worth provoking him just to boost the number of people looking at the goods.

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