Are You Trying To Be Funny?

This is one of those phrases that you will hear from time to time when you are trying to be funny. It is a put-down designed as bait for a further put-down. As with all bait, though, it can be used to snag the fisherman as well as the fish.

When someone says this to you, you must take it as a question, rather than just a sneer. And a serious question, too. You must instantly look quite studious and concerned – it helps if you have horn-rimmed glasses. Then you must say ” No ” in a steady, measured tone. Then say no more, but keep looking steadily at the other person. If you are wearing those spectacles, either take them off, or look over them at the questioner. Do not break eye contact. Earnestly project the impression that you consider this to be the pivotal question of Western philosophy in the current century, and that you are waiting for them to justify it.

The effect of this will be to shift the burden of further belligerence, complaint, or virtuous protest to the other person. They may find themselves in deep water trying to remember what it was that you said in the first place and they will discover how your serious demeanour makes them look. With any luck, it will make them look foolish.

Once they realise this you can be kindly and comforting to them – it will increase their rage. With a bit of luck they will stalk off screaming imprecations and you can return to the rest of the audience with a gentle smile.