Back in college, after work, sitting in a car with a few friends, riffing. A comedic act I didn’t know I had in me. Jumped from topic to image to setting to rant. The laughs I got. After that, at friends’ houses, I found my voice again. I became known for it–a sort of brilliance, a sharp spontaneity that cut right through. I was studying then; I was young, I slung coffee for a living. Interacted with all sorts. A busy cafe in a college town with a mixed customer base, not all students but mostly, and their professors.
When I first moved there I’d felt terribly ill at ease, a low-class slacker, but in time found that people appreciated my edge, my “dry humor” that would surge in these small gatherings.
Nowadays my social circle is my family and one set of neighbors that only our younger kid spends time with; she and their daughter run across the yard between our houses and it’s convenient especially on weekends and “inclement weather days.”
Within this narrow life I can’t be sure my wit, if brought back out, would scathe any less, but it is dormant. I’m a little weary of the positive professor persona I’ve cultivated in lectures, discussions, grading comments…It’s a workaday personality. It’s not exactly customer service, but it’s not exactly not either.
As a cafe supervisor I had just enough authority–over the few people working with me on my shift. When the power transferred over to the next shift supervisor, I cracked wits as an unencumbered barista again.
Maybe there’s a parralel here with grading and discussing: the modes of bossing & bookkeeping on the one hand, and chatting & drink-slinging on the other.
Just a 20-something, I had, for instance, to remind homeless people they couldn’t solicit here, tell them they gotta leave, or if it was getting dicey, call the non-emergency police who might be in the house already. (We rarely charged cops for drinks, just pastries; they were good company, and useful.) Maybe this is akin to being the one who has to fail and report students for plagiarism, a more direct act of cold hard truth than just entering a zero for missing work.
When I lecture, though, occasionally will humor creep in. It is tough to know my audience when they can only type in response. LOL and haha are passable cues that almost replace body language and audible laughter if I imagine myself as really in tune with my audience. It’s not about being a comedian–but it kind of is.
Episode 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel got me onto this track tonight. Her hilarious butchy manager in the black cap raves that she is spontaneous, reckless, fucking hilarious. This manager (the voice of Family Guy’s wife) is the truly funny one, but she makes a good point about the comedian’s privilege and prowess: embracing the danger, jumping across topics to make wild connections that your listeners actually get–a rare treat that I can’t much indulge in as a virtual professor of first-year writing students.
Suppose I get that high while blogging?