“I was abused. Beaten with a stick, actually. Well, beaten with a stick and then locked in a closet. My parents were so mean to me. In fact, there was this one time where my mother broke the stick while she was hitting me. That made her even more mad.”

The entire room laughed. Would you believe I kept it going for another ten minutes? No one would ever call me a comedian. But, I can hold a room in the palm of my hand when I want.

I have developed, mostly by accident, this ability to entertain…in this style. And, credit where credit is due, it is one part Seinfeld-stchick. I do sometimes make observations about things and then ask open-ended questions. And, usually when doing so, I’ll include a Seinfeld line as part of the payoff…”Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Since most of the people I am around are familiar with the show, it is an easy gimmick.

But, this ability of mine mostly consists of personal self deprecation. I can turn my shortcomings (real or perceived or made-up) into stories and entertain at length. Now, self deprecation is more than just telling a bunch of people that your parents abused you. While cathartic and perfect for Oprah, it usually isn’t funny. Context is crucial too. People have to know you are joking. And, they have to see that you are “on a roll” while telling the story before they will realize you are telling a joke. So, obviously, my brand of comic relief only works amongst people that know me. They know I’m kidding when telling these stories. They know…or assume…it isn’t true. But, my particular brand of self deprecation includes broaching the topics generally considered a little farther out of bounds than most others would discuss… a la, the mention of abuse. I stop short of joking about the truly off-limits…so, there won’t be any admissions about farm animals or bank robberies…not that there’s anything wrong with those activities.

Additionally, I think it works so well because it is contrasted with another very obvious trait of mine. When not providing cut-up comic relief, I’m the intense, prolific, confident curmudgeon. I’m the work ogre. I get it done, but don’t like distractions. I’m Scrooge, the Grinch, and Shrek all rolled into one. Co-workers trust me to be efficient and successful. Clients have faith I’ll be there for them. I may not have the most prestige or seniority when compared to the other people I’m with, but I certainly command presence. Yet, I’m often gruff through it all.

So, how did this happen? How did I develop two very different styles and ways to present myself when around others? Am I schizo?

Copyright (c) 2005 Jamoker. All rights reserved.

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