Monday, November 26, 2007

Open Letter to "Second City Wannabes"

Diversity. It's a great thing. That different kinds of people in the world makes the world a less boring place. At the same time, though, you can tolerate diversity while not particularly wanting to be around it. I, for instance, try to avoid hanging out with bigots. In fact, you could go as far as saying I'm intolerant of intolerant bigots. Fine. I'm okay with that.

But today, I want to talk about a different type of persona that I admittedly try to avoid. Upon moving to Chicago some years ago, I encountered a type of person that I like to call the "Second City Wannabe" or "SCW" for short. If you aren't familiar, Second City is sort of a Chicago comedic landmark from which many successful careers were launched. Some people come to Chicago solely for the purpose of "making it" at Second City or getting discovered there. Many people, however, come here and don't "make it."

I'm all for actors and comedians who follow their dreams and have the courage to pursue careers in the arts. I am less tolerant, however, of unfunny and attention whore-ish actors and comedians who take the "all the world is a stage" idea a bit too far and see every social situation as a a platform to display what they believe is their comedic genius but which, in reality, is annoying and obnoxious. Just about every situation in which other people are present is fair game for "entertainment"- from shooting pool, to ordering food, to talking about politics.

(Disclaimer: To my current and former actor/comedian friends, this blog in no way applies to you. If I found you annoying, I wouldn't be your friend).

Now, I do realize that humor, and entertainment in general, is a largely subjective experience. But, I think we can list a few general rules about socializing and entertainment. So, all SCW's take note:

1. When people go out to bars with the intent to socialize with strangers, they do not usually go out with the intent to be your audience. If people want to see a show they would buy tickets and go to the theater. If they wanted to see a free show, they would go to one of the city's free improv shows.

2. See, how a conversation works is, one person says something and the other responds while adding or elaborating on the original idea, and so on. Dialogue is different than a monologue. Dialogue is different than one person telling stories and expecting everyone else to shut up and listen. Dialogue does not consist of you trying to be funny, laughing at your own jokes, and expecting everyone else to join in your laughter,- which some people will do out of politeness, even if you are not funny, which only reinforces your behavior.

3. If all of your conversations in social situations involve you making jokes and trying to be funny, realize that being the person you are "conversing with" is probably exhausted and bored. For one, it is impossible for a person's every utterance to be funny to all people all the time. For real, I'm pretty sure it's a law of quantum mechanics or something. And two, it is just too much work to pretend to be entertained by you. You know that feeling you get in your face when you laugh for a long time? Well, it hurts even worse when you politely fake laugh for a long time.

4. Most people want to go out, relax, and if laughter happens, it happens. Most people are not so boring or socially inept that they need the services of a
jester. But thanks.

That's all. Oh, and one more thing, taking a class or two at Second City does not equal being an actual Second City actor.

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