Just (Don’t) Say No
I was at a college booking showcase. The type where we do an 8 minute set for 1000 college kids. All of whom have the power and budget to keep me employed for a year plus.
I was talking with one of the guys running the event and he says, “Don’t do any jokes about drugs or you won’t get bookings.” I said, “I have a bit about NOT smoking weed. What about that?”
He says, “Nope, even the mention of a drug shuts them down.”
Needless to say, I didn’t do that bit.
But do you see what happened there? A snap judgment – hearing just a word without listening to the context or having any facts – kept me from presenting an anti-drug bit to an audience of college kids.
We’re so overwhelmed with sensory input these days that we have to have filters to get through life without going crazy. But it feels like more than ever that people don’t listen to context at all. They just hear something and immediately shut it out without actually thinking about its meaning.
Royal Flush Down The Toilet
There’s a measure on the upcoming election in my town that, if it passes, would allow a card room from San Jose move to a new location in Milpitas. They’re losing their land lease and need a new location. This is a place that has been in business for years with very few problems.
Someone in the little Milpitas neighborhood group I’m in online asked for opinions on gambling coming to town. Immediately, everyone started yelling about Crime! Violence! Prostitution! Traffic!
Really? There was no research or actual knowledge behind their opinion. Just a vague notion that “casino=danger”. The problem is, none of those people have gone on to find out if their opinion is actually true. They just kept yelling instead of learning.
Even in the official election booklet, the argument against the measure says allowing the casino in will make our town a haven for “drugs, intoxicated driving, and prostitution (including sex slaves).”
Sex slaves? What the hell kind of casinos has that guy been to? Of course, there were no actual stats or any sort of research cited. Just a vague opinion. A snap judgment. Based on nothing.
I was playing a comedy club in Boise, ID a couple years ago. A group of black women had gotten to the show early and taken a booth at the back of the room. As it turned out a good part of the crowd was black folks that night as they were there to see a local gal doing a guest spot.
The first 15 minutes of my set went fantastic. And I noticed there were a whole bunch of empty tables right at the front. So I said to the ladies in the back, “Ladies why don’t you move up to the front? Don’t you know you don’t have to sit in the back anymore?”
Now what did you do when you read that? Did you clam up? Did you think, “ooh, yikes…” Re-read that joke again. Is it racist? Of course not. I was reminding them that their families had fought long and hard to not have to sit in the back. So they ought to remember something about history and take the table at the front. I was inviting them to come closer to me and be part of the audience.
Now had I said, “Good. You’re sitting in the back where you belong.” – Totally different. That’s obviously racist. And completely the opposite of what I said.
But simply because I brought up an uncomfortable point in history – even though I was on their side – they got mad at me. Furious. Walked out of the show.
And the rest of the audience was mad too. Nobody… NOBODY… thought through what I said to see that it was a positive statement. I made a short attempt to explain it, but they were having none of it. Completely shut down. And the rest of my set sucked.
The other comics asked, “What the hell was that?” when I got offstage. ONE person understood what I meant. The house manager. He said, “No, that was funny and right on point. Don’t worry about it.”
When you hear something that angers you, go ahead an have that initial feeling. But then, actually THINK about that statement. What else is going on there? Did you listen to the context? Are there other facts that might change your opinion? Find out.
You’ll spend a lot less time being mad and a lot more time understanding the world.