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The Urban Erma: Indignation vs. Communication


The Urban Erma - Leighann Lord

I was excited about a new bit of material I’d written because I’d only thought of it that morning; fleshed it out that day, and gotten it up onstage that night. That’s my personal stand-up comedy trifecta. With some tweaking I think it can really be something.

In my excitement I shared the joke with a fellow comic. He liked the premise. But I was only midway through telling him the first part of the second joke (naturally I’d written several because that’s how I roll) when he interjected, “You know what would make that funny?”

I wasn’t asking. I was sharing. I already knew it was funny, not just because my ego said so but because I’d also done it on stage and seen it work. The kicker was that I was still speaking as he began talking over me like I was on mute. I was flabbergasted. He missed my punch lines because he was so busy trying to tell me his.

That’s one way to look at it. Here’s another.

A good premise fires the imagination. You know it’s good when two things happen. First it feels like a starting pistol goes off in your head and the jokes just start running out of every corner of your brain. The second thing that happens is you get mad at yourself if you didn’t think of it first. Dammit!

Sometimes a third thing happens (another trifecta). An inspired and generous artist will start sharing the ideas your premise prompted because (even though it’s not theirs) they instinctively want to be a part of building something wonderful.

The second impression isn’t just a kinder interpretation of events but it’s actually much more likely given the source. I’ve known this comic for many years. And while his choice of words could have been better – no points for style and delivery – he’s always respected me, and my work, and is not normally given to ungracious behavior.

I also had the courage to say so mething. Yes, courage. My m.o. is to stew and brood. On the pretense of being non-confrontational I say nothing; instead replaying a perceived slight in my mind until I am Rambo and I believe the offender drew first blood. (If this were Game of Thrones I’d be a Lannister. Dune: A Harkonnen. The Hogwarts Sorting Hat would say Slytherin. Who knew the “n” sound was so diabolical?)

That’s how I was raised to deal with conflict; not overtly, but that’s how I saw my Mom do it. And so, that’s where I’m comfortable. But comfortable doesn’t always mean good, healthy, productive, or right.

A wise friend gave me some advice on how to respond to seemingly out of pocket folk on social media, and I find it works in real life as well. Before writing someone off ask yourself: Do you want to make a friend or an enemy? (Lannisters, Harkonnens, and Slytherins need not reply.)

So, I said to the other comic: “Do you know what you just did?” (Totally prepared to deliver a self-righteous tongue lashing if he didn’t because I’m good at that too.) He blinked at me and said, “Oh. I’m sorry. I just kinda jumped ahead to brainstorming.” Huh? I was ready to fight and he was ready to write. Huh! I can only wonder now how often this has happened; and investing more in indignation then in communication, I missed out. Maybe one of the reasons I don’t always work so well with others is because I’m still learning how to work well with myself. But I think with some tweaking I can really be something.

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