A Funny Friend

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By: Thomas W. Schulte, CFP®

It’s nice for someone to laugh at your unintentional joke. Conversely, it’s terrifying to deliver a rehearsed, and knowingly-lame joke to an audience of professional joke-tellers. Regardless of such, that is exactly how a guy like me spent a rainy Friday night in October.

Bashee and I first met in the first grade. I remember Bash (pronounced Bah-she) for one thing: his constant bragging about having the ‘cool teacher’, Mr. Hunter. Mr. Hunter was young, funny and particularly engaging for children that age, but above all, he was my uncle. No matter how many times my mother explained why he couldn’t be my teacher, it simply was not fair. Bashee, armed with inside-information (our talkative mothers), loved rubbing that fact in my face. But as all things do, first grade ended and his position of power was lost. Our relationship since has been gravy. Bash is part of our group that was relatively inseparable from elementary through high school-still staying in touch today.

After college, Bashee went on to work as a consultant for the United Arab Emirates in Washington, D.C., while also trying his hand at stand-up comedy. Very quickly he began getting paid and with just a touch of burnout from existential employer/employee differences, he moved to New York City to eventually hire an agent and become a full-time comedian.

Back to the story…..

As Bash and I enjoyed a bite to eat prior to his comedy show Friday night, I noticed something a bit strange. We always had a different type of communication and humor that our group was particularly drawn to and appreciated. Together we reminisced on old times, cracking jokes resulting in the coveted ‘belly-laughs’. But while we laughed, Bashee was vigorously typing away on his phone. When I asked what gives, he explained that his time is spent almost solely in the company of other comedians. He continued on to say that it’s exhausting conversing with these people, as it is difficult to distinguish genuine conversation from what’s actually going down the hole of a staged joke. Because of this, he finds himself greatly valuing joking with non-comedians due to the alternate perspective and cannot help but document the humor. This made me feel pretty good…I was making the ‘funny guy’ laugh, so much so that he was planning on actually using some of the material! This provided me with just enough false sense of funny to look like a dweeb in the hours to come.

The show itself was fantastic. Five comedians within a standing room only venue, in which each act either left me tearing up or fearful that my laugh was too loud and distinguishable. It wasn’t until after the show that I felt totally out of my element. Since I was ‘with the comedian’ I was allowed to hang out with the other acts once the show ended. After introducing myself, shaking hands and expressing how funny I thought their routines were, the intimidation sank in and a switch was seemingly flipped as their the riffs began (just as Bash had predicted). There were very few jokes that I was able to keep up with, as the comedians talked amongst themselves. It became difficult not to subconsciously fake laugh as a coping mechanism for being so lost where everyone else found such humor. And as I grinned and laughed at things I had no understanding of, I’d make eye contact with a comedian that could peer through my soul, seeing that I was a phony and fish out of water. It’s at those points that I’d blurt out the most un-funny things or pointless questions to try and prove that I ‘got it.’ It was embarrassing…I certainly didn’t get ‘it.’