I recently attended a friend’s standup showcase at The Improv in Hollywood. She was one of a dozen new comics trying to break into the club. She had a great set, and I am not just saying that because she once baked me cupcakes. Heather Thomson – you are a funny woman, even when you are not carrying baked goods in my direction.
I enjoy standup comedy for two reasons. First, I love to laugh. Standup comedy, on average, returns a higher laugh-per-joke ratio than 95 percent of all television comedies. (One of the few exceptions is “CSI Miami”, a show whose producers stubbornly refuse to admit is a comedy.)
(Above: Ladies and gentlemen, the funniest man on television.)
The other reason I like standup is that occasionally a comic will say something so true that it sticks with you forever. This is what I call a universal truth.
Chris Rock is great at revealing universal truths. Example: “Every town has the same two malls: the one white people go to and the one white people used to go to.” George Carlin also was a master at these. Now and then an amateur comic will uncover a universal truth. This happened at my friend’s showcase. I did not catch the comic’s name – I will publish it if I can find it – but what she said stuck.
I am going to butcher her joke. Here is the paraphrased version.
“I have a boyfriend, and my friends love him, which scares me. Why do your friends never tell you your boyfriend sucks while you’re together? As soon as you break up they’re like, ‘We all knew he was a jerk.’ Where was that when I needed it? This is like going to an old age home in New Orleans today and saying, ‘Hey, there’s a big hurricane called Katrina coming.’ Only everyone in the old age home drowned three years ago during Hurricane Katrina.”
The comic introduced a universal truth: Most people would rather lie and say they like a friend’s boyfriend or girlfriend than tell the truth and say they do not. I say “most people” because there are rare souls who do not filter their thoughts before they reach their mouths. Then there is everyone else. We are cowards.
We manage our cowardice in different ways.
The outright lie
You lie right to your friend’s face.
Example: “Caroline, we all like Steve. We think he’s great.”
How you should interpret this if your friends ever say this to you: Steve must be a nice guy. There is no reason to think I have gone wrong here. Why would my friends lie?
The “If he makes you happy” gambit
Instead of lying and saying you like Steve, you turn the issue back to your friend.
Example: “If he makes you happy, Caroline, that’s all that counts.”
How you should interpret this if your friends ever say this to you: Run. Run, fast. Steve is wrong for you. I don’t have the stones to say this to your face. Just … run.
(Above: This is what Steve probably looks like. Yeah, yeah, he’s great. Photo by FreaksAnon/Flickr.)
And finally there is…
The Liz Lemon
The name is taken from an episode of “30 Rock” in which Liz was afraid to tell her friend Jenna that her play performances stank. Instead Liz pointed out the one thing she liked about the play, such as the lighting. I also call this “telling a small truth.”
“Yeah, Caroline, everyone likes Steve. What do we like about him? He looks very powerful in sleeveless shirts.”
How you should interpret this if your friends ever say this to you: Your boyfriend has virtually no value. He is a void of good. He is McDonald’s Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips, which are neither select nor premium nor chicken.
Here are sentences you will hear if your friends like your partner.
“Hang onto this one.”
Your friend does not have to say this, so it is a real sign of approval.
“Have you talked about marriage?”
In other words: “You two should talk about marriage.”
“Let me know if it doesn’t work. Just kidding.”
But really, I’m not. I will steal him from you. I’m just waiting for my opening.
What is the best way to handle this issue? I don’t know.
This is why I do not talk to my friends.