I’m a comedian, which means I use words for a living. I also have a degree in English Literature, which means I know how to choose those words carefully, and for maximum effect. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean people always listen to what I’m saying. Sometimes they hear what they want to hear, or a trigger-word will deafen them to the content of what’s being said.
Though I make it very clear I’m pro military and speak of touring for the troops with pride, I once had a member of the Army enraged by my comment: “We should bring the men and women we care about home and send gang members over to fight.”
“Are you saying my friend sacrificed his life for nothing?” he shouted at me drunkenly enraged.
The man had to be removed from the showroom, and after the fact his handler explained he had a severe case of PTSD and lashed out often. He didn’t quite understand the point of my joke was that his friend should have never died in the first place.
I also have a joke about using prisoners as land mine sweeps, sending them into the field to find IEDs, keeping our military engineers safe in the process.
“Prisoners have rights, too, asshole!” was once hollered loudly from the back of a dark comedy club. The man who said it then stormed out to the amazement of 200 people who watched in confusion.
I used to perform a pro-immigration joke, where I said “The phrase ‘illegal immigrant’ is a polite way of saying ‘Mexican’ without sounding racist. No one is worried about Canadians slipping across our border.” I then went on to say we should have a “White-trash-for-worker exchange program,” meaning whenever someone came up from Mexico, we sent down someone from a trailer park.
A Latino woman began berating me, shouting that Mexicans were hard workers and that I should leave them alone. It didn’t matter that I was praising immigrants and insulting racists, she heard what she wanted to hear, which was enough to get her fired up.
These instances are very, very rare, and usually contained to a single moment in the showroom. But every so often someone gets a bug so far up their butt they have to take it public. Recently, a comedy club owner told me he had a negative review on his Facebook page, one calling me out by name. I looked it up and was instantly a combination of disappointed, and livid.
It’s not the fact the reviewer didn’t like me, what got under my skin is why he didn’t like me. In his own words: “I’m gay. I’m not politically correct or hyper sensitive. The show I just paid to see was disgusting. The main act, Nathan Timmel, forced me to walk out. He would, ‘prefer to sit next to a gay than a Muslim because he’d prefer to be sticky than falling from the sky in pieces.’”
He went on to say he would never return to that comedy club again.
Well, to begin to dissect this, if your opening statement is “I’m not (fill in the blank here),” then yes, yes you are that very thing. That shows a defensive attitude and is very telling to your character.
Second, I didn’t force him to walk out. That implies I berated him specifically or took action against him, which didn’t happen.
Third, and most importantly, what offends me is his poor interpretation of my joke. This is the actual joke, in meme form, posted many months ago online.
My favorite part of it is the inference; I never, ever, say “Muslim.” Of course that’s where everyone takes it, but I never say it. It’s more fun to me to let people paint that stereotypical picture than to verbalize it. So right off the bat the reviewer puts words into my mouth, which isn’t fair. But so be it.
As I see it, I’ve made a mildly pro-gay joke/statement, yet he preferred to view me in a negative light. Unfair, but not much I can do about it. If he chooses to go through life with a chip on his shoulder, that’s his choice. I don’t know his story, and have no idea what it means to be gay. Was he called names in school? Did his dad disown him when he came out of the closet? Something in his life made him very sensitive, so much so he now lashes out at people simply for mentioning a group he aligns with. He hears what he wants to hear, not what is.
That said, I feel I can still loathe the fact he took his attitude public. To misinterpret something is fine; to offer your anger to the world as truth is annoying. On top of that, attempting to damage the reputation of the comedy club by writing the review in the first place is simply mean spirited. Two thoughts come to mind: if you see a movie you don’t like, do you write a negative review about the theater? Of course not, that would be silly. “Avatar was the worst movie I’ve ever seen! I’m never attending a Carmike Cinema ever again!”
More importantly, as shown above, that joke is online, and has been for many months. I have over an hour of videos on YouTube. What he did was show up at a random entertainment venue without any research and expected the act to be suited to his specific tastes, which is fairly arrogant. No one goes to the movie theater and tells the ticket monkey, “Give me one to whatever you think I’ll like.” Maybe had he put the time and effort into researching my act he might have said, “You know what? This isn’t for me. I’ll go another night.” But that would have taken the slightest modicum of effort on his part. Instead, it was easier for him to just show up, not like what he heard, and then whine online about it.
Many thoughts ran thought my head upon seeing the review: I should thrash him! I should point out how wrong he is about everything! I should email some of my most reliable friends and have them start attacking him!
But as the thoughts ran through my head, I thought of the negativity involved in every one of those actions. Is that something I wanted to participate in, to reduce myself to his level of discourse?
Instead of jumping into an online fight, I started looking at pictures of my kids. Within seconds, most of my anger was gone. Evaporated immediately, with only wisps of ether lingering behind.
Part of me was still upset with him for his attack on my career—what I do keeps the very kids calming me fed and warm and so on—but that was a very tiny fraction of the peace looking at my children gave me.
I figured I could rage against him, point out what a sanctimonious jerk he was being, and explain how he missed the point of my act completely. I could even have gone self-righteous and pointed out that I authored a mini-eBook about being a straight white male who doesn’t understand homophobia… but it would be a waste of my time. Trying to speak reason to anger is like kicking water uphill.
As I was calming down and deciding not to engage, I noticed something. His review started getting comments; several people from that very show said they had a great time and called him out on his nonsense. That made me smile. Two people specifically said they believed my jokes sounded “pro gay” to them, and one woman pointed out, “I’m a Christian, and I laughed at Nathan’s comment about Christians. It’s a comedy club. You have to expect jokes about your fundamental beliefs.” Even better, several more people wrote their own 5-star reviews of the evening.
I went to bed feeling OK about the situation, and when I woke up, the negative review was gone.
The only person who had access and the power to delete it was the author, which had me wondering: did he calm down and look at the situation rationally in the morning, or did he just not like being challenged publicly for his misguided beliefs? The former leaves hope for growth and awareness, the latter not so much. I know of a couple people who have such little self worth that attacking others is the only way they can feel good about themselves. It’s sad, but as said, there’s nothing I can do about that.
Nothing but shake-shake-shake-shake-shake it off.
I just quoted a Taylor Swift song.
Now I dislike me as much as that customer did.
You can fart around on my website, nathantimmel.com, whenever you so please.
Posted: February 13th, 2015 under HOMEPAGE, Ruminations, theorizations and stuff.