Tag Archives: participation

Enter The Plankton


If I’m lucky!

Spoiler alert: I’m not exactly the world’s greatest conversationalist.

For the curious, the opening line above is an example of my patented Start-By-Telling-Them-How-You-Suck approach to writing. You can buy a pamphlet describing the technique – and much, much more – for only three easy payments of $19.99. -Ed.

As the holidays cascade down upon us like a perfect storm, I’m already anticipating how I’ll surf that wave and/or navigate the complex maze-like quagmire of quicksand in quixotic fashion.

The holidays means lots of group settings of social interactions. Historically I do not fare well in these and opt instead to spend my time studying in minute detail the nearest potted plant. I’m bringing my magnifying glass just in case.

Since I remain ever hopeful, however, I’ve been role-playing various stratagems in my mind that might increase my odds of getting the occasional word in edgewise. Or I could give up in advance and just play the lotto.

A normal conversation consists of the following:

Person A: Me.

Person B: No, me!

Person C: Bloody hell to both of you. Me, me, me!

Person D: Did I ever tell you about me?

Person E: Did you say something?

Person F: … Apple’s tri-tone sound …

Person A: Ahem. You weren’t listening. I say again …

Every once in a while as the conversation morphs dynamically through these shifting realities, I may actually have something interesting to add. I hate it when that happens.

Person A: Yeah, there are a lot of elephants in Thailand

…. 20 minutes and 420 topics later I finally awkwardly interrupt and take my dream shot …

Me: An elephant sat on my head once.

Everyone: What the fuck are you talking about?!

Yeah. About that potted plant.I’ve heard that one thing that helps make you seem interesting is to ask questions about the other person. Especially if you can appear thoughtful and fake sincerity in the process. If successful, your only job is to tlean back, stay silent, let their mouth do all of the work, and celebrate a job well done.

I’m looking forward to trying this out. To that end I have prepared some questions in advance.

My only worry is that the conversation will run through a googolplex of permutations before I get my first chance to speak. That would be bad and could go down like this:

Person A: So, can you tell us what’s new with your son?

Me: Eeeeiiiiii!

swift kick to the nards …

Me: I was gonna ask that question!!

Person B: Someone dial up the whambulance!

Lastly, sometimes the floor is occasionally dished my way. If and when that happens I should be ready. Usually this is a provactive attempt to surprise me so much as to induce heart attack. Assuming I survive long enough, I usually succumb to the intense pressure. The stress of filling that space is simply too high. I usually stammer out something like, “Goo goo gah gah.” Then everyone shrugs, wonders why the hell they bothered to give me a chance, and resumes talking about the fractal shapes of their bunions.

Also, something about the spirit of the season and it’s better give than receive but I can’t remember any of that crap right now. I’ve been much too busy with the pre-conversation planning.

I just hope I’m not over-thinking it. Perhaps I should limit my dreams to the Ribbon of Participation.

Audience participation

Last night we went to a local restaurant and caught a group of youngsters who had formed an improv group. (One member of the group is a gerbil 1 I’ve written about before.)

The quality of the improv was not bad and there were indeed some funny moments. There were also some awkward moments and a few where they biffed and fell flat on their face. I guess you’d call them improv faux pas where the action stopped and one of them tried in vain to come up with something – anything – and failed, so they’d throw in the towel and that segment would be over. But overall they did a job job and there were a few choice moments that had me laughing out loud.

At one point the performers stopped the show and told the audience, “Don’t clap. We want to applaud you.” Ah, the old “great audience” shtick. I was like, “Fine, fine. Here’s my tip jar! You guys can pay me!

In typical improv fashion they would ask for some sort of suggestion from the audience prior to each bit. And this is the thing: We were a truly shitty audience. I don’t know if was just your basic stupidity or if we were truly vicious and going for the jugular. Sometimes that sort of thing is a very fine line.

For example, they asked, “What is an item you’d take back to the store to return?” Some obliviot yelled, “the moon.” Yeah, I wanna go shopping with you. Not.

They asked, “This game features Bob and Bill. What is their relationship?” (For some strange reason they used the word “game” to describe their “skits.” Odd.) Right on cue, some obliviot yelled, “insane asylum.” Hmm. What a strange sort of “relationship” indeed. I wanna hang with you and your family. Not.

“What’s a problem they’ll need to solve?” Obliviot, your answer? “Pumping sewage!” Gee, I’m glad I don’t have your problems. I’ll keep my own, thank you.

“Let’s play the dating game! Tell us something interesting about contestant #1.” The suggestion yelled out, “food poisoning.” Did I mention this audience was vicious?

Did I also mention this was in a restaurant. We were eating food. The images were starting to add up. Pumping sewage. Yummy. Simulated vomiting on stage. Yummy. I’m forced to agree that’s just perfect entertainment during our meal.

Then they asked for “genres of film.” For the one and only time all night I participated. I yelled, “Avatar.” Yes, we have a new obliviot playing now! For some damn strange reason they chose western, film noir, and Shakespeare over my excellent idea. What gives! :)

Aside from all that fun, there was one other wee problem. A lady in the front row was obnoxious. She was yelling out her ideas ever single time they asked. And I mean yelling. She was pretty much the only one anyone could hear. And she was talking loudly during the performance. And she was up there without being chosen each time they asked for someone to come up. She was an ass.

Why does there have to be one in every crowd, every frickin’ time???

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go to Wal-Mart now to return The Moon, only slightly used.


1. This gerbil inspired my series of medical marijuana cartoons and his brother was featured in my post Gerbil rampage.