Saturday, September 17, 2011

What can you do if you're not witty?

I want to talk to you for a minute about wittiness.

First I'll answer the easy questions I know you're going to ask:

How do I get witty? If you're asking this question, you're not witty and never going to be.

Asshole. Yes, thanks for noticing.

But really, there must be SOME way I can at least get a little better at it, right? The best thing to do is read things witty people write. William Goldman comes to mind, and Dave Barry, and pretty much any good cartoonist (Adams, Watterson, and some of your more prominent webcomic authors). There are lots of them out there. Ask someone witty you know to recommend something to you and get cracking. DON'T waste your time watching Tv. TV has ruined conversational skills because conversations on TV in no way reflect what conversations in real life are like.

Why do I have to be witty anyhow? Because women like it.

WHY do they like it? I thought you said women are lying when they say sense of humor is the most important thing. Yes, they are. Social status is the most important thing (really the only important thing). A healthy dose of wittiness is almost essential to achieving high social status. You have to be able to not just defeat challengers to your excellence in conversational sparring, but make them regret challenging you.

So you're saying if I'm not witty, I'm hopeless? Glad you asked. That's what the rest of this entry will be about.

I have a friend, a guy I grew up with, then moved away from, and am going to be moving close to again next summer. Known him since grade school. He is good at life, reasonably successful, financially well off for a guy not yet 30. When it comes to social grace, he has one tragic limiting flaw: he is not witty. He is not funny. In fact he's kind of cautionary tale because he took the advice I gave you a couple paragraphs ago and inhaled everything funny he could find, books, movies. He can quote funny stuff to you all day long, and occasionally even find a good place to drop a funny quote in conversation. But the problem is that's the full extent of his humor, and it's all secondhand. I've known him over 20 years and I don't think he's ever said anything original that was funny. He just isn't witty.

Now for most of his life this was a problem, because he really really WANTED to be witty and kept working at it, to the point where he would annoy the hell out of other people (most definitely myself included). But in his early-mid 20s he finally snapped out of that and realized it sucked having people trying to avoid conversations with him. Can't get laid that way.

So he worked at it and really is a good tale for me to point to when I say, get off your ass and do some goddamn WORK and make yourself better. He is good at life. And he's learned to minimize his biggest weakness (he is not witty) and focus his and others' attention more on his strengths, which are several. He is very articulate and has one of those resonant voices you could hear being The Narrator in a hundred movies. He stands up straight, moves with purpose, looks you in the eye, and never cracks under pressure.

And probably most importantly, he's figured out how to be good at conversation without his wit: he makes comments and asks questions that steer other people toward talking about their very favorite subject in the world: themselves. He stays quiet and they talk at great length about themselves, and when they want him to say something he does, agreeing or disagreeing, doesn't matter much, and gets them to keep on talking about themselves.

If you're not witty, that is pretty much the best you can do. You're still going to get run over by major winners at life like myself, so you do what he does: befriend them or avoid them. Often the best battle is the one you wisely choose not to fight. Don't verbally throw down with someone who is smarter and sharper than you. Concede his superiority and move on. He's only going home with between one and three girls. You can have your pick of the rest.

It's important so I'll say it again: Not everyone can be witty. In fact "witty" is a relative term; when people use it they usually mean "wittier than most people". If you're reading this, you probably aren't witty either and aren't going to be. Do what my friend did, be honest with yourself, identify what you're good at, and plan your life to maximize those things.

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