How Do You Like Me So Far?

This title is a line that Henny Youngman is supposed to have used as the opening line for a routine. It’s funny because – aside from the paradox of the audience knowing anything about the performance before it has taken place – it shows a performer’s anxiety and, okay, narcissism.

An old joke: the actor ran into an acquaintance and started rattling off his recent accomplishments. After 20 minutes he took a breath and said, “Enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What did you think of my scene last week on Dragnet?”

A conversation between actors can be like that: I talk about myself for 5 minutes, while you listen politely, pretending interest while waiting for your turn. Then I listen politely as you talk about yourself. Then we trade off again. It’s fair if not at all deep as an instance of human interaction.

Lately, though, I find the same pattern in interchanges with people who are not actors. Maybe it’s my fate to know people who share that trait: little interest in me; a lot of interest in letting me know about them.

Even worse, I’ve had conversations without the polite exchange. People frequently recite their accomplishments, problems, medical histories, children’s rise or drop in status – without pausing to listen to mine!

My new rule is that if someone shows no interest in learning what I’ve been up to, I don’t talk about it. It’s their loss, since what I do is much more interesting than anything they’ve been doing. But if they don’t even ask, I’m not going to tell them.

These modern times are getting really bad if actors aren’t the only ones having narcissistic, one-sided recitals within a conversation. And even worse if people aren’t polite enough to listen to me after I listen to them.

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2 comments

  1. Ron Gold · · Reply

    I like you so far.

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