In a recent post, I brought you an excerpt about a type of boy known as “the egghead,” described by Ellen Peck in her book from 1969 called How to Get a Teen-Age Boy and What to Do with Him when You Get Him. Reader Clare wondered who the audience was for this book (teenage girls from 1969, I presume, and those of us who can relate to ~ or gawk at ~ life as a teenage girl from 1969??).
She also was curious to hear more about another type from the list: “the comic”. Here it is:
Psychologists tell us that the comic types ~ people who always have funny things to say ~ really don’t like themselves very much. They’re afraid, deep down, that people are going to laugh at them. So they meet this fear head-on with humor. They give people something to laugh at, and thus avoid the idea that people laugh at them. People are laughing, instead, at the things they say. There’s a big difference, in the mind of the comic.
Way to meet a comic type? Well, there’s the opening line like, “I just have to tell you that this class would be so boring if it weren’t for you. You know, I was listening to Bill Cosby last night (or watching “Laugh-In,” or whatever the contemporary comedy show is) and compared to you, he’s absolutely nowhere.” . . .
Resist the tendency . . . to play his own game with him. . . . Don’t do it. Don’t compete. When with other people, be an audience. He’s found humor a way to get recognition. Don’t take it away from him by being funny yourself. . . .
But ~ keeping in mind that the humor may be a kind of defense ~ remember that the humor also be a kind of strain. Don’t push for funniness when the two of you are together. Invite him to drop the defense: “I dare you to be un-funny all the way to the bus stop.” (Or the school door, or the library.) See if he accepts the invitation.
You might also plant the idea that you’d like him even if he wasn’t such a cut-up. He says, “I like Marge; she’s so intellectual ~ always talking about Mary Worth.” Try responding, “And I like you because you’re so serious,” and keep your tone of voice soft and natural to take away the irony. The idea that he can be liked for something other than his jokes and stories might give him the confidence to break away from the constant use of them as crutches.
Now wait a second, Ellen, I’m confused. We’re supposed to let them shine as the comics (keeping oh-so-serious ourselves, as not to distract from his limelight), then turn around and suggest he tone it down a little? Sounds just a tad bit manipulative to me!