i think i’m going to leave the contribution link at the top for a bit longer. as you can see, it’ll be a little while yet before i reach my goal. have i told you how awesome the postcards are going to be? they’re going to be the best! i’m having them printed from some of my favorite flickr photos, and i’m going to write bizarre things all over the back, about pie and cars and songs on my ipod, and about how oh my god i think that guy at the next table has a glass eye. i guarantee you’ll be entertained. at the very least you’ll be baffled, and i don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good baffling now and then.
most weekends i go out with my friends dusty and sharlee and mando. mando and i watch all the same television shows. we know our favorite shows well, and can quote them verbatim. often one of us will finish a joke with a contextually appropriate line from buffy or arrested development, and the two of us will laugh and laugh, while dusty and sharlee look at us like we’re insane.
“should we be watching more television?” dusty said once.
“not necessarily,” i said.
i used to date a guy who could match me pretty well when it came to quoting early simpsons episodes. many have attempted this, and many have failed, but this guy came pretty close. one day we were having coffee and he said, “i think i’m going to stop quoting things.”
this surprised me. weren’t we having fun quoting things? “oh?” i said. “how come?”
“it’s crippling my wit.”
i don’t always remember exactly what people say. when i want to write about something someone said to me, i try to recall as many of their exact words as i can, and then i just sort of reverse-engineer the rest based on what i know about the person and what they would have said at the time. but i remember the things that affect me, and “it’s crippling my wit” was exactly what he said.
“yeah?” i said.
“yeah,” he said. “it’s like i’m making other people’s jokes instead of my own.”
“i see what you mean,” i said, not sure how else to respond. it made me feel kind of lame. did he think the quoting was crippling my wit, too? did he want me to stop quoting things? i may as well have; quoting the simpsons to him after that was like quoting it to a jug of milk and expecting a laugh.
while i understand his point about making your own jokes instead of someone else’s, i don’t agree that it’s always a negative thing. a lot of humor comes from shared experiences. person A makes a joke about something that happened to her, person B laughs because the same thing happened to him and he knows exactly what she’s talking about. if the same television show or movie “happened” to you and another person, it becomes a valid shared experience on which to build a joke, even if that joke belongs to someone else. quoted jokes require timing and context like any other. if i walk up to mando and the first thing i say is, “i wear the cheese, it does not wear me,” he would probably laugh a little because it’s from a show we both like. but if i say it when we’re talking about bizarre dreams or fashion or cheese, then it’s contextually appropriate and therefore a lot more funny.
while i don’t feel like quoting television cripples my wit, i do feel like watching it cripples my writing ability. i’ve done some of my best writing during times when i wasn’t watching much television at all, mostly during college or on trips out of town. today i told mando that i’m not going to worry about any of my favorite shows during my roadtrip. why would i watch tv when i could be sitting in a coffee shop at a table next to a guy with a glass eye?