Sunday, July 10, 2011


What to say about Trin Loch? J-school student? Nah. Likes cooking? Nah. Proud Pi? Nah. The thing, if I'm going to properly introduce you to her is that she's not what she's doing now, she's most precisely understood as what she's planning for in the future.

There. Now you're introduced. This is written by her. Wait five years and she'll be telling you the news from wherever it's happening. Particularly if there's cupcakes.

I looked forward to buying Tina Fey’s Bossypants for weeks. When it was finally mine, I immediately pored over every page, hungry for all the jokes and hair-secrets that must have fueled my devotion to Ms. Fey since age eleven.

But I didn’t laugh once. Not once! I was engaged the whole way through because it was clever, honest writing and had lots of jokes on every page, but it wasn’t funny. I did love her stories about Alec Baldwin and Lorne Michaels and I did crack a smile during the Sarah Palin chapter, but for a former SNL Head Writer/30 Rock powerhouse, some of her writing frankly sucked. A whole chapter of politely acrid letters to her "haters" on Tina, you're better than that.

Many people much smarter and older than I am have waxed philosophical about what makes humor humor. Comedy’s in the wide shot and all that. Mr. Straw, my 9th grade global studies teacher, rattled off some behavioral psychology bullshit I only remember because it was so fucking pretentious: “Laughter is merely the response to a violation of the anticipatory set.” (Say that aloud in a British accent to sound like the world’s biggest tool.)

But I’m starting to think Mr. Straw was unfortunately right, at least for my sense of humor. I anticipated what Tina had to offer. I anticipated lots of fart jokes, improv war stories and feminism. I expected most of the book to be about food. It was all of those things, totally, and I was left both fully satisfied and completely disappointed.

I never laugh at sitcoms, but I do laugh when someone walks into a wall. I never laugh at comic strips, but I do laugh when waitresses drop all their plates. I’m the asshole that claps and yells, “Job opening!” And this frightens me, because with every day, I’ll get more used to the world and fewer things will violate my anticipatory set. Will I laugh less and less? Will I get so comfortable that nothing surprises me anymore, and I will never laugh again? Maybe those old grumpy grandpeople who never smile or laugh aren’t miserable…maybe they’re just incredibly well-adjusted. But there's a lot to appreciate about smart humor that's not ha-ha funny, so maybe they spend all their time appreciating instead of laughing.

The most recent violation of my anticipatory set was in the last Doctor Who episode called “A Good Man Goes to War." Amy Pond was gingerly holding her baby in the middle of a crossfire when it spontaneously melted (it was a fleshy doppelganger non-baby) and went “Pbbbbt” and all this jelly flesh landed on the ground with a plop. I laughed for ages. It was supposedly a moving, horrifying scene, but while Amy screamed a blood-curdling howl, I dissolved into hysterics: That baby went "Pbbbbt!"

It was funny because I didn't see it coming and it was totally bizarre. So, weird shit makes me laugh the most. But most people aren’t that weird, or maybe a lot of them are, and I’m not patient or kind enough to find out. This might be why I cut ties so brutally. I end friendships quickly. Graduation happens and I’m off, gone. I keep five or so people close-close-close because I know they’ll continue to surprise me and intrigue me, while the rest I can’t be sure of. I just want really weird, interesting friends who can make me laugh. I'm afraid people will go all boring on me and I’m even more scared of going all boring on myself. The qualities I value most in a person are eccentricity, creativity, spontaneity and an enthusiasm for all those things. If I’m not creating something new with friends, sometimes I feel like I’m wasting time. (The opportunity to share thoughts on Subsidized Sincerity is quite a lovely way to collaborate with a friend, so my thanks go out to James, for this and for never being boring.)

In Tina’s defense, I had huge expectations for the book, which completely disobeys her cardinal rule: always have low expectations. Memoirs aren’t her thing. Mom pants are. And so is improv, which is all about spontaneous creativity, so I'll still keep her on my List of Heroes, right under Fareed Zakaria but still above Lois Lane.

Here's “Many Moons” by Janelle Monae, another name on that list, who always delivers a healthy dose of weird whimsy on a boring day.

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