What I Need From People When I Ask "Hey, Is This Funny?"

Now that we're partners, Jo is starting to learn the rules of this kind of interaction (whereby I text them "do you think ___ is funny for the next post"), which will happen anywhere between two and five times a day for the rest of our lives.

  • Immediate, unforced engagement (sit up a little straighter, eyes sparkle somewhat, demeanor newly charged with pleasure, sudden frisson of expectation, push work away from you to rotate 3/4s toward me, "You there! What day is it, boy?"/"Why, 'tis Christmas Day, sir!", cast off your hood to reveal yourself as Richard Lionheart returned to save England, posture improves, mirth plays about your curving lips, lean forward/elbows on knees, Team of Rivals, cast down your nets and follow me, that scene from That Thing You Do! where they hear their song on the radio for the first time)
  • But it has to feel real
  • It can't be forced
  • You're honored to be called up, like on The West Wing flashback episodes where Bradley Whitford does a rom-com running-through-the-rain-to-the-airport scene all over the Acela Corridor showing his earnest face to his brothers-in-arms/sister-wives/colleagues of the spirit because Josiah Bartlet is the real thing and they dash delightedly out of their Gage Whitney meetings and Hollywood pools to join him in the Great Work, forever
  • Then I do need you to laugh right away, but it can't sound like you're trying to humor me, even a little bit
  • If you have any ideas about how to improve the concept, I want to hear them, but only after we've established it's a funny idea, it's a good idea, and I should do it
  • Conversely, you are allowed to say it's no good, but only if you say it right away, ideally while chewing gum and with the air of someone who might say "that's show business" at any moment
  • You're excited to be invited into the process, you're not doing anything better or more interesting with your time at the moment I interrupt you, this is the most welcome interruption of your entire day, I'm doing you a favor by rescuing you from tedium, you don't have to think about it, you just know right away that it's very funny and I should do it, or that it isn't and I should try again, right away on instinct, and even if you don't think it's funny you still deeply admire the spirit with which I sallied forth and you know the next idea is going to be It, this is actually fun for you and doesn't even feel like work, honestly.