Comedy Guy: Bastard or “Decent” Dude?
Ever since writing my post about the Myth of the “Decent Guy” I’ve been more prone to notice instances of men (or anyone, really) self-defining as “good” or “decent” or “nice” as a means of excusing various behavioral atrocities. So a couple of weeks ago, when I met a 34-year-old man I’ll call Comedy Guy, I was skeptical of his intentions.
[First, in light of my recent post about coming out, I should note that I encountered Comedy Guy when I was still in the process of making my decision. I hadn’t come to peace with my self-identification just yet. So when he showed interest, I didn’t immediately turn him down. I had no intentions of tricking him or fooling him. I wasn’t thinking “Little do you know I’m coming out of the closet” or anything like that. I was willing to give him a chance. He fucked up this chance royally, however, so fortunately I don’t have to deal with telling him I’ve decided I’m not interested due to homosexuality. He gave me plenty of other reasons to turn him down.]
Comedy Guy is the sort of guy who I suspect has played the Nice Guy (TM) card at some point in his life. He spent much of our immediate flirtation trying to convince me of what a nice guy he is, and how polite he is to women. This is always red flag #1 for me. I’m a writing teacher, after all. I want a potential date to show rather than tell. If ze has to keep insisting that ze is totes awesome, but can’t prove it via actions, I remain unimpressed.
I finally learned why CG was going out of his way to prove his niceness when he told me that he is part of a stand-up comedy duo who perform what he called “offensive parody songs.” My feminist hackles went up immediately. I’m with Liss at Shakesville in her belief that most people who claim to do “edgy” or “offensive” comedy are actually just using supposed humor (and often old, stale humor) as an excuse to express a misogynist viewpoint without having to admit to actually being misogynist. But right in the moment he wasn’t performing any of the songs for me, and he wasn’t being very clear about the lyrics, so I didn’t turn him down right away. I couldn’t judge the material without hearing it. So instead I just mentioned to him that, as a feminist, I was pretty skeptical of humor that includes rape jokes, cracks about domestic violence, or mentions of child pornography (all topics he claimed to cover in his songs).
“But when I’m onstage, I’m playing a character,” he insisted. “I don’t really do or think those things. Like, we have a song about doing coke, and lots of times after shows people come up to us and offer us coke. But we don’t do coke. That’s just our characters.”
Hmm. Still skeptical. If people can’t tell the difference between you and your character, perhaps there isn’t much of a difference between the two.
“See,” he continued, “We’re making fun of the kinds of people who do the shit we sing about. The kinds of stuff we say – we’re trying to make fun of the people who would say that stuff in real life.”
Really? Because if people are willingly walking up to you and offering to do coke with you, my guess is that they didn’t realize they were being made fun of. They weren’t made uncomfortable by the humor at all. Satirical comedy should make its targets uncomfortable; it should make them recognize themselves and recognize their flaws. If the material is intended to criticize these coke dealers, they certainly don’t realize it. Sounds like comedy fail to me.
But I let him keep talking. I expressed my skepticism, but told him I couldn’t be sure how I’d react until I actually heard some of the material. So I went home and looked up the MySpace page for his duo.
Let me tell you, Ladies, it was not good. I would link to the site for you, but I’m none too excited about the prospect of Comedy Guy finding this blog and finding out that I linked to him. But if you really want to get on google and dig for them, I’ll tell you this: they are best known for their rewriting of Neil Diamond songs. They have actually won awards at festivals by passing themselves off as “performance art.” And they have a song entitled “She Cries When I Fist Her,” if that gives you any idea what their material is like. I would transcribe it for you, but frankly I don’t want to have to listen to it again.
As I suspected, there is nothing in their lyrics or in their performances (videos are accessible) to indicate that their targets are anything but the women, gay men, and disabled children about whom they sing. They’re expressing tired notions of misogyny and homophobia via “comedy,” and nothing about their routines indicates to me that they disagree with the attitudes expressed in the songs. These characters they play don’t sound like satire to me at all; they sound like alter egos. (Also, bonus point: their favorite target is fat women. Are you surprised? Neither was I.)
The night CG and I met,
So I wrote Comedy Guy an email telling him I had visited his comedy site and that we would not be going any further in our flirtation. I told him I was surprised that he’d expect me, as a feminist, to approve of his songs because they were basically just “an excuse for misogynist bullshit.”
Here’s what he wrote back:
I’m sorry to hear that you feel that way, because that is definitely not the case. However, you are entitled to your opinion, and if that is how you saw it, I guess there isn’t really any way I can change your mind.
I absolutely didn’t intend to lie to or mislead you in any way. Please forgive me if it seems as though I did.
You seemed like a really cool person, and I hope I can convince you to get to know the real me and see for yourself, but if not, I wish you well and hope you find all that you are looking for.
Gee. What a swell guy. He wishes me well. He absolutely did not intend to lie or mislead me. He wants me to forgive him!
I call bullshit. The first offense he commits is telling me that my feelings are incorrect. He says that he’s “sorry that you feel that way” because what I feel is “definitely not the case.” What he doesn’t seem to realize is that I’m well aware that my personal feelings are something that cannot be labeled correct or incorrect. I feel them. End of story.
But what I really have a problem with is his last paragraph. In it, he says that he wants me to “get to know” him. He sets me up as the bad guy and himself as the nice, innocent injured party – I’m an awful bitch because I didn’t bother to “get to know” him before dismissing him. The problem with that assumption, of course, is that (1) I can turn anyone down at any time, for any reason I want, regardless of how shallow it may seem. (2) I DID get to know something about him – and it was something I didn’t like. It was something that repulsed me. What he wants is for me to ignore the stuff I didn’t like and dismiss it as not really being him. This is bullshit.
The next part of the convenient “nice guy” setup is his insistence that I “seemed like a really cool person.” I suppose the compliment is supposed to suddenly send me flying to his feet, worshipping him for thinking I’m cool. The thing is, in our brief conversation, he learned virtually nothing about me. He talked entirely about himself and his comedy. So basically, what makes me “cool” is my willingness to listen to him talk about himself. I have to assume that’s it, because he doesn’t have much else to go on. If I’m going to date someone who thinks I’m “cool,” I want it to be someone who still says that after actually getting to know me.
But the part that really kills me is the whole “I wish you luck” bit. It makes him sound awfully polite, doesn’t it? So polite that a friend of mine who knew the story even started to second-guess her initial dismissal of him. “I don’t know,” she said after seeing the email, “He actually seems like he might be a nice guy.” But here’s the thing: I can’t read that line as anything but manipulation. A person who sings a song called “She Cries When I Fist Her” is NOT a “nice guy.” Period. A few words at the end of an email don’t cost him anything. All they do is make him seem the way he wants to seem long enough to try to get my clothes off. That’s all.
I’m infuriated about this guy. Because I know he doesn’t see it. I know he actually believes that he can be two different people – an asshole and a gentleman – and that he can pick and choose which one he presents to people, without the other ever bleeding through. He just doesn’t get it, and he pisses me off.
But I want you guys to tell me: am I wrong about this? Is he really a sheep in wolf’s clothing? Was my friend right? Does the email make up for the awful parody songs?