I politely forced a smile since I had not yet mastered an expression of patrician disapproval. Plus I wanted to be nice. I mean, I had just met him. Maybe his next sentence was gonna be about how he met his beloved on a Doctor's Without Borders mission and that the physical act of love was a small bit of solace in this broken world. It wasn't, though. Just more off-color jokes and swears and non-insult insults because we're all friends here, right assholes? He wasn't my type.
I'm not a prude. I have probably said grosser things than you have ever thought, and I have said them onstage before Republican strangers in rural areas. Back when I was an improviser, I often had to point this out to other performers when we debated the subtle art of when to go blue onstage. My belief is embedded in that sentence--that it is a subtle art. Not thinking that every moment was right for a sperm joke usually earned me the rep of "team prude."
One of my teammates once told me that swearing and sex jokes were integral to his style. "I bring thunder," he said, and italicized thunder with his voice and fist. He sort of gathered his fingers into one as he uttered the syllables. I thought he played to the childish in the audience, and did not so much surprise people with his language as shock them. Unfunny people, then, confuse this moment of shock with the surprise that is so central to comedy. His shock winds up derailing the show with inorganic choices. The rest of us must then mop up, shall we say, all that spilled sperm. (I remember this conversation because it was a particularly bitter argument amongst the whole team, and I was really only in a support role on the less-is-more side.)
The ironic thing about shock is that after a very short while it fades. It winds up appealing only to bullies and loudmouths, neither of whom are funny and neither of whom could possibly be surprised or shocked after much of it. They just like it because it's a taboo being said out loud. But for the rest of an audience, it's not a great choice. Dice Clay, the bawdy nursery rhyme man who now seems as remote as a character in one, became like piano-key tie patterns and couches made out of the back-seats of cars--something that makes us think of the 1980s, but that did not make it out. You can do blue material well, of course. But there has to be a strong emotional element to it and a logic that fits the rest of the piece, like with my fantastic joke about mopping up sperm in the paragraph above.
I thought of this since that friend-of-a-friend is in the paper today. Figuratively speaking-- his business is featured in an article on a website, and I thought, "Hey, that's the guy who told his father-in-law about his daughter's sexual preferences." I wondered what he is up to. My guess is that he is still a total nut, saying all the things the rest of us Sallies wouldn't dare to. I bet he tells people about his wife's boning habits and swears around kids and jabs at his friends. Shock is about that predictable.
*It's all in the language, of course. If he had said it exactly like that, "My wife likes to give oral sex," then it would have been funny.