In the film and TV business, you meet new people all the time. You’re regularly expected to exchange pleasantries with strangers. This kind of small talk bugs me, so I’ve come up with a set of stock stories and jokes that I can use over and over. It saves me mental energy, and hey, it’s new to them.
For instance, I have a Manchester United jersey, which I’ll usually wear sometime in the first week of show. Inevitably, someone says, “Are you a soccer fan?”
To which I reply, “Nah, this was a gift. I didn’t even know who they were, until some Australian guy yelled at me, ‘Man U sucks!’ And I was like, ‘M-man, you suck!'”
I must’ve told this story a thousand times. My wife is sick of hearing it. Whenever I retell an old joke, she whispers, “Man, you suck.” But like I said, it’s new to them, and it always gets a laugh.
But there are some stories that you can’t tell to just anyone. Stories that end with, “…and then he woke up with a dick in his mouth,” for example.
Then came that magic day. I was drinking with some G&E boys after wrap, and, as usual, the guys were talking about sex. It seemed like a fine time to tell them how my buddy learned that he was bisexual, the hard way.
I started telling the story, and they were enthralled. They laughed at all the right parts, or cringed, as the case may be. When I got to the punchline, they just exploded. They couldn’t believe anyone would do such a thing. Then a camera guy came into the bar, the key grip insisted I tell the story again.
That seemed to be the end of it, until the next day, when I saw the key grip talking to the gaffer. The key grip waved me over and said, “You gotta hear this guy’s story. It’s unbelievable. Go on, tell him!”
So, I retold the story. Later in the day, the sound guy asked me about it, so I told it again. And again and again and again, for about a week straight.
Man, you suck, indeed.
It got to the point where I was starting to get a reputation. People thought I led this alternative lifestyle, full of sexual escapades and comical misadventures, based solely on this one story that happened to a friend of mine (no, really) four years ago.
Taken aback by his interest, I asked the key grip, “Doesn’t everybody have a story like this from their college days?”
He shook his head vigorously: “No fucking way, man. I’ve never heard shit like that.”
“Huh. That’s weird. You do seem awfully interested in it.” Everyone chuckled, until they realized he wasn’t laughing.
His usual friendly demeanor grew cold. His eyes narrowed to slits, and he jabbed his finger at me. “Sometimes, you stick your neck out, and you get it chopped off. You reading my mail, buddy?”
I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Or what he meant, really. But, his nonsensical threat did have the terrifying effect I think he intended. When he told this monkey to dance, oh, I danced, and nevermore intimated that he was a closet homosexual.
(Which he totally was.)