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The Silly-Serious Spectrum

April 21, 2009

Suburban Turmoil has a story about our favorite sunglasses-indoors-wearing Irishman that illustrates a principle I’ve been thinking about lately:

“My friend’s friend’s dad went to see U2 in concert,” my 18-year-old reported to us the other day, “and when Bono came out, he was clapping his hands slowly, like this.” She clapped her hands every second for a moment.

“And finally, he stepped up to the mike and he was very serious, and he said, ‘Every time I clap my hands, a child dies in Africa.’ The audience was totally silent.”

“And there was some drunk Irish guy in like, the third row, and he yelled, ‘Well, stop clapping your f*#!ing hands, then!’

The post’s title indicates that someone in this story is the victim of an ‘awareness fail.’  My guess, from the apologetic “I know this is innapropriate” line, is that the author believes the drunken, rather than the earnest rockstar, Irishman has committed the faux pax here.

Clearly, the author fundamentally misunderstands the application of the silly-serious spectrum of appropriate social behavior.

Egocentric preface: Those who have the unfortunate circumstance of making my acquaitance know that among my many obnoxious hobbies, I tend to theorize and categorize seemingly mundane social interactions in order to better understand and defuse the many potential avenues for arguments and awkwardness we encounter in our daily lives. Knowledge is power, and reputation is perhaps one of those most important assets we possess.  Bono, as a world-renowned douche, could learn from the following.

My theory is that people by default prefer a certain kind of time, somewhere between sincere and sinful.  It may seem obvious, but those on opposite ends of this spectrum mix like peanut butter and broccoli.  I further believe that it is better to err on one side of those extremes.

Let’s take the examples of Gregory and Dan.

Greg is a grad student in comparative literature, a devout Democrat, avid reader of Richard Dawkins, and likes to wax on about how he prefers Java Monkey to the more corporate atmosphere of Starbucks.

Dan is a business major, a devout heavy drinker, politically apathetic, and has his head buried in a toilet more often than in the pages of a novel.

Though the two people are certainly on the extreme edges of the spectrum, I move that, all things equal, Dan is the more socially flexible person.

If we are looking to have a silly time with silly friends out in a bar, Greg just won’t fit in because he’ll kill the mood.  Silly people like to talk about bullshit mostly (the most entertaining mode of expression), and don’t want others to tell them they are being silly. If Greg tries to shift the conversation to an unexpectedly serious topic like religion, the sillies, paralyzed with fear or boredom, will want to escape the situation forthwith.  You are subsequently credited with bringing the downer of the party.

However, we can bring Dan to hang out with a group of more serious people, because these folk will either just ignore him or appreciate the comic relief.  While it is potentially uncomfortable for the silly person, it imposes no costs on the rest of the group.  Therefore, it’s never bad to have a silly, party-seeking friend come along, regardless of group dynamic.

Don’t get me wrong, striking a balance between these two extremes is best.  The ability to recognize whether silliness or seriousness is appropo counts as one of the more important skills in leading a socially successful life.  Boardroom meetings, coffeeshops, book clubs, or any sort of gathering with a purpose in mind requires a certain level of seriousness among each of its members.  But the humorless guy at the company party isn’t going to get the promotion, nor will he (SPOILER: mildly insensitive comment ahead) sloppily bang the secretary in the janitor’s closet.

This finally brings us back to Bono, who is clearly more Greg-like than otherwise.  In the case of a rock concert, the sillies have it.  We are talking about, even with 40-somethings, a rather alcohol and testosterone-fueled event in which we look for an escape from the mostly negative things we hear on TV or read in the newspaper. We don’t need some serious-type harshing our buzz by reminding us that the $150 we spent on 3rd tier seats to his own show could have given 29 Senegalese children surgeries to fix their cleft lips.   Save that for late-night informericals, thank you in advance.

So unlike the author of Suburban Turmoil, I commend the drunken Irish guy for calling out U2’s miserable misunderstanding of the situation, and hopefully continuing to do justice to all the sillies out there livening up our Saturday nights.  But let’s just say that he’s not invited to my funeral. Since I will want people to be as sad as possible, I’ve already booked Bono to bum my future mourning friends and family out with his god awful, socially conscious stage act.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. cortney permalink
    April 21, 2009 4:53 pm


  2. April 21, 2009 6:57 pm

    Sillies in da’ house, roll call!

  3. dorg permalink
    April 21, 2009 11:32 pm

    You take yourself too seriously. This blog = epic fail

  4. April 22, 2009 1:30 am

    Love this blog I’ll be back when I have more time.

  5. April 22, 2009 5:02 am

    First troll! Generalissimo has finally arrived ladies and gentlemen! Oh, happy day!


  1. By Gum, The Catholic Church Was Right All Along! « Generalissimo

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