Situation # 8 – That joke isn’t funny anymore.

26 05 2008

The situation: You’re out with a group of friends, probably sipping white burgundy at a dinner party – you’re classy like that. You’re having a nice conversation with the person sitting next to you, when suddenly the table goes silent and all attention is on you for Story Time. Not wanting to disappoint your audience, you start to set up your story, pulling out every narrative device from your bag of conversational tricks. This is your moment to shine; your opportunity to cement your reputation as the charming and witty storyteller in your circle. Years from now, at parties, people you’ve barely met will ask you to “tell us that one about when you were lost on the mountain, with only a pizza and one running shoe.”

And then just as you’re about to reach the punch line, you find yourself faced with a sea of blank stares and are struck with the embarrassing realization that you’re telling a story that is past it’s best before date, or worse yet, a “You Had to Be There” story.

The solution:

As a general rule, it’s best to avoid telling stories that start with “Man, I was soooooooo drunk last night…” Stories about your drunken antics are about equally as interesting to other people as that crazy dream you had last night. Unless, of course, you’re in undergrad, in which case you can disregard this advice entirely. Aside from wearing Camera Obscura t-shirts everyday, how else can your dorm-mates be expected to know how cool you are?

If in spite of this advice, you still find yourself in the midst of a past it’s prime story, your best bet is to cut and run. There is no salvaging an un-funny story. Better men have tried and failed before. Your awareness that people aren’t responding well may be your one saving grace in this situation. That, and the kindness with which you spare them from further listening. Feel free to stop abruptly in mid-sentence and then make some self-deprecating comment. “This was hilarious ten years ago. Really.” Or cover your mouth in mock self-disgust and exclaim “Oh my god! I’m telling a You Had to Be There Story. How embarrasing!” Then toss back the rest of your wine in one swift gulp and raise your glass for more.

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