Monday, August 1, 2011

Quipster Wannabe (or No Quipping Allowed)

Barbara: Summer is a good time to test out your banter skills. There are generally more parties, more get-togethers, more chances for leisurely encounters with people you hardly know or don’t know at all. When it comes to the basics of social intercourse, I’m usually pretty good. For those of our readers who cringe at the thought of any kind of exchange of idle conversation, here’s the trick that will get you through pretty much any social situation: ask questions about the other person. In my experience that breaks all but the hardest ice, and if you start the questioning, you don’t have to answer any yourself! But when it comes to witty retorts and lighthearted banter, I just want to let you know that you should watch me in action: it would dispel all of your fears forever. Yes, you too can suck at witty retorts and survive!

With so many living lessons from the Banter Jedi Masters (hello, Deb!), you’d think I could rock this whole arena of life, but I confess I am a Quipster wannabe. I routinely hear myself coming up with banter that verges on the inanely incomprehensible. Before I’ve even formed the thought behind the things I want to say, strange words or variations thereof stumble from my mouth.

Passing the same British couple every morning on the beach in Antigua, already having exchanged a few pleasantries over the days, now arriving at the Quipping Point:

Them: You were the dancing queen on the dance floor last night.
Me: Hey, mock me if you want, but I didn’t see you two out there lumming it up.
We share polite laughter as I walk on (shaking my head to myself: “Lumming it up???”)

At a party where, for a moment, a young child becomes the focus of attention amid general party banter.
Me: Are you going to play a song for us on your guitar?
Him: Yes. I’ve been practicing.
Me: You’re going to be like the next (everyone waits, including kid, this is gonna be good)… awesome …(what’s she gonna say?) like, jam … rocker … dude.
A quiet second of WTF before the kid grins and nods (even at 8 he understands he must rescue me from my social mire), while the adults around us politely chuckle.

Or there is the real conversational gaffe. Saying real words in a sensible order but making no intelligent sense. Chatting with a film director with whom I’ve just finished shooting, me so respectful of her work.
She: (in answer to my question) Yeah, I just finished working on a novel.
Me: That’s wonderful. Fiction or non-fiction?
She: Um, isn’t a novel always fiction?
Me: Mmfle-murf. (as I run off to quaff a glass of wine, never to idle banter with her again)

The truth is, here’s the good news: people don’t care! They smile and nod their heads in agreement, sometimes even laugh at the supposed punchline of my “joke”. If not for the lingering sound of my own words echoing in my ear I would possibly remain forever ignorant of my quip ineptitudes.

Sadly, I hear the echo. (“The horror, the horror.”)

Deb: It’s funny because we were joking that this weekend I was Shecky McGrath. Everything was a quip and that sort of became a joke in itself. I love the quip, I love wit and I am sure Barb that you do yourself a great disservice. But next time you throw out a lame one, just in case ... pretend you’re drunk. 


  1. Oh my gosh I am laughing while trying not to choke on my lunch! This is so true though, and I've experienced that a lot here, especially with those Scots with accents that are particularly hard to understand. But many of times, here in Scotland and in the states, I've said something incredibly awkward, and then at that point everyone just stares at you because they know it's awkward too.

    But then in my case I just forget about it in a few days...haha! Must be the blonde in me. Thanks for the laugh :]

  2. *giggles* Hey, I think it's fabulous you TRY to quip. I can't even think of questions to ask (I know, lame). I have SO MUCH easier a time talking to my online friends because we can talk WRITING. My writer friends I can ask about their projects, their querying, their process... my neighbors I forget details like how old their children are and what sports they do...

  3. Ha! So glad you could relate, Kelly! Makes me feel better. It's just one of those things I can't help noticing now -- and while I don't hold it too much against me, I do know it is a fact of my life. And, as Hart says, I do try so must accept that not all quips will make it out in working order!!

  4. Funny, I am the person firing the questions at people who always seem to love to talk about themselves. I have been the one on a plane who hears the confessions of the person sitting next to me without one question asked about me. I am a quipper and usually successful except when I am not and then it is very very bad.

  5. First of all, Shecky McGrath? Good heavens, Deb, that was so funny, the Kool-Aid I was drinking came up my nose!

    Barbara, *sigh* I often, OFTEN wish that talking with people was like writing. Then, I could edit, proof read, and go through a few drafts. That didn't sound right when said out loud? OK, just delete a few lines, reword it, and then listen to it out loud again. Repeat until satisfied, and then have a final draft that is the only one that counts.

    My mind frequently tortures me by rewriting new drafts of an awkward conversation for days afterward.

    Words emitted by the tippity tapping of my fingers at a computer are infinitely easier that words emitted by vibrations from my larynx.

    And, Barbara, I bet that when you write, your characters are capable of witty quips in their dialogue.

  6. I always think of the best quips 2-3 days later! If I can say anything even slightly related at the time, I consider that to be a success! I really envy people who have mastered witty repartee.

  7. Madge, your last line made me laugh!! And Rigel, I so compare it writing too -- oh, for a chance to edit and re-write until it works!! Tammy, that's the other problem isn't it? The 3 day later retort, argh!!

  8. I am very good at quips,but sometimes my brain is too fast for my mouth and instead of a perfect quip, I hear myself talking gibberish.
    That's very embarrassing and my dear family never lets me forget when it happens..

  9. Gibberish, Helle, that's EXACTLY what it feels like! (and your family sounds like mine ;) )

  10. I just try to avoid talking in public. :)

    With some people, my banter and quips are great. That's usually family though. I know my family, I can anticipate what they are going to say, and we play off well with each other. And if I do say something completely bizarre, they either don't care or it becomes a family joke... When it isn't family it's different. I may not actually say anything dumb, but I'm always sure after speaking that whatever I said was absolutly stupid.

    OK, I've said enough. Doh! I should never speak up. ;)

  11. I can definitely relate to this, Barb!
    Sometimes I'll come up with a really good quip or zinger. More often, though, I will say something that's really lame or dorky.
    Now, because of my new promotion at work, I'm trying to be careful in the manner of which I speak. Sounding authoritative when you're not used to it is tough! But, I'm working through it. :)

  12. Molly, the family is a great way to practice (and a great place to crawl back to when our public attempts at quippery go awry ;) )

    Beth, oooh, talking authoritatively is whoooole other ball of beeswax!

  13. Ok, so I have a big problem with this and I have to say one of my problems when I talk is I get in hurry with what I am going to say so I start to mix up words and studder which I do so offten expecially when I am in from of a lot of people.

  14. OMG this just makes me love you more, Barb.

    And I think of myself of being generally good at banter and quips but I have had some serious cringe-worthy moments. Some which live on in infamy...

  15. I like to think I'm good with witty remarks, although I tend to be more of a wise-ass. Responding laughter encourages me no end. My family doesn't seem to think I'm as funny as others do, however. Eh, what do they know? :)
    My self-comment is, "In my heart, I know I'm funny." (Credit to "Good Morning Vietnam.") I sure hope I'm right about that. :)


  16. Ha! Shecky McGrath. :) too funny, girl. I don't think the "pretend you're drunk" works well, for instance, at a PTA meeting or at the office. :)

    I love the banter as well, as long as it stays light hearted. Correcting people like that director did to you is just boorish and rude. I'm afraid I would have had a retort for her, which is just part of the myriad of reasons why I'm not in any movies or on TV. :) I'm from the south though, and we are notorious for saying nasty things to each other that on the surface don't sound so nasty. It's all okay if we end it with "bless her/your heart". Spoonful of sugar, and all that.
    I need to get home now and see what my neighbor has done with her flower beds. She isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, bless her heart. There's absolutely no telling what she's up to. She might have planted her left foot in the ground and is stuck there right now, poor soul. :D
    Hugs & Laughs,

  17. Dawn and Karen, you both killed me with your quips! Thanks for the laughs, ladies! Dawn, not sure about where the quote comes from, but it's a keeper either way. And Karen, bless your heart :)

  18. You too, Barbara. Bless your sweet little heart. ;p
    Dawn you ARE funny. My family usually stares blankly at me anyway. It makes me laugh. You're just smarter than the room, is why they don't get you, bless their pointed little heads. lol

  19. Very funny!!!! Happens to me all the time!

  20. Deb- I must have to debate a bit with you on one thing. I'M very likely worse when it comes to the auditioning aspect of acting. Seeing as though I'm on the border of turning 29, I can definitely relate to your 27 year old self. Any advice for me when it comes to auditioning, I'd imagine you'd have at least improved a bit at it. I know I have the talent needed, however I can very rarely seem to project what directors are looking for. I'm thinking my main problem is nerves, which I realize everyone has, I'm not sure how to deal with them as of yet. -April

  21. April, if I may, I just want to say that the audition process is tricky not just for the acting part of it, but because directors and producers also have an idea of who they want to cast.

    But your biggest asset will be in being able to breathe during an audition. The best way to get to that point is practice practice practice. You can maybe find some classes or even co-op programs (actors get together and split the cost of a rehearsal hall, then do scenes or monologues, and then give each other feedback) Good luck!


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