I am not cool. Never will be. I have moments when I am so close, but then everything just falls apart. Spectacularly!
There I am, speaking to a group of my peers. Everything’s going fine and then, out of nowhere, a cockroach is skittering across the floor and no one is listening. Everyone’s talking at once and I’m trying to tell them something REALLY important. No one was actually listening in the first place, but now it’s obvious. They’d rather be somewhere else. So would I. But it only gets worse.
I’m desperate. I can’t raise my voice, that would be, well, uncool. I could wait like a teacher’s supposed to, but I don’t. I freeze. And then my inner Chris Farley boils to the surface and I am suddenly talking about Miles Davis emptying his trumpet spit-valve onto a table of talking patrons at a jazz club!
No interruptions, please.
Then I jump onto a chair, pretending that I’m scared of the little roach. It’s supposed to be funny, but it’s just awkward. And now, everyone’s staring at me. The people down front are talking amongst themselves. My boss is looking at me like, “Really, dude?” All the people in the back are just confused. Even my best bud looks away, unable to bear the sight of me in my moment of shame.
I have become Matt Foley, destroyer of coffee tables.
That’s why Chris Farley was so great. Every character he played, (thinly disguised portraits of how he saw himself in everyone else’s eyes), was side-splitting hilarious because they were derailing so horribly. He could take an innocuous faux pas and turn it into an end-of-the-world-can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it, slow-motion, train wreck. There’s blood everywhere and the new guy’s in the corner barfing his guts out. Meanwhile, there’s a burning model car on some guy’s desk! In Tommy Boy we could laugh at the “big, dumb animal, folks,” but in real life when you are the middle of your own train wreck, well, what can you do?
Die inside a little bit and realize that you too are basically just a giant, man-child, clown boy.
It’s true. Under pressure, I crumple like a cheap paper towel, and I resort to self-deprecating humor to avoid the harsh truth that I have more in common with the Fool than with James Dean or even Big Bird. All I can do is wipe the flop sweat from my face and hope that I don’t make an idiot out of myself tomorrow. Of course, my track record would suggest otherwise.
At least I can hope that I don’t end up living in a van down by the river like a certain motivational speaker I know.