The evil of wanting to be liked

The least likeable thing to do is try really hard to be likeable. Yet if your audience doesn't like you somewhat, they're not gonna be with you enough to take 'em anywhere. It can be a wrestling match for comics who want to touch on edgy topics or go places that might turn off large chunks of the crowd.

That's what makes Stanhope and Patrice so amazing. They seem to WANT to walk 20% of the crowd. Because they know that's the way to get others in the room to LOVE them. If no one hates you then no one loves you perhaps? Hmm.

Anyway, Andrew Sullivan's Readers Should Be Ruffled talks about a similar battle that writers face. He quotes novelist and art critic Katie Kitamura:

The desire to be liked is acceptable in real life but very problematic in fiction. Pleasantness is the enemy of good fiction. I try to write on the premise that no one is going to read my work. Because there’s this terrible impulse to grovel before the reader, to make them like you, to write with the reader in mind in that way. It’s a terrible, damaging impulse. I feel it in myself. It prevents you doing work that is ugly or upsetting or difficult. The temptation is to not be true to what you want to write and to be considerate or amusing instead. I’m always trying to fight against the impulse to make my readers like me.

Sullivan adds his own .02: "You don’t want to piss readers off unnecessarily or gratuitously, but you also don’t want to be subtly seduced by the idea of popularity, and fall into the trap of pandering to readers in any way."

Maybe the ideal is to walk that line. The joke that draws both groans and belly laughs. Or the one the room hates at first but slowly comes around on. There's something awful satisfying when you can feel people laughing in spite of themselves.

No comments:

Moving on/Subscribe to my newsletter

I only post on rare occasions here now. Subscribe to my Rubesletter  (it's at  mattruby.substack.com ) to get jokes, videos, essays, etc...