I consider myself to be a reasonably funny guy. I’ve gone to pains for much of my adult life to be ‘the entertainer’ whether it be on stage, in writing, at funerals (yes, really), whatever the occasion. Unfortunately, I’ve been in Romania for over a year now, where the language barrier and the local preference for, erm, ‘non-cognitive humor’ has transformed me from ‘the entertainer’ into the ‘odd foreigner who works on Sundays and asks too many questions’.
Many has been the time when I’ve laid down some killer ad libbing riffs on these thankless Romanians, only to be met with crickets-in-the-background silence and occasionally my audience taking a few measured steps back.
There was this one time soon after I arrived in Romania when a nice girl at a pastry shop was counting out my change – I had already been there a few times, so she knew I was the chocolate-eating American guy – and when she counted out my change, in an effort to be hospitable I suppose, she counted it out in English. One, two three… But you see, she did it with this Romanian accent that for some reason made me flash on The Count from Sesame Street – the Count, vampires, Romania, get it? – and so I jumped right into my best Count impersonation, throwing my head back, “Von! Thoo! Thr-r-r-reee!!! Ah ah ah ah ahhhhh!! [thunder sound effects, flailing my arms to mimic lightning]”
Needless to say she didn’t get it. Neither did the five people in line behind me, who suddenly defied their cultural instincts and gave me all the personal space in the world. Even the little old lady that had just spent five determined minutes trying to line jump me, retreated across the room, reciting a prayer for my troubled soul.
This is what I’m talking about. For one solid year, my award winning humor and razor sharp flair for improv have completely gone to waste. Where I come from (Minnesota) that Count bit would have been first-rate material! Well, at least it wouldn’t have been worthy of total ostracism. I haven’t been able to go back to that pastry shop since.
In all seriousness, admittedly, my humor can be an acquired taste in any culture, but so far I’m getting zero comedy appreciation love from the Romanians and I probably never will until I slip on a banana peel and fall face first in to a five-tiered wedding cake (and don’t think I haven’t considered it).
And so, my only outlet is this blog. This indulgent, once or twice a week conduit of my humble brilliance is my only large-scale contact with willing English speakers who might, if they squint, glean some entertainment and then post a comment about how much of a genius I am (hint, hint). It’s gotten to the point now where nearly half of the comments posted aren’t fake ones that I composed myself. I’m so proud.
I need this, you understand. I’m an artist, of sorts. And as a rule, what do artists covet above all else? No, not drugs and groupies. Praise and recognition from others – which should in turn naturally progress to drugs and groupies, so we’re totally covered.
Without praise we artists become dispirited, bitter, drunk(er), and finally admit defeat, submitting to day jobs where creativity and cerebral wit of any kind are viewed as being subversive and anti-social – e.g. researching a guidebook during winter in Romania.
Another blogger, who as far as I know is the only blogger funnier than I am, equated blogging to “standing in the middle of a room yelling ‘look at me!’ over and over again.” I found this to be so astute that it pissed me off that I didn’t think of it first.
On a side note; obviously I can’t have someone funnier and more astute than I am hanging around the internet for all to see. To that end, through a series of subliminal suggestions delivered through his comments area over the course of six months, I have succeeded in convincing him that he should let his writing go and, ki ki ki!, start an orphanage!!! Bwahahahaha!
[“Cooooonnorrr! Hear meeeee! You don’t want to write funny stuff anymooooore! You want to, erm, uhm, start an orphanaaaage!! Yes, that’s it! An orphanaaaage! Someplace veeeeerrrryyy far awayyyyy, like Tibeeeeet or, ooo!, Nepaaaaallll!!! Cooooonooorrrrr!! Go to Nepaaaaaalll, where literary agents will never find yooooouuuu!!! And don’t come back for three yeeeeaaaars or until Leif has inked his 27 book deeeeaaaaaallll! Whichever comes fiiiiiiirrrrst!!”]
One of the greatest sabotage schemes in modern literature, thank you very much, but I digress…
Anyhoo, from what I’ve gathered, the people who enjoy my blog tend to be intelligent, worldly, remarkably good looking and willing to buy a first-time author’s memoirs, in hardcover. [“Buuuyyy Leif’s memoooooiirs!!!! In hardcoveeeeerrrr!!!”] I feed off this and, in a way, it restores my faith in the world. I mean, if there’s an audience for a kvetching, attention-starved travel writer cooling his heels in an obscure corner of Romania, world peace certainly has a chance, right?
My point here, finally, is two-fold;
1) I cannot wait to get the hell out of here and interact with native English speakers more than once every other month, where Sesame Street references and Pope jokes get the recognition they so richly deserve
2) You guys do me a huge, awesome service by reading my blog and occasionally leaving comments. And FYI, I did a reading and my star charts say you’ll have five years good luck if you send my link to 12 friends. But no pressure.
In fact, what the hey. I’m feeling so grateful that when you guys get your memoirs published, I’ll buy yours in hardcover too. Deal?