Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When will I learn how to banter in the workplace

The long-form joke and I are well-acquainted bedfellows. The winding, swirling, no-punchline, create a theme or mood then amuse with unexpected twists and turns (POOPY) joke -- she/he is my friend/bitch. Same goes for its cousin, the non-sequitur. Totally my game. Free-associations that beget strange and unrelated comments, like when a paint color reminds me of the afterlife, or my sushi rolls have personalities, or I point out which celebrities would have to mate to birth one of my friends.

But there is one joke in whose presence I cower, on whose frontier I will forever lag behind the other wagon trailblazer pioneer people: the Workplace Banter.

What IS Workplace Banter? What ISN'T Workplace Banter! It's those completely un-pithy one-liners that are totally benign and essentially just any old sentence in a normal conversation -- but which, for strange and inexplicable reasons, everybody ends up laughing at.

Workplace Banter is at first hard to spot, because it sounds just like a normal sentence. This is because it is a normal sentence, except said in a weird voice. And when it comes to your boss, or anyone prominent or "superior" in the office hierarchy, Workplace Banter can literally be when anyone says anything at all, whether or not it's in a weird voice.

Here, for your edification, are examples of Workplace Banter.

1. "Don't ask me anything until I've had my coffee!"
2. "Sorry, my brain stopped working."
3. Weird-voiced person: "Does not compute."
4. Boss: "Hi!"

Bear in mind that all of these statements would traditionally be followed by hysterical laughter.

Also bear in mind that this is universal Workplace Banter. I work in a real-life office right now, but I have also worked in theater, and the same exact rules apply, if you can believe it. Same rules, with a few notable theater-specific additions:

5. Person after they've done something really easy, like move a chair: "That's why they pay me the big bucks!"
6. Any person during rehearsal or performances: "We're going to Broadway!"
7. Person, yelling: "Belt your face!"
8. Sarcastic person who has to move one prop or carry scenery: "But...what's my motivation?"

In summary, Workplace Banter is everywhere. You cannot stop it. And if you want to succeed, you'd better learn how to do it!*


*Alternatively, you can just blog about it and stubbornly not engage, like some ashamed career floater slash outcast. What is "success," anyway?


  1. I also suffer from this inability. I also suffer from the complication-- trying to turn the banal office banter of my normal teacher colleagues into something that I find funny/exciting/entertaining. Formula:
    Teacher: "Something something something NORMAL"
    Me: ..."Weird medical, random, disgusting, sexual comment"

    Teacher: "Oh, I was so tired last night! I just crashed on the couch and watched the Bachelorette! It's so nice to just sort of relax."
    Me: "I'm reading a book about ebola! Then I got a headache and I thought I had it and that I was going to start bleeding out of my eyes."

    .... awkward pause all around.

    and so on.

  2. ESME! This comment made me fall over in hysterics! I heart you hardcore.