A few months ago I wrote a blog post about the comedy advice podcast If I Were You, hosted by Jake and Amir.
I was listening to the latest episode, “Ex-Girlfriends“, and noticed two questions in a row where I felt the guys missed the mark. I just wanted to note it down as a small example of where a diversity of experience and perspective can really elevate the discussion and give better advice. Though I don’t wish to tear the guys down, as I consistently laugh at every episode.
Towards the middle of the show, a 17-year-old English girl writes asking numerous intricate questions about how to go to a teen party. The hosts tell her she’s overanalyzing and overthinking, which may be quite true, but I feel more sympathy could have been paid to the plight of those with social anxieties. Knowing the answers to some basic questions can give people more confidence and ensure a proper expectation of the experience.
(And by the way, one can still tell essentially the same jokes if followed by more compassionate advice. I don’t wish to suck away all the humor here.)
But this isn’t even what I want to comment upon. The guys, I believe, completely glanced over the context of the girl’s question about going to the party alone. She specifically mentions, though in passing, that she’s concerned about safety. About something bad happening to her without someone else keeping an eye on her, at one of few parties she’s ever attended.
This is an important question and concern! But the guys interpreted it as feeling awkward showing up to a party alone. Maybe that is a dilemma, but certainly safety should be the larger discussion point. Since guys are much less likely to be concerned with that issue, I don’t think the importance of this thought registered with them. That’s unfortunate, because it means their advice suffered and a good opportunity was lost.
If I Were Her, I’d try to bring a friend. The friend could be a comfort in small social ways as a person to retreat to, as well as a basic safety check.
The very next question concerned a lesbian in a partnership who wanted to attend a wedding where certain attendees might be bigots. I appreciated Jake’s enthusiasm in advising disregard for the emotional well-being of bigots in this situation, and that it wouldn’t be the couple’s fault for a ruined or awkward party, but instead the bigots’.
But Amir’s caution was on the right track. He pointed out that despite some people being bigots, one must still consider the party, the marrying couple, and other guests if this has the chance of ruining it. Even if it’s nonsense that it’s an issue. He was also the first one to bring up the partner, whose opinion should obviously be sought.
What’s missing in all this is the experience of someone who has come out, or who has dealt with discrimination in this way. They would be able to elucidate the situation in ways I probably can’t, either.
After Amir used an illustrative example based on race, the two also joked about whether racism is “illegal”. They were obviously using the term in the context of individual action, not society-wide prejudice. But again, a person of color would have been able to speak candidly and clearly on the subject.
Anyway, as usual, I don’t wish to take down Amir or Jake. I’m aware it’s a comedy podcast where the hosts give advice on subjects they both know and don’t know about. But for the latter, in the best case, the two joke about their lack of knowledge. They’re self-aware in their misguided “expertise” and feigning of the perfect handle on the situation. In the examples above, they’re unfortunately lacking that element. They don’t know what they don’t know.
Imagine if they sarcastically used these lines:
- “Well, as a man, I clearly know the totality of what it’s like to navigate the social and safety climate of the party experience.”
- “I’m straight, and I’m proud of it! So that’s exactly like being gay and going to a wedding with bigots.”
- “Is racism illegal? It must be, since I don’t see any of it!”
I smile when I listen to these in my head in their voices. They’re completely plausible, funny, and I think more illustrative answers. I think we only get to them by continuing to talk about these issues and bring them up constructively.