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These go to eleven .. – Nigel Tufnel

I was at a Giants game in San Francisco last month, sitting in front of some loudmouth who was maintaining a string of ceaseless discourse for his imprisoned seatmates. “Buster Posey – this kid’s terrific, although you won’t get many long balls out of him ..” Posey proceeded to hit the next pitch out of the park – 410 feet to straight-away center field. It was the greatest shut-up moment since Annie Hall, when Woody Allen pulled Marshall McLuhan from out of frame at a movie theater to silence the pompous academic blowhard in line behind him. “You know nothing of my work .. how you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.” Of course Posey’s shot did nothing to quiet the guy, and he ranted on obliviously for the rest of the game. At one point I took to refuting his inane proclamations, in a conversational tone and without turning around. My buddy Paul rightly told me to let it go. I was in town for Paul’s wedding where I gave a toast and mentioned that Paul isn’t always “the most effusive guy in the room.” It was another way of saying that he isn’t a loudmouth – but I could have just as easily mentioned that he handles them better than I do.

While I admit openly to not being a fan of loudmouths, it isn’t without qualification. Context is everything, and over-modulation alone does not an idiot make. Anyone who knows me well also knows that I’m capable of boosting the volume on the rare occasion I deem worthy. And yet I’ve been accused of being “quiet” by more than a few. The way I see it, if I have to yell over you to get my point across or my line heard, it isn’t worth it. It’s like attempting to be a better writer by switching to a larger font. But these are just my thoughts, and people who maintain opinion-oriented blogs well in to middle-life probably shouldn’t throw stones.

Generally speaking, I also prefer quiet humor. I’m not talking Steven Wright here (although the guy is quite funny) and ‘quiet’ in and of itself isn’t the point. But then again, neither is Howie Mandel . I was watching Will Ferrell on a Letterman rerun the other night, and realized that I’m almost always ready to laugh when I see this guy. And while he can certainly turn it up a notch (as he did this night with his Harry Caray impersonation) it’s never just for the sake of getting loud. Typically he’s completely understated – with Letterman “deferring” was an appropriate term. And yet he’s funny as hell.

As with all things there are exceptions, and Sam Kinison never would have made it with Bob Newhart’s delivery. But when it comes to loudmouths, humor and exceptions, I defer to Fran Lebowitz’ remarks on dogs. She was arguing against their usefulness (an opinion I do not share) and noted that even some dog-haters will make an exception in the case of the pathologically lonely and the blind. “But I have a solution,” she explained. “Let the lonely lead the blind.” I’m not as clever as Lebowitz, but were I to construct an equally good line relating to loudmouths I would hope that, like her, I’d go with the understated delivery.

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