Occasionally, when the first choice for a speaking engagement develops vertigo, and the second choice suddenly goes mute, and the third one is hit by a bus, I am called to deliver a speech.
On such occasions, I deliver my standard, prepared 20-minute address, which consists of the usual G-rated jokes, comical anecdotes, ventriloquism, and a cappella version of Hanson’s “MMMBop” that are found in every rubber chicken circuit oration.
Recently, though, my diatribe hit a kink when I heard a member of the audience “boo.”
This disturbed me greatly. I wasn’t miffed that someone jeered me. That happens often, and usually involves fruit. No, I was upset because I didn’t know which joke they were booing. From the timing of this particular “boo,” I couldn’t tell whether they were deriding my “Grapes of Wrath” joke (I thought it was a book about angry grapes), or my bit about taking a three-year-old to a public restroom.
I would have rather them been more specific. How can I accept a “boo” as constructive criticism if I don’t know what they found distasteful? Instead of yelling “boo,” I would have preferred them shout: “That joke about ‘Grapes of Wrath’ was horrible! I suggest you delete it from your act, which you don’t really have anyway!”
That catcall is constructive and concise. I can learn from that. A simple “boo” is much too vague.
I’m sure athletes who get booed regularly would appreciate the same treatment.
Back when I used to sparingly attend Braves’ games, in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I’m sure Rafael Landestoy had no idea why I was booing him.
Instead of just screaming “Boo!” every time Rafael Landestoy came to bat, I should have hollered, in succinct detail, why I was booing the light-hitting infielder for the Reds, Dodgers, and Astros.
“You really shouldn’t be playing a professional sport where hitting a baseball, or athletic activity, is a requirement!,” would have been more beneficial to Mr. Landestoy.
Or: “I don’t understand your name! Your first name is Latino, but your last name is, well, I don’t know the ethnic derivation of Landestoy! It sounds eastern European! This confuses me, which makes me angry!”
Or: “If I yell at you, perhaps you won’t hit one of your four career home runs against the Braves, like you did last year! I’m rather perturbed that you strike out or hit a weak grounder to the pitcher every time you play another team, but, suddenly, when you play the Braves, you become Babe Ruth!”
I’ve also seen people boo when I’m in a movie theater. I find this confounding. Unlike a major league baseball stadium, where the players can hear some words you say from 500 feet away, the actors on the screen aren’t even in the building. Again, some explanation is necessary – not for those performing in the film, but for those watching in the audience.
“I find this plot twist unbelievable! And your Southern accent is atrocious! You sound like you’re gargling marbles!”
At least then I’ll know what their beef is, and agree or disagree – to myself.
Mind you, written “boos” for newspaper columns are not necessary. Like a major league baseball game, simply yelling your detailed objections out loud from a distance will suffice. Don’t worry – I’ll hear them.