In on it: How people cope with missing the joke

Here's my analysis of the many ways people try to make it look like they know what's going on here. File Geoff Lister

The Eric Andre show is funny if you... well... are Eric Andre. But for the guests it’s... well... uncomfortable.

For the most part, none of them are really “in” on the joke. Squeezing my bodacious seat into a teeny-tiny, much less bodacious seat in my very first lecture at UBC, the discomfort reminded me of something. While attempting to cross my legs beneath the child-sized desk provided to me without knocking my laptop onto the ground, it came to me. I was a guest on The Eric Andre show.

I was a giant in my chair and nobody else appeared to be having this issue, nor did they seem bamboozled in the slightest when the instructor fumbled with his microphone for ten minutes before acknowledging us, or when he requested that all one hundred of us introduce ourselves to each other through our masks (the hall filled with unintelligible noise, so don’t ask me anybody’s name, major or favourite part of summer break). I was half expecting the prof to stand up without notice and karate chop the lectern in half.

I assume that it’s around then — just before the lectern chopping — that Eric Andre’s guests start to realize: this is a joke. And I am not in on it. What’s worse? I don’t even know what the joke is!

I’d bet that Eric Andre’s guests and UBC students are given the same vague pitch before arriving: It’ll be fun, it’ll look good on your CV, you might be harassed but we do have a security team. That’s it. No one really sets the actual joke up for you. No one tells you about the tiny desks and how to use them, or the sweaty host that will inevitably tear his clothes off and scream in your face or the moment-to-moment purpose of being there, the punchline.

But I don’t believe that I’m the only one who feels as though they’ve missed some detail very pertinent to success. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels like they missed the joke.

Here are some ways I’ve observed others dealing with not being “in on it”:

Frat guys

They love to fricken gather, huh! I won’t be the first to say that it really doesn't seem like the time, but I think this is their way of coping with having missed the joke. They find other people with the same haircut, the same genitals (of course), the same skin tone and the same loafers and they make sure that they’ve all got matching T-shirts and sleep in the same house and they say to the world, as one loud, drunk, united force, “No, you missed the joke!” And then they laugh really loud and shotgun a beer. Ha, ha! Take that, everyone else! Man, those guys really belong here, huh? Now those guys get it.

First years

Drinking. And desperate small talk that I envy as much as I despise. I wish I wanted to make small talk, but I don’t, in any way, wish that I was as lonely and sad as I was in my first year of university. You win some, you lose some. Living in residence appears to be the best way for first years to convince themselves that they are in on the joke. After all, how could you miss the joke when you live at the comedy club?

Transfer students

So they’re less exciting to make fun of than the frat guys. Maybe that’s just because I am one. As such, I feel the need to tell everyone I meet that, “I’m in my second year ... but really I should be in my third, UBC just wouldn’t accept some of my credits from Capilano!” I bore myself each time I say it, but I want people to know that I’m not a little baby, dammit! I am a capable human being with poise and a goddamn clue! But also can you please tell me how the hell I’m supposed to make friends here and where is the Geography building and also where should I study and where should I eat lunch and why does everyone else already have several pals?

On my first day I ran into two other transfer students from Capilano. I reintroduced myself and even made plans with them. We got Pad Thai together and had a really lovely time. Hm…. Oh. Hey! Am I getting it now?

They asked if I’d attended orientation — I hadn’t. After experiencing Capilano’s orientation in my first year I swore them off. But then I remembered that, oh yeah, I don’t go to Capilano anymore because I thought that UBC would be more interesting and exciting to be a part of. So maybe the world isn’t so much to blame here. Maybe I’m covering my ears every time someone tries to tell me the very joke that I’m griping about not being “in on.”

Everyone else

Existing seems to be their secret. When I see some rando sitting against a tree by the Life building with their laptop out in front of them, squinting through the sun to see something (surely) fascinating, I always think they’re just another UBC student who’s in on the joke more than I am. So maybe, just maybe, everyone else feels this way when they see me, too.