I want to defend being self-deprecating – but there’s probably someone smarter than me who can do it better.
But for real, self-deprecation is great. Because think about it’s opposite: being self-aggrandizing. Blech. I’m tired of people bragging. We get that everywhere. It’s every corporate press release. It’s every profile on LinkedIn. It’s every politician and talking head on TV. It’s every bumper sticker about a kid making honor roll. It’s every Facebook post. Everyone’s an expert and strong and brave and doing the right thing and deserves to be heard and overcoming hardship and giving an important TED Talk and blah blah blah. It’s fatiguing. Were numb to it.
And that’s why self-deprecation works. Because of supply and demand. It’s why we want Beck singing “I’m a loser” and Radiohead doing “I’m a creep” instead of songs about “I’m a winner” and “I’m a normal, well adjusted, healthy adult male.” When everyone is out there talking about how strong/brave they are, hearing someone admit the opposite becomes that much more intriguing.
I hear the argument against it filtered through the power/privilege prism. But here’s the thing: When self-deprecation is done right, it is an act of kindness. It’s sacrificing your own reputation in order to connect with others. It’s showing your flaws/hurt/pain/fear/shame in a way that makes others feel better about their own and not so alone. It’s taking CO2 and turning it into oxygen. It’s a display of self-awareness and humility.
We’re all human. We’re all messed up. Let’s not take it so seriously. Comedy! Yes, I’m arguing that comedy not take itself so seriously.
Because these days, almost every arena in life is encouraging us to be pompous, serious, and self-important. That comedy encourages the opposite is great. It’s the antidote to resumés and press releases and “look how great I am”-ness. If all that stuff becomes the default mode of comedy, where are all us losers supposed to go to bitch about how messed up we are?