I always find it reassuring to have my personality validated by science. That's just what happened in a study conducted by Jennifer Bosson and associates, on the subject of "negativity friendships". According to Bosson, close friends are more likely to share the same negative opinions than they are to share positive feelings. As someone who is basically a mean person at heart, Ms. Bosson's findings are reassuring.
"'It's not that we enjoy disliking people,' Bosson, a social psychologist at the University of South Florida, says. 'It's that we enjoy meeting people who dislike the same people.'"
I could have told you this. I don't know about you, but there is nothing more exciting to me than when someone prefaces a comment with, "I'm not trying to sound mean here, but..." It's even better when there's a big group. Everyone's eyes light up. They are eager to hear smack-talking, but they're even more eager to hear if you're going to insult stuff they also hate. The weird downstairs neighbor who is constantly cooking cabbage? The Matrix sequels? Beanie caps with bills and the people who wear them? Bring on the hate.
I have a pretty good track record making friends with people from my improv classes. But however much I might enjoy performing with someone, or how much respect I have for their talents, the real bonding always occurs after class, usually over beers, when one person finally has the courage to call out the old guy with bad breath who does a Southern accent in every scene. Only when we have identified some mutual scorn can the real friendship begin.
A similar phenomenon occurs in the world of standup comedy. When I first began hitting up open mics, another comic encouraged me to attend more regularly, saying that both she and her friend liked my material. That was flattering, but it was what she said next that really grabbed my attention. "And that means something, since we're both, well, haters." Haters. I didn't know these people, didn't know their routines, but I did know that I wanted to hang out with these haters.
Even now, nothing bonds comedians quicker than a shared realization of someone else's awfulness. Tonight, I sat through an endless lineup of mediocre comedians, with virtually no audience aside from those same mediocre comedians. Most people were figuring out their set lists instead of listening to the performers, but since they'd heard most of the material before, they wouldn't have been laughing anyway. Basically, everyone was minding their own business until the last guy got up.
The first minute of his set was uneventful. Then, for no discernible reason, he unzipped his fly, and pulled a rubber chicken out his pants. Suddenly, everyone was looking around, trying to make eye contact with someone else, to silently ask, "Did he just pull a rubber chicken out of his pants? What the hell is going on here?" It wasn't a negativity friendship yet, but negativity bonds were forming, like the Keane children halfway through a holiday hike.
In conclusion, you may catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but you'll create more fly friendships with vinegar.
"What the hell was going on with that vinegar?"
"I'm not trying to sound mean here, but I hope the fly who led us here gets swallowed by an old woman or caught in a honey trap."
"You know, we should hang out some time..."