“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Mark Twain
Jeremy* wrote to me a few weeks ago with an unusual problem. Or at least, he thinks it’s unusual. I don’t think it is. What’s the problem? He can’t keep his mouth shut or opinions to himself. This isn’t such a problem when he’s directing a rehearsal; conductors do correct notes and give criticisms after all. It is a problem when he does not stop at correcting notes or diction, but tries to be funny.
He says he feels the need to be clever and witty when he gives corrections in rehearsal. This has gotten him into trouble with his church choir more than a few times in the last few months. Jeremy made remarks about the size of their pastor’s rear end. He has spoken disparagingly about a local business owned by a congregation member because he thought it was funny. He made fun of the church’s children’s choir, directed by the organist’s wife, in front of the organist.
He is not the greatest at thinking on his feet and that’s where he thinks he’s gone wrong. I asked why he thinks he needs to be clever and witty. Jeremy tells me he wants his choir to relax and have a good time. And he wants them to laugh because he’s said something funny. He imagines himself to be another Jim Gaffigan. He’s not.
In the name of fun, trying to be funny and helping them relax, he’s made himself look foolish and mean-spirited to his choir. And he knows it. It is not his intention to make mean or unkind comments, he assures me, but they come across that way. He feels terrible and knows he’s gone down a peg or two in his choir members’ opinions by their attitude toward him as of late. He wants to fix it, but has no idea how.
Clearly, Jeremy needs to re-think what it means to be funny in rehearsal. Humor can be a great tool in rehearsal but everyone needs to be on the same page. It’s not nice (or kind or professional) to remark on the size of someone’s rear end, especially his boss’s. The congregation member’s business or the children’s choir are not fair game for dubious remarks. Period. He’s just lucky no one has complained, thus fair, to his boss about his go at comedy. I told him to stop. And to shut his mouth, except when he’s correcting or demonstrating. Apologize, if he feels he needs to, for his past remarks and then move on.
He could research humor in the choir rehearsal, if he really wants to, and use one or two choir-type jokes occasionally. I attended a session about using humor in rehearsal at a choral conference a few years ago, so I’m sure it’s “thing” he could research. Jeremy can ask his colleagues how they use humor or even post a question here on ChoralNet about how to be funny in rehearsal, if he really feels the need.
How do you use humor in rehearsal? Did you ever make a comment you wished you hadn’t?