As I await some new contracts, a question about one’s best ad-libbed line** came up on Facebook the other day, and I realized I actually had one! So, here it is:
A few years ago I gave a talk about comics to a group of wealthy alumni of the university where I work. This happened down in Florida, where these alums — a.k.a. prospective donors — are contractually obligated to live during the winter.
Most of the speakers are professors, there to make the audience proud of the cool research done up here in Michigan. I think I was there to provide something lighter, along the lines of “Look, isn’t it amazing how a librarian can do interesting things too?”
So I talked about comics in general and Primates in particular, and it went well enough that I let my guard down during the Q&A. That’s where one of the snowbirds rich enough to speak without filters asked, in an incredulous voice, “Do you make any money at this?”
Without wasting any time thinking it through, I said “Usually only middle-schoolers ask how much I get paid for writing, but how about this. I’ll show you my tax returns if you’ll show me yours.”
The shockwave generated by the development officers’ group cringe at the back of the room measured about a 7 on the Richter scale, but fortunately the audience burst out laughing and everybody left happy. And I still get paid for both writing and librarianing.
**As opposed to those times when you only think of what you should have said much later, e.g. when you’re heading downstairs and out of the building, per the French phrase d’esprit de l’escalier, or “wit of the staircase.”