I’m a witty guy in conversation, pretty offbeat, who routinely cracks people up when shooting the shit. And I glow and glimmer and blush and giggle when this happens. I love being laughed at, it feels great. So it probably shouldn’t unnerve me when people try to Hi-Five me for saying something funny and clever, but it does. I should be flattered, but instead I feel like my shorts just got invaded, and suddenly that person creeps me out a little, even if prior to their celebration of my hilarity I liked them just fine. If they gave me the verbal equivalent of the Hi-Five, I would react completely differently; my ego would purr. But Hi-Fives make me want to go home and shower. I needed to analyze why.
If something is funny, you laugh. Blow snot-bubbles if appropriate, maybe keel over, nod appreciatively or remark on the funny. But the Hi-Five feels strategic. Hi-Fives were designed as a way to celebrate a joint success, a mutual victory for the team, some goal accomplished by synergy, very often recognized while wearing roller skates. You can’t Hi-Five yourself very successfully – it takes two people at least. So when someone Hi-Fives my funny, it feels like they’re taking shared credit for my input, or implying the kill was pre-organized by the both of us, and it played out perfectly. Jesus man, get the fuck off my joke!
The type of people flinging hands in the air like they just don’t care fits a pattern too – it is never, ever one of the cool kids. Usually slightly lacking, sometimes with a strange odor, gravy stains on their shirt and a twinkle in their eye like they’re your next stalker – people who Hi-Five jokes are scary. They fail as adults, they fail as humans, they fail as communicators and they definitely fail as social butterflies, and the likelihood of us becoming besties is thus reduced.
Groupies have been around as long as musicians, and music is like magic. It transforms thin air and acoustics into widespread viral emotion, and so musicians were treated like magicians, and got laid for sharing their divine elixir. In the aftermath of a successful joke, people are warmed up because you made them laugh and forget their day; you interjected some much-needed levity into the woe, and we all appreciate this. Nobody has ever punched me immediately after laughing at me, but several have thanked me, complimented me and remarked on how they needed a laugh. For a brief moment, we the funny become Adonis of the Wit. If I could choose my own philosopher god name to be etched into the pantheon wall, it would be Rhetoricles. If I never achieved a single other thing in this world, I would want to be remembered for lightening people’s loads, and taking the edge off shitty days everywhere I traveled. And the Hi-Fivers are trying to be my groupies.
The Hi-Five is also a warning to the onlookers, much in the way a tom cat might Hi-Five a tree with his urine. It’s an unspoken message to the rest that we have an inside joke going on, and although we all laughed together, they understood it a bit better, because they heard this one already when we came back from the gym and stopped off for a beer on the way home. Hi-Fiving jokes is like gatecrashing a party with a forged invitation, claiming more right than anyone else to be there because you have documentation to prove it. And in the moments following the Hi-Five there is an awkward silence, because some goofy nerd briefly acted like he was on spring break drunk wearing a speedo. Now they’re back in front of a room full of people, realizing the laughter died down quite some time ago.
Fun is to be shared; our sense of humor is the best attribute we have, which is why we encourage each other when silliness abounds. But physical contact has its place, and people who Hi-Five jokes are also the ones who touch pregnant women’s bellies without permission, or stroke your hand when giving you change at the store, or gently lick your T-shirt sleeve while you snooze obliviously on the porch in the late summer. And then herein, we get to the true root cause of my reaction, because do not shake my hand either, or grope my ass or ruffle my shoulder or punch my arm or gyrate against my neck – I don’t like spontaneous, unannounced physical contact. Whatever your gig, and however you feel, keep your filthy paws off my silky drawers. And please do not spread rumors that we are BFFs.