So, I’m going to talk about being funny. It’s not easy to do. There’s no switch to turn on and turn yourself into Chris Rock or Adam Sandler. Maybe you could fake a Farley joke pretty consistently or, if your vocabulary is good enough, you could do a Dennis Miller thing, but it’s usually not that simple. Luckily, I have found a comedic loophole – talking to people you don’t know in public.

This is a game that my friends from high school and I used to play at the mall. So I guess it requires a certain maturity level for me to continue trying it out now that I’m a 22-year-old senior in college. The object is to get people you don’t know to laugh because they overhear something funny you are saying to someone else.

Basically, this process operates on a few premises – eavesdropping, being rude and being willing to say just about anything in public. There are some particularly good places to pull this trick off. The friendly, yet awkward, confines of an elevator are probably the best, but any public place usually works – grocery store, dining hall, movie theater.

You also need a friend who knows what’s going on.

Once, I went to a movie with a friend in high school and I think I may have made the girl behind the counter pee her pants. It was my birthday, so she was paying for both of us. Fresh off work as a waitress, she pulled out a wad of one-dollar bills and peeled off sixteen to pay for the tickets.

“She’s a stripper,” I told the ticket collector.

I’ve learned more and more about this witty game of embarrassment and awkwardness over my years as a college student.

I hadn’t even considered elevator banter before my days at Georgetown introduced me to the Leavey Center’s five-floor beast.

I’m on my way down the elevator, attempting to make my exit from the building. For some reason, I remembered a great story and in mid-sentence I blanked. I have this theory that whenever I can’t think of a word, my brain is attempting to access a brain cell that has been killed by alcohol. And whenever I get stuck in one of these ruts, I get really upset.

“God, I wish my brain wasn’t full of malted hops.”

Boy, did that one get a response from the handful of folks staring at the floor-o-meter at the front of the elevator. I even managed to get a full-fledged chuckle out of somebody.

The elicited response differs. Most people will ignore you, no matter how rude or openly hilarious you are. The second most common response is the old dirty look; some people really don’t like being used as a spectator for a how-rude-can-you-be festival, as they see it. Others really like witnessing comedy. The guy from the malted hops incident says “hi” to me now every time I see him. I think he thinks we shared some kind of moment, or maybe he’s just being nice.

Sometimes knowing the victim a little helps. One time, this guy I know was in line ahead of me at Vital Vittles. I noticed that he was buying two bags of Funyuns.

“You know, those aren’t onion rings,” I told him. “Those are onion FLAVORED rings.”

“I know, but they’re really good.”

“It doesn’t really get more artificial than that.”

“Yeah, I would have bought a big bag, but they don’t have any.”

“I’m sure Funyuns are a real hot item.”

The girl behind the counter at Vittles couldn’t hold her smirk any longer. She didn’t exactly crack up laughing, but she broke down. This comedic event was a certain success.

I hadn’t planned this comedy, and my Funyun-loving compatriot didn’t know he was going to be at the epicenter of one of these funny-flaunting events. But, it worked out for the best for everyone involved.

My mother told me not to talk to people I don’t know. I guess she didn’t want me to have any fun. I wonder if taking candy from strangers is this much of a good time, too. Probably not.

Joe Harten is a senior in the McDonough School of Business and a member of The Hoya’s editorial board.

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