Thursday, August 12, 2010
One sure sign of a narcissistic personality
One of the surest signs of a narcissistic personality is to constantly laugh at one's own jokes. (Yes, wearing clothes like those above might also be a sign, but that's not what this post is about; don't worry, we'll get to Diamond Dave soon enough.) It might seem as if I'm reading too much into one insignificant mannerism, but I've known several people over the years who always laughed at their own jokes, and, inevitably, there was a whole set of other characteristics that went hand in hand with it.
(Please bear in mind, although all sociopaths are narcissistic personalities, only a small fraction of narcissistic personalities are sociopaths. Quick definition of a narcissist: a selfish individual who will never admit he's wrong. Narcissists are generally not dangerous the way sociopaths are, they're merely unpleasant company. Also bear in mind, only a small fraction of narcissists laugh at their own jokes, although all people who laugh at their own jokes are, in my experience, narcissists.)
When I was in college, my swimming coach would make lame jokes and then let out this weird staccato laugh afterward, as if to signal to his listeners that he had just made a very funny joke and they should laugh too. No need to get into all the gory details of his personality; suffice it to say that he was unanimously disliked. After he left, I heard that unanimity of opinion followed him elsewhere.
Think of it this way: you're texting a friend, and after each of his own rejoinders he writes "LOL!" He doesn't say this after any of your bon mots -- only after his own. Wouldn't that strike you as a little bit off -- and more than a little vain? People who laugh at their own jokes are effectively doing the same thing.
Let me cite an example you may be better acquainted with: rock star David Lee Roth, the lead singer of Van Halen back in the 80's, pictured above. Roth was, by the way, one of the greatest performers in rock and roll, and he made three of the coolest music videos ever, which I will link here. "Jump" shows him at his campy best, vamping sexily for the camera and dancing up a storm -- but also seemingly making fun of himself at the same time:
Roth's cover of Louis Prima's "Just a Gigolo" is another tour de force: he sings, he dances, and he mocks the other big pop stars of the era. (I admit, this post is, as much as anything else, just an excuse to link these videos.) The first minute and a half of the video is slow, but the next few minutes have more joie de vivre squeezed into them than I've had in my entire life:
Finally, Roth's cover of The Beach Boys' "California Girls" is equally well staged. Most videos try to be sexy; this one is sexy and fun, if you can make it past the first minute:
After having seen these videos twenty years ago, I happened to listen to an interview with Roth on the Howard Stern show around ten or twelve years ago. Roth was extremely witty and quick, one of the few guests who could keep up with Stern. When Stern left the station to go to satellite radio, Roth was chosen as his replacement.
But when I listened to the show, I was disappointed. Carrying a four hour show five days a week is completely different from being impressive for a half hour as a guest star, and Roth, though he kept up a fairly snappy line of patter, couldn't quite manage it. What was most off-putting about his presentation was that he would punctuate his every comment with an appreciative laugh -- at his own wit. Even when he wasn't witty.
Within a few months, Roth's show was canceled. It was then that I remembered hearing once that his former bandmates all hated him. Then I thought about the kind of boundless self-confidence it would take to be the kind of performer he was, and to make the kind of videos he did. Then I thought of Roth's oft-repeated line about how the only thing he was allergic to was criticism. And then I thought about how long and bitterly he went on about the unfairness of his show's cancellation. And then I started to think about every other person I had ever known who laughed at his own jokes. And I saw a pattern.
(Just counted, and there were seven "I's" in the last paragraph; just so you know, eight is the threshold that marks a narcissistic personality.)
Anyway, think of the people you know who always laugh at their own jokes. Can any of them admit it when they're wrong?
Please don't confuse laughing at your own jokes with not being able to finish a joke because you're laughing so hard. One is a punctuation mark designed to demonstrate to the world -- and yourself -- that you're funny. The other is simply finding something so funny that it robs you of your ability to perform.
A very closely related behavior, by the way, is to listen to someone else make a joke, not laugh, basically repeat it with a very slight variation, and only then laugh. Another endearing habit of my former coach.
Wasn't this a great post?! LOL! LMFAO!! ROTFLMGDAO!!!