As a lot of the Internet world has discovered by now, President Obama recently scored as the stoic half of a memorable comedy routine. It was staged at the White House Correspondents Dinner where the President is customarily the keynote speaker. As he began to give his usual witty self-deprecating monologue, a ferociously scowling man suddenly stood behind him. Obama introuced him as “my Anger Translator.” Luther, as he was named, then kept interrupting the President’s speech with frank unexpurgated expessions of Obama’s carefully hidden feelings.
Luther was played by Michael Key, of the hit TV Comedy Central routine Key and Peele. Like Obama, Key is biracial, which made his rmock rage (e.g., “get off your white butts”) a recognizable stereotype.
The audience, comprised of journalists and film/TVcelebrities, laughed loudly and appreciatively, even when the acidic barbs were aimed at them. But I wonder if there was also some recognition that they themselves could benefit from an “anger translator.” I know I could!
If anger were counted in calories I’d be fat on the irate words I’ve swallowed. Wisely in most cases. Venting rage at your boss can exit you from the job; telling off an indifferent landlord can result in neglected plaster falling on your head.
As parents, we learn to walk on proverbial eggshells. What we tell our adult children rarely matches what we’d like to tell them. “Of course I understand you’re too busy to call,” we say sweetly. What would the fallout be if we more truthful? (“So self-involved you can’t even remember your mother?” etc.)
Most of the time silence is not only golden but a relationship-preservative. But oh for an invisible companion who would voice the truth for us!
That’s one of the benefits of being a writer. We may not tell our parent-child-boss-friend what we’re angry about, but our characters can act this out for us. In drastic instances we can even kill them off. So what if the real life counterparts rcognize themselves in those fictitious characters? Most of the time they don’t, because we all like to identify with a “gentler kinder” reflection of ourselves.
It’s interesting that a great many Twitter responses to the Obama-Key act applauded the last minutes when Obama shed his public mask with some genuine anger of his own. It says a lot about the value of being “real.” Still, I’ll cling to a reputation for being “nice” — and post an anomnymous ad for an Anger Translator – willing to work overtime!