Dear Mr. Tompkins,
This is not my first attempt at corresponding with a famous person, nor will it be the last. If I feel the need to express my feelings or opinions to another - regardless of who they are - I find it therapeutic to do so. Given, I mentally prepare my remarks to minimize the possibility of offense, but like all folks who attempt this (i.e. most adults) I am not 100 percent guaranteed of success. Here's hoping this is one of my more successful attempts.
You recently blocked me from your Twitter feed for disparaging the movie "Jaws." I also endured the slings and arrows of your fans who agreed with your glowing assessment of the film while approving of your action towards me.
I was at first annoyed with the reaction my negative opinion aroused, combined with a little embarrassment. Then I felt something else, something more unexpected: shame. I couldn't understand why - why feel ashamed that my cinematic opinions weren't parallel to some famous dude I've never met? It didn't take long to figure it out: the critical word was famous.
My wife and many of my friends spend some amount of their leisure time poring over articles about celebrities. I openly disdain such worship, especially of those who have done nothing of consequence other than being photogenic, obnoxious, sleeping with more famous people, or a combination of the three. There's something about such fame that smells rotten to me and always has.
But your blocking me from your Twitter feed made me realize something: I was acting the same way. I do the same fawning over, just with a higher grade of celebrity. You, after all, are a professional wit. It is a job you do well and should continue to do, but that is your job. Had you been your current age forty years ago, you would have jawed with Dick Cavett or joked around with Paul Lynde on Hollywood Squares. That is neither compliment nor insult, but simply is.
I then asked myself, why do I enjoy the humor of professional wits like yourself? That took a little longer to figure out, but I did: the belief - or hope - that my enjoyment of a witty person would in turn make me more witty, or at least "in the know." I can sit back in the satisfaction that I got it, whatever "it" was.
Come to think of it, I do know what "it" is: the illusion of superiority over others, the feeling that I, armed with someone else's wit, carried a smugness license. As a teenager watching British comedies on PBS (a favorite pastime of mine a quarter-century back), I somehow believed that their more sophisticated comedy would be my stepladder over others, even if they were too dense to notice my elevated position. At 40, I find that idiotic lie still welded to my brain - only now do I realize it. If you ask me, it's about time.
So what do I do with this epiphany? For starters, I unsubscribed to your podcast. It wasn't because of sour grapes, mind you - it's just that your humor makes me aspire to be someone I'm not and no longer wish to be. I didn't send you expletive-encrusted e-mail, or give you a one-star review on iTunes: I simply turned you off.
Does this make me feel superior? No. To say I'm somehow better than you because I unsubscribed would be wallowing in self-delusion. I am neither superior nor inferior to you - we're as equal now as we were before you blocked me, and I wouldn't want it any other way.
As any D&Der will tell you, intelligence is not the same as wisdom, and I feel that your slamming the door in my electronic face made me a wiser person. I've since disconnected myself from other professional wits - the less time wasted on someone else's wit, the more time I can spend building my own. I should thank you for showing me the light. So thank you. And good luck with your career.
P.S. I don't like your mustache either. Have you considered a Slim Whitman look?