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How to Talk to Terrible Dudes Who Think You’ll Agree with Them

When you give off John Krasinski vibes, you need to be ready to deal with the Macklemores at the party.

Photo by Jamie Lee Curtis Taete

As a stand-up comedian, over the years I've been blessed to spend a lot of time at open mics (a fitting penance for a person of privilege who thinks people should listen to their ideas) and been exposed to a WIDE variety of other dudes with opinions, good and bad. And because I come across as mild-mannered and dress like a cast member of Silicon Valley, I oftentimes find myself in conversation with people I don't know well but who feel as though they can open up to me. When you give off a wildly inoffensive vibe like me, a lot of guys assume you're on their side.

Talking to people in general can be a nightmare, but when you look like the Chandler facsimile from every canceled sitcom, you're treated to a uniquely awful brand of social interaction: terrible dudes who think you're going to agree with them. Thanks to Hollywood's extremely tiresome fetish for "relatable" guys—your Paul Rudds and your Aziz Ansaris—we the milquetoast have become emotional avatars; empty vessels for dudes from the wrong side of the relatability-spectrum to fill with whatever they got that needs pouring out.

So, in the interest of avoiding confrontation, I have developed a suite of fail-safe techniques for handling the various terrible opinions that are presented to me under the pretense that I think the same terrible way.

NOTE: This is not a guide to Winning Arguments With Idiots, nor do I think all of the people I'm about to list are Wrong Idiots With Bad Morals, although some are. You will never change anybody's opinions by debating correctly. If you could, Ted Cruz would be president. Instead, this is a guide to extracting yourself from painful conversations* and bringing the best out of unfortunate dudes.

Wrestling Dorks

These are, without a doubt, the most fun guys on this list with whom to spend time. Thirty-year-old dudes into wrestling are, for the most part, tolerable and funny and always down to sing just the chorus of "With Arms Wide Open" late at night while drunk on rye and cokes. The trouble arises when they want to start talking about last night's RAW or Why Seth Collins Is Actually A Pussy or what have you. My secret here is to transition the conversation away from the storylines of the day and into the success of the WWE as a media company. The easiest way to do this is to bring up how reaching out to women through the Total Divas series on E! was a savvy move, and a good conversation about the challenges of running a transmedia empire in the 21st century will follow.

Aggressive Shot Pushers

Inevitably at any social gathering fueled by alcohol (so, all of them) some intimidatingly large bro is going to scream the word SHOTS! in your face. It's always going to happen at an alarmingly inappropriate time to throw a ton of fiery alcohol down your throat, but I somehow end up standing beside him at the bar anyway because, let's face it, it's hard to tell a big guy you don't want to do a shot with him. He's large, seemingly in charge, and believes that booze is the one true path to transcendent being. So what I do is agree wholeheartedly and take the shot but at the moment of truth, only sip a little bit off the top. When he calls me a pussy, I just smile and nod. That specific type of social pressure doesn't affect me anymore because my self-worth is based on how I'm perceived online, not IRL. And just to ease the end of the interaction I'll say something innocuous like, "Thanks, chief! You should follow me on Twitter." And that can be it.

Superhero Fanboys

These well-meaning sweethearts are for the most part really good guys. They will arrive at events so punctually that they will be early. They usually have a good home theater to watch important episodes of Game of Thrones. However, if you make the mistake of stating that Spider-Man is the only great superhero—a true and good opinion—within earshot, you will have to endure a counter-argument for which there is no time in this life to hear. At the time of writing, the only tested, surefire way to step back from this pyre of geeky enthusiasm is to point to Emily Blunt's performance in the sci-fi action cult hit Edge of Tomorrow. Every straight nerd loves Emily Blunt because of this film, and rightly so, she's rad as hell. Then, what I do is bring up how she's married to John Krasinski and isn't it weird that Jim from The Office got jacked and was in that Michael Bay Benghazi movie I meant to see but never did because, again, youth is fleeting, and ask, "Did you see the time Michael Bay fucked up a keynote speech so bad he walked off stage after 90 seconds? What a maniac Michael Bay seems to be." Most nerds hate the Transformers movies so they're not going to engage further. Home free.

Conspiracy Bros

Conspiracy bros are lurking everywhere and are not always easily identifiable. Dude could work at an investment firm and still believe that there is a secret cabal of elites who control the banks. To make matters worse, Truthers won't reveal themselves until you give them an in. Ten minutes into Dwayne Johnson talk, I make a Can You Smell What The Jet Fuel Is Melting? joke and I'm suddenly neck-deep in lizard people theories. The weakness of any Conspiracy Bro is that they will talk to anyone who listens. My move here is to introduce literally anyone else into the conversation and say, "Dane was just telling me that he knows what happened to the missing plane. You've been on a plane, right? I'll be right back!" Except there's no going back. I've gotta live my life. Throw someone else on that grenade. It's downright dishonorable, but it's the only way.

Haters (of Kim & Kanye, Drake, Beyonce, Bieber, etc.)

By now, most interesting people are able to discuss the Kardashian Cinematic Universe without asking, "why is Kim even famous?" Most people worth chatting with will be able to share their views on Views while knowing to leave "Hotline Bling" out of the conversation. But occasionally I'll be at a party, they play "30 Hours" and I'm be standing next to some guy who says, "I like Kanye's music but I hate his personality." Do not, like me, fall into his trap. Skip this conversation. Instead, launch straight into hot gossip. Whoever just broke up, that's who you're talking about now. A Hater loves nothing more than determining winners and losers, and making moral judgements on other people's behavior. Hot gossip is our collective safe space.

The Guy Who Is Still Really Into 'The Wire'

It's kind of crazy this guy still exists because there have been an insane amount of shows since The Wire that could just as easily qualify as Best Show of All Time, in fact an entire "golden age" of television has emerged since the Baltimore-based crime saga first aired. But he does exist and he's waiting to drop some, "Season 2 was underrated" nonsense on you [editor's note: Season 2 is totally underrated]. If buddy does catch you in his web and insinuate The Wire is still the best show of all time, I just nip that swiftly in the bud with my best Paulie Walnuts: "OOOOOOooohhhh!!" Fugeddaboutit! Gabagool!"If that isn't enough, and they're going on about "Where's Wallace" and all that, then I do my impression of Silvio's impression of Michael Corleone. "Just when I thought I was out, they PULL me back in!" If they STILL want to talk about how Marlo Stanfield was the baddest villain of all time, I just stare them down while eating cold cuts out of the fridge. What else are you supposed to do?

Fiscal Conservatives

Whenever I accept a social invitation from a friend who has a good job, chances are high I'll be crossing paths with a true Thatcherite that night; the type to bring The Fountainhead as a vacation beach read. He'll arrive complaining about how the city's recent public transit proposal is going to make the drive downtown even worse. I can never resist engaging so I'll instigate an argument, reminding him a car is already the most convenient way to get around and that the government has an activist role to play in spreading prosperity around. He'll counter HARD with something like, "The minimum wage actually excludes people from the labor market who are willing to work for less." Yes, I end up steamed, but I only have myself to blame. I brought this on myself like some kind of idiot Robin Hood. Luckily, there is a way out: I ask his girlfriend about The Bachelor. She watches it. So do I and so do you, because it's a good show.

Guys Who Hate Feminists

Among the worst conversations I've been drawn into are the ones in which I'm somehow required to make the case for basic equality. There is almost no way to be polite to a man who believes that championing and celebrating and making space for women in the world constitutes an attack on their own existence. They'll lure you in with twisted logic, saying things like, "there are just more men doing it," or "meritocracy," but you have to resist the urge to scream. I think I'm starting to accept that I'm never going to change their mind with a debate. They want a debate more than anything and I don't have time for that. So now I just ask them about their family. "How's your dad?" You know, show them genuine empathy. They have likely been denied it for most of their lives. It's legit sad! I'm not hugging them (they're probably not ready!) but I can manage to take a deep breath and let them unload a little. We all need an outlet. As yet another average dude, I and you can be theirs. *The only good topics of conversation are: the NBA, romance gossip, the myriad failures of modern capitalism, somebody you both hate. Follow Michael Kolberg on Twitter.