Three's Company is one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, thanks to the effortless way John Ritter could weave physical comedy around a cheesy one-liner, Don Knotts' nonstop parade of amazing outfits, Norman Fell's penchant for looking directly at the camera, and nipples. God, that's a sexist overview of the show. Audra Lindley could drop a sarcastic one-liner like nobody's business, too. See? Not a total pig!
The entire run of Three's Company -- which was 174 episodes, incidentally -- hinged exclusively on comic misunderstandings. Every plot dealt with one character taking something out of context or mishearing something. They kept this going for eight years. It was amazing. Now, every misunderstanding on that show was wrapped up in under 30 minutes, often with the assistance of nipples and/or Mr. Furley's neckerchief. But in real life, most misunderstandings tend to be either of the "immediate 'oh, I just meant this' and we're done" variety, or the long, drawn-out, tortuous variety that never ceases to frustrate the living hell out of you. Like these ones!
#4. Words Out Of Context
Two years ago, I wrote an article about things that make people feel racist, and I still get hate mail about it. People will send me messages telling me I'm a racist asshole. The entire point of the article was that context is everything, and I actually intended it to be an essay against true racism, but it didn't matter. I was racist. Some people still think I am.
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For that guy who asked: No, I don't sign "Felix" with a swastika instead of an X.
If I were a racist, I bet I wouldn't care if people thought I was a racist. If any racists out there have insight into that, feel free to let me know. Do you care if you get called out? I, on the other hand, do let it get under my skin a bit. Not a lot -- I understand that I could write an article telling each of you personally that you're wonderful and witty and beautiful and that I'm sending you $100, and someone would call me a shithead for not sending $200. You can't please some people. That's OK.
But it is frustrating when you're trying to make a point and someone misunderstands it so badly that they think you were saying the exact opposite thing. I may write a lot of goofy jokes, but as a person, I have a lot of passion for the ideas of equality and justice for all people. For me, getting accused of being racist is like getting falsely accused of cheating on a partner, or stealing, or picking the "wrong" hole on purpose. It's a shitty, raw deal. So to speak.
How do you fix such a misunderstanding? In normal, polite society, a quick discussion is all it takes, but "normal" and "polite" are two things that didn't get programmed into the Internet back when all those tubes were glued together. So you get people yelling at you in talk show fashion, where louder equals righter. If they keep attacking you, eventually even you'll see how you're wrong. It's charming.
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"WHERE'S THE KEY THAT TURNS EVERY LETTER INTO A FIST!"
Everyone has had something they've said taken out of context before, and it's like opening one of those fake cans of nuts full of spring-loaded snakes. Backtracking makes you sound like a liar, because that's what a liar would do, right? Stumble back and try to fix it. Make up some new, awkward shit to cover for how horrible you are. But the reason you sound all awkward and stumbly is because you know that person misunderstood you, and you're shocked and horrified by what they now believe, so you're at a loss for how to coherently fix it. Plus, now they have a spring-loaded snake stabbing them in the eye, and that's unfortunate.
Give people the benefit of the doubt sometimes. If someone says something vastly insane, like, "Man, that Hitler sure had some swell ideas," give them the chance to at least explain if that was misheard before you string them up. If they say it again, then by all means, that person is a crazy Hitler lover and should not be invited to cocktail parties ever again. But if they point out they're just reading a message they got from some dude on Tinder about what the tattoo on his nutsack says, well then there you go. Also, don't date that guy from Tinder. Pro-Hitler nutsack tattooing is the number one indicator of a dude being a douche.
The second being the fact that he uses Tinder.
#3. Cultural Ignorance
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When I was just out of college, I got my first apartment in a building right downtown, so I could be sure to be home at night and hear everyone else outside having fun. Across the hall was an apartment where two women lived. Both were new to the country, one from Italy, the other from Russia. They were models. They were insanely hot. They wanted to be my friends. I had just set the tone for a popular ABC sitcom.
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Vera and Sophia were both super bubbly, super nice, and absolute party animals. Also, because I was not over 50 or a corpse, they assumed my home was an extension of their home and would often hang out with me in an infuriatingly platonic way. One would come over to shower at my place if the other was showering at theirs, that sort of thing. And they touched me all the time. Constantly. Like they were thieves trying to pickpocket me at every turn. You couldn't talk to either of them without them putting a hand on your hand, or your leg. Plus Sophia had the habit of kissing hello and goodbye. Every day, I woke up expecting one of them to maybe suggest a threeway after we watched cartoons. It never happened.
However, one day, as I was getting my standard "I'll be leaving the room for two minutes so here's a kiss goodbye" kiss from Sophia, I thought "Is she into me? Is this like ... really overt flirting?" so I tried my hand at a return, secondary kiss. You would have thought I shot her mother, then plucked the bullet out, ate it, and shit it in her espresso.
I forget Sophia's exact words to me -- she may have literally sworn in Italian at first -- but the gist of her response was "The fuck?" With wide-eyed shock, she stared at me as though she was seeing a dyed-pink gorilla loose in the subway. I stumbled through some sort of idiotic response about liking her and was immediately schooled with this little number: "No no no. You don't kiss like that without permission."
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You must complete the three riddles and be approved by the Council first, stupido.
Sophia, being Italian, and a model, and carefree as a gum commercial, could kiss anyone and everything at her leisure. Me, being a trog in an apartment that had a suspicious stain on the carpet right at the door that wasn't caused by me I swear but no one ever believed me, could not. Shit didn't work that way. When she kissed someone, it literally meant "I don't hate you" and had no more to it than that. When I tried to kiss her, it basically meant a bunch of sweaty, gross noises and urges that are best left untouched. And that, my friends, is cultural ignorance. It'll get you every damn time.