29. Immunity to embarrassment
In 2008, I went to a cockroach-infested basement in Hong Kong, to watch a succession of stand-up comedians. Blessed as I am with the justified confidence of a person with a hundred reasons for being superior to the rest of humanity, I quickly realised that I would be at least as proficient as the people performing before me.
If, gentle reader, you live in the UK and have been to a comedy club, bear in mind that the environment in Hong Kong is different. Whereas for the British 'live comedy' means 'an opportunity to get drunk and shout at drunk people who are shouting back at you', in Hong Kong people think it is a social event where one sits in silence while a man or, occasionally, a woman, or a teenage boy, or a particularly well-trained poodle) recounts his or her character flaws.
For several years now, I have stood in the company of people who are unlikely to have views very far opposed from my own, stating various 'shocking truths' that are things people probably agree with but don't want to expose their cognitive biases to all and sundry, and other things that the audience is unshocked by, but like to think that these are the sort of things that more shockable persons than themselves would be shocked by. So they're not shocked by something they think somebody else might be shocked by. Which is shocking in itself.
Or, if I feel it is appropriate for the evening, I quote verbatim from British case law, with respect to clauses pertaining to sexual interference with animals by consenting adults.
A lesser person might be troubled to expose their twin peccadilloes, of the legality of bestiality and the unshocking nature of most shocking things, but I am not. Even if I thought that peccadilloes were a breed of dog, I would still not be unduly concerned by this. Because I AM SUPERIOR TO MY AUDIENCE, and they will QUAIL BEFORE ME.1
At no point during my seemingly endless diatribes upon the aforementioned Shocking Things (or indeed the novel approaches to animal husbandry that I recite) have I ever doubted my purpose up there. I have never considered that this is not perhaps the path that would make my dear benighted parents most proud. Never has anyone suggested to me that there might be something better to do with the combined corpus of knowledge produced by humankind, than a cheap play-on-words about flatfish and hackneyed chat-up lines. Never have I blushed or felt I've overstepped the mark, and if I sometimes consult handwritten notes inside my palm, rather than memorise my lines, it is only because of the utmost contempt I hold for the people in front of me, rather than because I'm nervous or worried.
In short, I am vastly capable of standing in front of a nominally hostile crowd and declaiming matters of great crassness, and this has never caused me to feel the smallest iota of embarrassment.
1 Unless they happened to be an audience of quail, in which case, although I would still be superior to them, the inability of a small bird to understand English as she is spoke would probably prevent the quails from quailing. Unless I made a particularly loud noise, or waggled a shotgun suggestively. These things are unlikely, given (a) Hong Kong's gun laws, (b) the difficulty of importing an audience of game birds to Hong Kong solely for a drawn-out pun on their name's homophony with a word suggesting terror, and (c) the difficulty of keeping thirty or forty relations of the noble pheasant in their seats long enough for me to get on stage.