If you’re looking for a way to combat the online trolls and bots fomenting unrest in the U.S., comedian Negin Farsad might have a solution for you.
“I guess if I were to name it, it’s a philosophy called ‘being aggressively delightful,’” Farsad told Nerdette.
But isn’t that exhausting?
“It is and it isn’t, because I also think rage is exhausting,” Farsad said. “I might think rage is more exhausting than trying to be friends with people.”
Farsad is the co-host of the podcast Fake the Nation, she’s the author of the book How to Make White People Laugh, and sometimes you can hear her right here as a panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!
Farsad, an Iranian-American Muslim, told Nerdette hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen how she tries to be aggressively delightful when confronted with intolerance. Below are highlights.
Fight the rage impulse and understand where someone came from
Negin Farsad: Whenever I travel the country — and I do shows all over and I’ve toured the country doing movies — so I’ve met a lot of people. I’ve been in Laramie, Wyoming. I’ve been in Columbus, Georgia. I’ve encountered “red America,” if you will, as a Muslim. I’ve been protested at places. And my rule is to be aggressively delightful because I don’t understand the context in which they’ve grown up, and I have to try and figure that out.
And if they’ve been told forever that, like, Muslims are terrorists and Mexicans are trying to steal your job or whatever, then when they meet a Muslim and their first question to me is, “So what did you think of 9/11?” — by the way a question I’ve gotten multiple times — my first reaction is not, like, to have rage at them, which I think is really the popular reaction to things these days especially with things like the Twitters. My reaction is to be aggressively delightful, and be like, "OK. That's an interesting question. I actually thought 9/11 was super horrible. What makes you ask that question?" And just to try and actually understand where they're coming from. And that's my personal guiding ethic.
Rage begets rage and kindness begets kindness
Farsad: When you start just opening yourself up to people, they in turn open themselves up to you. I’ll tell you, I was in the deli the other day and there were, like, a bunch of different flavors of coffee self-serve. There was hazelnut, French vanilla, decaf. And this woman goes up and she does the French vanilla. And I literally said to her, “Hey, that’s a really good choice.”
And she’s like, “You know what? I was thinking, do I want a little flavor?” So we just had a ridiculous conversation, me and this woman, about coffee flavors. And I have a personal, weird New Year’s resolution every year to say things to strangers instead of just thinking it. So when a stranger has a cute jacket or makes an interesting order in front of me at Starbucks, I literally will comment on it. And I know that makes me a little bit of the crazy lady in the store, but actually it almost always turns out well. Nobody is like, “Ugh. Why did this woman comment on my beautiful jacket?” It’s never like that.
Anger is inevitable, but channel it
Farsad: In the current political climate, I get mad all the time. I mean you can’t be like, “Oh, here’s a Muslim ban,” and expect me to be like, “Oh, unicorns and rainbows!” That’s not how it works. I still get mad. But I just try and channel it in a way that is hopefully more productive and just generally better for my blood pressure.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation, which was produced and adapted for the web by Justin Bull.