On Tuesday I reminded my Shakespeare students that our Thursday class was cancelled, and I explained that I'd be out of town at a conference. I'd intended to make a light joke of it--saying something about how while they were all napping and playing video games I'd be partying with 800 Shakespeareans--but no sooner had I said the words "Shakespeare Association of America" than the entire room burst out laughing.
I paused, puzzled. This class does tend to find my jokes hilarious, but I hadn't gotten to the joke yet. Attempting a recovery, I arched an eyebrow and said something about what a crazy scene it was going to be, and how lucky they were to have me bringing them bulletins from the front.
They laughed harder, and I realized that I didn't need to make a joke: the mere fact that 800 Shakespeareans existed (and that we get together and talk about Shakespeare and shit) was sufficiently hilarious to them.
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I have no interest in my students knowing just how fun conferences are--how full of gossip and drunkenness and bad behavior--and if they did, surely the idea would fill them with terror and pity as much as laughter. But it's my own feeling that parties have only gotten more fun as I've gotten older and the people have gotten more interesting, and the ability to mingle work and play (and to play with such smart people) is one of the wonderful things about this profession. It's our students, really, who have an impoverished notion of what partying is.