How to Piss People Off Without Even Trying: A Tutorial with Pictures

I’m at the Loony Bin on open mic night. I’ve only been doing comedy for six months, so when the club owner comes and tells us that the headliner wants to talk to us after the show, I’m interested to hear what he has to say. Once the crowd disperses, about ten comics file back into the showroom, and as soon as we’re all inside, the doors in the back of the room close mysteriously, slammed shut by the harsh comedy club wind.

We’re locked in.

Just then, the headliner emerges from the shadows and steps onstage, his bald head deflecting the spotlight into our eyes. He’s smoking a cigarette. “Sit down,” he says, pointing at the tables in the front row. I take a seat by James Nghiem and peer up at him, waiting.

Pacing like a high school basketball coach, Baldy Pants takes two puffs from his cigarette and creepily stares at the funny and pretty Genevieve Rice while she fidgets in her chair.

After 30 uncomfortable seconds, he speaks. “Comedy,” he says. “You gotta love it, but it ain’t easy.”

I stifle a giggle.

He continues. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I want to take some time tonight and teach you guys how to be successful. If you’re serious about comedy, you’ll listen to what I have to say.”

And all this can be yours, I think, looking around the showroom: the fake brick wall, the cheap laminated menus, the ashtrays full of half-smoked butts.

Baldy begins to give us tips on how to become better. “Talk about things people can relate to,” he says. “Base your jokes on real life,” he says. “Try to write jokes everyday.”

No shit.

Sensing my skepticism, he points at me. “You. Get up on stage with me.”

I look at James for help, but he just nudges me, so I step up on the stage and stand next to ol’ Baldy Pants.

“Close your eyes,” he says.

I do.

“Now I saw your act, and it’s not bad. But when you talk about rape the way you do, the audience isn’t always gonna go for that.” I can feel his breath on my right ear.

“What about your life? What’s your life like?”

I shrug.

“What about your mom?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “She’s pretty cool.”

He places the microphone in my hand. “Talk about your mom. And keep your eyes closed.”

“Seriously? Uh, okay. My mom has hair. I look like her. She’s, I don’t know…a pretty reasonable person.” I open my eyes. “Look, do I have to do this? I don’t feel like talking about my mom.”

“Fine. Sit down.”

His disgust is apparent in his tone, and I slink back to my seat in the front row.

“You guys don’t get it,” he says. “You have to take this seriously.” He calls another comic, Paul, up on stage and eyeballs me while he lights another cigarette.

“Close your eyes,” he says to Paul. “And tell us about your dad.”

While Paul digs deep into some strange dad memories, I pull out a pen and write the words, “I hate him like poison”—a line I stole from an episode of Seinfeld—on my hand. Then, I lean over to James and show him what I wrote. He giggles.

Baldy Pants suddenly snaps his head around. “What is so funny?”

I look at my hand, then I look back at him. I glance at James, who just grins. Now I have an internal dilemma – do I do what I normally do and tell this asshole what I really think about him, or do I try not to burn my first in a long line of comedy bridges?

And despite the voice in my head, which is screaming, You’re a poor man’s Carlos Mencia, and everyone hates you!, I say, “I’m sorry. I was just telling James something.”

Baldy Pants sneers. “Well, why don’t you share it, huh? Why don’t you tell us all what’s so funny?”

I wonder if everyone else is catching the irony in the fact that a comedian is angrily standing in front of me, demanding, “What’s so funny?”

I stand up. “I think I’m just gonna go.”

“Yeah,” he says, his eyes projecting pure hate at me. “I think you should.”

A shroud of silence covers the room as I gather all my stuff, and I can feel 11 pairs of eyes on me while I’m walking out the back door. I feel exactly like I did in middle school when my teacher sent me to the principal’s office.

This scene is not out of the ordinary for me. Throughout my entire life, I’ve had the ability to infuriate people with little to no effort. With a word taken out of context, a stupid misunderstanding, or a dismissive look that I don’t realize I’m making, I can send someone over the edge, and even when I make a conscious effort to take the high road, that effort only seems to make the situation worse.

So because there’s nothing I can do about it, I’ve come to really enjoy pissing people off, especially when I’m not trying. I find now that life holds few moments as exciting as the thrill of annoying someone, and because I want to share that special joy with you, my reader, I’ve constructed this three-step lesson plan explaining how you can effectively irritate the people around you.

That’s right! Just study these three easy lessons, and you too can piss people off without even trying!


Lesson # 1: Frustrate a pregnant lady

When I was in 8th grade, I decided to take a sewing class, even though my body has always rejected learning any useful domestic skills. My teacher, Ol’ Mrs. Preggers (unfortunately, this is not her real name) didn’t like me. As far as I could tell, I never did anything to prompt her disgust, and even though I knew she didn’t like me, I never purposely annoyed her. For one thing, I respected the unborn fetus in her belly enough to give Mrs. Preggers a break. I mean, it wasn’t the baby’s fault that mommy was a cunt. For another thing, I liked her husband, the vice principal of our school, because he was always nice to me.

So when I made my watermelon hat too small for my head, when I made my sunflower vest crooked and sad-looking, when I jammed two sewing machines, and when I stitched the neckhole of my shirt closed, I honestly wasn’t trying to piss her off. But, oh man, I did.

One moment in particular sticks out in my memory. I had finished sewing a section of my half-pillow-half-blanket (Billow? Planket?), and Mrs. Preggers was making her rounds to inspect our projects. She held mine up in front of her, her thin lips pulled into a firm, angry line, her shrewd, ice-blue eyes checking over every detail, then she tossed it back on the table.

“This is wrong,” she said.

I was pretty used to hearing that, so I just sighed. “It is?”

She leaned over the table in front of me so she could look directly into my eyes. “Leah, you need to spend more time listening to instructions. Go to the top drawer of my desk and get a seam ripper. You have to tear these stitches out and start over.”

I could tell by the dangerous tone in her voice that my stupid kid face was grating on her last nerve, so I obeyed her instructions, walked meekly over to her desk, and pulled open the drawer, staring at its contents helplessly. Now, the problem was, because I never listened to instructions, I had no idea what a seam ripper looked like. A few seconds of panic washed over me as I searched through the various items in the drawer, but finally I picked out the item that I thought best represented something named a “seam ripper” and returned to my seat.

While trying to figure out how the hell to work my new tool, I heard an angry squeal and pounding pregnant stomps heading in my direction. When I looked up, Mrs. Preggers was towering in front of me, her nostrils flaring, her eyes narrowed and red. “Leah,” she said through clenched teeth, “go see my husband!”

That meant I was being sent to the vice principal’s office for the sixth time that semester. “Oh, come on. Why?” I asked. “I didn’t even do anything!”

She held up the seam ripper. “You think you’re sooo smart. Does this look like a seam ripper to you?”

And suddenly, I recognized the item for what it actually was: the tiny clamp device you use to pull staples out of things. Don’t get me wrong, I was familiar with the staple remover, and I can’t explain what inside of me made me forget what it was when I grabbed it out of her drawer, but I would’ve sworn on Mrs. Preggers’ unborn child that I believed with everything inside of me the object in question was a seam ripper. I did. But how do you explain such a ridiculous misunderstanding?

The answer is, you can’t. Believe me, I tried. I stared into Mr. Preggers’ very kind blue eyes, and I could see his skepticism as I told him my sad story. He wanted to give me a break, but this wasn’t my first office visit, and I imagine taking my side over his wife’s would kill any hope of him receiving a pregnant, bitchy blow job when he got home. So for the sixth time that year, my parents got a phone call explaining that I was simply Satan-spawn and should probably just be stabbed with a cross or something. In Mr. Preggers’ defense, it was really the only call home I didn’t deserve.

staple remover

Figure 1: Staple Remover

seam ripper

Figure 2: Seam Ripper


Lesson # 2: Accept Any Dare without Considering Repercussions

Cut to high school. I’m in Mrs. Muret’s Bio 2 class, and we’re dissecting an eyeball. On this particular afternoon, the entire class is loud and riotous, everyone standing up, stray eyeballs flying across the room.

For a high school teacher, Mrs. Muret is actually very cool, even though all her pants are too short and dangerously close to camel-toe garb. On dissection days, she doesn’t mind that we’re loud and disgusting; she takes it as an indication that we’re learning, that at least something, even if it’s the prospect of flicking an eyeball at the prissy girl in the class, sparks some interest in us.

My lab partner and I just finished our dissection, so we’re in the back of the classroom chatting with Brandon Glenny about high school things. I don’t know how it comes up, but before I know it, I’m trying to decide whether or not I should accept Brandon’s challenge and crawl out the classroom window.

“Come on,” he says. “Mrs. Muret won’t even notice, and you can crawl right back in. I triple dog dare you.”

I know that the absolute worst thing you can do is turn down a dare. I also know that the second worse thing you can do is try and escape the building while class is still going on. They hold you there captive, make sure you’re trapped all day, sadistically putting windows in every room and taunting you with the prospect of outside freedom, and if you try to leave, the punishment is brutal. Still, I’m thinking it over.

“I’ll even watch the window for you,” Glenny says.

That does it. I decide I’m going. I crawl outside, stand up, and wave at everyone. When I kneel down to crawl back inside, Brandon Glenny shuts and locks the window in my face, so now I’m trapped outside my classroom with a dissection apron and goggles on.

I consider just getting in my car and driving home, but I have basketball practice after class. There’s nothing else I can do except walk all the way around the school to the other side and come back in through the one door they keep unlocked. It takes me about 5 minutes to navigate my way back to the classroom, where I have to walk in the main door, right by Mrs. Muret’s desk. When I walk in, the entire class has quieted, and all are sitting in their seats, hands clasped in front of them, looking like little angels.

Not knowing a better way to enter the situation, I wave and say, “Oh, good day, everyone.” And then I make my way to an empty seat amidst a smattering of giggles.

Mrs. Muret stands watching me with one hand on her hip, a distressed, but I swear, slightly amused look in her eyes. “Leah, why on earth did you leave my classroom?”

I shrug. “Doesn’t it mean anything that I came back?”

She shakes her head.

I don’t attempt to better explain my way out of the situation. Even I know, “He dared me,” is a lame excuse.

Because of that little attempt at escape, for the rest of the semester, Mrs. Muret makes me sit in an assigned seat next to her desk. No one else in the classroom has assigned seats, but everyday, three boys sit at the lab table with me and torture me by holding me down and writing on me, throwing my homework into the lab table sink then turning the water on, and generally acting like assholes. All the while, Mrs. Muret pretends not to notice, just like she didn’t notice when half the class locked me outside.


Lesson # 3: Wake Up Still Drunk from the Night Before and Say Whatever Comes to Mind

I’m 23, and I’m dating a guy that fancies himself an artist. I hate his guts. I’ve been dating him for over a year, and we fight constantly, mainly about how he’s a gigantic prick. Incidentally, his name rhymes with “prick.” And “dick.” And “Please shut up before I hit you with this brick.”

In fact, I’m just going to call him Prick Face for the rest of this story, because 1) I am immature, and 2) in my memories of him, he looks exactly like this:

mister prick face

That’s Mr. Prick Face to you!

(Interesting side note: I found this picture of Prick Face by typing “penis head” into a Google search. Mr. Prick Face is the official spokesman for Man 1 Man Oil, which is a product designed to “enhance sensitivity of penis.” I like his shirt. That’s totally a shirt a penis would wear.)

One weekend, my friend Lindsey invites Prick Face and I to stay at her aunt’s house in Oklahoma City. When we get there, PF says, “Lindsey, I have something for you.” Then he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a tiny figurine made of brown wax, which he had carved into a crucified Jesus.

Now, Lindsey’s Catholic, but she’s not that Catholic. She gives me a look that very clearly says, What the fuck? Still, she’s very polite to Prick. I try my best not to laugh when she says, “Ooh, I love it. Brown is actually my favorite color.”

When darkness falls, we head out to the clubs, where I down several gin and tonics to forget that I’m dating an asshole. I wake up to my alarm the next morning. I’m in the guest bedroom, a puddle of drool under my cheek, dried vomit stuck to my face, and Prick lying next to me and giving me the evil eye, I’m guessing the result of my shenanigans the night before. “You have to go to work,” he says, annoyed.

“No shit.”

I can’t even see straight while I fumble around the room, picking up my wrinkled denim Coach’s shirt and some khaki pants that may or may not be mine. I change and pull my hair into a ponytail, grumbling about my headache and lingering double vision. When I go to grab my deodorant off the dresser, I notice this sitting next to it:  

I crack up laughing and point at it.

“What the fuck is so funny?” Prick Nasty asks.

I grin, still pointing. “It’s shit.”


And he loses his fucking mind. He jumps up out of bed and tears into me, screaming about how I think I’m better than everyone, about how I never understand the essence of art, how I don’t respect his work, how I’m a drunk.

Meanwhile, I have no idea what’s bringing on this influx of rage. I’m used to his asshole rants, but this one seems uncalled for. Confused, I look back at the fake dog poo for an answer, and I realize that it’s not fake dog poo at all. Nope, it’s the tiny brown wax statue of Jesus that he had given to Lindsey the night before.

The more I try to explain the misunderstanding, the harder I laugh at its absurdity, and the angrier he gets. Exhausting myself in an effort to explain, I suddenly realize that Prick Face will never see the hilarity in the fact that he made a tiny, turd-sized statue out of brown wax that, from a slight distance, looks exactly like a pile of plastic poop.

And this is the turning point for me, when for the first time, instead of feeling guilty for something I didn’t really mean to do, I’m actually thankful for my ability to piss people off. While Prick yells at me, I just stand there and laugh, grateful for my sense of humor, for my imagination, and most of all, for the part of me that makes people want to punch me in the face for no reason.

For more of the Leah Kayajanian Self Improvement System, buy her new album “Megatron Story 3000…Can I Call it That?” from Robot Saves City Records. (c) Leah Kayajanian All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *