I was not the typical investment banker. I did not attend an expensive school, I did not have a coke habit, and I was not male.
My differences made me an easy target for aggressive banter, and many tried to throw insults at me. Those poor bankers soon learned this bookish nerd had extensive stand-up comedy experience and a terribly filthy mouth. Through repeated trials, I became even better at comebacks.
Recently, a Computer Science friend jokingly asked for help with insulting people.
I am planning an 8-week class, "How To Insult People". In the mean time, I'll give you a tip. Try and "Yes and" the insult.
When someone throws an insult at you, the temptation is to yell back a harsher comment. That's what you're expected to say, so it's not surprising nor effective.
At a comedy show, I was introducing my improv team. An older gentleman thought it was a good time to yell out "ARE YOU LOOKING FOR SEX?" You could hear the entire audience gasp. People were shocked, rightly so. But shocked people don't laugh, and I had to say something immediately to diffuse the situation.
Before you read on, take a moment to think of some comebacks. What would you have said?
"You're fucking ugly" (or some variation thereof)
That's what inexperienced comedians would say.
"Yes, but not with you"
Getting a bit warmer, but not quite there. That chap knows he's not getting any action, so this comeback is neither surprising nor insulting. "Yes but" is a bit funnier but it's still a negation. Try and aim for "Yes and".
Before the poor chap finished his sentence, I had my comeback.
"After the show!"
Nobody was expecting me to say "Yes please!".
Although he meant to hurt me, the heckler ended up giving us a wonderful gift, the sound of an entire audience gleefully laughing. It was the perfect warmup, and set the stage for one of my best shows ever.
Next time you're thinking of a comeback, think of how to agree with the insult. It demonstrates that you aren't affected by the comment. It's much more likely to work because it's a surprising move.