On Becoming That Guy at the Party: The Dilemma of Poor Johnny One Note

By Don Hall

Johnny could only sing one note
And the note he sings was this
Ah!
Poor Johnny one-note
sang out with "gusto"
And just overlorded the place
Poor Johnny one-note
yelled willy nilly
Until he was bleu in the face
For holding one note was his ace
Couldn't hear the brass
Couldn't hear the drum
He was in a class
By himself, by gum!
Johnny One Note

Imagine you’re at a dinner party. (And for those less inclined to go to anything as bougie as a dinner party, imagine a house party or a party that includes people drinking and eating and talking—you know, a fucking party…)

An amalgam of humans, all gathered to share time, drink drinks, eat some food, and hang out with each other. Talk about the things that interest one another, gossip, hook up (or at least stare at your acquaintance's date and wonder “If only…” or storing up mental pictures for your spank bank...).

Over in the far corner to your right is the faux economist, the guy who, because he reads a lot of online articles about the economy and flat rate taxes and pension funds, tends to hold court in every conversation through that lens. He’s talking to the third-wave feminist (I know, apparently there’s a fifth wave but I still can’t figure out what the fourth wave was so we’ll assume for this thought experiment that she’s of the third wave stripe). She tends to bring every conversation back to the belief that men are wholly unnecessary and goes on and on about how under represented women are in Hollywood and politics.

They’re talking about the filmic dog turd that is the latest Transformers movie and how to wipe it off your shoe.

By the kitchen are the actors. She’s in a sketch comedy show that has been seen by a total of 12 people in the last six weeks and tries to impress the other party-goers with her insistence on talking about her period and her "meaty vag lips." He has once understudied at the Goodman, is an Equity member and due to that, hasn’t actually been in a play since college.

They’re having a debate about whether brussel sprouts make you gassy or not.

And then there is Johnny. Johnny One Note.

Johnny is a good looking guy, stays fit, bathes regularly. You know, basically non-offensive. No one wants to talk to Johnny, however, because Johnny can’t seem to talk about anything but his cause.

His cause is so important to him that he can’t even fathom why anyone could possibly have anything else on their mind. He wears a t-shirt proclaiming his fealty to his cause. He carries a few handbills at all times that announce public meetings for his cause which seem to spring from a never-ending stream of dates and times in coffee shops and the back rooms of storefront galleries.

When one tries to engage Johnny about something that may have nothing to do with his cause, say, the new iOS 11 public beta or how good Maron is in Glow, he always brings it back to his cause. It is the only thing important to him.

Johnny reminds everyone of Sarah from a few years earlier. Sarah was an ardent anti-abortionist. She felt she was a feminist (maybe second and two-thirds wave?) but couldn’t see past the killing of babies to grasp a larger picture of things. Every conversation was about the horrors of abortion. The hosts eventually stopped inviting Sarah because she started bringing Abortion Jell-O Pops that turned everyone off the food.

As Johnny senses that people have stopped listening to him, instead of finding different ways to communicate to the rest of the party why his cause is essential, he just gets mad. He raises his voice, yelling over everyone else’s conversation. He commandeers the bar and refuses anyone unwilling to engage on his cause any alcohol. He has decided that, if these fucking party-goers won’t focus their attention on HIS goddamn cause, then he will ruin the party for all.

Eventually, however, Johnny will be disinvited. He will only be invited to parties populated with people already invested in his cause. And they will spend their whole parties complaining about not being invited to the other parties.