“Did you get him to talk?”
“He doesn’t like to talk… He’s not the biggest talker.”
In a recent interview on the Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon spoke with Jodie Foster about their interactions with Robert De Niro. Both joked about how De Niro doesn’t talk much. They laughed about it, and something about that rubbed me the wrong way.
Foster and Fallon both say they love De Niro and think he’s the nicest guy, yet they poke fun at the fact that he’s so quiet, as if there’s something wrong with not being as extroverted and sociable as them. Again, they do it in a loving way, but they’re still kind of making fun of his quietness.
People have said the same things about me. They don’t do it in a malicious way, but they joke about how quiet I am and assume I don’t like to talk. But the reason I don’t talk is social anxiety.
I don’t know Robert De Niro, so I can’t say for sure, but I would think he probably suffers from some social anxiety as well, especially on nationally televised talk shows in front of a live audience. People see the characters he plays in movies and expect him to be like that in real life and in interviews, but those are just characters—they’re not him.
Fallon makes fun of De Niro for responding to his questions with one word, “Yep.” I’ve had similar experiences. After I gave someone a one-word answer, they laughed, as if it was comical at how poor I was at carrying a conversation. Sometimes it’s social anxiety, preventing me from saying more, but more times than not, with random small talk like that, it’s just that I have nothing more to say. You ask me a “yes” or “no” question, I’m going to answer “yes” or “no.”
I’m not trying to blame Jodie Foster and Jimmy Fallon. I don’t think they meant any offense. But I’d just like to lose the stigma that there’s something funny or wrong about being quiet.