In an online interaction today, somebody thanked me for picking up a cue she offered; I had responded to her straight line with exactly the [witty, clever] a propos punch line she had hoped for.
That brought to my consciousness that over the years, I had imbibed the idea that passing up a straight line was about as deplorable a gaffe as one could imagine. The social act of extending a straight line to someone involves offering them the opportunity to deliver the funny part of repartee, without any obvious credit going to the straight man. We do it, though, for the love of a punch line, for the satisfaction of comedy well crafted, of participating in funnier conversation than would be possible if each of us were out only for his or her own glory. It’s a funny kind of solidarity, but I cherish it.