Saturday, November 03, 2007

1942 DeSoto

photo via ned

from "learn to say ain't"(2005)

(via mike gerber)

John Rogers:
let's talk image. When I first started out on the road, I was a skinny guy with a big nose, a Boston accent and a Physics degree telling jokes in bars out West. I was hitting a wall of resistance in a lot of rooms. One night in Rawlins, Wyoming, the headliner -- a sweet road comic named "Boats" Johnson -- took me aside.

"You're a good joke writer. I mean, damn, there's some smart stuff in there."
"Thanks. But, uh..."
"They don't like you much." Boats handed me a beer. "Second show. Longneck. Always a longneck. Bring it on stage. Sip from it every now and then."
"I don't really drink on stage --"
"Fine. Fill it with water. Don't bring attention to it, just sip from it."
I shrugged. "Anything else?"
"Yeah. Learn to say 'ain't'. Don't change the jokes. Just learn to say 'ain't' every now and then."

The shows went, much, much better after that. I told the same gun control jokes, the same pro-gay marriage bits, the same making-fun of the culture wars jokes. But now I was killing.

There are two lessons to be taken from "Learn to say 'ain't'." First, the fundamental dynamic in all crowd interaction is us vs. them. Period. It's sad. Oh well. Get over it and win.

Now, the fine line here is that, the audience also always knows when you're being dishonest. That's worth hitting again. When you are on stage, the audience's collective mind can tell when you're not being yourself. And even more importantly, they can tell when you're lying to be one of "us". (Like Kerry hunting, or Dukakis in the tank). Changing yourself to fit the audience would be the wrong lesson to take from "Learn to say 'ain't.'" No, the lesson Boats was teaching me was that there's no problem with relaxing a bit and showing that you're not one of "them." He was teaching me that connection is a half-way game -- just extend out a little, and the audience will come the rest of the way. They will extend the boundary of "us" if you advance toward it.
Kerry was so, so far outside of "us" that, frankly it was a testimony to how badly Bush has screwed up that he even got THAT close.

there's a lot more and you should go read all of it.

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