The Daily Show.
I love Lewis Black, but I didn't want to be him, so I decided to never scream or overly emote. And as opposed to Black's AC/DC theme music, I picked the jazz/cool stylings of Morphine to set a totally different tone. I also embraced the heightened vocabulary borne from years of worshiping Wilde and Cleese. The anger would be suppressed English sarcasm. The result was that I barely emoted for the first 20 episodes. I was so dead in the eyes, it looked like I'd been animated by
technology. And my tone was so subdued that EOC Jack O'Brien didn't think "hate" was an appropriate word to associate with the series.
And he was right at the time, but would I listen?
Over time, however, as the conflict above played out online, more and more of my personality emerged, until the show reached its high-water mark of market penetration as I hated on the Black Eyed Peas song "
I Gotta Feeling
." That episode was significant because it was the first time I acknowledged my Judaism in something creative and the first time I showed intense emotion in the show (even if it was feigned). Was that the reason for the episode's success? I don't know, but since then I've become more transparent in my humor, and while I might not be ready to publish the results of my prostate exam as my friend and fellow columnist John Cheese intends to do next week, an article like this leaves me pretty exposed as I sit in an increasingly comfortable chair located somewhere between the two archetypes above.
Was There a Point to This?
Yeah, I think so. Obviously, these examples are very specific to me. I get that. And I also appreciate that splitting my psyche open on the sharpened slate of the Internet has a limited appeal. But I do think there is a larger general point, and it's NOT "just be yourself."
While there are dangers in straying from what you do best or ignoring your true calling to forcibly insert yourself into some other mold, I think it has value, too. Neil Simon, the playwright and screenwriter famous for The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys and Murder by Death, said that he wanted to write his comedies like Eugene O'Neill wrote his dramas. In using one of the greatest dramatists as his source, Simon wrote some of the most well-regarded and successful comedies of his generation. I admire that commitment to going outside your comfort zone in the hope of being better than you are. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I think we can all agree that me gaying it up a la Bowie hand gestures for my '90s grunge band wasn't terribly successful.
Flamboyance and grunge don't mix. That's why you rarely see this.
But other times, I think the desire to escape what comes easiest has worked for me. And while I cannot seem to be my hero David Bowie in any capacity, I do continue to aspire to his belief that you should be able to present yourself, and in my case, my writing, in different ways. Reinventing what you do. Never being too comfortable as to any one thing. And to that end, next week I'll try to write a list about breasts or superhero erections or whatever else is nothing like this.
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For more from Gladstone, check out Was 'Arrested Development' A Remake of a 70s Sitcom? and Dr. Strange The Movie: Why It's Not as Crazy As It Sounds.