How To Ruin Your Event

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Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 11.21.34 AMThere’s lots of ways to ruin an event. Let’s talk about ruining the entertainment portion, especially if you have gone with comedy.

With any type of live entertainment there is a relationship between the audience and the performer. And nowhere is this more pronounced than with comedy entertainment which, when performed at the highest level, is much more like a dialogue than a monologue. The audience might be able to chat amongst themselves and still enjoy a rock band, but not so with, say stand-up: to be successful the craft requires an audience that is totally engaged.

A professional, experienced and talented comedian knows when an audience isn’t with her and will prattle, prod and engage an audience until she knows they are focused and only then will he get to the heart of her act and the business of making them laugh.

But how, you may ask, can I make a comedy entertainer’s job as difficult as possible?

Let’s say you’re a professional event planner or someone who is otherwise responsible for planning an event for your company. You’ve done your homework and found an comedian who is accomplished, a pleasure to work with and perfectly suits your needs. Now the question is, what can you do to thwart this his remarkable talents and years of experience and make everyone in attendance uncomfortable at the same time?

Here are a few simple things you can do to ensure that the delicate, essential bond between an audience and a comedian is tenuous at best or, better yet, never established in the first place.

Schedule The Entertainer Immediately After A Break

The room is pumped. The most-popular, hardest-working guy or gal in the company has just received his well-deserved award from the CEO and the energy in the room is at its peak. Whatever you do, don’t harness the audience’s energy by immediately introducing to the stage the entertainer you’ve budgeted a sizable sum to procure. Instead, have the CEO, emcee or whoever has the floor to announce a break “of about 15 minutes”. That should be enough time for the room to deflate, the energy vanish and allow the stragglers to head back into the room and settle into their seats while chatting with their fellow fellow employees about golf plans for the following weekend.

Seat The Audience At Round Banquet Tables

For the love of God, you’re not going to ensure that all the seats in the audience are facing the stage, are you? No, no, no. When an entertainer walks on stage you want roughly half the audience facing the back of the room. That way more people will be able to tell when the line for the open bar is down to only a few people. You might also consider leaving the doors in the back of the room open, allowing those seated with their backs to the stage to “people watch” the smokers, stragglers and maybe even catch a glimpse of that woman from the coat check with the ineffable aura about her. Ideally, you want these people who face the back of the room to be completely unaware of what is going on on the stage. Think muzak.

Serve Food During The Show

When a world-class comedy entertainer and a mediocre salad go head to head, the salad wins every time. Anything requiring utensils is best – after all, people are capable of enjoying a comedian with finger food like popcorn just as they are capable of enjoying a movie. Of course, it never hurts to have hard-working servers bustling from table to table pouring water, grinding pepper and sending that steak back to the kitchen until it’s done right.

Arrange For A Large, Empty Space Between The Stage And The Front Row

Nothing is more conducive to an attentive, engaged audience like seating them as close to the stage as possible. There’s an intimacy to this seating arrangement that mimics the openness and rapport of an private conversation. This is why you want a large empty space surrounding the stage. Many venues place a small stage against the wall of a large banquet hall and surround it with a large, empty dance floor: this is the ideal way to ensure your money and reputation go to waste. Nothing sends the the audience the signal “You have nothing to do with this performance” quite like seating everyone no less than a metric mile of the edge of the stage. This way audience members can chat with each other throughout the show while feeling – wrongly – that it has no impact on the overall performance.

The above are just a few basic, feng-shui examples of how to ruin the entertainment portion of your event. The truth is, there are almost as many ways to ruin it as there are second-rate entertainers to ruin it for you.

Do you know other ways to ensure that entertaining at your event is as uphill a battle as possible?

There’s Genius In Getting Started

aaaaa“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”

Goethe no doubt knew this from personal experience, as we all do. We’ve all experienced the magic in the moment when you forgo making a third cup of coffee, decline to login to Facebook and instead start getting shit done.

Whether it’s tidying up your workspace, designing an app or writing a short story, actually doing the work is an illuminating moment, one that reminds us that nothing else matters. No number of motivational magnets on your fridge, daily inspiration in your inbox or personal growth courses will make a difference. What matters is doing the work.

What about improv class? Or that screenwriting seminar? Or film school? Please. You’ll learn more and spend less by improvising, screenwriting and filming. Who knows? There might even be a platform ready to distribute your movie for free to millions around the world.

But no one’s going to make the movie for you. You have to make it yourself.

Visit daviDDeeble.com or watch a clip (4:30s) about my talk, Winning With A Bad Hand.

Friendly Relationships Are Not Friendships

IMG_1411The difference between a friendly relationship and a friendship is easily understood. You and your landlord have a friendly relationship. You and Doug have a friendship. For most people, friendly relationships aren’t hard to come by. They’re everywhere: the mailman, the barista at your local Starbucks, the kid at the Apple Store who tries to explain to you the purpose of the cloud, etc.

But would you call any of them friends? For many people in our mindbogglingly fast-paced age of one-day news cycles and social media, the answer is “Yes.” But I want to ask: are they really your friends? Do you have their phone number? Can you name one of their hobbies? Do you open up to them about your marriage or finances, or they you?

Don’t get me wrong: friendly relationships aren’t to be discounted. Nobody gets more satisfaction than me from somebody’s secretary who issues a “Pip, pip cheerio and a top of the day to you, sir!” each morning. But can you count on her taking your call at any hour of the night?

I don’t doubt that Facebook has contributed to the confusion surrounding what constitutes a friendship. But I also believe that to some extent it is a product of it. For some time before Facebook we would casually refer to someone as “my friend” when she is, in fact, she is no such thing.

I get it, “friend” is just easy to say: “This is my friend Gladys.” What else are you going to say, “This is Gladys with whom I have a friendly relationship”? Of course not. Way too suggestive. But what’s wrong with “This is Gladys. She fits me for all my running shoes,”?

I’m as guilty as anyone of blurring the distinction. In truth, owing largely to my family and career, my circle of true-blue friends has become vanishingly small. And I’m not sanguine about it: I don’t think it’s possible to have too many friends. On the other hand, the difference between having one friend and no friends is immeasurably greater than the difference between having one friend or two friends.

But no matter how many friends you have, never forget the difference between friendship and friendliness and that with only latter you’re subsisting on the icing without the cake.

Visit daviDDeeble.com or watch me perform the Flaming Marshmallow Balance of Mystery  on the Late Late Show with James Corden.

Soundchecks Aren’t Sex – So Let’s Do Away With The Foreplay

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 2.43.01 PM “If you want to get something done” goes the saying, “give it to a busy person.” Why, then, do so many sound engineers seem to have so much time on their hands?

In my experience,

Too many engineers are conditioned by singer after singer who insist that the low end is too high, the high end is too low, there’s not enough monitor, the “color” of her voice isn’t being rendered in its full glory, etc.

My experience last night was typical: I arrived at my soundcheck to learn that a brief meeting had been scheduled to begin at the same time and place. For a moment it was unclear whether I would wait five minutes the meeting to finish or the meeting would wait five minutes for my soundcheck to finish. Imagine my delight to learn that the meeting would wait for the soundcheck: not because I was impatient but because I knew the if the sound engineer had only five minutes to get it right, five minutes is all he would need.

Which brings me to microphones, aesthetics and putting the audience first.

You see, I use a clip a clip-on microphone, the kind that attach to one’s tie or lapel. Informed of this, sound engineers typically balk: “They don’t work in this room”. We then proceed to give it a try and it works perfectly right out of the gate. Here’s where it gets interesting: the sound engineer proceeds to fiddle with the volume and gain until his carefully-managed low expectations are proven justified.

This is why so many sound engineers and entertainers now use those aesthetic monstrosities which I call “microphone helmets”. First popularized by Madonna, they minimize the distance between the speaker’s mouth and microphone. Newer, more low-profile versions replace the clumsy, horsefly-on-the-face look by employing a smaller microphone head which is then taped to the face, frequently becoming unstuck. The entire monstrosity is one compromise after another. Designed to be as invisible as possible, they’re invariably a United-Colors-Of-Benneton hue resembling the skin tone of no human being.

“What’s the big deal?” you may ask. “A microphone is a microphone.”

The issue isn’t the microphone, the issue is aesthetics. For example, I typically wear a Hugo Boss suit onstage, my philosophy being that

After donning a well-fitted suit and tie, shined shoes, a shave and a haircut, why would I then want to done something on my head that looks like I’m broadcasting trackside from the Indianapolis 500? Headset microphones are ugly, cumbersome and require frequent and distracting onstage adjustment by the speaker. And while they no doubt make the job of sound engineers that much easier, they make the audience’s job that much harder.

In 2017,

.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or learn why it’s easier to be funny if you look normal.

Celebrate Consistency

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Getting a low-key run in on a travel day is a gratifying private victory. Bergen, Norway.

Consistency is underrated. We like the huge paydays and the big public victories. But a life of consistent pay and private victories? Not so much.

But there’s a utility to humble consistency that contributes to big outward victories. As Olympic gold medalist in the marathon Frank Shorter puts it, consistency increases one’s margin of error. And the more consistent you are, the wider your margin of error. And the wider your margin of error, the more diminished the impact of those errors.

Missing a key workout or deadline has an outsized impact for the inconsistent. The consistent, though, know that tomorrow and the next will easily make up for the occasional setback.

Whether it’s fitness of finances, the same principle applies. Who is more impacted by a big, unexpected expense: those who have saved consistently or those who have saved inconsistently? To ask the question is to answer it.

An avid (albeit mediocre) runner myself, I used to get satisfaction only from the completion of a long run or a hard interval workout on the track. Something I could brag about. “These are the workouts” I told myself, “that separate me from the weekend warriors”.

I was wrong. What separates me from the weekend warriors isn’t the killer workouts, it’s getting in some kind of exercise six or seven days a week. For decades. Cheesy as it sounds, this is why I now tend to raise my arms in victory after completing even a 30-minute jog: I did something positive when it would have been easier not to.

Whether it’s exercise or smoking, consistency becomes self-reinforcing. A Navy SEAL doesn’t have to think about doing push-ups right out of bed any more than a smoker must think about having a cigarette: it’s automatic.

So stop thinking in terms of quantity or even quality. Instead, think of one or two things that would positively impact your life and pursue them with consistency.

Visit daviDDeeble.com or see my presentation Winning With A Bad Hand.

Self-Pity, Cigarettes And A Magical Question

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Feeling sorry yourself is powerfully addicting.

Once upon a time I had an on-again-off-again relationship with cigarettes. At no point during this time did I think of myself as “a smoker”, as such. Instead, I saw myself as one of those lucky few capable of smoking at infrequent-but-regular intervals without thinking, let alone fixating, about my next pack.

Still, I never seemed to stop entirely. It was sort of like being single while thinking of myself as ultimately married, yet making no effort to quit being single. Then one morning I woke up, as I often did, with the unmistakable signs of a cigarette hangover. I cast a clear-eyed gaze at the sad, crumpled pack of Marlboro Lights on my dresser and asked myself what turned out to be a magical question that would serve me very well in the future.

The question was this: “How long is this going to last?” The question is magical because the answer is the same for everyone, namely, “As long as I decide it does”. When feeling self-pity or, for that matter jealousy, ask yourself “How long is this going to last?” and see if the the truth of “It’s up to me” hits you with the full force it hit me.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or see the teaser for my talk Winning With A Bad Hand.

Consistency

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-6-39-35-amConsistency, says Olympic gold medalist Frank Shorter, increases your margin of error. By training consistently, he says, he didn’t have to worry about training too hard in a work out or missing a workout altogether. Why? Because there would be another workout the next day during which he could adjust for the previous day.

Another advantage of consistency, he says, is that it allows your intuition to take over. By doing something consistently it becomes automatic. And when a thing becomes automatic, your mind is free to assess, experiment and improvise.

This is why stage actors are in the main superior to film actors. Stage actors, having but one chance to deliver their lines before the audience, must commit them to memory until they can say them without thinking. That accomplished, they are free to be spontaneous,  express authentic joy, anger, etc.

Whether it’s learning a musical instrument, getting fit or writing a blog, it’s tempting to think that consistency will come with progress. This is exactly backward. Consistency allows you to improve at a sometimes-imperceptible rate but more importantly, it provides the wherewithal for your instincts to take over, allowing you to improve at a remarkable rate.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or watch me perform the Flaming Marshmallow Balance of Mystery on the Late Late Show.

 

Discretion Please

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-6-12-03-amThe father of someone I’m connected to on Facebook recently passed away. Very recently. Just a few minutes ago, in fact. How do I know this? Because the connection in question said so on his Facebook wall: “My father passed away just moments ago”.

How does this work, exactly? I imagine this fellow sitting vigil by his father’s side, holding his dad’s frail hand, the thumb of his other hand hovering over the “Send” key in a pathetic frenzy to raise the profile of his Facebook page.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but discretion is out – way out. What’s in? Sharing online every thought, emotion, impulse and event as it occurs. In our therapeutic age, grief is out and healing is in. After a mass shooting, the bodies aren’t even cold yet before the self-directed cries for “Let the healing begin” are heard.

And to the extent that we do still grieve it’s not for the departed’s loss but for our loss. In this regard clergy have been of little help. The secular world having infiltrated religion far more than the reverse, clergy insist that when we cry for the dead we’re actually crying for ourselves. With all due respect, not me: I’m crying for the departed’s loss.

When I was a kid I heard someone say “You can learn a lot by keeping your mouth shut.” The truth of it was obvious to me even then. Speak less, listen more, take it all in and you’ll gain in knowledge. After all, you can’t speak and listen at the same time. Perhaps just as important, you can’t reflect and speak at the same time.

Sure, there are times when we reflect on this or that with a friend or spouse, but in general reflection takes place internally. Relating an experience before having a chance to digest its full meaning often invests it with undue import. But I’ve never regretted those occasions when I resisted the temptation to immediately share an experience that only just occurred.

This is true for both positive and negative experiences. Give something days or even just hours to breathe and the increase in clarity is revealing – and often reassuring. Whether it’s losing a job or winning the lottery, reflection and the passage of time often reveal what appear to be pivotal events into something not crucial, not turning points, not make or break.

Oftentimes what seem to be life-changing developments turn out to have a very different meaning from the narrative you’ve been weaving for yourself and others. Why we still envy lottery winners even though the lives of lottery winners invariably spin out of control is beyond me. Conversely, things like losing a job are very often the real beginning of a satisfying and career.

Like the ability to entertain yourself when bored, learning to keep your mouth shut is a valuable tool: you may even find that it enables you to keep up with the truth.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or watch me perform the Flaming Marshmallow Balance of Mystery on the Late Late Show.

 

Gorgeous Rainbow Straddles America As Trump, Clinton Step Down

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Look – it could happen. And Hurricane Matthew could pull out of North Carolina over that state’s bathroom law.

Before the emergence of Trump vulgar comments about women on Access Hollywood dominated the news cycle, Bill Clinton’s characterization of Obamacare as “the craziest thing in the world” was making headlines. To put Bill Clinton’s statement into perspective, he’s married to Hillary Clinton.

Trump – the gift who keeps on giving – has ensured the former president’s comments about Obama’s signature legislation are ancient history. So grave did the Trump camp deem their candidate’s comments on Access Hollywood that Trump deigned to fax in a characteristic pseudo-apology when The Donalnd does his best thinking/seething: at midnight.

Only time will tell if Trump, the most under-estimated presidential candidate of all time, can survive. Remember when the New York Times was publishing all those stories about Bill Clinton groping women? Neither do I.

Bill Clinton, of course, was the embodiment of a conventional politician while Trump is not, although few can doubt that had Trump rapped his comments about women he might have received an invitation to the White House.

Meanwhile, the seasoned Clinton machine is attempting to seize advantage with a top-to-bottom re-branding of their candidate:

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Return to daviDDeeble.com or learn more about my talk, Winning With A Bad Hand.

 

Marketing: The New Caring Profession

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Is that coffee you’re drinking fair-trade certified and ethically sourced? Is the microprocessor in your laptop manufactured by a company whose board is half comprised of women? Have the holes in your blue jeans been carefully frayed by Indonesians working in an air-conditioned surround?

Vanity is an ugly vice; vanity with regard to one’s virtue is somehow uglier. Crowing about one’s personal wealth, athletic accomplishments or extensive travel is off-putting. Yet marketers increasingly seem to see moral preening as a virtue: “Good people eat this tuna and not that tuna”. “Bad people drive those cars and good people drive this car”. “Setting homeless people on fire is wrong”.

Maybe that last one isn’t a good example but you get the idea.

This orgy of virtue isn’t merely an attempt to appeal to the vanity of hippies but a form of tribalism: good, caring people versus the indifferent masses. But it also pits another pair of consumers against one another: the poor versus the well-off. And the increased production costs associated with caring disproportionately affects those consumers on limited budgets. For example, shade-harvested coffee is a welcome development if you’re a poor Guatemalan coffee harvester. But if you’re a poor Guatemalan coffee drinker? Not so much.

For the cash strapped, such a cost increase is just the thin edge of a very wide wedge. While the well-off fret over the cost of wine and Chilean sea bass, the poor are left in thrall to the cost of butter, eggs and pancake mix (trust me, it goes a long way). California’s widely-applauded law expanding the dimensions of cages transporting live chickens to market is another example. Such a law is wonderful if you’re one of those poor chickens. But if you’re a poor person sensitive to the price of eggs and other staples of the underprivileged diet? Not so much.

In the regulation-palooza world of food labeling, the FDA dictates in tiny paragraphs everything from what manufacturers must disclose to consumers to the font used to disclose it. Maybe we need a federal agency whose mandate is to ensure that consumers are made aware of the price increases resulting from the production costs associated with everything from non-GMO underwear to free-range snails.

Return to daviDDeeble.com.

Solve Problems By Fixating On Goals, Not The Problems

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-9-11-00-pmWhy do some people seem perpetually overwhelmed by problems while others appear to manage them quite nicely? One reason is that people with problems tend to accumulate more problems. Every doctor knows that minor infections are no big deal to people who are basically healthy. But if you have a problem that compromises your immune system – like HIV – then even minor problems easily become major ones.

As another example, consider the sad biographies of those who’ve lost their lives to serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer. Were these young men regularly employed, forming meaningful bonds with others, earning and saving money while seeking a lasting, monogamous relationship? No: for the most part they were staying out late having sex with strangers like Dahmer in exchange for $50.

Another reason people become overwhelmed by problems is the tendency to allow problems to crowd-out everything else. We treat problems as deer do headlights: fixating not on our goals but on the headlights until eventually the headlights solve us. Like a hurdler training his vision exclusively on a hurdle, we can’t help but collide with it.

None of this is to say that when problems arise, as they inevitably do, they should be ignored. But it’s wise to keep many problems in the periphery of your vision while you keep your eyes on the prize. Like a great hurdler, you’re more likely to accomplish your goals by focusing on the finish line, not the hurdles.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or watch me perform the Flaming Marshmallow Balance of Mystery on the Late Late Show with James Corden.