I become more and more fascinated by the medium of television. For as long as I can remember, social critics have decried our impulse to stay at home in front of the TV in lieu of the collective experience of stepping outside. Like a lot of social criticism, it makes good copy, reasonable evidence can be found pro and con, and writing about it has minimal impact on actual behavior. More interesting to me is why we bother to go out at all in search of entertainment.
I do believe that our relationship to those tiny people flickering on the screen inside our caves is different from virtually every other relationship in our lives. The layout of any room containing a television is designed to invite that glowing rectangle into our social circle as an equal, if not a device of worship.
The characters on that screen become integral participants in our interior lives. Michael J. Fox and Robin Williams made comments in my young interior dialogue. A few years later, Cliff Huxtable and Jerry Seinfeld, no doubt , did the same for thousands of young men facing life on their own and fatherhood.
The sudden popularity of stand-up comedy on television may have had as much to do with the appealing nature of having someone willing to take over the conversation right there at the coffee table. Robin Williams was the absolute master of holding his own in that one-sided conversation. You didn’t dare blink out of fear of missing something.
to see comics live has already felt like the distancing effect, which is weird in a purely geographic sense. I had them for free and by choice in my living room. Now they look smaller and they appear to work so much harder.
I adored Mork & Mindy when it debuted, but I grew tired of it. Looking back, I blame the need to attach a plot within certain constraints to the manic talent waiting on that stage. The first time I heard Robin Williams do his stand-up routine, I said to myself- “Ohh, that’s what brilliant sounds like.” Others may have taught me the rhythm of comedy. Williams granted the freedom to think like an artist.
So what did that mean to me?
Creation requires the willingness to let your mind wander and not punish yourself for thinking particular thoughts; be they lazy, already done, rude, seemingly dumb, inherently difficult, too time consuming, or just so weird… Then you have to let them tumble out. That’s the point where they are judged.
If you’ve been making art for a little while (or maybe even thought about making art for a little while), then this may seem a little obvious. But we all need someone to grant us that freedom. We need to see in action, because most of us struggle to turn on the tap and to accept the flow of ideas.
What’s it all about?
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 51 more to go.
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