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“You’ve Got to Be A Real Fat Man…”

Sometime last month Jeff Swain asked on Twitter “what makes something funny?” I replied with one of the foundational statements of my world view, from Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors: “If it bends, it’s funny. If it breaks, it’s not funny.”

This exchange came to mind when I was listening to Elvis Mitchell’s interview with one of my favorite actors, Michael Caine, which included the following snippet:


(You’ve gotta base everything on truth and reality. Even comedy has gotta be real.  You know,  you’ve gotta be a real fat man, and the people gotta know the banana skin’s there, and you’ve gotta fall over properly.)

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Besides being a fantastic turn of phrase elegantly spun, there’s a fundamental truth here not only about comedy and acting but also about many types of communicative endeavors, including blogging. My nemesis Jim Groom wrote a bang-up post today about the concept of personal branding and the inflated role it seems to have in the work of those at the intersection of technology and education.  My hero CogDog chimed in with a dismissal of the phrase for elevating “the attention itself as the goal.” CogDog notes that there is something there though, something that comes in the “wake” of the ship that’s good work built up and out the right way over time.  Call it intellectual capital, call it a reputation, call it a professional persona, whatever.  Calling it a “brand” though suggests it’s the end in and of itself.  Whatever it is should be organic, earned, and reciprocated, not cultivated, nurtured, and proclaimed. D’Arcy Norman’s reaction to someone noting he had “built his brand” was right-on.

This is on my mind because I’m just starting off trying to do this stuff at a regular clip and I want to try to stay focused on the reasons that I think I’m doing it.  I’m writing because I like to write to engage with my ideas and other folks’ and I haven’t been doing enough of that on my own terms recently. I’m writing because I have a couple of bigger projects that I want to get to and I feel I need to write regularly to prepare.

But I’m writing also to test some of my theories about the roles of openness and honesty in the formation of knowledge. What I love most about the blogs of the guys I cite above is that they very much use their spaces to think through ideas in process. Jim is especially not afraid of being extremely wrong, and I only hope that if I can keep this space alive for even a short while I’ll have a sliver of the same courage. If you base “everything on truth and reality,” and if when you fall you fall over properly, it seems to me that whether or not you have a “brand” becomes irrelevant. Your work’ll be right there.

Creative Commons License photo credit: crazyoctopus

7 thoughts on ““You’ve Got to Be A Real Fat Man…””

  1. Jesus, you’re already a better blogger than me, I knew this would be trouble. Also, I hate Michael Cane, major hack, he has never played a convincing role in his pathetic career, another same guy all the time actor that is overhyped, but he does a fine job explaining why he is not funny.

  2. First, thanks. Second, you only think Caine is the same guy all the time because like most Yankee fan A-Rod apologists, you don’t understand class (either social or behavioral).

  3. I’m down with Caine but not with the speed with which you’re blogging. If you’re going to put up so many posts, can you at least make them kind of crappy so that I’ll feel a little better? Thanks.

    p.s. love the use of the blog as a way to get writing.

  4. I’ve no pro or con stand on Michael Caine, but a good blog for me intros with a cultural reference and relates it to something else. Give yourself 10 extra blog points.

    I laugh when someone calls me “Cogdog” I have no idea who that is nor does my Mom know (I think I entered it your comment form, mis-reading it as ‘username’).

  5. Yeah, it did say Username… I’ve since changed it. Didn’t really give the theme too much thought before diving in here… may have to change this around at some point. Or not.

    And, whatever your name is, you’re still my hero.

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