Writing Tips From YouTube: Chutzpah!

You don’t have to be the funniest guy in the world. But if you aren’t, chutzpah helps.

Take the example of Movie: The Movie — Jimmy Kimmel’s Oscar fodder flick farce that seeks to combine the key elements necessary to bring home a golden statuette.

Yeah, it’s pretty much your typical late-night television comedy sketch — which is to say that it’s got some chuckle-worthy bits, some things that will make you cringe, and some that are worth a grin. 

It’s also nine minutes long.

Nine minutes long!

And what does all that nine minutes get you?

A final 2-3 minutes that are almost screamingly hilarious. 

It’s the build-up. The slow burn. Whatever you care to call it. Most good comedians hit fast and hard and move on — why spend nine minutes on a joke that might not work if you can get over it in two minutes and move on to something else that has a chance to win some laughs?

But at nine minutes, you practically have a movie in and of itself. In the comedy world, nine minutes is long enough to build an internal continuity. It’s long enough to have multiple call-backs, to revisit earlier exaggerations and blow them into the realm of absurdity, and to take things in more than one bizarre and unexpected direction.

And all of that comes from a sketch that any other show might have given two to three minutes.

Nine minutes on a sketch like this? That’s chutzpah.

Award Show Live Tweeting -or- How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Statuette

When this tweet got retweeted into my timeline, I had to laugh. After all, the chance to snark at a live television event was why I hooked up the rabbit ears to my television (cable? What cable?) and tuned into the Grammys this past weekend, and it was part of the reason that I tuned in to the Superbowl. So in my case, @thegynomite is right.

In fact, live tweeting an award show has become something I look forward to. I love cracking jokes about them, and I love hearing the things the people in my timeline have to say about them, too. But lately I’ve started to notice something strange.

I’ve actually started to enjoy award shows.

I know! I’m as shocked as you are.

Adele at the Grammys  "34" by JORNAL DE IBAITI

After all, it’s just not hip to like award shows these days. They’re overblown, self-congratulatory snoozefests full of things you’ve never heard of or seen, right?

Except… possibly not.

Overblown? Sure. But what’s wrong with a little spectacle now and then?

Snoozefests? That’s where the snark comes in. Sure, if you’re watching an award show alone, there’s probably not very much to hold your interest. That’s why people used to have parties to watch the ceremonies. Sharing the event with other people — cracking jokes or oo-ing and ah-ing over great moments — makes it more interesting. Live tweeting has returned that shared experience to the shows. Suddenly, you’re not just sharing the event with a few people in the same room. You’re watching it with friends from all over the country (Whoops! Except for the delayed feed on the west coast).

Full of things you’ve never seen or heard? That’s actually a great thing for an award show. We don’t need a consistent feedback loop to reassure us of what we already know is great — that’s what our iTunes libraries and our movie collections are for. When I watch a music show like the Grammys, I know I’m going to hear artists I haven’t heard before. Some of it I’ll like, some of it I won’t. But after the show, is over, I’ll be able to talk more knowledgeably about all of it. Similarly, the Oscars are something I’ve come to watch with my Netflix account open, adding movies to my queue as I become interested.

"Oscars 2010: Tina Fey" by Zadi Diaz

Oh, yes! Self-congratulatory? Certainly. In fact, that’s a difficult one for a lot of people to get over. 

But there’s a consistent pattern I’ve noticed in everywhere I’ve worked and gone to school. Sometimes, people are miserable working there. Other times, people love working there — or, at the very least, they feel they’d be hard-pressed to find a better office. A lot of factors go into determining which workspace is which, but I’ve noticed one that seems universal.

Every school I’ve attended, office I’ve worked in, and theatre I’ve directed, acted, or written for that took time at the end of its year to celebrate its accomplishments has been filled with people who loved it there. Every similar place I’ve been that didn’t go in for that self-congratulatory stuff has been a place where its students/workers/artists felt trapped, unappreciated, and miserable.

It’s human nature to want to celebrate our successes, and when we’re robbed of that opportunity we feel under-appreciated. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much we get paid — we can be paid in excess of eight figures and still feel like we’re being swept under the rug when nobody offers to pat us on the back and tell us, “Well done.”

All of which is why I’ve come to actually enjoy award shows. It doesn’t change the fact that my live tweeting is still 90% snark.

As for the business end of things — What does CBS care if you watched the Grammys to snark at them on Twitter? You did watch. Which means their sponsors got their money’s worth, and they got the ratings they’ll need to justify their existence for one more year.

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