Thursday, December 2, 2010

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

NPR's Monkey See Blog has a must-read recap of a Steve Martin interview that went awry:
Martin sat down at the Y (which is famous for its lecture series and other cultural events) the other night for an hour-long chat with interviewer Deborah Solomon. The discussion apparently displeased some of the people in the audience by focusing too much on art, which forms the backdrop for his new novel, An Object Of Beauty.

Midway through the interview, a Y representative brought a note to Solomon — on stage! — telling her to talk more about his career. Presumably, she was supposed to ask more stuff about what it was like making Three Amigos and The Jerk. In other words, stop talking about the things people aren't used to hearing Steve Martin talk about, and get back to having him answer questions people could easily find the answers to if they cared to use Google. (Martin has said this redirection was the result of real-time e-mails coming from people watching on closed-circuit TV; the Y apparently hasn't confirmed that.)
The blogger vents some well-directed rage at the Y:

But the way the Y responded was stunning. Not only did it chastise and undermine an interviewer and a guest in the middle of a live event, but the next day, it offered everyone who was there a full refund in the form of a credit toward a future event. Not because the lights went out, and not because there was an outburst of profanity that was winding up on YouTube or anything of that nature. No, closest the Y came to explaining what substantively motivated the refund (other than the very fact of people complaining) was, "We planned for a more comprehensive discussion."

When you go to hear someone speak, and you have no guarantee of the agenda, you do not get your money back because you didn't like the subject areas. Listening to a human being speak and being put out that you didn't get what you ordered as if you've gone to KFC and gotten Original instead of Extra Crispy is ridiculous, risk-averse, and (coincidentally) deeply chicken-hearted behavior.
It is exactly — exactly — like demanding your money back because Elton John didn't play "Rocket Man." Too bad, so sad. Nobody promised you the cookie-cutter experience that every other audience seeing every other similar event has ever seen. When you see an artist perform — and even more so when you hear an artist interviewed — there is no guarantee of the content; that's the exact point of going. Why would you go to hear someone speak if you already knew what he was going to say? If you want to read about how Steve Martin feels about acting and comedy, couldn't you find several looseleaf binders full of that stuff? The guy is not a recluse.

What on earth ever happened to encouraging audiences to pay attention to things that may be different from the things they were expecting?
Dig that last sentence. Read it again:
What on earth ever happened to encouraging audiences to pay attention to things that may be different from the things they were expecting?

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