Tag Archives: television

Trevor Noah: There’s a New Court Jester in Town

 

 

 

A New Court Jester in Town

I’ve written a lot about Stephen Colbert and how much I appreciate someone with such a strong yet progressive Christian faith, reaching the audience he does. I listened to an interview with Trevor Noah of The Daily Show recently, and I find myself equally appreciative to have his voice in our cultural conversation.

Noah grew up in Mandela-era South Africa–and he grew up “very very poor” in Soweto. His background gives him a very different perspective, and it’s a welcome one. (If you haven’t seen his bit about how Donald Trump is an African president, check it out now.)

Noah has talked about how bizarre it is to be as dirt poor as he was, now navigating fame and fortune. Here’s one exchange between Noah and Linda Holmes, the interviewer:

I was going to the Emmys and someone suggested I get a stylist. I inquired as to how much a stylist cost. And I was told anywhere between 5 and 25 thousand dollars.

Per what?

Per styling!

Per individual event?

No, I thought it was to buy the person as well! But it’s not. This is what people are paying! I couldn’t bring myself to do it. In fact I said I would rather take the money, buy one outfit myself, take a chance on that red carpet, have it out with the fashion police, and then take the rest of the money and give it to charity… and at least I know every time I’m on the worst dressed list, there’s a bunch of kids cheering, because they know they got the money I would have spent looking good.

He also addressed head-on the good intentions of people who say, “I want diversity in hiring—this position is open to absolutely anyone,” but then do nothing to ensure that people of color or women even hear about the position. We rely on our own networks to find people, Noah says—it’s an understandable impulse, but when our networks are comprised of people who look and think like we do, it doesn’t get the job done. For example, when The Daily Show put out a call for correspondents, they plugged into the network of agents and managers, and got something like 1,000 applicants… four of whom were black people. He thought “Well, maybe black people don’t like the Daily Show.” Then he was in a comedy club and met up with a table full of black comics, one of whom said, “Hey, if you need anybody for The Daily Show, I’d like to try for it.” Turns out none of the people around the table had heard about the casting call because none of them had agents or managers. Diversity is work, Noah concluded, but it’s worthwhile work… and if you put out a call to your usual networks and do nothing else, you haven’t done the work.

Jon Stewart often saw himself as the court jester for the media. They were his target, and he was at his best when battling their excesses and biases. Trevor may end up being the court jester for the privileged. Which could be very interesting to watch—especially if he can do it with a smile and a laugh. I’m interested to see where the show ends up.

Ten Lessons on Stepping into Leadership… from Jimmy Fallon

I haven’t seen The Tonight Show in years, and my main late-night indulgences are Colbert and Stewart. So I haven’t watched much Jimmy Fallon. Except for “Barack Obama Slow-Jams the News,” which still cracks me up two years later. (The Prezi of the United Stezi!)

But I did catch Jimmy’s inaugural monologue on The Tonight Show this week, which led me to seek out several other clips. Here’s the monologue:

Jimmy Fallon is succeeding a giant of late-night television, and he’s entering a crowded field. At 39 years old, he’s taking a leap onto a larger stage and needs to prove himself in some ways. As I watched, I was struck by the smart stuff that was going on under the surface, whether calculated or not, and I started to relate Jimmy’s debut to other situations leaders find themselves in.  (What can I say? It’s what I do.)

Leaders sometimes find themselves following beloved leaders, some of whom are older, more experienced, and firmly entrenched in the culture. Or we may find ourselves having to step into a new role thanks to a promotion or other circumstance. How can these transitions succeed?

Here are just a few things that came to mind as I watched Jimmy take the helm. Might some of these relate to you as a leader, or in other roles you play? Some of these would apply not just to leadership, but any new creative endeavor:

jimmy-fallon-tonight-show-hed-20141. Locate yourself in history. Fallon made explicit mention of every Tonight Show host (and turned it into a joke by listing “Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno.”). This was a reverent nod to the folks who’d occupied the chair before him, but also a clear statement: my name belongs on that list now.

2. Make the role your own, but don’t go overboard. The set and format were very similar to the previous incarnation of the show, but with several small tweaks, and a few big ones. For example, Jimmy Fallon brought the show back to New York after many decades in L.A. (Carson started out there but moved the show to California ten years into his tenure.) You’ve got to find the right balance between continuity and novelty.

3. Mix self-deprecation with really knowing your stuff. As a young woman pastor wanting to be taken seriously, this was always my approach. It would do me no good to demand respect and get strident when I didn’t get it. So my approach was to be completely disarming, even self-deprecating, while still projecting extreme competence. The former takes the wind out of the sails of your detractors; the latter ensures they don’t write you off. Fallon achieved this balance with his characteristic aw-shucks modesty, coupled with running the show very well and taking his role seriously.

4. Make your family visible. This doesn’t apply to every situation, but it was sweet the way Fallon mentioned his wife and daughter and cut to his parents in the audience. Many leaders I meet (especially younger ones) don’t want a brick wall of separation between work and family. We want to be integrated. Having your family visible humanizes you. Also, knowing more about you makes people want to root for you.

5. Call in every favor you can. The sheer number of guests and cameos on the first show was dizzying! Check this out:

This isn’t just great TV, it’s great strategy. Don’t go it alone. Calling in favors builds excitement and makes you feel more comfortable too.

6. Spend it all right away. This relates a bit to the previous point. Don’t keep good ideas in reserve. Use them immediately, trusting that other ideas will come to take their place. I’m sure there will be other surprises for the rest of this week, and beyond. But taking the previous clip as an example, isn’t there something so abundant about the way that parade of celebrities came on stage, one after another? Too fun.

Speaking of which:

7. Don’t forget to enjoy the moment. Fallon sure looked like he was having a blast, didn’t he? I watched the episode mainly for curiosity, but now I want to tune in just to see what he’ll do next. (It’s one reason why I prefer Colbert to Stewart these days. Nobody looks more tickled to be doing his job than Stephen Colbert.)

8. Keep your goals modest. As leaders, we sometimes have an overinflated sense of what we can accomplish. We have to remember that we’re stepping into a system that existed before us and, we hope, will outlast us. Jimmy Fallon made his goals clear: to “take care of this show for a while” and to make his viewers laugh, to send them off to bed with a smile on their faces.

9. Be gracious with your “competition.” I put this in quotes because not every leadership role involves competition. But you will notice that Stephen Colbert made an appearance in the clip above. Fallon and Colbert are slotted opposite one another. But having them together is a statement that there is room for both of them.

10. When in doubt, bring on U2. Enough said:

Did you watch The Tonight Show? What did you think of Jimmy’s debut?

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Friday Link Love

Once again, for all your procrastination needs…

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What’s Josh Holloway doing these days?

It’s been two years since the end of LOST, one of my favorite shows. My brother sent this along:

LOST Producer Damon Lindelof Has ‘No Regrets’ — Entertainment Weekly (Video)

It annoys me that the interviewer fundamentally misunderstood what happened at the end of LOST. But this is an interesting interview nonetheless.

And for the record, the ending did not disappoint me. I thought it was wonderful. And I still miss that show. Frequently.

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6 Ridiculous Lies You Believe about the Founding of America — Cracked.com

Columbus didn’t discover America (the Vikings got here first), white settlers did not carve America out of the untamed wilderness, and more:

The puzzlingly obedient wilderness didn’t stop in New England. Frontiersmen who settled what is today Ohio were psyched to find that the forest there naturally grew in a way that “resembled English parks.” You could drive carriages through the untamed frontier without burning a single calorie clearing rocks, trees and shrubbery.

Whether they honestly believed they’d lucked into the 17th century equivalent of Candyland or were being willfully ignorant about how the land got so tamed, the truth about the presettled wilderness didn’t make it into the official account. It’s the same reason every extraordinarily lucky CEO of the past 100 years has written a book about leadership. It’s always a better idea to credit hard work and intelligence than to acknowledge that you just got luckier than any group of people has ever gotten in the history of the world.

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Ken Burns on Storytelling — The Atlantic (Video and Interview)

There’s a new documentary about Ken Burns and his approach to Story.

[Sorry, can’t get the video to embed. But you can see it at the link.]

I would love to chat this up with some preachers. Specifically, I’m interested in his comments on manipulation. Isn’t manipulation an inevitable aspect of writing and delivering a sermon? Of course you want to do it faithfully and with integrity, but yeah, you are hoping for a response. How refreshing that he comes out and admits this. Once you’ve done that, then you can evaluate whether you’ve done it responsibly.

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Ten Things I Want to Tell Parents — Bread Not Stones

This has been making the rounds among my friends but it bears repeating:

YOU, not the church, are the primary religious educator for your children.Yes, the church serves as a resource for teaching your child about the Bible, worship, theology, and even religious history. But even if a child never misses a week of Sunday school, there is never enough time in that once a week class to reinforce and build upon the lessons of scripture and faith that children have the potential to learn.

You are responsible for building an adult religious life outside of your children. Many parents choose to return to the church and to religious practices once they have children of their own. Most often, then, their faith life and practice revolves around the religious upbringing of their children. As an adult, though, there is a level of nurture and spiritual development that you yourself can benefit from. Without taking that next step in building their own faith, adults can very easily find their lives void of a mature faith life once their children are grown.

More at the link.

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140 Characters Isn’t Enough — Katie Boone

The stories we tell on twitter and other social media:

Story is at the heart of the human experience. Our flight or fight response is the evidence of a collective story about survival. We lull our children to sleep with stories. We collect them, call it history and try to learn from it so we are not doomed to repeat it.

The danger occurs when our stories are rootless. All we need to do is look at the plethora of new social rituals to see the evidence: gender reveal parties, food journaling, push presents, work out diaries and birthday parties for grown-ups. We talk about “personal brand” as if that is a real thing of consequence. These new rituals tell a story, but that story is all about you and your life. All of it is an attempt to ritualize daily life and give it a depth that is not there.

We tell rootless stories when we forget our stories do not begin with us…

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Why Great Ideas Come When You Aren’t Trying — Nature

History is rich with ‘eureka’ moments: scientists from Archimedes to Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein are said to have had flashes of inspiration while thinking about other things. But the mechanisms behind this psychological phenomenon have remained unclear. A study now suggests that simply taking a break does not bring on inspiration — rather, creativity is fostered by tasks that allow the mind to wander.

May you find time to wander this weekend.

Speaking of which, it’s Memorial Day here in the U.S., so here’s one more link: my traditional posting of “Let Them In Peter,” a John Gorka song for fallen soldiers:

Adding to the Stephen Fry Love

It’s been a very busy week. I’ll get back to blogging more regularly soon, but in the meantime, I love this and couldn’t agree more:

 

I’m new to the Stephen Fry fanclub, but he seems to be everywhere right now, eh?

On our last night in Paris, Robert and I stayed in a hotel near the airport, so we could catch our early-ish flight the next day. Weary from ten days of hearing French and Czech, we were doing some channel surfing. We caught a French reality show that involved people doing various magic/stupid human tricks, a laugh track, and a host that looked like a cross between Penn Gillette and Carrot Top. Then we caught an episode of QI on the BBC. Of course the language itself was a balm, but what a smart, funny show.

The contrast was striking between QI and the French show. But that’s not really fair, is it, making Carrot Top the apex of French TV and Stephen Fry the British counterpart? Still, there was something so deliciously comforting about Mr. Fry’s show.

Hat tip: Keith Snyder