We just got back from the Academy theater, where Ira Glass presented one of the most beautiful, emotional pieces ever aired on television: the "John Smith" episode of Showtime's "This American Life". And again, I'm reminded of why I never stay for a Q&A session: your fellow audience members ought to be locked up in a Zoo for Narcissistic Ramblers.
This one wasn't even particularly bad: only one or two people made Tessa bury her head in my shoulder, but we've been to several public events where I wanted to MOTHERFUCKING STRANGLE the four or five question-askers who seize their fifteen seconds of fame and stretch it out into five minutes of pure, liquid phosphorescent hell.
These people never have a question; it's always a statement, and it's always about them. God bless ya for trying to impress the talent up on the stage, but here's a news flash: NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR TRENCHANT OBSERVATION. The rest of us came to see an artist, or a film, or something transcendental, and YOU ARE PEEING ALL OVER IT. You make the normal members of the audience lousy with Stupid Feeling™, you force your "hero" to navigate your thesis statement so as not to appear asinine, and frankly, you make ME want to apologize and explain that you are not emblematic of this community.
Except that you are. Which is why I have never read the "Letters" section of a newspaper or a magazine in my life: it's always the same shit. "I disagree with all that was written; please cancel my subscription." "As a [fill in race, religion, gender here] I find your article offensive, urgen gurgen flurgen." "I'm Joe America, and I have something painfully moronic to say about the gays." Or whatever.
Here's my pitch to audience members with an agenda: FUCKING SHUT UP. You got the mike because we thought you had a question, not because you needed validation. You've taken all of us hostage with your fanciful notions, and we want to KILLZ YOU. Save it for your graduate dissertation, and pass the microphone to the lady next to you, who has a short, fascinating question that will allow the artist to relax once more.
There are very few places where you can let the hoi polloi ask questions, say whatever they want... and not want to die of embarrassment for humanity. It has to be a venue that is well-curated, self-policing, and full of diverse yet respectful patrons. It often needs moderation, way more moderation than you thought would be necessary, until it morphs into something that is a comfortable place for old salts, newer voices and even shy wallflowers to participate without feeling self-conscious or asinine. It's very rare indeed, and you guys created it with the button just below.
For which I don't thank you enough.Posted by Ian Williams at June 2, 2009 11:13 PM