Dateline: Southwest flight from Orlando to Providence, 28 May 2004
Last night was just what the doctor ordered: a big crowd ready for a big performance, and an inveterate showman desperate to remember what it was like to hold an entire ballroom in the palm of his hand. I have never worked a crowd for so many big laughs in my career, and it did me a world of good. On the eve of my 42nd birthday, it reminded me of what really animates my work: the sheer joy of teaching and sharing my ideas with others.
Writing a book was fun, and signing close to a hundred for people waiting long in line after the talk was certainly a gasser, but nothing compares to the live performance. Being on TV is cool, but it is as cold as ice compared to the warm buzz you feel when just a shrug or a couple of words can send several hundred people in spontaneous laughter or applause. It is my addiction and I have missed it desperately. When I go more than about two weeks without such an experience, I actually get depressed.
You may think itís simply the limelight, but thatís not really what does it for me, because deep down Iím more of a loner (far happier to be by myself with loved ones than with strangers or even my very small circle of friends) than an extrovert. When I spend time with people close up, I get tired and need to withdraw. But put me on the stage, where itís that pure transmission of ideas intermixing with response, and it is quite electrifying for meócharging my batteries in no time flat.
TV doesnít do that for me, nor do books or articles, as much as I value those forms of idea transmission. What really turns me on is being live with an audience that will give you feedback every single second of your performance. The sense of risk versus payoff in that environment is simply intoxicatingóthe best narcotic I have ever encountered.
When I was signing books afterwards, one lady asked me why so few Ph.D.ís were as funny and entertaining as I am, and I told her the truthóIím nothing more than a frustrated actor with a good, organizing mind. So Iíve taken that concept-packaging capacity and put it to a showmanís use: Iím Laurie Anderson with intellectual rigor, or Donald Rumsfeld forced to work the vaudeville stage.
I donít pretend that what I do makes me better than anyone else, or really any smarter. I just know that itís what I was meant to do, and I do it better than just about anyone else on the planet. Thatís a very nice feeling for your 42nd birthdayóthe first one following your old manís passing. Itís a sense of knowing who you are and why God made you this way.
Itís a confidence that allows me to define a global future worth creating and selling it for all itís worth.
Thank you, Dad, for helping me become that man. Thank you, Lord, for giving me the strength to find purpose in my life.
I canít wait to get home and hug my kids, kiss my wife, and mow that lawn . . ..
Hereís todayís catch:
REFERENCES with my commentary:
ìAgreement by U.S. and Rebels to End Fighting in Najaf: After 7-Week Battle, Sadrís Force Quits Streets but Stays Intact,î by Dexter Filkins, New York Times, 28 May, p. A1.
ìKerry Outlines Foreign Policy, Attacking Bush,î by Robin Toner and David E. Sanger, NYT, 28 May, p. A1.
ìIn Jordanís Scrapyards, Signs of a Looted Iraq: While U.S. Rebuilds, Experts Cite Plunder of Costly Material,î by James Glanz, NYT, 28 May, p. A1.
ìU.S. and Bahrain Reach A Free Trade Agreement: Despite small figures, Washington see symbolic importance,î by Elizabeth Becker, NYT, 28 May, p. W1.
ìTo Head Off Recall, Chavez Tries More Dirty Tricks,î by Mary Anastasia OíGrady, Wall Street Journal, 28 May, p. A9.
ìAn Identity Crisis for Norman Rockwell America,î by Michiko Kakutani, NYT, 28 May, p. B27.
ìItís Out of College and Onto Jobless Rolls in China,î by Jim Yardley, NYT, 28 May, p. A3.