Tag Archives: ethics

The Commencement Speech I Wish Someone Had Given at My Graduation

I don’t remember a word from my graduation. I don’t even remember who spoke at it, much less what they said. That’s partly because I was exhausted (our art school staged our portfolio review and our graduation on the same day), but also because people rarely say anything memorable during a commencement speech. It’s just a day of platitudes and stock emotions, a ceremony, a rite of passage… a blur, really, that happens more or less the same way in every school in every city, every year.

So, apologies to whomever spoke at my graduation. Maybe you did say some of the things I’m about to say here, and I just wasn’t paying attention because I was sleep-deprived and starving. I could go back and watch the tape, but like most things in life, I don’t have time to relive them.

And to all my friends graduating this year — and to everyone who’s still negotiating the curriculum of life — here’s what I wish I had known when I was 22 and staring at the blank page of my own impending future.

Who you are now is who you’ll always be.

You may think that age and experience change people. Sometimes they do. But, broadly speaking, who you are at the age of 23 is who you’ll be at 73.

Yes, experience and circumstance will provide you with opportunities to change your attitude, but by and large, your attitude has already been shaped by the first two decades of your life. And if you could travel back in time to meet your next boss when he was 23, you’d see all the same personality traits and tendencies on display then that you do now.

So don’t expect people to change. They’ll do it if they want to, not because you want them to.

The only meaning your life has is the meaning you give it.

My apologies to all the straight-A students in the room, but this is where the easy part ends.

Now that you’ve graduated, no one can ever again tell you what you need to do to succeed. There is no syllabus for reality. It’s up to you to decide where you want to go next, and why. It’s up to you to decide if your life is worth living.

This can be hard to understand, especially for straight-A students who’ve always excelled because they followed the directions and aced all the tests. In life, everything is a test, and the only person who can tell you whether or not you’re passing or failing is you.

Don’t get lost counting things that don’t matter.

Materialism and tradition are false benchmarks we use to tell if we’re succeeding, because we’re desperate for ways to measure our progress. Are you married yet? How nice is your car?

It doesn’t matter.

What matters is how you feel about yourself.

Eventually, you will die. We don’t know if there is an afterlife, but we do know that there is this life. And when you take the time to reflect on who you’ve been, what you’ll remember are not the things you had, but how your choices made you feel.

Be comfortable alone, but don’t be a loner.

Being alone gives you time to reflect, consider, plan, and appreciate.

Being with others gives you memories, experiences, and purpose.

Do both.

You can’t break anything.

Let’s be blunt: unless you kill or rape someone and get jailed for the rest of your life, there is literally nothing you could possibly do that can’t be fixed, atoned for, and improved upon throughout the rest of your life.

Go bankrupt? You’ll be more responsible next time. Get divorced? You can find someone new.

Whatever seems like it’s the end of the world isn’t, so get busy having experiences. Eventually, you’ll figure out which ones provide you with a better return on your investment of time, resources, effort, and emotion, but the only way you’ll figure that out is by comparing and contrasting the ones that do with the ones that don’t.

The less you need, the more exciting your life will be.

Things trap us and hold us in place. The more you can’t live without, the more difficult it is to take action. Possessions and titles hold us back. In the end, you’ll want a life filled with experiences, not things.

Find your passion and your purpose.

Not to get too primal on you, but here’s the basic thing about life: when you’re fighting for your survival, you only have two choices — live, or die. If you’ve just graduated, you understand this dichotomy as “pass, or fail.” And now your next goal is to find a job that pays you enough money to keep you alive.

Everything after that is a bonus.

But once you amass enough resources that you no longer have to worry about imminent extinction, you’ll have the freedom to decide what else you want to do. This can be a double-edged sword.

For some people, it can lead to a life of exploration and discovery. But for others, a lack of a clear goal can lead to materialism, or dogma, or other institutionalized ways of measuring our alleged success. Or it can lead to a life of ennui and boredom, in which we no longer understand what our purpose is because we’ve seemingly attained what we need and we can’t figure out what else we should be doing with all this leftover time, money, and influence.

In those cases, look at what excites you, and what makes you angry.

What you’re excited about is what you want to learn more about, because the exploration of that passion makes you happy.

What you’re angry about is probably some kind of injustice — child abuse, animal abuse, disease, oppression, or any other violation of the social contract. It infuriates you because it offends your karmic sense of equilibrium in the world.

If you’re excited about something, explore it.

If you’re angry about something, fix it.

If you have a passion that makes you happy and a purpose that drives you to action, you’ll never be bored, and you’ll always be able to make choices in life because you’ll have twin compasses of pleasure and purpose to measure those choices against.

However…

Never worry about whether or not you made the right choice.

Instead, ask yourself two things:

  • Did I make things better?
  • What did I learn that I didn’t know before I made this choice?

The degree to which any choice was the “right” choice is irrelevant, because right and wrong are subjective in all cases. You really just want to make sure you’re not making life worse for yourself or other people; everything else is just various shades of learning.

Love is what happens when someone else makes you want to be better.

We have a mythical concept of love as an external miracle that happens between two people, and which must be protected and sustained lest it be lost.

That’s bullshit.

The truth is, love is a chemical reaction that happens in your brain when you meet someone else who amazes and delights you and makes you want to be as good as you believe they are. The pleasure is love; the fear of losing them — of losing that feeling — is what fuels us to make the other person happy, so they keep exuding that same sense of wonder, which makes us happy in exchange.

This is known as “the honeymoon phase,” and it always ends, because any new stimuli eventually ceases to spark the same neurological responses it first did. At that point, the question is: does how we feel about each other daily, in the functional sense, feel better than what it would feel like to experience the honeymoon phase with someone else?

Sometimes the answer is yes; sometimes no. That answer is never right or wrong. And eventually, you’ll reach the end of the honeymoon phase with someone and realize that you’ve found someone you’d rather not be without.

Relationships aren’t about “which one of you is winning.”

They’re about succeeding together. And that means all the unsexy terms like support, sacrifice, and compromise. But don’t think of a relationship as “work.” Think of a good, functioning relationship as the engine that allows each of you to accomplish together the things in your lives that you could not do if you were attempting them apart.

Equally, a relationship is about this:

People are who they are, and they don’t change for anyone but themselves.

If you’re waiting for someone to change, you’ll be disappointed. We are who we are. You’ll probably spend too much time in some relationships, hoping the other person will change while simultaneously refusing to change yourself. That doesn’t make either of you wrong, necessarily; it just means you’re being unrealistic.

Conversely, if you love someone despite their flaws — which really means, if the frustration you feel because the other person isn’t your idea of “perfect” doesn’t overshadow the buzz you get from all the ways they make you feel amazing about life itself — then you’ve found someone who can help you become the person you want to be.

And, by helping each other become our own idealized versions of ourselves, we fuel one another’s passions and purposes in ways that you can’t even conceive of during the honeymoon phase.

Don’t try to be perfect; just do your best.

Your idealized self isn’t perfect, really. It isn’t gorgeous, it isn’t flawless, it isn’t infallible.

Your idealized self is kind, and honest, and doing the best s/he can, every day.

Your idealized self is what you hope to become in the time you have. And you never know how much time you have. So do the best you can, every day. And when you fuck up, fix it. And when you hurt someone, apologize. And when you need help, ask for it. And when you love someone, let them know.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed. No one is perfect. Make the best of it. And when in doubt, find the humor in the situation. Because humor — the appreciation that something is amiss — allows us to believe that there’s still time for things to get better.

Don’t act your age; just live your character.

You are not your age. You are not your skin. You are not your job. You are not your shortcomings.

You are not your skills. You are not your successes. You are not your failures. You are not your reputation.

You are not your family, your home, or your name.

You are simply what you think and what you do. And everything you do and think either changes or reinforces who you are at any given moment.

Your character is defined by your actions and your reactions. Take actions, so you don’t have to spend your entire life reacting. You are your choices.

Sitting here and reading this blog post was your choice. Writing it was mine. What we do with it now is up to each of us.

Just like life.

Congratulations, class of whichever year you’re reading this in.

Now go do something incredible.

Why Are We Afraid to Be Inspired?

I am most proud of my integrity and least proud of my cynicism.
— Chloe Sevigny

I’m normally a cynical person, but get a cynic drunk and he’ll admit that he’s really a romantic who’s just trying to avoid getting hurt.

A cynic wants to believe in the good things he hears, but he’s been disappointed enough in life that he feels as though getting excited about something new would be an illogical risk. He’d rather be seen as the guy who can’t be blamed for not caring than the guy who never learned from his mistakes.

Cynicism is an intellectual solution to an emotional problem.  It doesn’t add up.  But it does let us think we understand more about the world than those poor optimistic idiots who don’t know they’re going to get let down yet again.  It’s just as much a self-delusion as optimism is, but it feels worse because your sanctimony doesn’t even allow for the luxury of hope.

The Year of the Cynic

Maybe it’s just me, but we seem to be more cynical than ever.

Maybe it’s our sour economy. Maybe it’s the petty, tribal, clannish behavior we see popularized during an American election year. Maybe it’s the polarizing social issues we debate now instead of our economy — a practice that requires no intellectual rigor from participants, but instead rewards passionate opinions.

Whatever the cause(s), the effect of subjectivity’s modern triumph has been threefold:

We now live in a world where everyone can form not only his own opinion or worldview, but his own reality, thus rendering logical discussions functionally impossible. Arguments are made based on specious facts, facts are declared irrelevant, and otherwise sound theories are rejected based upon the reputation of the theorist.

In short: nothing matters, so why bother?

And while I truly think American politics has a lot to do with this trend, it’s not just an American problem.  Cynicism is contagious in a way that optimism isn’t, because optimism requires an innocence that adults reject in favor of the street cred that comes with doubt. But whether Americans are fueling the cynicism or just reacting to it, it’s spreading, and not in a good way.

A Political Aside You Should Read Even if You’re Not American

This could be the most Orwellian political year I’ve ever seen, in which at least one of the presidential candidates admits that facts are of no use to his campaign. And given that the US presidential election is always a 50/50 shot for the two finalists, American voters find themselves in the unthinkable position of trying to figure out which worst case scenario they fear less: re-electing the socialist fascist communist, or dethroning him in favor of the identity-less plutocrat.

No wonder we’re cynical.

And while I personally prefer to be inspired by Obama than be admonished by the GOP, I’m more troubled by the correlation that being inspired is to be naive — as though, by preferring to focus on the bright side of a flawed opportunity instead of dwelling on the flaws of the man behind that shiny curtain, I’m a weak-minded idiot who needs to be “assisted” toward a more mature mindset.

I’m not in the market for parochialism. Give me two dueling ideals and I’ll be thrilled to have to choose between competing inspirations, but if you’re selling a product intended to make me feel worse than I already do, don’t be confused when no one wants your free samples.

How Do We Justify the Act of Becoming Inspired Again?

Look, the world kind of sucks right now.

Then again, it always has — if not for you, then for the country (or business, or person) next to you. If we’re not at war (and we always are), then our economy is “in a rebuilding year,” or our social values are being torn apart, or our climate is trying to kill us, or someone else is. And if they aren’t now, they’re planning to do it later. And if they aren’t even doing that, they could.

By that rationale, the mere act of not being terrified every day is, itself, revolutionary.

In the face of so much negativity, choosing to be inspired might seem illogical.  But since logic is no longer in vogue, you’re free to feel any way you’d like to feel.  Given the gamut of possible emotions, why not choose to be inspired?

Here’s how it works (for those of you who’ve forgotten):

  • Envision the possibility that things could get better.
  • Identify at least one symptom of what that improvement would look like.
  • Investigate what it would take to make that change happen.
  • Take efforts to effect that change.
  • Succeed or fail.
  • Figure out what went right (or wrong).
  • Repeat.

Yes, those are a lot of steps, whereas cynicism only has one step:

  • Do nothing.

But if we all sit around waiting for our bosses, our coworkers, our spouses, our parents, our kids, our government, the rich, God, or someone else to solve our problems, we might never have anything to feel better about. (Ever.)

Plus, look on the bright side: if one of those entities is going to swoop in and solve your problems for you, why not solve a few yourself while you’re waiting? That way they can help you with the really big things you haven’t gotten to yet, instead of the small things you keep complaining about every day, like media rhetoric, poor customer service, interdepartmental miscommunication, rebellious teens, unemployment, obesity, racism, sexism, and the absence of quality reality television.

Any one of those problems — and hundreds more — could be solved by not saying, “This won’t work,” and instead saying, “I think this could work. How can you help me make this better?”

And if all of the above are solvable by us working together, rather than against each other, what’s stopping us?

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What Everyone Missed About the Daniel Tosh Rape Joke Controversy

I never expected Daniel Tosh, of all people, to be the impetus for my first blog post in a month. And since I find him to be one of the most aggravating personalities in entertainment, I didn’t expect to find myself defending him during his ongoing public pillorying over a poorly-interpreted rape joke, of all things.

But here we are.

This Is a Long Post, So You Should Probably Get Some Coffee First

As with all things in life, I want to preface what I’m about to say with three standard disclaimers:

* We never really know what anyone else is thinking.

* We never really know why anyone else does anything they do.

* We never really know why we react to things the way we do.

But unknown unknowns are the lifeblood of the Internet, which has been aflame over this issue for a week now, to the extent that you probably can’t think of anything else that could be said about this admittedly contentious situation.  However, the reasons I’m even writing about it at all are twofold:

* I’ve long held a silent suspicion about Daniel Tosh’s true intentions

* I think everyone who’s talked about this particular incident has missed the point

Ready?  Here we go.

The Setup

As well-documented on sites like MamaPop:

In case you missed it, Rape.0 went a little something like this.  Tosh, known for being as inappropriate and equal-opportunity-irritating, was doing a bit about how there are horrific things in the world and that being horrific doesn’t mean there aren’t jokes to be made.

The woman blogged:

I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”

I did it because, even though being “disruptive” is against my nature, I felt that sitting there and saying nothing, or leaving quietly, would have been against my values as a person and as a woman. I don’t sit there while someone tells me how I should feel about something as profound and damaging as rape.

After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…” and I, completely stunned and finding it hard to process what was happening but knowing i needed to get out of there, immediately nudged my friend, who was also completely stunned, and we high-tailed it out of there. It was humiliating, of course, especially as the audience guffawed in response to Tosh, their eyes following us as we made our way out of there. I didn’t hear the rest of what he said about me.

And then, after the blogosphere picked up the story and took Tosh to task, he apologized on Twitter:

The Problem

To me, the real problem isn’t that Daniel Tosh made a joke about rape.

To me, the problem is that nobody seems to understand what Daniel Tosh actually does for a living.

Let me qualify the following argument with one caveat: I’ve never actually seen Daniel Tosh live.  I’ve watched dozens of episodes of his TV show, Tosh.0.  I’ve read a little about him.  I’ve watched some of his stand-up routines on Comedy Central.  But I’ve never actually paid to see him live, unedited, and physically delivering his routines, so my impression of him is limited to the same reduced context that everyone has access to.

That said, I think Daniel Tosh is probably the most misunderstood comedian on the planet.

Yes, his routines are almost always designed to offend someone. He’s often accused of being misogynist, racist, homophobic, or any other designation you can assign to a person who denigrates others for a living.  And yes, he’s clearly doing it all on purpose, to push his audience’s buttons and provoke them into a specific reaction.

I just don’t think we give him enough credit for the reaction he’s actually pursuing.

What do I think he’s actually trying to do?

I think Daniel Tosh is trying to make you angry enough to stop paying attention to Daniel Tosh.

Let me explain.

Comedy is all about unexpected reactions.  You think you know where a joke, a story, or a scene is going, and then it veers into unexpected territory, and you find yourself grappling with your subconscious reaction to something that your brain hasn’t quite processed yet.  From stand-ups to sitcoms to performance art to film, the goal of comedy is the same: to generate a reaction from the audience that surprises them.

This is actually the exact same goal as horror and suspense, but while the twists of horror and suspense usually result in some kind of primal catharsis on the part of the audience, the twists of comedy usually make someone uncomfortable. Sometimes, it’s the target of a joke that feels uncomfortable. But when a controversial joke is skillfully delivered, sometimes it’s the audience itself that feels uncomfortable.  (See: Richard Pryor, Dick Gregory, Lenny Bruce, Louis CK)

Because when a controversial joke is skillfully delivered, you can find yourself laughing at a statement or insinuation which, on paper, you would decry as racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise hate-filled. Often, those jokes are intended as a commentary on society’s unspoken biases and hypocrisy; they’re a commentary on the audience itself. Thus, by involuntarily acknowledging the humor inherent in even the most grotesque situation, we’re then free to voluntarily ask ourselves why that situation exists in the first place, and why we may be culpable within it.

And that’s what I think Daniel Tosh is really up to.

Yes, it’s pretty clear that he rejoices in making other people feel uncomfortable. He’s almost giddy in his skill at knocking you out of your comfort zone. And even his biggest haters will admit that he leaves absolutely no stereotype unscorched. In Tosh’s world, no one is safe from humiliation for their masks and presumptions. And while Tosh.0 cashes its checks on the backs of fame-seeking idiots who post their own stupidity to the Internet, it also does something else: it rounds up a legion of — literally — millions of schadenfreude-addicted couch potatoes and challenges them to look away.

You Can’t Train a Monkey to Care

Tosh uses his fame to incite his followers to ape him. One recent challenge urged people to videotape themselves “lightly touching a woman’s stomach while she’s sitting down,” with the clear intention of making a complete stranger feel uncomfortable, if not vulnerable, or even violated.

Needless to say, people did it.

Maybe they did it because they thought it was funny. Or because they hope to get their clip shown on Tosh.0. Or possibly just because Daniel Tosh said they could, and since he — and, by association, his parent company Comedy Central — said it was okay, then it must be okay, right?

Which means scores of women had their days ruined, all because Daniel Tosh has a TV show.

Except that’s not why they had their days ruined (and videotaped).

They had their days ruined because people are assholes.  And that’s Daniel Tosh’s whole point.

Just like the girl who walked out of the Laugh Factory had her day ruined. It wasn’t because Daniel Tosh is an asshole; it’s because people are assholes.

The Machine Is Largely Unaware of Itself

Say what you will about Tosh’s sense of humor, or his delivery, or taste in cardigans, but he clearly understands people. He couldn’t possibly aggravate as many people as he does on a daily basis without understanding what buttons to press, and why, how, and how often.

I’d also wager that he’s just as incensed as you are about all the shitty things that people say and do to each other on a daily basis. (Heaven knows he sees enough of it.) In fact, I’d say he’s even more upset about it than you are. Because while you’re sitting here condemning his words, he’s on stages and TV screens every night, throwing those same dangerous words in people’s faces, over and over, and witnessing how they react.

And you know how those people are reacting?

They’re laughing.

And I bet that pisses Daniel Tosh off.

See, while I’ve never met Daniel Tosh, and I have no other reason to say this than my own instincts, I’d say that their laughter at his words is what angers Daniel Tosh more than anything else in the world.

Because he knows the things he’s saying are horrible. Hell, he’s spent his entire career perfecting the art of offense. And when people laugh at the horrible things he says, he realizes something that the rest of us — in our furur over propriety — miss:

Empathy is dead.

An Obituary for the Concept of Giving a Shit

It’s impossible to watch Tosh.0 and not fear for the future of our species.  Not just because people will videotape themselves doing the stupidest, most dangerous, most humiliating things imaginable. But because they will then put those videos on YouTube, with the explicit purpose of sharing them with complete strangers. Or, because other people will videotape the misery of others, and then share it without their consent.

And because, through it all, people will laugh at it.

Not only will they laugh, but they’ll pay money to sit in a studio and have a comedian point out other tragic or appalling things about these videos — and the people in them — that they might have missed if they’d just watched them at home.

Not only will the audience pay money, but global corporations will pay even more money to advertise on this ghoulish entertainment when it’s televised.  Why?  Because, at last count, more than 3 million people tune in to watch new episodes of Tosh.0.

What kinds of people?  People who will videotape themselves touching women’s stomachs if you ask them to, and millions more who will queue up to watch complete strangers be humiliated.

Now, after doing that for years, tell me that Daniel Tosh could truly enjoy it.

Well, anything’s possible, but here’s what I think is more probable.

I think Daniel Tosh enjoys his job. He likes making people laugh. And he likes pushing the envelope, not just because he likes to make people uncomfortable, but because he also likes to give them the opportunity to think.

He also knows when he’s pushing the envelope past the point of social acceptability, or when he’s about to push that envelope right off a cliff. And every time Daniel Tosh pushes the envelope, I truly believe he’s hoping that someone else pushes back.

But not like this, though.  Not like the national firestorm of “Denial Tosh hates women” accusations he’s heard before (and which, frankly, miss the point entirely by assigning the blame exclusively to Tosh himself).

I think he’s waiting for you to push back by not listening.

In fact, I’d go out on a limb and guess that nothing would make Daniel Tosh happier than if no one showed up at his comedy shows ever again.  Not out of some misplaced sense of moral outrage, as though they’re making an example of him by silencing him. But out of a sense of newfound empathy and humanity, and a refusal to laugh at the depths of mankind’s depravity.

Seriously.

For example, you recall Tosh’s apology on Twitter?  Here are some of the responses to that tweet:

Apart from Plimpton, a well-known actor and feminist who’s obliged to take these things seriously, what I find most telling is the banality of these responses.

Maybe they hate women. Maybe they hate themselves. Or maybe they think they’re being as funny as people think Daniel Tosh is trying to be. But the one thing none of them seem to be doing is “getting it.”

Tell me you could perform, night after night, to an audience like this and not snap.

Tell me you could be the poster boy for the basest instincts in the American psyche and not wonder if you were singlehandedly empowering the downfall of America on a daily basis.

Now tell me how long you could keep doing that, and seeing your audience become ever more oblivious to their own nobler instincts by the day, before you’d quit to pursue a less emotionally debilitating career.

Daniel Tosh knows what he’s doing. He’s just appalled that the rest of us are missing the point.

All of which brings me back to the actual rape joke itself.

The Mathematics of Comedy Is Nothing to Laugh About

See, the part of this story that’s been widely reprinted, as above, is only the middle of the story. If you read the whole thing, you’ll also read the beginning, which provides some context that’s missing from the part everyone is outraged over. To wit:

This is something that happened to a friend of mine in her own words.

“So, on Friday night my friend and I were at her house and wanted to get out and do something for the evening. We brainstormed ideas and she brought up the idea of seeing a show at the Laugh Factory. I’d never been, I thought it sounded fun, so we went. We saw that Dane Cook, along some other names we didn’t recognize we’re playing, and while we both agree that Cook’s style is not really our taste we were opened-minded about what the others had to offer. And we figured even good ol’ Dane can be funny sometimes, even if it’s not really our thing. Anyhoo, his act was actually fine, but then when his was done, some other guy I didn’t recognize took the stage. Of course, I would find out later this was Daniel Tosh, but at the time I thought he was just some yahoo who somehow got a gig going on after Cook. I honestly thought he was an amateur because he didn’t seem that comfortable on stage and seemed to have a really awkward presence.
So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didnt appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”

You know the rest.

But what you didn’t know, if you only read the popularized and context-free account of this story, was:

* These people are not regular comedy club patrons.

* They did not know who Daniel Tosh was.

* They did not understand that his “awkwardness” is part of his schtick.

* They did not understand that his endless repetition of offensive themes is, literally, the whole point of his act.

The way the story has been reported around the web, you’d think Tosh made a statement about offensive comedy in general, and a sensitive audience member lobbed the rape topic back at him as a challenge, hoping he would admit, “Well, you’re right; that’s never funny.”

But that’s not how comedy works.  For better or worse, comedians like Daniel Tosh exist to point out that, yes, everything in life can be funny, depending on the context.  (And, in Tosh’s specific case, he’s simultaneously implying that this could be seen as a flaw in humanity that we should address before we lose our ability to process it.)

And that’s especially not how live comedy works.  Because anyone who interrupts a live comedian immediately becomes a threat to the act, and will be either silenced, escorted out, or incorporated into the act so that the comedian doesn’t lose a) control, b) his train of thought, or c) his authorial voice. It would have been impossible for Tosh to have a bit ready to go, stop it, validate the interrupter’s caveat, and then continue as though nothing had happened. To do so would be to admit that the entire act is a performance, and that it doesn’t matter.

And that’s absolutely not how Tosh’s comedy works. Because when he’s at his most venomous, it matters more than anything.

In this instance, Tosh wasn’t even making the point about rape as an action.  His retort was actually a deft observation about the nature of comedy itself.  Crusading against rape, and then immediately getting raped, would, as a human act, be unconscionable and deplorable.  But as a comic act, the timing would have been perfect, because it would be the epitome of an unexpected reaction to where you thought this story was heading.

And that’s the problem with comedy: it works best when it feels worst.

The intention isn’t just to say, “Hey, these horrible things are funny.” It’s for someone else to say, “Yes, but, they’re still horrible.”

When we all stop making that distinction between concept and action, or between comedy and humanity, we lose our ability to empathize.

And then we become the very ghouls who let poor Daniel Tosh cry all the way to the bank.

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6 Easy Ways to Boost Your Internet Karma

No, I’m not talking about getting more “likes” or raising your Klout score, because that doesn’t matter.  What matters is what people use.

For example:

When I’m looking for a new place for dinner, I read restaurant reviews.

When I’m booking a trip, I read hotel reviews.

When I need a new book about a certain subject, I read book reviews.

And yet, how often do I leave reviews for the restaurants, hotels, books, films, music and other products and services I’ve loved?  Not often enough.

So here’s an easy way to fix that.

Continue reading

10 Ways to Never Not Be Marketing

I dig Chris Brogan’s post on what to do when you don’t want to market.

Personally, I hardly ever want to be marketing.  I’d rather be creating something awesome than trying to convince people how awesome it is.

But if I never marketed, I’d just be making awesome stuff in a room all by myself, for an audience of “whomever stumbles across it.”  And while that’s beautifully zen, it’s horrible business.

To me, the key is to find a balance between making and marketing.  That balance isn’t a strict 50/50.  It’s more like, “How much marketing can I willingly do before I want to punch myself in the face?”  Your bullshit threshold may be higher or lower than mine.  Proceed accordingly.

And if you’re the kind of person who’s immune to self-loathing, consider these 10 tips for ensuring that you never aren’t selling yourself.

1. Give Your Business Card to Every Human Being You Meet. Convince yourself that delivering your elevator pitch to complete strangers on the bus is just good practice.  You never know if that guy trying to sleep with his headphones on is just a lazy venture capitalist.

2. Find an excuse to promote each of your business ventures across all of your other business ventures. Do you run a blog about fly-fishing and a custom solar panel consulting firm?  There’s no guarantee that those audience don’t overlap.  And you’ll never know unless you jam each venture down each audience’s throat.  (Repeatedly.)

3. Overload your email signature with links, links and more links. Anyone who’s ever emailed you for any reason should know everything about you from your email signature.  You have 20 blogs?  Link them all!  You never know which one(s) your recipient will find useful.

4. Every blog post you write is really an advertisement for the blog posts you’ve already written. Self-link endlessly.  If your latest blog post isn’t a bottomless hole to your entire blog archive, you’re doing it wrong.

5. You’re Never Too Unimportant to Have a Facebook Fan Page. Even if you don’t do anything that should in any way cause you to have fans, have a fan page anyway.  It just might trick you into thinking you’re running an actual business.

6. Issue Press Releases About Mundane Things You’ve Done. Anything can be worth writing a press release about, including the fact that you’ve just written a press release.

7. Create Multiple Twitter Accounts to Retweet Your Own Tweets. If no one else is tweeting about you, shouldn’t you be?

8. Create an Email List to Promote Everything You’ve Ever Done, Ever. Sure, you can pretend that you have news worth sharing, but what you really have are links to things you’ve done, and which you want other people to care about.  And if you mail that exact same list of links every month with a new subject line, it will seem like you have news, which means people will open that list again.  That same damn list.  Every month.

9. Write an eBook of Your Own Quotes. The only reason people aren’t quoting you more is because all of your best insights came at 2 AM when you were tweeting into the void.  Collect your own wisdom into a single volume, so others have no excuse.

10. Host a Webinar That’s Basically a Step-by-Step Guide to Being Yourself. Not “yourself,” as in “you, the audience,” but “yourself” as in “I, your webinar host.”  Because people can’t aspire to be just like you unless they know how.  And who better to teach them than you?

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