Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I Fail, Therefore I Am

I have always assumed to the level of truism that one of the things courted by newspaper columnists -- at least the personal columnists and certainly the humor columnists -- is failure as long as it is somewhere short of disaster. Comic ineptitude and selective inadequacy are extremely engaging qualities, it seems to me. I remember when Bill Mandel was writing a column for the old Examiner and he would recall his cosseted youth in New York City, in Manhattan for god's sakes.

I hated him where he stood.

Someone told me they felt the same way about Adair Lara's BMW or maybe it was her Volvo, which would be very different thing, wouldn't it?

I still remember when Jon Carroll took singing lessons and had to perform at a recital and how bad he was hahahahahahahahahaha.

His teacher was so proud because he was so brave.

You just wanted to hug his neck.

But this survey for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists suggests the columnists themselves may think otherwise about the skill involved in displaying unskillfulness.

The question was:

Sometimes I undertake activities likely to end in failure or embarrassment just to have something to write about. And the answers were:

Newspaper Columnists Fulltime (24) Disagree 38 percent
Newspaper Columnists Parttime (35) Disagree 47
Freelance Columnists (81) Disagree 40
Humor Columnists (65) Disagree 40

"No opinion" and "Strongly disagree" covered about another third of the respondents in all four cases, so it seems clear -- or as clear as such a small sample can suggest, and that suggestion a very modest one -- that columnists are NOT pursuing the opportune pratfall on quite the scale I had imagined.

In the case of humor columnists, I am particularly surprised.

So much for the idea that my whole life has been one long, you know, preparation.

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