By Adam Pierno
Last week, tucked away in a profile of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, were two very interesting insight about what we do when we create. I've linked to the piece in the New York Times by Jonah Weiner. Go read the piece before or after this.
"That’s it for me: solitude and precision, refining a tiny thing for the sake of it.”
In the write up, Mr. Seinfeld is quoted on the subject of crafting a joke. I got the impression he was talking about his ongoing approach to crafting jokes, thought the quote applies specifically to one. He talks about refining and refining. Each word thought through to try to get the audience to take the exact mental path he believes will result in the biggest laugh.
He is able to see from the stage (or perhaps hear) where his audience is drifting off course. And this is how most seasoned creative people are. We have an instinct for how to tell the story at hand, how to communicate the emotion in question and we work hard to steer our audience through the medium at hand to that emotion.
He talks about taking years to tell and retell a joke. Listening to cues from the audience on single words. We do the same things. Often, because we don't have the luxury and terror of a live audience to review our work as we create, we use only our instinct and past experience. I suppose paintings of masters would be different if audiences were standing behind them watching over their shoulders in a gallery. I wouldn't guess that they would necessarily be improved. As a junior Art Director, I'm not sure my work or my confidence then was aided by a hovering Creative Director, though my work and confidence today probably is.
He also referred to the emotion and opening of veins many artists and creative people apply to their work.
“What does Don Rickles tell us about himself in his show? Probably not much. He’s not pouring his guts out to you, but his craft is so amazing, his skill is so amazing, there’s depth in that.”
In the profile, Seinfeld doesn't come off as dispassionate. He's very passionate about getting things right, and about presenting his best to his audience. But this was interesting to me, the notion that you don't have to bleed for an audience for them to recognize your commitment.
His perspective on the matter - your great work demonstrates your commitment.
Of course, stand up comedy isn't commonly thought of as an art form. But storytelling is. And standups are some of the most effective in that field.