Saturday, December 8, 2018

Being Bob Hope

Whatever you do (assuming you think you're pretty good at it): if a total stranger stumbled across your most recent three efforts, would he find them impressive?

If not, regardless of your excuse (e.g. if they were just dumb jobs you essentially phoned in, knowing that'd suffice; or if it was a bad day; or if the asshole who hired you didn't want quality; or if you had life issues distracting you from doing your best work) then you might want to reexamine your self-image as someone-good-at-what-you-do. You have very likely fallen victim to a widespread virus that makes people forget that they need to actually be good to assume they are good. Not just once, at a fondly-recalled peak, but all the time...including right now.

I saw Bob Hope sporadically on TV for thirty years - from the early 1970's until his death in 2003 - without once so much as cracking a smile at a word he ever said. I sat through accolades and standing ovations, preenings and posings, and he was never, ever funny. It's not that he was in a decline - i.e. trying his best but simply out-of-date. He made no apparent effort at being funny, nor did he seem to care in the least that he wasn't.

He didn't need to be. He'd grown beyond it. He was Bob frickin' Hope. And that, alarmingly, appeared to be sufficient. A reputation for quality paradoxically supplants any obligation for quality. So if you want to be That Guy Who's Good more than you want to actually be good, there's no reason not to stop cold at that finish line and gloat amid the perqs.
Most singers become singers because they want to be singers, not because they want to sing.

When I finally saw some of Hope's old movies, they, unsurprisingly, weren't funny, either.

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