A fresh array of thoughts at the intersection of my to do list and society

Archive for February, 2010

A timeless, comedic classic

Some people define a timeless classic as a movie like “It’s a wonderful life” with Jimmy Stewart, or a song like “All you need is love” by the Beatles. I agree these are classics, but if I live to see my grandchildren, I hope to tell them of another true classic, Robin Williams.

I, like most of my generation, was introduced to the comedian through “Happy Days,” and later “Mork and Mindy.” For you youngsters, Williams played an alien who was ignorant of the human race, but found ways to be funny as hell about our social and political imperfections. His comedic timing was impeccable, but also the fastest many had ever seen before. He was the first person I really understood to be a comedian, other than Richard Pryor whom my dad adored. Like Pryor, Williams made fun of societal issues, human stupidity and most importantly, himself.

What I also have always loved about Williams is his ability to make fun of himself. Something I wish more celebrities could embrace, especially in this “15 minutes of fame” generation. The first stand-up show I ever saw Williams perform was one where he wore a Hawaiian pattern shirt, sweated like a whore in church and addressed his family and recent cocaine addiction. I can’t remember the year, but he also was on Barbara Walter’s list of intriguing people. Later, I remember seeing him on all of HBO’s Comic Relief for the homeless, where he showed his inner-pervert, and enjoyed every moment of it. Then, there were several memorable movies, “Good Morning Vietnam, Awakenings, Aladdin and Moscow on the Hudson.” Following were flops like “Popeye,” in which, just like all of us, Williams experienced a horrible disappointment. But through failure, he found a way to bounce back. In 1996, Williams’ role as a therapist from the south, rough area of Boston in “Good Will Hunting” who connects with a young, talented, yet abused kid from the same area played by Matt Damon (aka my “pretend husband”) reminded us of his incredible ability to make us laugh and cry in the same breath. His showed his ability to see his own imperfections while seeing the light at the end of the tunnel through love.

I recently watched Williams’ new HBO special “Weapons of Self Destruction” and was reminded of why I adore him so. He made references to the current administration, scandals at the Beijing Olympics, social media and its affect on face-to-face communication, sexual dysfunction, heart disease and, most importantly, his battle with alcoholism. Like his battles with cocaine, he faced his demons and made people laugh about it. He didn’t belittle the disease or those affected by it. Instead, he pointed the blame on himself with quick wit and self-deprecation. As a daughter of an alcoholic and one who has confronted her own demons of the disease, it’s refreshing to have someone on your side that can help you not take yourself so seriously.

Williams is now 58-years-old. In my opinion, he’s never put himself on a pedestal and has never expected anyone to do the same (Ahem…Tiger Woods). He has faced his faults and made the decision as a public figure to share those imperfections with us. And, all the while, he’s given us an awesome laugh.

I think most comedians are this way. They know how to make people laugh, even if it means laughing at their own faults. Classic comedians like George Carlin and newcomers like Dane Cook appreciate this. Williams knows how to do that better than most. And while doing so, he’s become a timeless classic for me, and I’m sure for many, many others as well.

Who’s your favorite comedian and why are they a timeless classic for you?

Corporations Need a New March…

I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but bear with me.

As eloquently portrayed in “The March of the Penguins,” emperor penguins around the age of five make their way from the icy Antarctic waters to the same inland spot every year to breed new life. The routine is one that this amazing creature has done for centuries. Nothing’s changed. There have been no advancements or technologies to make their journey easier, less treacherous. No penguin has come up with ways to keep the eggs warm during the harshest blizzards experienced during this journey. No penguin fast food restaurants, no advanced travel systems, no new tools for communication between parents, not even fin warmers. Just the same journey year after year after year…

We as a species, on the other hand, have made awesome advances in the way we live, eat, sleep, travel and communicate. Yet, I’m continually amazed at the lack of support large corporations have for their employees, especially their communications teams, who embrace social media. It’s like the IT departments and executive leadership teams think if they block it, it will go away. As if it doesn’t exist and never will. Yet, consumers are using it to tell others what’s wrong or right with products and services, media are using it to find validate sources for news stories and nonprofits are using Facebook, Twitter, etc. to help victims in need after tragedies, like the earthquake in Haiti. And ironically, those companies who don’t believe in the power of social media are using this little tool called LinkedIn to recruit qualified candidates.

Ring…ring…yes, can I please speak with COMMON SENSE?! Smooches!

And believe me, I get it. It’s scary out there. With social media being the new kid on the block (for some at least), it’s easy to resist the change. But, here’s the reality. As futurist David Houle talked about at a recent event, the only companies that are going to survive the digital age are ones that can embrace change. Those that stay the same, won’t bend and flex as needed, are going to be left hung out to dry. One example of a smart company, Houle says, is Google – a company that continues to change the internet and communications landscape. And one company about to become extinct is Microsoft – a company that has solely relied on its software product for profit instead of finding ways to build on future needs of consumers and businesses.

Unfortunately, for the companies who stay mundane and make the same march over and over again, no presentation, case study, company endorsements, celebrity or well-known media outlet seems to help justify the need for becoming more savvy about the use of social media. It’s going to take a horrible crisis to open their eyes to the value of what social media can offer. It shouldn’t have to be this way, but it is a monotonous, same-as-we’ve-always-done-it march in an alarming number of corporations.

So, fellow social media advocates, what can we do to help our cause? What can we do to show the importance of embracing a new march?