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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Is speech the future of live performance?

To the Lyceum last night to hear Malcolm Gladwell perform extracts from his new book "Outliers". I know this doubled as a press reception but nonetheless they seated two houses of 2,100 apiece to hear a bloke explaining the ethnic theory of plane crashes and the English roots of male aggression in the Deep South of the United States. With no PowerPoint.

Gladwell makes very good money out of speaking. He's not the only one. When I spoke to Clive James recently he told me that he now makes his living out of the live circuit. In New York City the trendy club to go to is The Moth where prominent people entertain a roomful of drinkers for fifteen minutes by speaking without notes.

You can see why this would appeal, particularly to middle-aged couples. Any band, other than one you are related to, is a terrible gamble for all but the professionally involved. The cinema seems exclusively aimed at teenagers. The theatre costs a fortune. You don't want to be shouted at by comics. Therefore why not go along to hear someone's interesting opinions or experiences elegantly expressed with the promise of a few jokes on the way? It seems like perfect recession entertainment.

On which subject I see that whereas six months ago we were being told that we didn't save enough, we are now being encouraged to spend like drunken sailors. An economist on the radio this morning described this as the Paradox Of Thrift. i.e. If we all save the economy will seize up. If we all spend the economy will overheat. So, after you.