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Monday, January 31, 2011

Matt Leblanc and the "I'm here why?" manoeuvre

Episodes is worth watching for the occasions when it throws light on the highly cultivated one-upmanship that passes for etiquette in the higher reaches of media and show business. My favourite bit so far is when the British sitcom writers Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan are persuaded against their better judgement to meet TV star Matt Leblanc because he's apparently such a big fan of their show that he wants to star in an American remake.

The meeting takes place in a restaurant. They're there before he is. He makes his entrance wearing sunglasses and talking on a mobile in order to make it clear that he has far better things to do. He finishes the conversation, sits down, takes off his shades and says "I'm here why?"

This puzzled display of disinterest is a classic move, whether it's authentic or feigned. The first rule of Self-Importance is you must never be seen to have instigated any interaction. The meeting is always somebody else's idea. You're the one whose time is being wasted. I've been summoned by intermediaries to meetings with V.S.I.P.s which floundered as soon as the small talk was over and the V.S.I.P. said "and what can I do for you?" At this point it seems brusque to blurt "but your people set up this meeting apparently because you wanted it". By that point the damage is done. They've got the upper hand, which is the only hand they're interested in having.