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.


  1. I think even young people respond to, er, a good talking to. When I was a kid, what got me interested me in science, far more than James Burke's desperate enthusiasm about the lunar module's thrust, was the series of Christmas lectures from the Royal Society, with Sir George Porter and Heinz Wolf in a panelled lecture theatre, simply lecturing.

    As for the credit crunch, this is as good an excuse as any to post a link to my favourite summary of the whole thing. I guarantee your mouths will fall open at the howling, snarling stupidity of a succession of financial "experts" when one man - Peter Schiff - dares to say something they just don't want to hear.

  2. That clip is quite something.

  3. Anonymous10:29 am

    Bit harsh on cinema there, David. Burn After Reading, Hunger, Baader Meinhof Complex, I've Loved You So Long. I could go on. The emphasis might still be on the popcorn-munchin', Seth Rogan-lovin' non-stop-textin' youth demographic, but lately cinema seems to have realised that the over-thirties go out too. If you bung it on they will come.

  4. Great link Archie. That snippet is indeed a jaw dropper.

  5. David - is there any chance you can not make this blog white text on a black background? It makes my eyes hurt to read it. As a magazine editor, I remember sitting in the audience at one of your talks - I'm sure it was you that said 'white on black reduces your legibility by 30% on covers!'.

    Maybe it wasn't you, but in my mind I like to think it was, purely for irony's sake.


  6. Having heard Clive James sing, we should be glad he earns his living by talking.