Wednesday, July 23, 2008

So you want to rule the world ... Part 2: Amusing your minions

The heart of an inferior is always fascinated by a jest. Men know this in the knavery of elections.
Know it now, my pupils, in the knavery of life!

--Paul Clifford, Lord Litton*

Just slip on a banana peel
The world's at your feet

- “Make 'em laugh,” from Singing in the Rain

If you want to rule the world, you’re going to need minions.

And to get minions you need to be charismatic. Today’s minions don’t care about rugged good looks or fancy speeches. Today’s minions want to follow someone funny -- strangely, dangerously funny.

You don’t need a joke book. I’m sure you’re a genius with lots of very clever thoughts in your own brain. But you may need help getting that funny stuff out in a way that other people think is funny -- and not creepy.

You need to read Tricks of the Trade, edited by Jerry Dunn...

The idea here is that people who have perfected an art give you their secrets. Julia Child, for instance, tells you how to cook an egg.

There’s tons of useful information in the book, but what we’re interested in today are chapters from three very funny men -- Jonathan Winters, Steve Allen and Chevy Chase.

Jonathan Winters, who was strangely, dangerously funny before it was cool, has written “How to Improvise Humor:” have to get over your fear of going downtown and acting funny. You have to be willing to gamble…

His chapter includes a real conversation he had with a taxi driver, which I won’t spoil here because it’s positively hilarious.

Sample tip: “Talk to yourself.”

The same book has a section on “How to be Funny” by Steve Allen. His suggestions are a lot more down to earth and you can put them to use right away.

Sample tip: Develop your own joke formula.

This really works. The formula I personally use is, “Sounds like my prom night.” It’s not funny here in print. But the next time someone mentions some sort of disaster, humiliation or revolting discovery, give it a try.

Lastly, we have Chevy Chase explaining “How to do a Pratfall.” This is an amazing chapter. He really spills the secrets here and reveals himself to be a true scholar of slapstick. Check out this tip for bumping into a coffee table: Always hit the leg of the table … with the toe of your shoe only. Hitting with your toe not only prevents injury to your shin, but also checks your motion, giving you some momentum that prompts the rest of your upper body to whip over the table.

This man is a genius. I’d quote more but you really need to read the chapter for yourself.

Tricks of the Trade also has a section called “Master of the Universe,” which among other things offers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s lesson on the sky-hook. That will come in handy, too, when you’re playing HORSE with Bill Gates and Bono.

The book may be hard to find in stores, so check the library.

* Paul Clifford, by Lord Litton, is not a book I'd recommend, BUT in the appendix is something called: MAXIMS ON THE POPULAR ART OF CHEATING ... BEING AN INTRODUCTION TO THAT NOBLE SCIENCE BY WHICH EVERY MAN MAY BECOME HIS OWN ROGUE.

These cheats are actually more likely to be used by politicians than robbers. Following this list may actually lead to you ruling the world even faster than following my advice.

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