Tuesday, February 17, 2009


In show business – maybe in any business – the key to career longevity is flexibility. Times change. If you want to survive, you have to adjust.

Wonderful advice. (Invariably delivered by an agent, whose personal idea of “adjusting” is adjusting the width of his ties and lapels.)

However…as Professor Irwin Corey would announce at the beginning of his act…

…some of us are inflexible.

We stubbornly – or steadfastly, if you want to be positive about being negative – refuse to change. Our thinking on the matter?

We’re delivering what we do best.

It’s gotten us this far.

In the long run, you’re safer with the tried and true.

The rebuttal to our thinking?

In the long run, you die in the short run.

The thing about flexibility – and I’m not speaking as an expert here, I’m situated towards the unbending end of the continuum – is that sometimes, the “flex” is not as great as we imagine. “Just a little change…” – as they sing in “Beauty and The Beast” – can keep you in the game.

I once heard a story about the legendary comedian Jack Benny, who happens to be one of my all-time favorites. As opposed to a joke-telling comedian, Jack Benny was a character comedian, the laughs coming out of the audience’s awareness of his hilariously flawed persona. This strategy kept Jack Benny popular for over half a century.

But there was a time when things weren’t going so well.

Benny was performing on the vaudeville circuit, taking his unique but, as yet, not fully developed brand of comedy from town to town. He wasn’t “knockin’ ‘em dead”, but he was doing all right.

Or so he thought.

At the end of one matinee, the theater manager called Benny aside and said that he was firing him. Benny asked why. The manager said he wanted to replace the comedian with a dog act.

Thinking quickly – and flexibly – Benny proclaimed, “I can do a dog act.”

The theater manager was surprised to hear this, but he agreed to give the comedian a try.

Directly after the matinee, Benny raced to the local pound, where he purchased a dog and a leash. That night, when Benny stepped onstage, he was accompanied by the dog. The comedian walked over to a prop “lamppost” standing on the stage, tied the dog to the lamppost, then moved to the front of the stage, and proceeded to do exactly the same comedy act he had done before.


Sometimes it's just buying a dog and not using it.

1 comment:

Jess Kiley said...

Steadfastly refusing to change, self-awareness is a good thing, eh?