So I finally did it. After a year and a half photoshopping images, writing cover letters, and tracking down addresses, I finally sent off my thesis to The Colbert Report today. Actually it’s kind of embarrassing it took me to find that last part, seeing as I ended up settling for the fan mail address.
Either way I’m pretty excited about it, and proud of myself for actually going through it. As I mentioned in Part 1 this was always part of the plan when I originally wrote the thing. The cover letter my former speech coach and I included, yes- a cover letter, this is a professional operation, we hope Colbert’s staff won’t react in the same way as my graduate committee.
Much to the horrified surprise of my thesis committee, I am sending this project to you and your staff as what I hope is not the oddest tribute you’ve received.
I still think I’m in the running for odd tributes with the photos we made. I showed some of them in the last post but really went for it on others. This is the one I actually fastened to the envelope.
Man I love Photoshop (And So Can You)!
If it gets in the right hands it would be only the 6th copy ever distributed. If you yourself are intrigued, and still reading at this point, you can see a version of the thesis in the Arizona State University Hayden Library, or when I figure out how to upload them here.
These should arrive in New York sometime early next week. Then it is your move Colbert. Please don’t throw it out.
I just finished a summer session class on rhetoric and film.
I was quite intrigued with Jean-Louis Baudry’s paradox of forgetting in film. Basically, the real magic of movies is that the film’s production ultimately hides the fact that it is a movie at all. Sitting in a movie theater, presumably, is also meant to trick our minds into forgetting that what we are really doing is watching a bunch of images projected on a screen with sounds synced up.
Seemed like a perfect opportunity to write about Ocean’s Eleven.
I picked this movie for my final paper for two reasons:
1. Because I can.
2. The whole thing is an elaborate inside joke for the actors onscreen.
When the 1960 classic Rat Pack version was in production, the actors filmed on location in Las Vegas during the day so as not to interrupt their actual stage show at the Sands hotel. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop starred in little more than a vehicle for celebrating movie stars onscreen. Much like their stage show movie audiences were essentially paying for the privilege of watching the legendary Rat Pack have a party.
Forty-one years later the 2001 remake , starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt, attempts to capture much of the same essence. With a twist. While there is plenty of movie star sophistication reminiscent of a bygone era, the film carries out like a movie within a movie with the bulk of the plot devoted to the execution of the heist.
My Big Ol’ Thesis: The real heist of the film is not the one onscreen but in its own production. Audience enjoyment stems from witnessing that the movie, much like the characters within it, is getting away with something.
Here’s a few examples to show what I mean.
Check it out man. George Clooney and Brad Pitt are teaching young hollywood how to play poker onscreen. And then they hustle them. And then they walk out of the club barely noticed by the adoring fans outside. The genius of the scene is that it is almost unnoticeable.
And then every great movie wouldn’t be complete without an inspirational monologue.
Pitt asks if Clooney had been rehearsing his lines because the movie is about making a movie. I mean in order to pull off the heist in the film they have to build their own set in order to stage it. The casino can’t even be robbed unless they pretend it is. Theater!
Here’s another fun revelation: The heist successfully completed the cast joins up at the fountain in front of Las Vegas’s Bellagio hotel. One by one they go their separate ways, commemorating a job well done. It’s a visual unfolding of the credits within the film, listing off the names of those who made the “production” possible.
Ocean’s Eleven is, literally, an onscreen heist carried out by the actors.
At least that’s what I think is going on. In watching the film, viewers are secretly reminded of the film’s production. Audiences get to become part of an elaborate inside joke that the actors knew all along: the exhilaration of getting away with something while everyone watches.
You too can get advanced degrees for writing stuff like this.
For the very few who wonder what it must be like to be either a professional student or an amateur comic, let alone both; allow me to share one of my favorite lines told onstage.
Being a grad student is a lot like being a comedian. Now I have two jobs that don’t really pay anything.
Having the day job to support one’s comedy habit is akin to the common refrain budding PhD student’s face from their families, “so what ARE you going to do with that?”
After four years of graduate school and stand up comedy I still have no idea. One advances while the other stagnates and vice versa. The key is to find a job that allows for a bit of both. And at least for right now I think I’ve found it. Christopher Beam over at Slate offers a glimpse .
Also it would be nice if using humor was part of the job description as well. By this point it is commonplace to assume that Jon Stewart occupies not only the coolest job but also one of the most important cultural positions today. We here in the departments of communication studies, media studies, and journalism have been writing ad nauseum of the existence and impact of this position but suffice it to say that Stewart is the dominant satirist of our time. And this is a position to be venerated. Stewart is the H. L. Mencken or Mark Twain of our generation , a sentiment echoed not only by various academics but also by the likes of Kurt Vonnegut whose praise of Stewart strikes me as perhaps the utmost compliment anyone can bestow on a humorist.
I’m not saying I want to be the next Jon Stewart. I’m not so naive as to think I have even an ounce of his talent and charisma. In fact I don’t think we should have more people like him and Stephen Colbert. We should just bask in the brilliance they create. But I do think those of us who have been fans since the beginning and have gone to great lengths to illustrate the significance of what is going on at Comedy Central should be able to take their lead and find newer and more interesting ways to offer our ideas to the world. In many ways Jon Stewart does not do anything different than many academics interested in the current state of the world. It’s just that his method is, and it’s working.
Which is why, as a longtime fan of the show, as well as a practicing humorist, I was inspired by the Slate article previously mentioned. Commentary on current events, in a public format, with small doses of reasoned criticism gleaned from one’s academic training of choice, with some jokes thrown in, is something that I really think I could do. In fact it IS what I do. Can someone start posting those jobs on Monster? And then tell me about it on LinkedIn? And then show me how to use Monster and LinkedIn?