Sunday, September 23, 2012
Storyteller's Rulebook #147: A Skewer Is Better Than A Slam
When you skewer someone deftly, you make them think, “there’s something wrong with me.” When you simply slam them, they just think that there’s something wrong with you. To skewer, you must find the one weak spot in their armor and slide the knife into their gut at just the right angle. Otherwise, you’re simply whacking away at their armor with blunt force, which doesn’t make a dent.
George Carlin, who all of these guys acknowledge as the greatest stand-up of his generation, was an expert skewerer, and he proved it by sticking it to his own side just as effectively as the other.
For instance, he would make fun of right-wingers for retroactively re-naming things to reshape the world in their image, then he’d turn around and do the same thing to the environmentalists on his side, pointing out that one day they realized, “Hey nobody wants to spend any money to preserve jungles and swamps”, so they invented “rainforests” and “wetlands” because that sounded better—“but hey, you’re not fooling me, those are just jungles and swamps!”
Hearing that really stuck it to me. It’s not like I heard this and decided that we should no longer preserve rainforests and wetlands, it’s just that I thought, “Huh, I love to rail against the bad guys for twisting language, but my side does it, too, in helpful ways, so I guess I’m not really against that tactic, I’m just against the way they use it, so I should be less hypocritical in the way that I howl about this stuff.”
That’s what it feels like to be skewered: this guy has snuck his hooks into your head and he’s changing the way you think. When Louis C.K. says that feminists never shut up, do you think that any feminist thought, “Wow, he’s right, I guess I should shut up.”?