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Dylan Brody asks why social networking trumps actual, you know, talent

Off-Ramp commentator Dylan Brody
Off-Ramp commentator Dylan Brody
Courtesy Dylan Brody

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My father raised me to believe that talent and persistence are all you need to succeed.  It turns out dad was as wrong as a Creationist explaining the fossil record.

My father isn’t an idiot. For 10 years he was the Associate Provost for the Arts at MIT, a perfect fit for him, right at the intersection of art and science. A few years ago I had the joy of traveling east to see his magnificent "Heisenberg Uncertainty Opera," an epic musicale during which it’s possible to accurately determine either the position or the momentum of the fat lady at any given time. It was a show that could not find its natural resolution if anyone was there to see it. People left the theater weeping every night, “What about the cat in the box? Was the cat in box OK?” 

Dad landed the job when someone from a search committee happened to be in England at the right time to see his Cambridge University Physics Department production of "The Pirates of Penzance," starring Stephen Hawking as the Pirate King. The singing wasn’t great but the choreography was innovative.  (For the record, you don’t have to be self-conscious about enjoying that joke. Professor Hawking himself has heard me tell that joke, and he says that I’m a very funny man. Although, in fairness, it is impossible to tell when he’s being sarcastic.)

I digress. My point is, from his safe vantage point in the world of academia, my father genuinely believed that talent and persistence were all I would need. He was wrong.

I was recently told that I can’t have a Comedy Central special because my Facebook page doesn’t have enough “likes.”

My novel, set in the world of stand-up comedy, rich with family drama, laughter and pathos, has advance blurbs from Carl Reiner and Paul Krassner. But publishers tell me they can’t put it on their lists until I get at least 500,000 follows on Twitter.

I am not an entirely unknown entity. On April 2, my fifth CD will drop with Stand Up! Records, and I have never repeated a joke from one CD to another. You can purchase my work on Amazon and iTunes. You can read me in Huffington Post and hear me here on KPCC. I have a body of work. I write. I perform. I persist. But apparently in today’s world the key is social networking. Although, it’s done alone at one’s desk with a computer, so it should really be called anti-social networking.

A strong education in the arts, a love of the English language, the true joy I take in performing, have left me ill-prepared for a career in a world in which “likes” and “follows” are plural nouns and “friend” is a verb.

When I tell stories on stage or speak into a microphone, I feel profoundly grateful; all I want to say is, “Thank you!  Thank you all so, so much.”  My manager says that’s not lucrative. I can’t say “thank you!”  I have to say, “Thankyoufollow me on Twitter at dylanbrody. Thankyoufind me on Facebook at thedylanbrody.’”

I enjoyed it so much more when there was subtext. Now I’m expected to send out mass emails that say, “Please ‘like’ me” and then provide a handy link to make that affection convenient.