We Came to Earth to Fail the deluxe Studio C fireside recap

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Having two new visitors swing by AMV to engage on a single post doesn’t happen as much as it used to. And so their desire for more of my notes regarding the Studio C fireside seem worth heeding.

That said, if you’re new to Motley Vision, look around a bit! Here’s a brief smattering of posts from the past few months—promise me you’ll click on at least one (they’ll open in a new tab):

Okay. Now that that’s open and waiting for you, let’s go on, shall we?

My early notes are focused on observing the excitement of the audience (I’ve never been to a fireside where applause and cheering breaks out when the speakers walk in—not even for Elder Holland) and the VIPs in attendance, who said the prayers, speculating on how the event was promoted, etc. Then they called up a Mormon bloke instrumental in getting the Silicon Valley Comic Con off the ground, etc. His story was apropos, actually. He first started down the road to membership inside the Oakland Interstake Center Auditorium when he saw the late And It Came to Pass pageant. He, naturally, saw parallels between these two events.

Jared-ShoresThe first Studio C-proper speaker was the politely applauded Jared Shores, cofounder and not recognized by the crowd because he’s . . . more the Liz Lemon of Studio C. Because he was first, my notes are still rather meta in nature. For instance, I was doing the math, trying to figure out how old the show was when one of it’s actors was suggested to me for a role in a movie project.

I do remember that he shared one of the first Studio C sketches. His reasons for sharing this one weren’t terribly clear, but what I liked about it as an example is that it is clearly satirical in nature. Since Studio C has to play nice, it won’t be anyone’s outlet for Trump jokes, but the tools of satire are still in play. No question this play-nice sketch has a touch of the sharp.

jason-grayJason Gray stood up and moved the applause needle back to full. He spoke of growing up in Boise and going to the fanciest elementary school in town with all the well-to-do Idahoans—richer than his family, lucky him for getting to associate with the rich kids, oolala. Then he graduated to a lower-class middle school and got stabbed in the hand by a girl bully a foot taller than him which, naturally, was played for laughs.

The story’s fulcrum was a fellow who came and invited this weird, lonely, poor kid to join a new group of friends, friends who became his core chums through high school. Then, after quoting Proverbs regarding friends, Jason shared a quite nice moral to the story: If you have a good group of friends, don’t be afraid to invite one more.

A sterling moral.

I’ll admit though that I was a bit troubled by the story’s rhetoric. He established himself as an outsider up front by talking about how much richer all his elementary-school friends were and how their houses put his to shame. But little Jason’s dad is a dentist. Yeah.

Then in elementary school, the reason he had a rough time and there were lots of bullies was because those kids were poor.

He tried to move past that rich = nice / poor = mean phrasing as he got to the moral-of-the-story part of his talk, but he slipped into calling unkind people poor (quickly corrected) once right at the end.

I hope the kids in attendance aren’t as attuned to such readings as I am. . . . Probably not. Besides, maybe poor kids do suck, what do I know?
mallory-everton

Mallory Everton got the biggest applause yet including girls yelling ILOVEYOU, etc. Her focus was fear and she started by quoting John Bytheway who, in one of his books, defined fear as False Expectations of Appearing Real. This seemed a bit of a non sequiter honestly but it was easy to believe that she experiences stage fright. Once she got momentum though, she was great. She didn’t mention whether she vomited before this night’s performance, but that’s none of my business anyway.

I already covered Mallory’s talk in my previous post, so I won’t resay what I said then, but since I seem to be into analysis of rhetoric, I want to expand on one specific thing she spoke of: Comedy offends people, even if it’s safe enough for BYUtv. The fellow who conducted the meeting (executive producer Derek Marquis) said that he gets people saying if only the brethren knew what they were up to, hoo boy would these “comedians” be in trouble.

(His response—at least as relayed to us—is a winner: Why don’t you come to a taping and ask them?)

As an example of causing offense, Mallory shared a Divine Comedy sketch that she’d conceived and put online pre-Studio C:

Yeah. For every person who loved it and shared it on Facebook, a certain percentage of sharees were outraged. Not to mention those making sure to tell ol’ Mal that she was ugly and should die. Even Mormon internet gonna internet, as it ends up.

Skipping through what I already covered, she ended her words with “You’re the person in the arena and you’re gonna kill it.”

“Kill” of course is comedy parlance for success (as opposed to “die” which is to fail—comedy’s risky stuff) but Mallory didn’t bother to explain that. I mean—it makes sense anyway given her arena metaphor, but ending a talk, right before doing it in the name of Jesus Christ, with a call to kill?

It’s quite possible someone was offended.

I rather hope so.

stacey-harkeyDuring tapings, Stacey Harkey keeps the audience pumped while the rest of the cast is changing clothes between sketches. But he wasn’t always warming up crowds!

As you may have noticed, each cast member so far has talked about how they overcame some unfortunate aspect of their personality to find success with Studio C—Jason was poor and friendless, Mallory was crippled by terror, Stacey was shy (with a side of fear).

I realize I’m coming off a bit cranky; here’s a quick warning that I will remain cranky for a while. #sorry

Stacey’s story of himself was excellent, to be sure. He was shy and awkward and then he prayed and things got better! By no means do I wish to knock this method of moving things forward. I do wish to add that a lot of people who feel like they have no place in the world when they’re thirteen fourteen fifteen will, like Stacey, find their place around the time they become a junior in high school. It is not unprecedented. It is not unusual. I might go so far as to call it normal.

Regardless. Even your junior and senior years will have lousy moments and scripture and prayer are good fallbacks.

The cranky part of my report here is my discomfort with his equating extroversion with maturity and confidence and shyness with . . . not. Ehhhhhhh.

First, extroversion and shyness aren’t opposites though that’s a common misconception, and it’s absolutely possible to be, say, shy and mature. Blending those things together uncautiously could give kids the sense that unless they entertain crowds during set changes they’ve yet to become mature. You can be shy and confident, kids! You can be extroverted and an absolute pill.

More or less.

natalie-madsenNatalie Madsen. Maybe it’s because her remarks weren’t as centered on being-a-crazy-mixed-up-kid and being-all-right-in-the-end, but Natalie’s remarks are sticking with me a bit longer. Also, by talking about Studio C itself and her role in the group, she removed the hahaha-bad-times-were-so-long-ago-and-so-it-shall-be-for-you aspect of the previous talks.

This image of her is taken from the only other sketch that was played at the fireside. It was a high-concept piece with Natalie playing the waitress Destiny. Comparatively, this is the sort of thing that excites me. Frankly, because I start thinking about how much fun it would be to rewrite. This might sound like a slam, but it really isn’t. I like sketch comedy but most of it is pretty good or pretty bad and that’s sufficient analysis thereof. Not often do I watch sketches that catch my imagination enough to get me thinking about the order of words and how to tweak the syntax to maximize the joke’s impact, etc etc etc. Maybe it’s a writer thing (said the guy who hardly proofed this before posting it).

Anyway, Natalie’s already picked up some things from life’s menu. She’s got married, she’s had babies, she’s quoted Amy Poehler* in front of a thousand underage Mormons, and summed up much of what her colleagues said by telling the crowd to get to know yourself and love yourself. God does, after all.

But to get there, she talked about Studio C.

“We fail at writing way more than we succeed,” she said. But that’s okay. Failure is the road to success. As Natalie put it, the point of failure is to get better. It may have a negative connotation “but it’s really wonderful.” We came to Earth, she said, to fail. Failing, she said, is a vital part of what we do.

Besides my general agreement with the pro-failure philosophy, her words were laden with gravitas because she spoke of being picked to join Studio C at the beginning and then, as the show developed, realizing along with everyone else that what was best for the show was to revolve around four primary actors. And so Natalie generally found herself as the girl who’s friend goes on a date with Voldemort.

Natalie then becomes our second speaker to quote Teddy Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Comparison, or envy, that’s what will destroy you. Even after you’ve left college behind.

And the story hung sticky in the air because, at least where I was sitting, we could not read the faces of her fellow cast members.

Then she ended talking about being a kid and not wanting to know if the Church was true and order was restored as our target audience was remembered. The takeaway though is that testimony too is something that always requires work.

Cue applause.

matt-meese

Or possibly they were cheering for Matt Meese who replaced her at the podium. He’s a nice guy. He let us stand and stretch for a minute.

Matt’s life lessons were also post-college. Inasmuch as he had graduated. Not inasmuch as he had actually left college. He had taken a job at the “zoo that doesn’t move” and one day bumped into a friend while carrying a box of dead mice. His friend, teaching a class later on, told his students about Matt and his mice, then gave them the valuable life lesson: “Don’t be like Matt.”

Even though his life seemed stalled, as he prayed the Spirit kept saying DON’T LEAVE PROVO for no apparent reason. As friends and family “politely worried,” two years passed. And then Studio C happened and there he was, ready to cofound it.

Hilarious stuff, as told by Matt. But he’s right: no rational person would have given him advice to carry dead mice around, but that was the right path for his goal of professional acting.

Uncertainty, he said, is a certainty. So choose faith over fear.

The Lord does not guarantee that the ideas he gives us will be good ideas. His plan for Jericho, Matt pointed out, was “terrible military strategy.” And the gospel too does not always make sense. But! Heavenly Father has a plan for us and we can feel good about it. In fact, it’s our best plan. For we as a species are “cute, but stupid.”

Honestly, Matt’s talk was so sloppy with killer bon mots that I didn’t write them all down. If Deseret Book has any sense they’ll nail him down to write some little gift-size book for grandmas to buy their teenagers. Free downloadable audiobook to get the full effect? He’s about got the thing already put together, I’ll wager, based on this talk.

More Matt mots: Don’t overBuzzfeed. Stick to Heavenly Father’s plan—everyone else is stupid. “From me to the smartest person on earth, we’re the same compared to God.”

 Which is where I’m going to end this hours-long slog through my notes. I’ve complained about some things, but hey—what do I know. And I love writing about professional writers because I know they tend to take criticism as an act of love, which is certainly how I mean it, and they tend to recognize honest praise as honest.

The anonymous Elder mentioned in the previous post, said that our dark media landscape needs someone to create light—and since, prior to Studio C, the only people watching BYUtv were “older than we [der Brethren] are,” there was a need to be filled.

In the last twelve-month, Studio C has seen over 200,000,000 views over all platforms. Even if you don’t share our anonymous Elder’s opinion of modern media, who can deny that we should be engaged in shining our light, even if, at times, that light is a little bit stupid?

Anyway. While we ponder this theology of the arts, how ’bout I leave you with something literary?

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