The Future

 

(Predicted by Swami Laszlo) Prof.  Lee Kolozsy

 

I predict that show business will be around for a far longer period of time in the future than it has existed for in the past…

 

Therefore I must conclude that it will probably outlive me. Generations yet to come will struggle and suffer, even risk their lives, for the amusement of others, much as it was and continues to be for me. A lifelong love affair with a cruel and uncooperative mistress... Show-Biz… Not a job, not a career, not a profession, not a way of life, not a band of Gypsies distracting the Gaji’ [1] with amusing and captivating antics while the bump and lift mob cleans their pockets[2] , but a combination of this and more…

 

The essential ingredient is that indefinable charismatic quality that I call talent…  Talent and the guts to believe in your ability to amuse and impress your audience. This is my definition of “ Show-Biz”…If you ask me,  “It’s a disease” … Truly, in every sense of the word. A disease for which there is no cure. A disease with the power and force of an addiction. A disease which rules it’s victims lives. A disease that’s been around long enough for us to be fairly certain that it will continue to be around a while longer…

 

This leads me to ask the following question…  What in the world will a show of the future be like? 

 

So let’s examine this question in an orderly manner…

 

In order to accurately predict the future, we must consider fully, and assess carefully, everything we know about the past. Now most of what I know about the racket is stuff from the past. The only thing I know for sure about what’s ahead is that at some point in the future, I will come to the end of my career. This is dogma that is certain. The remainder of the future is shrouded in uncertainty. Therefore, to even begin to imagine the probable future with some semblance of  realism, we must employ some deductive reasoning. Kind of like some Sherlock Holmes of potential future history.

Lets review what we know about the past…

 

Archeologists tell us that we are all descended from hunter-gatherer tribal societies.  One can imagine that the hunt was a very important social function where tribal leaders ( the Jaycees) organized an effort to bring down big game. This was no small undertaking as there is quite an element of  danger involved in going after wild beasts with sharp sticks. Many casualties must have been sustained in this activity.  When the hunting party returned intact and laden with game, It is for certain that a feast was in order, probably a big party with all the usual decadent revelry. It is at some point in these proceedings that theatre was born. The first actor must have taken the stage, and with animal heads and hides for  wardrobe, acted out the first play in human history. The dramatic story of how Glug Glug, ( who was laying in his cave in a puddle of his own blood, moaning softly,  with no appetite at all ), was gored in the keister by the enraged wilderbeest. After partying all night with all the adoring fans, our  prehistoric actor read the reviews and decided to immediately contact his agent and announce, “I want to direct”…

 

It is a perfectly reasonable deduction from the facts as we know them to conclude that all of show-biz is descended from storytelling.  Now how did all this evolve into the circus, the carnival, and the sideshow…  

 

 An article I wrote several years ago poses the question… How did this whole thing begin?…

 

"HOW IT ALL BEGAN..."  ( SHOWMANSHIP )

 

I suspect that it probably began with an elephant. I don't have any real proof, no anecdotal evidence, no historical documents, nothing really, but this story, apocryphal, I’m certain, told to me by a long gone showman, in a Gibtown fish camp, nearly forty years ago.

 

“It all began with a couple of guys who came into a little money. How they got this money is irrelevant, the important part is about the elephant, which is still relevant, even though these guys were in business before Barnum.

 

So these two guys with the money decide that what they want to do is make more money, but they don't quite know how. Apparently what's needed here is market research so they decide to sail around the globe in search of money-making schemes. Soon enough they find themselves in a remote jungle outpost of the British Empire deep in India surrounded by the strangest of activities. The natives here are logging timber, but in a very strange manner indeed. Trees are falling  all about them with the noisiest of splintering crashes as they are knocked to the ground by enormous elephants each guided by a comparatively tiny native mahout while other elephants in harness are dragging massive logs for miles through the jungle to the sea where they are loaded on ships destined for England. These guys decide on the spot that they can make a killing in New York with one of these elephants, so off they go to make a deal with the local Rajah. Now the Rajah is not just in the logging business, which is a sideline, but quite diversified and primarily in the money-making business so before long a deal is negotiated and these guys find themselves the proud owners of an elephant complete with the indentured servitude of a qualified mahout ( "Only a few extra rupees Sahib and you will never have to shovel dung…" )

 

Now it doesn't take long after arriving in New York for things to take an unexpected turn. These guys figure out in short order that they can make more money by putting the elephant in a building and charging a nickel to see it than they could ever hope to make by working the beast.

 

Now whenever the money is rolling in a crowd usually forms and out of the crowd steps another guy to take a shot and one day this peanut farmer from down south sez to these guys, " Gentlemen, if you'll let me sell peanuts here for people to feed to the elephant I'll gladly pay for the privilege and we can all make a buck." Well before you know it another player makes the savvy observation that  the marks are not only feeding the peanuts to the elephant, but are eating the majority of the goobers themselves, so he books a lemonade joint, arranges to salt the peanuts heavily, and immediately goes to cutting up jackpots and crying about the high privilege[3] while trying to figure out how to make that floater[4] go another season. Well pretty soon you look around and you've got the World's Fair with thousands of joints[5] and miles of food and hundreds of rides ( one of which arrives on sixty five semis, takes a crew of eighty men eleven days to set up, has seven hundred and fifty thousand light bulbs, needs five generators, seats two hundred riders, and one guy pushes a single button and this thing stands still while the whole midway spins round and round! )

 

Now of course it's 2004 and those guys are gone and it's bigger and better than ever and these new guys want to make it even bigger and better... but they want to begin by getting rid of the elephant !”

 

So does this story tell us how the show of the future will be performed?  Well it doesn’t, really, it merely makes a good case for the belief that show people in the past were pretty much like the show people of today. It also helps us by pointing out that human nature is probably pretty much a constant throughout history and that means the people putting on the shows of the future will probably be more like us than different. So by logical extension, we can safely conclude that tomorrows shows will be comparable to ours, much like the shows of today can be compared to yesterdays… Only better… I hope…

 

For any human enterprise, the key to improvement is learning. Much of this is research. Not nearly enough of it is trial and error. I personally have perfected many of my best acts by creating material that was influenced by bits I stumbled across researching show history, and then battered audiences with variations of it until I hit sure-fire showstoppers.  Don’t ever worry about bombing, you have to die a million times to become immortal…

 

Never forget that all of human achievement is derivative. Originality is largely a myth. Our human culture is based on the continuation of knowledge passed along to our offspring. Even new discoveries are invariably reliant on the work of others who came before. NASCAR can be traced to the chariot races of the Romans, Broadway shows to the Greeks, The Mayans played a ball game to the death, contact sports such as boxing and football are  played by modern age gladiators of the circus, Organized entertainment programs can be traced back several thousand odd years. Before even the Roman’s Circus of Death. ..A great big thumbs down to the Ghost of Julius C. for ordering the death of his cast. The dream of every producer in the history of Show-Biz at one time or another. Execute this bunch and bring on the next audition…

 

Go back even further and you may find that the first juggler may have been trying to carry fire to his cave, much to the amusement of his fellow Neanderthals…

 

Today, the entertainment of popular culture seems to be the motion picture. It is America’s number one export, recently passing plastic. We seem to be a nation that is capable of shaping goop to resemble anything. As fake as it is, movies and plastic are a fact of life, and you can’t argue with success. I foresee less and less live entertainment, and more and more simulated thrills. Probably mass produced crap consumed with plastic utensils. Like a drive through meal…

 

The art of Film relies on two principles in order to reach an audience. One of these is a physical characteristic of human vision which simulates motion in the brain. It is known as “persistence of vision”. The other is a psychological phenomenon known as “suspension of disbelief”.  The first fools you into thinking that the pictures are moving, and the second allows you to believe it’s for real. Combined with sound, it can be a powerful storytelling tool. What would happen if you threw in a few more hi-tech tricks?

 

So I’m guessing that the show of the future will be a lot like a movie of today, only more real, more of a personal adventure… You’re hooked into this thing, see?  It’s the size of a wristwatch and couples directly to your government required brain wave monitor implant, which reports violent, or unapproved tendencies, see? It could be worn in your living room, or in a car, or on a plane, or aboard a starship headed for another world. And it delivers the story and the action and the drama and the conflict exactly as if you were living it, see?  I mean complete with emotions, sensation, choices, and interactive, so you could do it with groups of your friends, see? A form of effortless recreational rest, see? And that could actually be what’s going on right now, see? Without our  even realizing it we may actually be in the middle of a show biz adventure story as we’re speeding into the future……to be continued


[1] In the circus tradition… the Gaji are the audience, in the Gypsy culture… they are outsiders or non-gypsies

[2] “ Bump and lift mob” Traditionally pickpockets and their shills, however, a cautionary note, this expression can be interpreted as referring to agents, producers, promoters, vendors, and the business managers who fulfill the traditional roles of the bump and lift mob in today’s version of the gypsy circus.

[3] “privilege”-- “the nut”-- “the burr”… the rent, the costs of operation, the amount of money needed to break even.

 

[4] “floater” Circus lemon, for the pink lemonade. I’ve never seen one go an entire season.

[5] “joints” Fairgrounds stands. Traditionally wood framed canvas structures housing carnival games and other money making amusements.

 

 

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