Friday, November 6, 2015

I Met Peter Sagal

[Peter Sagal, Boston MA]
Two weeks ago I had a chance to meet one of my favorites, writer and public radio personality Peter Sagal. I was at a marketing conference, and to my utter delight I found that Mr. Sagal was going to deliver the final keynote.

For the unititiated. Peter Sagal has been hosting "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" on NPR for about fifteen years, and I think I've been listening for at least thirteen. It's a news-based game show with a rotating panel of players, call-in listener challenges and celebrity guests that can be anyone from state senators to movie stars.

Peter's talk, entitled “The Art of Telling a Joke," was fantastic. “I have no idea what you do,” he quipped amiably, adding that he wanted to fit in with this marketing crowd, so for today he would sum up what he does for a living as “disrupting the traditional paradigm in the fart joke sector.”

Let me explain for the non-marketers. Marketing is quite the jargon-heavy industry, and Peter was gently poking fun at that aspect of it. It's a large part of what I do -- slay the jargon-monster with fresh, direct writing. For example, a line of copy such as "we are the only platform that provides the capabilities to innovate at scale" contains nothing of use to humans seeking actual information, so I would re-write a line like that so that it contains meaning, and someone gives me money. Peter's quip about “disrupting the traditional paradigm in the fart joke sector" got a big laugh from a ballroom filled with marketing professionals.

He's such a pro, moving about the stage comfortably, warmly interacting with the audience, getting genuine laughs. He didn’t have a slide deck, but he played hilarious audio snippets of Wait Wait to weave real-life anecdotes about jokes that were written one way, but once told, took on a whole new, unexpected life of their own, illustrating that the real art of joke-telling is...

Well it wouldn't be fair to Peter. I'll tell you if you ask me, but only if you donate a dollar to NPR.

Here are the links to the clips he used in his talk.

The "Crapped a Pineapple" One

The "Clippy" One

I did get a photo with Peter Sagal. I waited in line, and you guys, I really tried to be cool, like, hey, no biggie, it's just Peter Sagal. But apparently I forgot how to be a normal person, including what I usually do with my hands. And my face. So in a panicked move I went with bulging eyes, a manic grin and a double-thumbs up. So, no, you can't see the photo. I'm trying to have a personality here.