I learned a little lesson from Howie Mandel ages ago when I co-promoted his first-ever North American tour.
We were in his hometown Toronto doing the rounds of TV, radio and print interviews, and during one Q & A session, he was asked whether he was a jokester on the set of NBC's St. Elsewhere, a show on which he co-starred. To that, he spun a tale of hijinks, practical jokes and wild fun, creating the vision of a frathouse as his daily environment.
On the ride to the next interview, I asked him if it really was that crazy.
"Are you kidding? They would kill me!," he replied. "It's a business. If I wasted time on set, it would cost a fortune. It's work, real work...long hard hours of it!"
"So why did you tell them it was like a circus?"
"Do you think they really want to know the truth? That's boring. This is what they expect to hear, and what they expect of me."
And with that, I learned that in showbiz, or in any biz for that matter, interviews are not about facts, they're about the sell. Unlike the famous Jack Nicholson line in "A Few Good Men," it's not that the audience can't handle the truth...it's just that "the sell" is way more palatable to them.
So cut to an interview that was published last week on the website IdeaMensch. About a month ago, I was sent a list of questions, and checked out the site, which featured dozens of really, REALLY bright people. Most of them were handed the same questions as I was, and subsequently answered them diligently, intelligently...but in the end, mostly ho-humingly.
Because of this, I let the questions fester in my inbox for a few weeks. If I were to follow the same route as the rest of 'em, why the hell would anyone--other than family and friends out of eye-rolling obligation--want to actually read mine? I mean, who cares what book I recommend?
And that's when the memory of Howie kicked in.
What I decided to do was throw caution to the wind, eliminate any filters, and be entertaining rather than be purely factual. The end result is that I had a blast doing the actual work...and was such a wise-ass that I seriously thought that they would never publish it given its irreverence and attitude.
But publish it they did, and although not the most objective evaluating tool on earth, it earned more Facebook "Likes" than virtually any other IdeaMensch interview in recent memory.
An interview is an opportunity to sell. It's a platform to entertain, to convince, to state your case or position. For pure facts...well, there's always Wikipedia ;)
Howie's old lesson morphed into a new one, namely this week's learning, which permeates all interviews I do now, including the ones for Just For Laughs:
Forget the facts.
Instead, tell people what
they WANT to know.
And do so in an entertaining way.
Do this, and people will always come back with more questions.
And more questions mean more opportunities to sell.
To paraphrase an old catchphrase from the TV show The X-Files, "The truth may be out there...but being 'out there' may be more valuable than the truth."