Posts Tagged ‘interview’

Charlie Todd Has A Mission

March 8, 2010

As one of the main dudes behind Improv Everywhere, Charlie Todd helps mastermind large scale public pranks.

He also teaches longform improvisational comedy at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade.

Some of your pranks involve thousands of people. What appeals to you about mass pranks? Aside from sheer numbers, what function do they serve that small scale pranks don’t? The main reason that what we do now involves thousands of people is because the website got popular. We had to get bigger along with it. When I started it in 2001, it was me and one or two friends. That grew into me and a dozen friends. Then that grew exponentially over the years. It was never the idea to do massive participatory events. It’s really exciting to know that I can send one email to a mailing list and have two or three thousand people show up to partake in the event. Part of that thinking involves figuring out if the idea is funniest if thirty people are involved or 3000 people. But I do try to come up with projects that can scale as large as possible. It’s exciting to me have the chance to involve a 15-year-old kid from the Bronx who might not have that kind of opportunity otherwise. And I don’t mean that a 15-year-old kid from the Bronx in particular wouldn’t have the opportunity; No one has the opportunity to do something collaborative in a public space with thousands of other people. To be able to provide that is really fun.

How many of the pranks that you pull are based on your own ideas? Maybe 60% of the projects have been stuff that I’ve come up with pretty much on my own. There’s always a brainstorming process, but it’s not formal. It’s not like the people I work with are comedians working in a writer’s room. We don’t have meetings. We don’t even get together and drink. Not formally anyway. I get a lot of ideas emailed to me by total strangers. 99 out of 100 of those end up not being all that interesting.

Where do your ideas come from? I get a lot of ideas just from being somewhere in the city and seeing something unusual and then visualizing a way to make it funnier or more interesting. For example, I was commuting — this is maybe a year ago — and I had to transfer where the E train meets the V train at 53rd and Lexington. Everyone around me looked miserable. It was so crowded; we were all packed in like cattle. That experience inspired me to do something with the escalators in that particular station. That idea ended up as a prank called “High Five Escalator” where we positioned signs along the escalator and then had them end with a guy high fiving everybody. Or another time I was walking in Manhattan and saw a ledge along the side of a building that I thought was peculiar. It was maybe four feet off the ground. So I got the idea to put to a suicide jumper on that little ledge. I come up with a lot of things just by getting out of my apartment.

What was the best prank someone ever pulled on you? In college I had a pretty elaborate prank played on me. I had an apartment that was pretty close to all the bars in Chapel Hill. This particular year UNC was playing in the NCAA Final Four. On, I can’t remember, I think it was a Thursday or Friday morning, my friend printed up about a thousand posters announcing a party at my apartment. “Free alcohol and live music — Don’t miss the party of the year after the UNC game.” That kind of stuff. The fliers even included my address and a map to how to get there. That same morning, I saw the flyer on my car’s windshield, stuck under the wiper. Of course, I thought my friend was trying to make me think that he put the flyers up all around town. Then I got to school and saw the flyers on every bulletin board and thought, “Oh, he actually did put them up all over town.” The thing I was actually mad about was that I was planning to have about twenty friends over that night to watch the game and I ended up locking my door, turning the lights off, and hoping people didn’t show up.

You also teach improv comedy. Does performing a prank feel at all different from improvising comedy? There’s some skill overlap but ultimately I regret including the word “Improv” in the name because we get people commenting on YouTube that “This is clearly not improv; This was planned; You’re idiots.” That’s pretty annoying. But even if we have carefully planned out what we do — and sometimes we even have a script — you can never plan for how people will react. People are always variable. You have to be able to react to them in the moment. Aside from that, the skills of not breaking character, keeping a straight face, being able to improvise dialog — those are applicable to pranks and improv.

What was the last creative thing you did? Last night I was in Baltimore and there was a police officer at the bar where my friends and I were hanging out. I had to creatively figure out how to discretely take a photo of him. I wanted it because he reminded me of my favorite tv show, The Wire. I ended up getting a nice photo. It made for a great Tweet.

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David Lynch Goes Deep

March 1, 2010

David Lynch is an award-winning director. He’s big into Transcendental Meditation.

Do you think there are differences between the quality of art you made before you started meditating and after? And by quality, I don’t mean good or bad, but more something like inherent attributes. That’s a real good question. I think that I see a difference of finding the thing more easily. It was more difficult before and now it’s more easy. And in working I had more fear and anxieties and, you know, negative things swimming in me that affected the doing of things. I felt weak. I didn’t have so much self-assuredness. Then when I started meditating I felt more freedom. And they say that the heavy weight of negativity starts lifting away when you start infusing this expanding consciousness. Infusing energy and happiness and love and all these things from within, negativity lifts. I always say negativity cramps the flow of creativity. It’s really true. Things just flow more and you enjoy the making of things way more. And it’s just like kind of like a dance. It’s real great when that happens.

So there was no change in terms of subject matter? Everything you do — when you finish one thing and do another, they’re different. But I always say it’s the ideas that come. The ideas are everything and the way you translate them gets better. It gets better.

I also have a question that might be too abstract for a good answer but– I want to say more about the other thing.

Yeah. Do it to it. Another thing that’s so important: this thing of intuition. There’s plenty of supercreative people that don’t meditate, but you just get more of that and more fun in the doing and have less of the anxiety and fears and the other things that stop a lot of fun and a lot of creativity. This thing of intuition grows. A kind of knowingness. I always say that’s the number one tool of the artist: Knowing when something isn’t correct and knowing how to make it correct is super important. It works in music, in painting, in cinema. It works in business. When you transcend, you dive into that ocean of knowingness. It’s an ocean of happiness; an ocean of creativity. It’s the ocean of the infinite. All these things are infinite there.

But the way people talk about transcendental meditation relies on all these metaphors and analogies and similes. Stuff like, “Your mind is like an ocean and all the activity seems to be at the top but there’s a vast space underneath.” But aren’t these metaphors inadequate descriptions of the experience of meditation? And if that’s so, has meditation changed the way you think about concepts like metaphor and analogy? That’s a real good question. There is a huge problem because quantum physics and mathematics and all these things are objective sciences and Maharishi’s science of consciousness is a subjective science. The word “transcending” — there’s not an intellectual thing that you can say that gives that experience. So I always say that it’s a unique experience. The word “unique” should be saved for the experience of transcending. People don’t really know the word bliss. Bliss is more than the happiness that you get from buying a brand new car, for instance. Bliss is like the happiness of when you fall in love with someone and that person loves you back. That’s closest to this extreme happiness and flow of love that is transcending. That’s close. Maharishi used tons and tons of analogies to try and get people to catch enough of an idea of the thing so that they’d say, “Oh, I want to experience that.” But nothing takes the place of the actual experience. Analogies and things still come and you use those from time to time to try and explain the thing but it’s abstract. The transcendent is the most abstract level of existence there is. It’s the source of thought. Total abstraction. It’s the source of a star, the source of a tree. Everything that is a thing has emerged from this field. It’s incredible and you can experience it and then you know what it is.

Do you ever try to relate the abstract feeling of transcending through your own work? Not exactly. No. I don’t think I’ve ever set out to do a thing, except maybe in commercials. But sometimes I catch ideas and I fall in love with them and then later on I kind of discover what it is. It’s a reverse kind of thing. I haven’t ever, you know, set out to make a film. Right now I’m working on a documentary of the Maharishi and the knowledge that he brought out and that will be a huge challenge because these things are abstract. To try to show them visually or with sound is gonna be something.

What’s the last creative thing you did? Let’s see. Well, I did three things yesterday. I haven’t done anything creative this morning. It’s still early. I’m just getting to it. But yesterday I wrote some lyrics. I’m working on a photograph of a Country and Western singer named Billy Swan. And I’m working with wood. I’m making a cabinet.

Sook-Yin Lee Says Yes

February 16, 2010

Sook-Yin Lee wrote and directed a movie called, Year of the Carnivore. I’m not sure when it’ll be in theaters. Soon, I hope.

She also hosts a radio show for the CBC called Definitely Not the Opera, makes music when she can, starred in John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus, and used to be a VJ on MuchMusic.

You get the idea.

You had to drum up the financing for your movie by yourself. Is there any way that the business end of making a movie feels like a creative endeavor? I can’t even pretend to know the business peoples’ areas of expertise, but the challenge for me is: “How am I going to articulate to them the elements of the film that I feel should be the ones to represent it publicly?” Things like, who cuts the trailer and designs the posters. The business people aren’t necessarily going to have the best ideas for those kinds of things. Actually, there are a lot of examples of posters that they came up with that I had to nix. I ended up presenting ideas to them that they liked. I tried to direct the way my movie is presented as much as possible.

Did you feel like you were taken seriously by the business people? I think so. But it’s funny, there is a perceived notion that the business people don’t want to try and deal with the creative people directly. The producer is the liason. I made the mistake of emailing people directly and my producer was like, “They don’t want to talk to you!” I didn’t understand why not. But I guess the idea is that sometimes what they have to say might piss you off and for the sake of maintaining a good relationship with the artist, they’d rather have a middleman.

Is it hard to accomplish the artistic goals you set out to achieve with a film at the same as staying open to other people’s input? I imagine you want to be somewhere between democratic and dictatorial. I wanted to maintain a sort of creative purity but also impose almost a military structure at the same time. I was pretty diligent about trying to get people to fully understand my ideas for various aspects of the film. I’d make files, almost like dossiers, that I’d pass out. They’d have lists of music I was listening to at the time when I was thinking about a character; photos of strangers who had hair I liked that I thought would be good for the character; clips from films I liked. I’d give these style guides to the key creative people who were working with me. I think they appreciated the direction. But I broke rules all the time. I’d be dragging furniture all over the set and people would be like, “Why is the director touching the props?” Because to them it meant that the propmaster wasn’t doing his job. But I was just trying to guide everything.

Do you come from a creative family? My parents lived through revolution and war and death in China. So that I think breeds some creativity. My dad is also a really great storyteller and loves acting. There was a point in his life where his sisters said that he couldn’t consider acting as a career and had to go into engineering. My mom’s creative too, but she never got a formal chance to express herself. She used to make these wood sculptures. She was an explosive person. I don’t think I would be driven to make art if not for having a sort of tumultuous childhood.

What was the last creative thing you did? I’m wrestling with it right now. Sometimes the creative process is pure pleasure and sometimes it makes me want to like, kill. I think my obsessive compulsive tendencies solely manifest themselves when I make art. The other night I was stumped by technology. I couldn’t get the computer to work correctly. I have this gorgeous handmade blue scarf and I took that — I was so angry at this machine — and I just wanted to strangle myself. I stopped squeezing when I could feel my pulse in my temples. I was writing a pivotal scene in the next movie I’m working on. It was an argument between a dead ghost father and the live daughter. It’s key. I’m sitting there re-enacting the screaming, the arguing, trying to come up with dialogue. It’s so easy to make arguments sound histrionic and stupid. I threw my computer against the wall. I felt like the shittiest screenwriter ever. Usually it’s more fun than that.

Levi MacDougall Builds It Backwards

February 1, 2010

Levi MacDougall comes up with jokes that are funny and thoughtful. Other jokes of his are thoughtful, then funny. Still more are both at the same time, but only if you turn them inside out.

He used to put on a weekly sketch comedy show that I would go to and laugh at — in a good way.

Now, when’s not performing stand-up, he’s writing for a TV show: Important Things with Demetri Martin.

Presumably, he does other, non-comedy related things.

Do you and your audiences agree on which of your material is funniest? Maybe 85% of the time they’re laughing at what I thought was funny, but how much they’ll laugh I find impossible to guess. The most interesting thing to me, though, is when people find a joke funny for a different reason than I did, or when they’re laughing at something that wasn’t part of the punchline. That’s exciting in a way because when it happens it feels like the audience and I are both discovering something.

Do you come up with jokes differently depending on whether or not they’re going to be delivered by you or told by an actor? The initial process is the same in that it starts with throwing a bunch of thoughts on paper and making sense of it later. The main difference in writing for someone else is the refining process. When I’m writing for myself there are no limitations. But the show has very specific limitations in that each episode has a theme. There’s enough leeway within that structure that I can usually fit any good idea I have into it, but it does turn into a riddle-solving sometimes. There’s more, “How can I make this work?” and a little less strictly joke writing. And for whatever reason, writing for the show, my writing tends to be more about volume. I’m just trying to come up with as many jokes as I can.

Do you tend to write the punchlines first? Pretty much. It’s rare that a joke falls into my head as a fully formed idea with a set-up and a punchline. Most of my jokes tends to start as a notion that I then need to contrive into a finished joke. A lot of the time I’m finding a way to make my weird ideas work within the standup set-up/punchline equation. I end up doing a lot of reverse engineering.

You work long days at the show. Are you still coming up with good ideas thirteen hours into your writing day? Working so long is kind of nice in a way because it reduces the pressure to be creative immediately. When you have the time to generate stuff, you’re eventually going to come up with things that you can use. One of the bggest problems I’ve had in the past is stopping before I give an idea a real chance. I’ve gotten better at writing anything that comes to me instead of cutting off ideas because I thought they were too stupid or annoying. That doesn’t mean all the material is better, but when I can just do enough work, something usable tends to come out.

How does the city where you live affect the jokes you write? Being in different cities definitely affected the comedy. The stakes have gotten higher in every city I’ve lived in. I can’t imagine starting in L.A. knowing that someone from NBC could be sitting in the audience. I was glad to start out in Calgary. There’s no sense that you’ll get discovered out there. I liked that. If you fail, it’s a whole new audience the week after. I think that’s a huge advantage. The ramifications of your jokes will go no futher than the show at which you tell them. I remember I was scared making the move to Toronto. I thought there’d be TV people in the audience all the time. But no one’s being discovered there either. I had a lot of freedom to develop naturally without wondering what other people who could affect my career might think. Hopefully I can fabricate that same feeling here in L.A. If I’d started out here I think I would’ve been distracted by idea that industry people who maybe had very different motives than I did for favoring certain stuff would be watching me. Sorry, do you hear something strange?

No. Maybe we have a bad connection. Are you in a convertible? A little roadster? It sounds like there’s some motion going on.

I wish. That would be awesome. I like the idea of you interviewing me while driving around in a convertible. Hey man, what ever you need to do to get into the right headspace. I can respect that.

What was the last creative thing you did? I saw a dog in the back of a cube van on the lot where I work and there was a sign nearby. I was entertained by the wording of the sign and I took a picture. About 11 minutes ago I put that picture up on my website.

George Lois Is Planning A Big Surprise

January 18, 2010

Beginning in the early 1960s, George Lois helped make advertising interesting. As art director at various ad agencies, he was a key player in moving the medium away from the tame and prim and towards the hot and cool.

During the same decade, George helped reinvent the art of the magazine cover while working for Esquire. In 2008, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City devoted an exhibit to the cover images he created.

Lois swears a lot, talks fast, and has a great Queens accent.

Given that your work in advertising was always towards the end of selling something, how much of your artistic vision was defined by business-minded compromises? Well, I’m the wrong guy to talk about compromise. Not because I’m arrogant, but because when I was running an ad agency, I knew that every campaign I did had to be mind-boggling. When I showed the work to a client, if he didn’t look at it like I was nuts, I knew I had nothing. That’s the first problem you have to solve in advertising: how do you make it surprising? It needs to be surprising even before it needs to be good. Every time I showed something to a client, I would stun them. Their heads would go back a foot they were so surprised. But they eventually got it. And if they didn’t get it, I wouldn’t accept them as a client.

Were you able to have the same attitude before you made your name? I was always a bitch. When I was working for Bill Bernbach at DDB — I left there in 1960 — the art directors weren’t allowed to go sell the advertising to the client. I didn’t get it. In my third week, I showed an account guy a poster I did for Goodman’s Matzoh. The poster had Hebrew-style lettering on it — beautiful stuff. The account guy had no idea how to sell something like that. Oh my god, it was different! Of course the client didn’t like it. So I said, “Fuck you” to the account guy and I went and showed Bernbach the poster. Bernbach says, “That’s wonderful! George, that’s brilliant.” I told him the client killed it. He said that’s too bad. I said, “What’s this stuff about the art directors not being able to present to the client. My account guy doesn’t get what I’m doing. I know the consumers will get it, but my guy has no fucking clue.” I was talking to idiots when I was dealing with the account guys. So I said, “Bill, make me an appointment with the Goodman Matzoh people.” He agreed to do it.

Did you make the sale? I’ll tell you. Goodman’s Matzoh was in Long Island City in Queens. Ten minutes on the subway from our office. When people found out me, an art director was gonna go present, Everyone in the agency was like, “This young punk is gonna get his ass handed to him.” So I get to Matzoh place and meet with Goodman — this, like, 90-year-old Talmudic-looking Jew. The whole family is there. They were all ready for me. I get there and start selling my ass off, and one-by-one the younger family members say, “Gee, grandfather, I like this poster.” Still, he says, [Yiddish accent], “I don’t like this.” He does this twelve times. So I go to a window, climb out, and I hung out there holding my poster with my left hand and hanging on to the ledge with my right hand so they could see the way it would look from a store window. And while I’m out there, I yell, “You make the matzoh, I’ll make the ads!”  Then I go back inside and Goodman is looking like he’s had a heart attack. He says, “Alright, run it. Run the ad.”

But before I left, he says, “Young man, if you ever quit advertising, I’ll give you a job as a matzoh salesman.”

What’s the lesson of that story? There was no way that an account guy could sell my work as well as I could. I was even more of a bitch when I started my own ad agency, because I wasn’t afraid of hurting everybody’s feelings. I literally didn’t know how to compromise. No art director should know how to do that. 99% of the time the compromise is what kills the good idea. Everything you show to a client should be outrageous. Let them understand it later. You can’t castrate advertising if you want it to be effective. You can’t research a great idea. Everyone will, “Oh I don’t know about that. I don’t know if you can do that.” The client almost always will say that if you give them a chance to. And then they kill it. The minute a client says to me, “Suppose you do this” is the same minute I say, “Forget about it.”

Have you gotten feedback on your work that you thought was valuable? I’ve taken input, yeah. I’ve gotten ideas from other people. I can’t think of any examples right away, but I know I’ve listened to clients and gotten ideas before. I did a book called the Big Idea and what I tried to teach was that you have to understand five, six thousand years worth of ideas of art and culture. When you can do that, you’ll see that ideas come from the things around you. So when you’re assigned some sort of creative problem, you have to then you find out as much as you can about the idea in question — and the competition for that idea. I’m talking about three or four days of just learning. After you do that, there will be an idea there. You just gotta give yourself a chance to discover it. The idea will be there. I’m not being mystical. The idea is fucking there. All you gotta do is use your intelligence and instinct and find it. Sure, a part of it is maybe mystical, but the method I’m talking about begins with gathering hard information.

What’s the last creative thing you did? I’m always working on a big idea. Right now, I’m doing something for a restaurant in Washington, D.C., but I can’t tell you anything about it.

Why not? Because it will surprise the shit out of everybody.

The Ghosts Of Charles Bock

January 11, 2010

Charles Bock wrote Beautiful Children, a novel about Las Vegas, runaways, and what happens when families break.

The book took Charles ten years to write. When it was published in 2008, a lot of people dug it. But before then he had to do a lot of stuff  he didn’t particularly like doing.

Charles knows a ton about early ’90s UNLV basketball and rock poster artists.

He’s working on some cool stuff these days that couldn’t be mentioned here.

Some of what Charles says in this interview probably looks bleak on the page, but it was all said with a sparkle. So keep that in mind.

Where are you right now? I’m in a writer’s room in Manhattan. There’s all these other people with their fucking computers doing their stupid little bullshit. It feels pointless. You wanna feel like it matters. It’s hard to do that when you’re in a room like this. At least it’s quiet.

You did some ghostwriting before you published your book. Do you think that had any effect on the way your fiction turned out? There’s a few things that are pragmatically useful about ghostwriting: You’re not the boss, and you’re responsible for getting something in shape and making it publishable. You have to make sure the story has a certain narrative structure. You have to deal with the things that everyone wants to know even if the person you’re dealing with doesn’t want people to know those things. There are hard deadlines. Those are the rules. As much as you might want to, you can’t write an experimental celebrity memoir. And I think learning to work within marketable boundaries won’t ever hurt a creative person. Those boundaries are economic realities. No matter what kind of writing you’re doing — and in my case I’m doing stuff that goes everywhere — it’s important to understand the power of a good narrative. But I didn’t grow up wanting to be a ghostwriter. I was not happy about doing that work. I did it in order to eat. When you take one of those jobs you feel like a piece of your soul dies. But that’s okay, because trying to do anything in the creative world, parts of your soul will die. So in that sense it was good training.

You were almost 40 when your first novel was published. How would your writing be different if you’d first published when you were 25? That’s a very interesting question. Could I have written Beautiful Children at 25? I couldn’t have. I didn’t have the chops. I wish I’d been able to publish it when I was 25 — because years 26 to 30 would’ve been a huge fucking party.

Can you recall an early piece you wrote that made you feel like you were good enough to make a living as a writer? No, but I can tell you this: When I was in graduate school, I wrote a story that took place in New Orleans. I workshopped it more than once. I loved this story and I thought it meant so much to me. But I didn’t ever get it right. Successive versions kept getting worse. My teacher told me to put it to bed. The next thing I did was to get away from that and I wrote something in the voice of a teenage Russian. I sent it out. I’d been told that I could write and that I was talented and whatever, but I hadn’t put anything together yet. I’d had a lot of failures.

Then what happened? A while after sending out my story, I remember going to the post office box I was renting at the time and seeing an envelope from the place that eventually published my piece about the Russian. Inside was a form letter where they filled in the name of the story and the date they were gonna publish it, which was two years in the future. That made me feel like I could do it. But it would be a very long time before my next short story got accepted anywhere. It’s so hard trying to submit anything unsolicited because it feels pointless and like you have no shot. Even if you feel like you’re doing good work, you can also feel like the rules are skewed against you. But getting that story published really did make me feel like I could do this. There are a couple moments like that; where I thought if I stick with this, I can get it right, and something good will happen. But I always knew it was up to me to figure out how to get it right.

Sounds like it was sort of a drag. In many ways it was. A teacher of mine once told me that as a writer you’ll be humiliated, then you’ll be humiliated again, and when you think you can’t be humiliated any more, they’ll find new ways to humiliate you. But he also said that if you stick with it and do good work they’ll come back and kiss your ass someday. Okay, I added that last part about them kissing your ass. But if you don’t believe that there is an audience of readers out there that wants something good, then there’s no point. Then Tinker Bell is dead. I truly believe people want to read good work. There might not be a lot of them, but they exist.

What was the last creative thing you did? I made up a little rhyming song for my daughter. I do that a lot. It helps her sleep.

Bill Walton Lets It Flow

January 4, 2010

Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter while tripping on LSD. Bill Lee descended from deep space and threw strikes for the Red Sox. Ricky Williams was banned from the NFL for smoking dope, took a season of hand-offs in Canada, then returned south to search for holes in the O line. All three are deserving of a drag, but no freak ever flew so athletically high as Bill Walton. In the early ’70s he was the best player on two national championship basketball teams at UCLA. He wore sweatbands to keep his long red hair in place and threw passes like a prophet. His 1977 Portland Trailblazers won it all by playing faster and more telepathically than their opponents. He was a key player on the title-winning 1986 Boston Celtics, a squad that anyone who cares about ball can comfortably rate as one of the greatest of all time.

Walton likes tie-dyed t-shirts and the Grateful Dead and in 1993 he was inducted into the hoops Hall of Fame — even though his oft-injured feet destined him to double as both a what if and a best ever.

After he was done playing, he became a television color commentary man and spoke about the game in mystical and Manichean terms.

He also wrote a book about bicycling.

When did you realize that you thought the game better than most players? I need to put things in context before I can answer that question.  My favorite player of all time, on and off the court, is Bill Russell. It’s hard to imagine any athlete, with the possible exception of Muhammad Ali, who was more cerebral than him. You have to understand that the great body is a given. It’s the mental acuity and decision-making capabilities that distinguish the great champions. Russell thought about how he was going to win. That’s where the creativity comes in. You have creative artists like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Michael Jordan, Neil Young, Jerry Garcia — these people have the ability to spawn new ideas. That creativity is what sets them apart. And none of them played the power game. The power game, basically, is unappealing unless you have  some sort of attachment to that performer, like he’s your son. But the ability to inspire through creative brilliance is a transcendental bridge that draws people  to the cause. That’s why Jordan, the Celtics, Ali — even if they weren’t on your team you wanted them to win. It’s like the Brazilian soccer team — their style, their imagination, the thought processes that go into the attempt to put on a perfect show and ultimately win. That is what is most stimulating and exciting.

Do you think that– Everytime down the court is a totally different game. A good team is like a great rock’n’roll band. The activity happens so fast that it has to be the players. The coach teaches how to be creative in conjunction with disciplined organization. Creativity and imagination, that’s what makes it fun. That’s what makes you wait for the next release from Bob Dylan.

Isn’t it possible that– My thoughts aren’t written down like yours probably are. I was onto something. I need to follow my thought through.

Let it flow. I’ve lost it.

Let it flow, Bill. I’ve got it! You can listen to a song from any era and any age. If it’s truly great, it’s going to be new to you based on your feelings at that time. When you go to a great concert, you feel as if that person is performing to you and singing to you. That creative ability is what sets talent apart from something that is packaged or fake. The ultimate battle is the attempt to try to conquer hype with substance, to try to supplant luck with skill. That is the essence of the creative genius.

Do you think a physically dominant powerful player like Shaquille O’Neal is necessarily less creative than a fluid, flashy player like Pete Maravich? You’re judging substance based on taste. I can say that a given player is more creative to me. You can’t say that for me. That’s where my creativity as a fan comes into play. I can sit here and recite all the statistics you want, but I can’t control your mind.

So we can’t objectively say that any one player is more creative than another? Shaq plays in straight lines. Maravich played in spirals. I happen to think that Pete Maravich is one of the most creative people I have ever known. He out-thought history. He did things that no one else had ever done before. He came up with ideas and executed plays that no one else had ever even dreamed of. That’s why I have such respect for Harlem Globetrotters like Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal. Their ability to entertain, create, and dream was right at the top. Bob Cousy, Wilt Chamberlain — no one ever thought of dunking from the free throw line before him.  Kareem — nobody had moves like that. Kevin McHale. Larry Bird. These players were phenomenal in their ability to think.  The body is a given. That’s why the skill and the intelligence always beats power. Power is basically unappealing.

What about the notion that– Look at the great teams and the great musicians. Its not how loud they play or or how high they jump. It’s not how impressively they flex their muscles. It’s the greatest brilliance of a mind, thinking as part of a unit, towards the success and accomplishment of a team. You say, OK, that’s why I love Bill Russell and the Celtics, the Knicks of the ’70s. Magic and Kareem and Lakers. The Trailblazers of the ’70s. That’s why teams love the way that Phil Jackson’s squads play. Look at Pau Gasol — there is not one aspect of his game that is based on power and he’s an incredible player. Incredible. He’s the antithesis of what the modern game is based on and he’s a champion.

Before we go on, thank you for your time. I’ve got all the time in the world for things like this. I choose to creatively spend my time. And I choose to spend it on things like this.

What was your moment of greatest creativity on the basketball court? Jerry West said it perfectly and it’s never been said better: By the time you’re smart enough to really play this game, your body won’t cash the checks your mind so readily writes. There’s no way that your body can keep up with your mind. That’s why the great master teachers — John Wooden, Neil Young, Garcia, Dylan — encourage you to train your mind. Your mind is where ultimate success, happiness, achievement, and accomplishment come from.

What was the last creative thing you did? This interview. I thought about it in advance. I tried to come up with something to say. I hope I did.