I love the bit about Arthur Koestler.
And I love his idea for “files” – I want to look through his files!! – but I also want to take that idea on myself.
I loved this, too:
So, those qualities of being alone like that fostered in me a need for adult approval and attention. Now they say that it’s kind of a common cliche that comedians just want attention. But it’s an element that’s very important. The job is called “look at me.” That’s the name of this job. âLook at me. Ain’t I smart? Ain’t I cute? Ain’t I clever?
I needed to beânot the center of attentionâbut I needed to be able to attract attention when I wanted it, through my stunts and my fooling around physically with faces or postures or voices I would do. Then it became funny the things I would say, and I became more of a wit than simply a mimic and a clown. And so, those things were all important in this. The fact that I didnât finish school left me with a lifelong need to prove that I’m smart, prove it to myself, maybe to the world. “Ain’t I smart, ain’t I cute, ain’t I clever.” “Listen to me, listen to what I got to say.” So, those things are important elements in the drive behind all of this.
It makes some people embarrassed to hear a person admit so openly that what he needs is attention. It seems to confirm everything they hated about the school show-off, now transferred to entertainers and performers who have the balls to admit that why they do it is they like to be looked at.
But Carlin’s honesty there reminds me of a wonderful anecdote told by Dustin Hoffman:
At the end of filming Marathon Man, there was a party. Laurence Olivier was quite ill. The shooting had been intense, and everyone was relieved it was over. Hoffman never quite got over being in awe of Olivier, despite their polar opposite ways of working (“My dear boy, why don’t you try just acting?”) – and he was very moved by the thought of Olivier, this old ill man, turning in such a great performance. It is what he does. Hoffman was sitting with Olivier at the party, and Olivier said, out of the blue, “Do you know why I do this?” (Meaning: acting). Hoffman shook his head No. Olivier got up, which was a bit of a struggle for him, he was quite weak, and leaned over to Hoffman, putting his face right up against Hoffman’s – and saying over and over and over, “Look at me look at me look at me look at me look at me look at me look at me look at me …”
Hoffman was tremendously moved. Perhaps you might expect that Olivier would say that he “did it” because he believed in the grand tradition of theatre and storytelling, or that he was carrying on the torch from Richard Burbage and wanted to interpret the classics to a new audience, or that he believed in the craft itself, and the nobility of it. All valid reasons, too, to “do” something.
But no. For Olivier it all boiled down to: “Look at me look at me look at me look at me look at me look at me look at me …”
Bless him (and bless Carlin) for being courageous enough to just say it.