"You must have a stockpile of words that you can pass along to your children for their stockpile."
April 25, 2008 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Steve Carrell on how to act brilliant:
I've learned to appear scintillatingly intellectual by asking people questions ("Do you like pizza?"). Then I just look at them, nodding and saying "Hmmm" and "Um hmmm" every few seconds. Try and keep one or two things in your head to regurgitate later. After all, what is knowledge, really, but high-resolution regurgitation?
posted by beaucoupkevin (64 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
What a renaissance man. He gives me hope in the future of mankind.
posted by flippant at 8:35 AM on April 25, 2008


He's basically encapsulated there my theory of middle-management. That's exactly how I handle meetings with my bosses.
posted by papercake at 8:43 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I love lamp.
posted by clearly at 8:43 AM on April 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is how I got my Ph.D.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 8:44 AM on April 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


I've found that by agreeing at length with people who are perceived to be brilliant, I too am perceived to be brilliant.

Do you agree?
posted by Artful Codger at 8:53 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is kind of tangential, but doesn't it seem like there are a bunch of "public intellectuals" who run around spouting all kinds of bullshit, but lard it up with lots of metaphor in order to fool people into think they're smart?

The canonical example in my mind would be Tomas Friedman, a knuckle dragging imbecile if there ever was one, yet someone who seems to have conned the world (or at least the U.S. media) into thinking he's some kind of genius.

From his examples, I'm convinced that the way to make people think that you are smart is to make them feel smart when they listen to you. You do that by making up lots of metaphors and analogies in order to make the audience connect ideas that are new to them, but not too complicated. Simple enough for anyone to understand.

I don't think guys like Friedman do this consciously, after all, they're dumb. I'm sure they're as enthralled with their own intellect as everyone around them.
posted by delmoi at 8:58 AM on April 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Then there are those who screw that theory up terrible, mis-remembering stuff and mis-quoting it afterwards and make themselves look dumb.

I really hate interacting with THOSE GUYS.
posted by Imperfect at 9:01 AM on April 25, 2008


Do you agree?


I think you have made an excellent point.
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:10 AM on April 25, 2008


Y'all aren't really going to have a serious conversation about statements made in a stand up comedy act, are ya?
posted by HuronBob at 9:15 AM on April 25, 2008


Thanks for the post. It reminded me of the Australian radio host Steve Abbot (the Sandman)'s tips for share house living:
-Make sure you're the second person up in the morning so you can talk about the others, before they talk about you.
-Since most people love themselves, if you can be more like other people then it stands to reason you'll be more popular.
-Make friends with any couples in the sharehouse. That way you stand a better chance of being in the majority on most domestic issues.
- One way to stay awake at dinner parties is to talk about yourself.
posted by Staggering Jack at 9:19 AM on April 25, 2008


(I neither read the article nor watched any video which may have been present). In my experience, this is absolutely true, especially with people smarter than yourself. Mmm-hmm, knowing nods, and generally giving the impression that you know of what they speak, even when you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA, will get you a long way, and (in my experience), you will come off as being quite intelligent.

It helps if you are able to rephrase what the speaker just said in a slightly different way, even if all you do is use synonyms.

The speaker then remembers having a very intelligent discourse with you, because they did all the talking, so in their minds, it was all quite sensible.

(no, this doesn't work with the truly brilliant, or people prone to asking questions about what your thoughts on the matter are). Lots of people are quite content doing all the talking themselves, though.
posted by rhys at 9:24 AM on April 25, 2008


Too bad he's not giving advice on how to act brilliantly. Or taking any. ZING!

(That was for my girlfriend, who is not a fan of his.)
posted by Eideteker at 9:30 AM on April 25, 2008


Hmmmm. Um hmm.
posted by blacklite at 9:31 AM on April 25, 2008


Steve Carell is no dummy.

He's no Ricky Gervais either.

Too bad he's not giving advice on how to act brilliantly. Or taking any. ZING!

Like I said, he's no Ricky Gervais.
posted by three blind mice at 9:34 AM on April 25, 2008


A child's brain is like a sponge, and you know how smart sponges are.

They are also very absorptive, and great for cleaning up spills in the kitchen.

I imagine that sponges are probably useful for something, as well.
posted by quin at 9:35 AM on April 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: a bunch of "public intellectuals" who run around spouting all kinds of bullshit, but lard it up with lots of metaphor in order to fool people into think they're smart
posted by anifinder at 9:36 AM on April 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


What a coincidence! Just before reading this I was staring out the window looking at a Tree! Granted, I wasn't thinking about the Tree, but I guess that's why I'm not smart like Steve Carrell is.
posted by kozad at 9:42 AM on April 25, 2008


Like I said, he's no Ricky Gervais.

I always hear this. Could someone please explain this to me? Seems to me that Gervais did nothing with that role, and Carrell nailed it. Gervais was essentially just reading his lines; Carrell brought the character to life. (I haven't seen the British version in years, so I may be wrong.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:44 AM on April 25, 2008


Jaltcoh, you're dealing with NPR-listening American liberals; the British version was always better.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:47 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


delmoi: To Friedman's credit (or something like that), the existence of so many apparently superintelligent public figures probably has something to do with the ever-increasing dearth of actually, openly, very, very stupid ones.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:48 AM on April 25, 2008


Seems to me that Gervais did nothing with that role, and Carrell nailed it.

Nailed it pneumatically in the head, maybe.

Gervais had subtlety and pathos. Carrell is mere buffoonery.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:50 AM on April 25, 2008


favorite part:

Act "Human"
When I go to parties, people often look stunned at how smart I am. But nobody wants to talk about astrophysics at a dinner party. Hey, when I want to talk like that, I head to the lab! Instead, I talk about "human" things they enjoy and understand: midrange wines, movie trivia, and mundane subjects like family and emotional fulfillment. I like to end my conversations with a quote, usually something in French, like "c'est la vie," which means "down the hatch!" But don't overdo it: Nobody likes a show-off.

posted by ornate insect at 9:53 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


"This is kind of tangential, but doesn't it seem like there are a bunch of "public intellectuals" who run around spouting all kinds of bullshit, but lard it up with lots of metaphor in order to fool people into think[ing] they're smart?"

So, to make this thread a little more productive--who *are* the public intellectuals who are both accessible and smart?

Regarding Thomas Friedman--maybe he doesn't know that he's not a genius.
posted by mecran01 at 10:04 AM on April 25, 2008


Jaltcoh: Seems to me that Gervais did nothing with that role, and Carrell nailed it. Gervais was essentially just reading his lines; Carrell brought the character to life. (I haven't seen the British version in years, so I may be wrong.)

He did nothing but co-write the damned show. Sincerely, I think he probably felt at least a tiny bit constricted by that role (it's a constricting character, although maybe I'm reading too much subtext into Extras) but he did it brilliantly. And the fact remains that the US version, while much, much better than most Atlantic translations, is just a cookie-cutter copy in most respects.

Also: Stephen Merchant deserves more credit. He's fucking hilarious.
posted by Viomeda at 10:05 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


But I should add: I like Steve Carrell, and thought this was funny. I think he's a relatively good comedian in the face of most of those out there in America.
posted by Viomeda at 10:08 AM on April 25, 2008



Then there are those who screw that theory up terrible, mis-remembering stuff and mis-quoting it afterwards and make themselves look dumb.

I really hate interacting with THOSE GUYS.

I'm trying my best, damnit.
posted by eurasian at 10:11 AM on April 25, 2008


Seems to me that Gervais did nothing with that role, and Carrell nailed it. Gervais was essentially just reading his lines; Carrell brought the character to life.

Did nothing with that role? Gervais invented the role, the characters, indeed the entire concept.

Carrell talks about pretending to be intelligent, because pretending is as close as he'll ever come.
posted by three blind mice at 10:12 AM on April 25, 2008


He did nothing but co-write the damned show.

I thought it was implied that I was talking about the role that both of them played. I know Gervais is a co-creator of the show -- I certainly give him tons of credit for that -- but it seems to me that when people are comparing them, they're comparing the thing that they both do.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:12 AM on April 25, 2008


Carrell talks about pretending to be intelligent, because pretending is as close as he'll ever come.

But you know, Gervais would never get his chest waxed and yell out "AAAHHH KELLY CLARKSON!!".

GAME SET AND CHECKMATE!
posted by eurasian at 10:15 AM on April 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


We watched the original Gervais series, then rented the first DVD of the American version and promptly returned it after one episode. Suck-tacular.
posted by jquinby at 10:30 AM on April 25, 2008


We watched the original Gervais series, then rented the first DVD of the American version and promptly returned it after one episode. Suck-tacular.

Way to give something a chance.

You're the person who killed Firefly and The Tick.

Thanks.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:41 AM on April 25, 2008 [13 favorites]


We watched the original Gervais series, then rented the first DVD of the American version and promptly returned it after one episode.

The pilot was a mess because they copied the British script too directly. The Basketball episode would have been more indicative of what the show was going to become.

The strength of the American show is that it's more of an ensemble piece and they've fleshed out the rest of the workers enough that they can carry their own storyline.

It's a bit goofier and more sitcom-y than some people would like, and that's understandable. But you can't keep up that underlying hopelessness of the UK version for 22 episodes a year without turning away the audience. Even the UK version getting kind of silly by the Christmas special.
posted by Gary at 10:42 AM on April 25, 2008


I loved them both, but I admit to being lame.
posted by sourwookie at 10:45 AM on April 25, 2008


Gervais was essentially just reading his lines; Carrell brought the character to life.

I strongly encourage you to look again at Gervais' performance. (NB: He created the character.)
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:56 AM on April 25, 2008


Ricky Gervais might be a writing/producing genius.

But footage of him in interviews, DVD extras, etc plainly shows that he's not an actor. He's not acting. David Brent IS Ricky Gervais IS David Brent. HE REALLY IS LIKE THAT IN REAL LIFE.
posted by randomstriker at 11:00 AM on April 25, 2008


Steve Carrell acting brilliant(ly):

Produce Pete: Heritage Ambrosia

Even Stephvens: Elian Gonzales
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:11 AM on April 25, 2008


I did the exact opposite of jquinby... rented the British Office and watched the first episode and found it unwatchable compared to the U.S. version.
posted by MegoSteve at 11:16 AM on April 25, 2008


I don't understand the conflict at all. I love both, and think both are quite brilliant. The differences that exist set the two series apart nicely, and are quite apt given the differences in American and British culture.


This is a dumb argument. It's like people who constantly argue Beatles vs. Stones.


Um, they both rock.
posted by stenseng at 11:25 AM on April 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


The first season, ESPECIALLY the first episode, is not a good indicator of the US Office's quality. While much of it is funny, the series really doesn't become what it truly is and hit its stride till season 2. There's hints of the show's potential in Season One, especially in "Diversity Day", but you really have to watch Season 2.


Think of it like the Simpsons; the first couple of seasons of The Simpsons were pretty good, but it wasn't until Season Three that The Simpsons became the show it had the potential to be.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:26 AM on April 25, 2008


I can see comparing the British Office and the American Office. But I can't really see the point of comparing Gervais and Carrell in terms of their performances of that character. It's not like they're two actors performing the same character created by a writer who is a third party. They are two different characters, the first created and written by the same person portraying him, and the second one based on that first character but written by neither of the actors in question. (Well, actually, they've both written episodes for the US series, but by that point the character had evolved into something totally different from the British version). I don't think Michael Scott was ever supposed to be just an American David Brent...at least not past the first couple of episodes.

I actually think that The New Ryan (since he joined corporate) is a much closer approximation to David Brent.
posted by lampoil at 11:28 AM on April 25, 2008


mecran01: --to make this thread a little more productive--who are the public intellectuals who are both accessible and smart?

On economic issues (both domestic and international), Paul Krugman; also Brad DeLong.

On politics, the New York Review of Books is great. Michael Tomasky has been providing election coverage; here's an analysis of the Republican party. Peter Galbraith's written a number of articles on Iraq. William Dalrymple on Pakistan.
posted by russilwvong at 11:46 AM on April 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


I like to practice my thinking in a darkened room, alone. I focus on one thing, such as Tree. I think about Tree. Then, after that, I think about Cloud. Then later, as I walk outside, I see Tree and since I have practiced thinking, I avoid hitting it. I try and have six or seven thoughts a day.

The man is a friggin' sherpa. Yes, I mean guru. Yes, I said sherpa.
posted by Laugh_track at 11:58 AM on April 25, 2008


NB: He created the character.

Not necessarily a good thing. Film and theater are collaborative arts. Letting go of where the characters are taken is always a risk but opens up the possibilities tremendously. Clinging to the role you wrote invites narrowness, blinders, indulgence, and confusion between your self and the character.
posted by msalt at 12:25 PM on April 25, 2008


I strongly encourage you to look again at Gervais' performance. (NB: He created the character.)

I strongly encourage you to look again at my earlier comments. (NB: I know he created the character.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:47 PM on April 25, 2008


C'est la vie!
posted by rusty at 1:01 PM on April 25, 2008


This is kind of tangential, but doesn't it seem like there are a bunch of "public intellectuals" who run around spouting all kinds of bullshit, but lard it up with lots of metaphor in order to fool people into think they're smart?

Cornell West, please pick up the white courtesy phone.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:42 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, the white one.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:59 PM on April 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Sys Rq: To Friedman's credit (or something like that), the existence of so many apparently superintelligent public figures probably has something to do with the ever-increasing dearth of actually, openly, very, very stupid ones.You may wish to reconsider that.I don't know about stores where you live, but when I'm waiting in line to pay for my groceries, I don't find myself thinking, "Why don't the impulse buy items in the checkout isle contain tawdry information about famous stupid people that appeals to our basest natures? It must be because there are so few to write about."
posted by pound fool at 3:09 PM on April 25, 2008


American vs. British The Office arguments?

We're not doing this. Are we? No. We can't be.

Dammit, we are.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 3:14 PM on April 25, 2008


Just adding - the first season of any TV show is almost never an accurate indication of how good or bad it is.
posted by hellbient at 3:27 PM on April 25, 2008


(I neither read the article nor watched any video which may have been present).

Heavens, don't let that stop you from chiming in!
posted by rokusan at 3:32 PM on April 25, 2008


Metafilter: the British version was always better.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:42 PM on April 25, 2008


"It's like people who constantly argue Beatles vs. Stones.


Um, they both rock."


I have never understood this assertion. The Beatles don't even play rock; they're pop. And while the Rolling Stones play "Rock", they do not rock in any capacity discernible to man. Angie? Yeah, just proved my argument. GEEEWWWWWD BAAAHHHHH ROOOBEEYY TOOOSDEEY. Ugh.

"American vs. British The Office arguments?

We're not doing this. Are we? No. We can't be.

Dammit, we are."


Don't worry, I'm on the case. ;)
posted by Eideteker at 3:55 PM on April 25, 2008


pound fool: Indeed. Brainfart re: "dearth"; read it as irony, count it as evidence.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:57 PM on April 25, 2008


I didn't mean to imply that Carrell's buffoonery is "bad"; it's just a bit too broad for my personal tastes, is all. (Not to mention indiscernible from anything else he's done.)

the British version was always better

Never seen the British That 70's Show, huh?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:10 PM on April 25, 2008


Have you ever noticed the difference between American and British sitcoms? British sitcoms are all "herm herm humm hermm" and American sitcoms are like "har hoo ho hee"!
posted by hellbient at 4:20 PM on April 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


the British version was always better

Thats what she said.
posted by clearly at 4:22 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Have you ever noticed the difference between American and British sitcoms? British sitcoms are all "herm herm humm hermm" and American sitcoms are like "har hoo ho hee"!

Close.

British sitcom: Reasonable person in an absurd situation (Monty Python)

American sitcom: Absurd people in a reasonable situation (Seinfeld)
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:58 PM on April 25, 2008


British sitcom: Star is loathsome curmudgeon.

American sitcom: Star is straight-man to quirky neighbour.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:16 PM on April 25, 2008


Chinese sitcom: Star is the emperor and living incarnation of god. My favorite part was when he made that dude drink the ink! Hilarious.
posted by Eideteker at 5:30 PM on April 25, 2008


Metafilter: the British version was always better.

That would be Metafiltre.
posted by lukemeister at 8:14 PM on April 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


French sitcom: Do you mean soft character driven porn?
posted by oxford blue at 8:16 PM on April 25, 2008


Well, surely we can agree on one thing: the US version of Coupling was thankfully short-lived.
posted by ssmug at 5:55 AM on April 26, 2008


"American vs. British The Office arguments?

We're not doing this. Are we? No. We can't be.

Dammit, we are."
--
Don't worry, I'm on the case. ;)



Well then, let me go on record that Is It Buoyant? is way better than Will It Float?
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 6:25 AM on April 26, 2008


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