Lookback: on being clumsy and unfunny

LOOKBACKFrom 2004:

I’m not funny, and wish I were. Witty, yes, sometimes, and I’m pretty good at making an audience laugh when lecturing (a situation in which the prevailing standards are admittedly fairly low). But plain old drop-dead funny? Absolutely not. The only time I ever brought down a house was when I contrived to be hit in the face with a cream pie in front of an audience of pubescent classmates who thought they were going to be forced to listen to me give a prize-winning speech as part of a talent contest. That stopped the show. Short of such skullduggery, though, I lacked the power to impose my personality on a crowd, and still do. As a naughty but honest colleague said of Leopold Godowsky, a legendary turn-of-the-century pianist who was miraculous in the studio but dull in the concert hall, my aura extends for about five feet. This incapacity has made it hard for me to be funny and impossible for me to be either an actor or a conductor, two professions toward which I was briefly drawn when I was young and foolish….

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