Last night I had a little music gig playing at a sweet little bar/restaurant venue downtown (Blackbird Buvette if you’re in the neighborhood), and it was fun even if it sometimes devolved into a bit of a train wreck. The band I’ve been playing with is in transition (the main guy is moving out-of-state in a couple months…sads) so we’ve had rotating members and very little practice these days…with predictable results. (And no offense to any of my bandmates who are reading this, y’all sounded great. The heat belongs on me.)
For better or worse, and with all due apologies to the audience, I’ve just always been inclined to put myself out there in the interest of, well, putting myself out there. Whether I’m ready or not. I guess I’d rather push forward in the hopes of learning and getting better even if it means embarrassing myself once in a while.
This morning, I was thinking about the sweet and cringe-inducing moments from last night’s show when I happened across a bit of news about one of my favorite performers Nathan Barnatt. In a nutshell, Nathan is an amazing comedian and dancer and has made a huge name for himself by putting out dozens, if not hundreds, of YouTube videos playing all sorts of different characters, with the common thread being they all turn embarrassment into an art form. My fave character is Trale Lewous, “self-proclaimed spokeperson for candy” (mostly Skittles, Twizzlers and Butterfinger). His videos are a spectacle of awfulness, done so well that I’ve developed a serious idiot crush on the guy. See why:
So I was super cheered to read this morning that after doing these videos since 2008, Trale/Nathan just got picked as Skittles’ official spokesperson! I just love seeing his passion for shamelessness pay off in such a big way. Mind you it’s not lost on me that Barnatt is a seriously talented performer and he’s honed his idiotic characters very well. This is not garden-variety “putting yourself out there” — his cluelessness is really well crafted. But still, his strategy of putting himself out there on his own terms, with his own videos, and taking control of his performing career instead of following the typical route of auditions/rejections is really inspiring.
In an article at the Huffington Post, Barnatt’s creative partner and video director Paul Cummings offered some advice for young filmmakers trying to break into Hollywood: “Just go out and do anything, even if it’s bad.” I love this advice. When you’re getting started in something new — whether it’s music, art, or even professional pursuits like architecture or consulting — the first things you do will probably be bad. If you don’t get over your fear and shame of that, you can’t move forward. Put yourself out there, learn from your mistakes and embarrassments, and you will grow. Who knows how good you’ll get; maybe you won’t improve a whole lot. Maybe you’ll realize you’re good at something else and change direction. (I continue to struggle with how much effort to put into guitar since I’ve never really gotten very good after yeeeears of playing.) But you won’t know until you put yourself out there. And if you really embarrass yourself and never want to show your face in public again, just watch a few Trale Lewous videos and I promise you’ll be cheered up and ready to go in no time.
Remember, Butterfingers is easy.