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How to Think Like a Fool in 60 Ways

Here's the complete list of blog posts with links: How to Think Like a Fool: RIPPO the Fool—5 Types of Fool Think RISK #1: Look for Trou...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Think Like A Fool

Photo by Heather Mull

One of the inspirations for this blog is a book by Roger Von Oech titled A Whack on the Side of the Head in which he has a chapter called Don't Be Foolish. He summarizes some of this chapter in his blog post, Think Like a Fool. Ironically, I find that many clowns and physical comedians could improve their acts by thinking foolishly more often. It's also a rich creativity tool.

Some of his tactics for thinking like a fool include:
  • Reverse standard assumptions
  • Notice things others overlook
  • Be irreverent
  • Be cryptic
  • Be absurd
  • Take the contrary position
In his book he also mentions other fool tools:
  • Laugh at it
  • Reverse your viewpoint
  • Parody the rules
In the coming weeks I'll be adding to his list, but I'll throw this question out to you—What other ways can you think like a fool?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Expectations Squished by Reality

I watched Dog Day Afternoon last week for the first time in many years and had forgotten how much slapstick comedy underlies its 70s style realism. The theme of squished expectations structures this movie, many clown acts, and quite a few silent comedies. It starts when a character or characters have a great idea, "I know, I'll do a juggling act," but have their faces rubbed into the fact, "I'm not a very good juggler." It happens in life quite a bit, too (at least in my life, which is one explanation why I am a professional fool).

In Dog Day Afternoon, the characters have images of successful crimes pulled off in movies and their own fantasies that contrast with the situations that follow (in the real life event that this story is based upon, the bank robbers watched The Godfather for inspiration before going to the bank). Sonny (Al Pacino) has probably mentally rehearsed the action of dramatically opening a box of flowers and quickly/coolly whipping out a gun to strike fear in the hearts of the bank employees. Instead his status is lowered as flower boxes aren't easy to open, especially when you are nervous and haven't physically practiced.

Dog Day Afternoon Trailer

The indifferent world outside ourselves is not as controllable as our imaginations.

There are many such moments throughout the film and also a number of unplanned successes. Plus, Al Pacino has a Buster Keaton vibe to his performance, especially in the expressiveness of his eyes. The ending, though, makes you forget there was comedy earlier.

Imagine yourself doing something perfectly, with style, finesse, and mastery. This could be realizing a childhood dream (performing a dramatic illusion show like David Copperfield), solving a problem (getting this room cleaned in an hour), or even achieving something simple act (brushing your teeth).

Now confidently enact what you imagined, and be aware when the world does not cooperate. You can even seek out potential stumbling blocks. At the very least write a scenario where everything you planned goes wrong. How could a solution to your problem or the center of a piece be found in the intersections of expectations and existence? What examples from your own life match this pattern? Can you laugh at them in retrospect?

: Interestingly, my childhood friend Matt wrote a more personal blog entry on the same subject at the same time I was writing this entry.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


"Looking back, my life seems like one long obstacle race, with me as its chief obstacle."—Jack Parr

Our house is trashed. Travels to various gigs and conferences, a yard sale, half-completed projects, and pieces of paper that seem to breed while I sleep, have all contributed to a mess that makes past states of disarray seem like the "good old days". Answering the phone is now an athletic event involving hops, leaps, dodges, and dances.
For performers:
What obstacles can you add to a routine or transitions between routines to add more drama, play, and challenge?

For everyone else:
Thinking creatively involves thinking foolishly. A non-fool would try to eliminate obstacles to solve a problem. A fool adds obstacles to a problem that has enough already and may just solve the problem by doing so. What obstacles can you add to your problem? How can you make things worse?