What happens after you perform at the Edinburgh Fringe?
One answer is: You get sacked.
London-based Italian comedian Giacinto Palmieri used to work in IT for a well-known property company. Then he went to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe with his show about Wagner.
“The big boss of my company,” he told me in Soho Theatre at the weekend, “came to see my show at the Edinburgh Fringe and, the first day after I came back, I was sacked.
“It would just be coincidence, though. He is so high up in the hierarchy that he would not have been involved in the decision. Probably my being away for three weeks just gave people the chance to plot against me.”
“Different worlds,” I said.
“Perhaps,” suggested Giacinto, “what makes it difficult to be a comedian AND have a day job at the same time is not any difficulty of fitting them into the time available, but the difference in attitudes.
“Comedy helps you develop an attitude which consists in always saying whatever you think and to develop zero tolerance for bullshit. Unfortunately, that is not always appreciated in the business world.”
“”Yes,” I sympathised, “It is probably unwise to say what you think in business.”
“It is such a pity,” said Giacinto. “I think every group needs a trouble-maker like a court jester in order to stop getting stuck in its own rules and ideology. Everything can be found in Wagner, of course.”
“Mmmm…?” I said.
“In Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg,” Giacinto told me, there is:
Understand me aright! What a fuss!
You’ll admit I know the rules as well;
and to see that the guild preserves the rules
I have busied myself this many a year.
But once a year I should find it wise
to test the rules themselves,
to see whether in the dull course of habit
their strength and life doesn’t get lost:
and whether you are still
on the right track of Nature
will only be told you by someone
who knows nothing of the table of rules.
“Mmmm…” I said.
“The organisation I worked for…” said Giacinto, “…it used to be a start-up and it has kept some of the elasticity of a start-up but, unfortunately, it is losing its soul.
“The IT world used to be very anarchic, very informal but now there are these ‘process gurus’ who always have rules that will solve problems forever and stop software having bugs. They preach the importance of following a process. So we have more and more rules and they create more and more complex processes and people get stuck into systems that are not going to solve problems. If a process could solve problems, we would just be able to write a program which writes programs.
“There are only two types of people who like rules. Those who set them: because there are no rules about setting rules, so they are still enjoying their creative freedom. And people who are so scared of taking responsibility and of making mistakes that they use rules to hide behind them.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “I remember when ITV brought in experts – because people in ITV were trying to cover their own asses in case they made a wrong decision – they had an outside company which advised you on how to maximise the ratings in programmes by ‘scientifically’ analysing the content.
“There was a two-hour movie with Richard Dreyfuss in it. He was very popular at the time. So they said Promote Richard Dreyfuss heavily. But, in this film, he was about 18-years-old, in a bit part as a call boy and all he said for maybe two seconds was something like We’re ready! That was the only time you ever saw him in the film. They had analysed the data but had not watched the film.”
Rules. Don’t talk to me about rules.