Thursday, May 13, 2010

Junior High Talent Show

Do you remember what it was like when you were twelve or thirteen and you had to sit through the talent show? Subtropical waves of heat shimmy through the gym because if it's winter the heat is on and it only runs full blast. If it's late enough in the spring, the air conditioning can't cool it off fast enough. The tennis shoe/vinyl/aerosol deodorant/popcorn smells mix together in toxic fumes that guarantee at least one nervous performer will get sick.

A skinny, scruffy air guitar band leaps about and only gets away with applause because it consists of the coolest guys on the varsity whatever team. Several wobbly monologues delivered in tinny, squeaky sincerity are punctuated by awkwardly spaced dramatic gestures. A piano solo or two trips along the keyboard. But once or twice- in the era, not every year- somebody special takes the stage.

They look like everyone else if not marginally worse. The audience squirms in uncomfortable anticipation of whatever's coming. We've been programmed to keep expectations low. As in, please don't let this one suck because I can't feel sorry for one more person tonight.

Then this happens:

I think that must be what it's like for agents reading queries. You straighten up a bit. This one might not be so bad. In another sentence or two, you start to get excited. You get to the sample pages and read with a mix of elation and sheer gratitude that this person did not make you pity them, wonder what they were thinking or how their mother created such a delusional fantasy world for them. In the mix of the good, the mediocre, and the absolutely dreadful it must be an amazing eureka moment to find one that is fan-damn-tastic.


  1. I know, right? Can you believe that kid's voice? He nails those descending 16th notes. I think he's a sixth grader in this video.

  2. Oh, man. I wish I were a talent agent, I'd be planning my retirement now.

    I loved the facial expressions on the girls in the audience. Give him five years, and those expressions will change.

  3. I watched that vid yesterday on YouTube, then saw it on the national news last night. Still gives me chills, every time.
    I love your connection of this to an agent going through the slush pile. Awesome!

  4. Forgot to mention... I love the reactions of the girls in the back row. Cracks. Me. Up.

  5. @ Stephen: The only thing I wish when I watch that kid is that I could do that. I would love to be able to sing like that. It's at the top of my "If you had three wishes" list.

    @ Lydia: Those girls on the back row had me giggling, too. You can see it on their faces, the expressions go from "Oh NOES" to surprise, then shock, then pleasure. They are totally pulling for him and glad to see him knock the ball out of the park. And maybe wishing he was a couple of years older.

    That boy is going to land some chicks when he fills out.

  6. A few friends posted this yesterday so I finally had to watch it. Not bad.

    When I was in high school and it was time for our "Non-Talent Talent Show" (the actual name of the show), some friends and I did the witch burning sketch from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Here is the photo:

    Yes, that's me in the robe and crown. I'm not sure anyone could hear us in the audience, but we had a really fun time anyway. Oh how I wish they had handheld digital video cameras way back then.

  7. @ Pete: Oh how I wish they had handheld digital video cameras way back then.

    You and me both, dude. I would dearly love to see that.

  8. He didn't come up with that arrangement, but damn, he performed it so well. Great voice too!

    The last junior high talent show I remember wasn't at all bad. But nothing like this.

  9. Bet that guy got a date the next weekend.