It was great to see Lily Tomlin looking so good on stage last week. I had to peer through newly acquired Simmons binoculars…er…opera glasses, excuse me, from my literal perch in the second row of the balcony to catch Ernestine’s facial contortions and Edith Ann’s lazy tongue, but the laughs were just as boisterous up there.
As Ms. Tomlin recounted her days growing up in Detroit (as the only family in the Motor City that didn’t own a car), her friendship with fellow cheerleader and future wife of Henry Ford II “Kathy” (DuRoss), she elicited paroxysms among many in the strangely mixed audience of college students and 60-somethings. How could one performer keep in touch with the funny bones of such separate eras—Baby Boomers and Blog Builders alike?
Ever since Nickelodeon began cable casting—and certainly since the advent of TV Land and TNT—I’ve argued that there absolutely must be some weird anthropological side effect of our children’s growing up with exactly the same shows, exactly the same episodes, of the television programs with which we grew up ourselves. Television once was touted as the medium that creates a common understanding—and marketplace—all across the globe. Now, it’s more than that. It creates a common foundation through decades for multiple generations, kids of ‘07 who know the antics of Barney Fife and Colonel Klink and Jed Clampett as well as those who were kids in ‘67.
Barney and Jed and a host of other ghosts from the past still appear on our HDTVs—and now it’s twice a night instead of once a week. Being an enduring performer like Lily Tomlin must be a bit like being a newsmaker on Meet the Press—someone is constantly rummaging through your old tapes (and films) to find entertaining statements you made in the past and then hold them up to the standards of today’s fractured and politicized marketplace.
I think the lesson in all this is the fact that, when we communicate through the media, we need to realize that we are not creating just a sound bite for Tuesday morning but rather commentary that may be viewed and judged for generations. It’s way too easy today to find out our histories, and much harder to revamp our image, with all our mistakes linked together in a hundred blogs and a dozen all-news networks.
Once we alerted our clients that, in a global society, they speak not just to their local paper, but to Internet-worked audiences around the world. Now we must be aware that we speak as well to the next generations, who may one day turn to us from their supercellbiophone and comment, “Hey, I just watched you at that news conference in 2007—who did your hair?”