The Line


In a certain sense, people tend to be one line thinkers. Once someone starts off following a line of thought, he tends to continue with it, and he tends to see things via that line of thought. It's uncommon for people to make much in the way of a meaningful, direct shift from that line of thought.

Let's say Chester has very negative or very positive views regarding Mexican immigrants. Once Chester hears words like "Mexican" or "immigrant," he's going to follow his standard line of thought regarding the topic. His perspective will be be dominated by it.

Also keep in mind that of the various lines of thought that people use, most are narrow. Chester's falls into that category. So suppose someone leads off by saying, "We should loosen immigration laws so more Mexicans can come into the country." At that point, Chester will follow his standard, narrow line of thought regarding Mexican immigrants. Every matter brought up from that point on will be seen through the line of thought. 

Here's a much different example that falls under the same general category. This, coupled with the previous example, will really go far in illustrating what I mean by "line of thought."

If an author has one book that focuses on one topic or uses a certain style of format, and he has another book that focuses on a different topic or uses a different style of format, it's generally best for him to release the two books using different author names. This is because if readers read one book and then move on to the other one, they'll already have a line of thought associated with the author, and they'll follow that line of thought when they read the second book. In many cases, that will throw them off, and they won't take in the second book properly. The original line of thought is dominant when the reader is reading the second book. 

I've observed something similar with popular television programs.  TV shows tends to follow the same format for every single episode. There are certain elements that are present every time or almost every time. To some extent, that has to do with the viewer's line of thought that's associated with the series. If an episode airs that is vastly different from the previous hundred episodes, people might not have a particularly favorable reaction to the episode. And to some extent, it has to do with the line of though established via the previous hundred episodes during the programs's run. 

Here's another example. A successful stand up comedian has a strong tendency to begin his performances with content that establishes his character and comedic style; in other words, he starts by letting the audience know who his character is and what comedic style he uses. And then from that point on, he's 95+% consistent with his character and style. In fact, he might stick with that style and character for an entire 30+ year career. To some extent, he is adapting to the audience's line of thought. The comedian's jokes are more effective when they proceed from that line of thought associated with the character and style. The jokes come through a certain way and have a certain impact, via that line of thought. If a comedian shifts styles frequently, his material will not succeed as well with the typical audience member. jokes won't have the same impact. When he ventures into styles B, C, and D, the audience won't be able to shift to them. Comedians must account for this basic psychological tendency. Chris Rock is Chris Rock, and Jerry Seinfeld is Jerry Seinfeld. Chris Rock can do a “N—--s Versus Black People” bit, but for Jerry Seinfeld, it might not hit the mark, even if he makes some Senfeldian modifications to it--for instance, he starts if off by saying, "What's the deal with n—--s? Who are these people? I’m not sure. But I can tell you this. They’re not the same as black people. You got n—--s,and then you got black people. Two distinctly different groups. And I don’t know about you, but I prefer black people. I’m not too fond of the n—--s. N—--s? No thanks." 

Now let's consider yet another example from stand up comedy that illustrates the way comedians should custom tailor their material to account for the audience's one line manner of thinking.  Sometimes a comedian's joke doesn't do well with the audience because the comedian thinks a certain point or theme is coming through in the joke even though it isn't. And in some cases, that's because the comedian is viewing the joke through one line of thought, while the audience is viewing it through another, or through no particular line of thought. The effectiveness of the bit will be influenced greatly be whether or not the comedian controls the listener's line of thought. 

Here's a popular bit by the comedian Kevin Hart, only I've shortened the intro / preliminary material quite a bit. "I was at Chuck E. Cheese's the other day with my kids. My daughter was in the balls. And some kid was throwing the balls at my daughter's head. My daughter's so damn stupid, she thought it was a game. She playing. She's like, 'Daddy--look.' So I'm getting mad. I'm like, 'Throw a ball back.' I'm pissed off. I look back at my son. He's just looking at the shit. 'Ahhahhah.' I was mad at the way my family looked as a unit. We didn't look good as a unit. My daughter--she's taking balls to the face. My son's shaking his head and slobbering. I'm small. We looked like a fucking circus act. I was so pissed off. I never been so mad at my wife in my life. I was like, "Why would you dress us in different colors? We look like clowns. From now on, solid colors when we go out. We look like a team. Solid colors.'"

To the majority of people, Hart's character will come off as fairly unlikable in that bit. Now here's the same bit, but with the full intro. "I'm so protective of my kids, though. I really am. I don't even like taking my kids out that much no more. Because I get into arguments with the other kids. I get into arguments with the other kids. I think kids play too rough. I do. Me and this boy got into it at Chuck E. Cheese's. It wasn't a fight. It was an altercation. We got into an altercation. Because my baby was in the balls. He was throwing the balls at my daughter's head, throwing the balls, hitting my daughter right in the head. Pow. My daughter's so damn stupid, she thought it was a game. She playing. She's like, 'Daddy--look.' So I'm getting mad. I'm like, 'Throw a ball back.' I'm pissed off. I look back at my son. He's just looking at the shit. 'Ahhahhah.' I was mad at the way my family looked as a unit. We didn't look good as a unit. My daughter--she's taking balls to the face. My son's shaking his head and slobbering. I'm small. We looked like a fucking circus act. I was so pissed off. I never been so mad at my wife in my life. I was like, "Why would you dress us in different colors? We look like clowns. From now on, solid colors when we go out. We look like a team. Solid colors.'"

The full bit is much more appealing to the general public than the shortened one--largely due to the fact that when it gets into the story, it has the audience already following a certain line of thought.

The intro makes the audience see the character and the story the way the comedian intends for the audience to see the character and the story. The comedian might already see the character and story that way, without the intro. But the typical audience member will not see it that same way unless he is first exposed to the intro.

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