Mark Matteson publishes his Sparking Success EZine Street newsletter on the first Wednesday of every month. The next newsletter will go out on December 3, 2014
Mark Matteson gives over 75 presentations each year. Book him now to secure the inspiring message that will spark your group's success! To watch Mark's demo video, go to: www.sparkingsuccess.net. Call 206.697.0454 or e-mail him at [email protected]
The Secret of Failure? Trying to Please Everyone!
by Mark Matteson
When I was 11 years old, my neighbor, Bill Robertson, played for me his LP, Revenge, by Bill Cosby. I laughed until I cried. Until then, I thought I knew who this guy was because I had seen him on the ultra-cool television show, I Spy. Like many children my age, I had to beg my parents to let me stay up and watch this cutting-edge show that aired Wednesday nights at 10:00 pm, way past my bedtime! On that show, he wasn't funny, just cool. Listening to the LP, I discovered this guy, Bill Cosby, was funny. As long as I can remember, I have been drawn to funny like a moth to a flame.
A brand-new biography, Bill Cosby: His Life and Times, was just released by Mark Whitaker. I devoured it in a week. Coming in at 532 pages, I know what you must be thinking, "Don't you work?" Hey, I spend a lot of time on airplanes these days (75 gigs a year). After learning about his life and times, I have even more respect for this American icon. He was, and is, an author, comedian, storyteller/raconteur, actor, philanthropist, movie and television star, and more.
Just why is this man still so popular after all these years? The television industry uses something called a "Q rating" to quantify business decisions. It's a complex formula, but it drives who gets to do what. It's essentially three things: honesty, likeability, and believability.
A reporter once asked Cosby at the height of his TV fame, "What is your secret to success?" Smiling, Cos replied, "I don't know the secret of success; but I do know the secret of failure...trying to please everyone!"
Here is my subjective list of the causes of Bill Cosby's success; submitted for your approval:
- His father was an alcoholic. As a result, he vowed never to drink and he never has.
- As a precocious young boy, he gathered inspiration and ideas from two primary sources: stories his grandfather read to him from the Bible and the Mark Twain novels his mother read to him.
- He was a sponge for ideas via radio and television as a young man. His mentors were Mark Twain, Jack Benny, Groucho Marx, Mel Brooks, and Carl Reiner. Not a bad list of heroes.
- Cosby was, and still is, a "Clean Observational Comedian" and set the tone for others like Jerry Seinfeld to follow. That led to a number of TV shows.
- His memory is uncommon. He is able to pull up details from his childhood and describe events and people in unique ways.
- His ongoing and lifelong use of improvisation makes every show he does unique, funny, unexpected, spontaneous, and fun. Observation and improv became magnificent obsessions for him.
- He tells long stories, which he calls "Gourmet Meals," and short bits, called "Fast Food," that make you laugh, cry, and think.
- Bill Cosby genuinely loves people. He is humble, kind, and approachable. Despite his wealth and fame, he stills does over 60 stand-up comedy dates a year. Actually, at 77 years young and half-blind, he sits down now. He has no entourage, travels alone, and wears a sweat shirt that sports a phrase used by his late son, Ennis, "Hello Friend".
- His philanthropic commitment to children's television, including one season of The Electric Company and its grueling 180-episode schedule, changed television into something noble and educational. He was giving back and paying it forward.
- The secret of success? "Be true to yourself, your gifts and follow your bliss." He followed his bliss from a young age. He was always looking to "find the funny" in life.
I visited the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut recently (thanks David Heimer!). I invested in a coffee cup with my favorite quotes from the master. To me, this summarizes Twain's "Fast Food" gifts, his humorous twist on proverbial phrases to make us laugh, think, and act in different ways:
A man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them... When in doubt, tell the truth... Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest... The lack of money is the root of all evil... Familiarity breeds contempt-and children... Clothes make the man; naked people have little or no influence in society... Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to... Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself... Humor is mankind's greatest blessing... If books are not good company, where will I find it?.. Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
In many ways, Bill Cosby channeled Mark Twain's views, philosophy, ideals, and humorous take on the world. I think I need to download Cosby's old LP, Revenge, onto my iPhone and call Bill Robertson to thank him. I need a good laugh. "Hey, hey, hey!"
Mark Matteson gives over 75 presentations each year. Book him now to secure the inspiring message that will spark your group's success! To watch Mark's demo video, go to: www.sparkingsuccess.net
. Call 206.697.0454 or e-mail him at [email protected]
Book of the Month
Cosby: His Life and Times
By Mark Whitaker
Jerry Seinfeld said, "Whenever I think of why my life as a comedian happened, the first name I think of is Bill Cosby. I know certain religions forbid idol worship. If anyone ever told me I had to stop idolizing Bill Cosby, I would say, 'Sorry, but I'm out of this religion!' So, if you want to join the Religion of Cosby, as I did back in 1966, Mark Whitaker's wonderful new book would be our Bible."
Billy Crystal had this to say, "Cosby always makes things look so easy. This compelling book tells us it wasn't always so. A revealing, honest look at my favorite comedian."
From extreme poverty in North Philadelphia, he was a high school dropout and the son of an alcoholic and absentee father and an overworked single mother. He went into the Navy and later attended Temple University on an athletic scholarship. He left Temple when his career in stand-up comedy blossomed in New York City. From guest appearances on the Tonight Show, he went on to star in two groundbreaking television series, I Spy in the 1960s and The Cosby Show in the 1980s, and take his place as a pioneer of children's educational television programs. From shows in Las Vegas, to best-selling comedy albums and books, he exerted what became known as the Cosby Effect. It was his role in positively affecting African-American culture as a controversial spokesman, role model, and mentor. With the Cosby Effect, he helped pave the way for a black president. This book is an essential read.
Mark resides in Edmonds, Washington and takes great pride in the fact he flunked high school English. To watch Markʼs demo video, go to: www.sparkingsuccess.net
Mark Matteson gives over 75 presentations each year. Book him now to secure the inspiring message that will spark your group's success! To watch Mark's demo video, go to:www.sparkingsuccess.net. Call 206.697.0454 or e-mail him at[email protected].