I put on This Is Spinal Tap last night and it was just as funny as I remembered. Maybe even funnier. I love all the stories about rock stars who watched it and didn’t laugh because it was too real. (The Edge said, “I didn’t laugh, I wept. It was so close to the truth.”)
The movie has an extra edge for me, too, because I’m headed out on tour soon, and life on the road, even as a boring author, has a certain kind of absurdity and indignity to it. (“Dignity! Always dignity!” Gene Kelly quips in Singin’ in the Rain, which, come to think of it, is another essential and brilliant sendup of show business. They might make a good double feature.)
The line that most stood out to me on this viewing was Michael McKean’s: “It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”
Every artist knows the truth in this. I often know an idea is worth working on if I honestly can’t tell if it’s incredibly stupid or absolutely brilliant. (“This idea is so dumb,” I’ll think. “I bet everyone will love it.”)
Stupid ideas turn out to be clever and clever ideas turn out to be stupid.
Sometimes a stupid idea is the very thing you need to get started.
“You take a stupid idea,” says cartoonist Tom Gauld, “but then you are very serious about it.”
It’s a fine line between stupid and clever.