How’s that for an awkward-looking title?
Over the years, I’ve become very familiar with a group of folks who, although certainly famous in their day, probably aren’t well-known to anyone in my age group. Their banter was charming and laden with humour from the 1950s and 1960s – and while there are, naturally, many cringeworthy moments (which you could easily anticipate, as a socially conscious twenty-first-century viewer digging in the mid-twentieth-century crates), I love that they were quick to laugh at their own on-air mistakes, and some of my favourite moments to watch them in were thoroughly unscripted. Their names are Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis, Bennet Cerf, and John Daly – they were the primary panellists and the host, respectively, of the show “What’s My Line?” which Wikipedia tells me is the longest-running US primetime network television game show.
Here’s the thing: even though I’ve probably watched (or at least heard) hundreds of episodes, if it weren’t for the obligatory introductions at the beginning of each one I wouldn’t know much about the occupations of these four people, outside the show. Most of them, probably, first arrived on set seeing this show as either a new thing they hoped would go well, or a fun side gig, or maybe both; but I only know them as participants in this specific project.
I doubt any of them could have told you at the beginning that this would be the thing they were best known for forever after.
And that’s naturally got me thinking … what’s my personal version of this show? Is there something I’m involved in (or will be later) which will eventually overshadow everything else I’ve done, or will do? I’m very well aware that this is a case where knowing the answer would negate or ruin the question, but it’s an interesting thing to ponder just the same.
Although I see myself as a writer first and foremost; I doubt the rest of the world agrees with me so far, since so much of my career has been spent performing. Maybe, in a hundred years when I’m not physically here, I’ll be better known for something else entirely aside from arts and entertainment. Maybe the beginning of the 2118-version-of-Wikipedia entry about me will talk about my humanitarian work, or the awesome people I’ve helped to raise, or my abduction by and eventual return from a group of alien nomads who needed a human guinea pig. I don’t know at this point, and I shouldn’t know. And neither should any of us.
What I am sure of is that being aware of this question takes a huge amount of pressure off of me, and maybe you’ll feel the same way. All we can do right now is work on what we’re already working on, begin work on what we want to begin, and stay open to opportunities.
So I’ll continue to get more comfortable with having no idea what my “What’s My Line?” is, or is going to be. And with that … if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some more writing to get back to. Because even if my writing does happen to be forgotten one day, that’s no excuse to slack off now