I’ve often heard the term, “The smartest individual is the room is the one who remains silent”.
The analogy didn’t quite make sense to me, since the opinions of the smartest people would be valued the most; if not voiced — how would they make an impact?
The subtle strategy of the art of silence, recently came to my attention after observing the Stand-up of Norm Macdonald.
And that’s when it all started to make sense.
It’s not that the smartest people feel the need to stay silent, or rather fail to voice their opinion; the smartest people are great listeners. They know their job isn’t to overzealously brag upon their aptitude but rather observe the environment and make mental notes of it as part of their own evolution.
Norm Macdonald, takes this notion a step further; using his comedy as a tool to get the opposing side to say what he wants to — simply by playing the idiot.
Before I continue, It’d be unfair for me to not give credit where it’s due and hence before continuing I’d like to reference the following below.
What Norm knows and is very well aware of is that his job isn’t to sound ‘Smart’, his job is to ‘Entertain’.
Norm is, in many ways, a subtle version of Andy Kaufman and Don Rickles — he knows how to play the character of Norm, without letting the audience in on the joke that is his act.
His secrecy around his private life and the method through which he eloquently dealt with his departure from SNL is a testament to the art of silence.
A smart individual knows where to draw the line because they know well and truly what the end-game is.
It was ,of course, no secret at the time of Norm’s departure that it was due to his inability to forego the constant jokes he made regarding O.J. Simpson; who was a close friend of the President of NBC — Don Ohlmeyer.
So what is it that makes the art of silence such a masterful act?
It’s the ability to play the idiot, allowing the ugliness to expose itself.
When one can master the art of playing the idiot, it gives the individual the upper-hand of playing a masquerade.
An ability which quite often is proven to be successful in the world of Politics and Business.
It takes courage for someone to admit, “I don’t really know what that means”.
It takes a higher level of patience and intellect for an individual to pretend to not know what it means.
If an Individual is able to master the art of Silence and playing the Idiot; the Ignorance in Bliss methodology, we can uncover quite a lot about the people we encounter and the society that we inhabit.
It takes Discipline, Patience, and a greater level of being able to absorb ones Ego to withstand being labelled an Idiot.
An example of this is Norm’s appearance on the Howard Stern show shortly after his departure from SNL.
Where Norm succeeds during this interview is keeping the act up, his ability to be completely naive whilst getting Howard Stern to speak for himself without asserting any sense of power — he does this in a very custodian fashion; guarding his own perception of the facade and the knowledge of the outcome that would persist.
Whether or not one may agree with playing the Idiot, it certainly has its charm of being able to pursue life with a sense of hilarity and humility.