Someone once told me that when you see something that shocks you, and then your opinion is requested, simply state the obvious and no one will be offended.
Example: your boss shows up wearing a ridiculous suit and asks what you think of his turquoise checked, teal ensemble. You reply, “Now, that’s a suit!”
Your wife attempts a smokey eye make-up effect that leaves her looking like she used a Sharpie, instead. You say, “Now, that’s a look!”
See? No one is hurt, everyone leaves with their self esteem intact.
So, keeping all this in mind, in regards to Monday’s Hostilities in Hofstra, all I can say, is, “Now, that was a debate!”
An immediate, CNN ‘snap’ poll following the debate showed an overwhelming Clinton victory. Trump supporters say their on-line polls show a decisive victory for their candidate. But the media, after interviewing both republican and democratic political pundits seem to have narrowed the whole thing down to this: Trump, while coming out swinging in the first 20 minutes, dissolved into appearing woefully unprepared and Clinton, well rehearsed, was scripted, stiff, and managed to skip away from difficult subjects that were never brought up.
Both you guys need performance help and having performed both at The White House and in front of a sea of drunken hecklers during midnight shows in Vegas, let your Aunty Pam give you a few tips.
First, remain calm. And even if you’re wishing desperately you hadn’t had Pad Thai for dinner when the questions become uncomfortable, then at least fake your way into looking calm. Listen, I once had a heckler so drunk, so violent, that when the doorman brought in a cop to calm him down, the guy punched the officer in the face, which resulted in a swarm of security that hog tied the man (later known as ’the defendant’), with the speed of a black widow wrapping up its prey in its web, then carrying him out to deposit him the back of the squad car, all the while yours truly remained on stage, her heart thumping out of her chest and sweat trickling down her back. What did I say to the crowd, so shocked that you could hear a pin drop?
“Hey, you guys! We might end up on an episode of ‘Cops!’
The laugh that followed was one of appreciative relief. Had I freaked out, they would have freaked out and when 80 million people are watching you debate for the highest office in the free world, you cannot give the appearance of even a hint of a freak out. Otherwise, the media will be trotting out a clip of you freaking out, for the rest of your natural life, side by side with that one of poor Nixon, mopping up his flop sweat while debating Kennedy.
Having said that, Hillary, let’s not go to the point of looking like Paul does when I try to explain to him the intricacy of dressage and horsemanship: blinking repeatedly, yet slowly, his eyes beginning to dull and glaze. For heaven’s sake, woman, if the lights are that bright and painful, apply Visine drops just before entering the stage. And when Donald levels a painfully uncomfortable charge against you, the last thing you should do is look down- even for the briefest of moments, even if you need to check what you’ve just scribbled down on your notes- because nothing telegraphs a lack of confidence or, worse, fear, than looking down. It’s what humans are told to do should they find they’ve inadvertently encountered a violent, wild animal: looking down denotes submission and a “For the love of all things sacred, please don’t kill me.” If I have a heckler, I never take my eyes off them. I go for the jugular while remaining respectful, even pleasant. And so should you. You can even glance towards the camera before your reply, with a pleasant expression, as if indicating to the viewer at home, “watch this.” It wouldn’t hurt to loosen up a bit, either. I know you find comfort in being completely prepared, but there’s no need to be so scripted, so stiff that you give the appearance of being a Stepford candidate.
And Donald. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. You went after that water glass like a hamster clinging to its water bottle. And if you’re intending on winging the next debate with facts and figures you’ve absorbed, fine, but you cannot allow yourself to be baited. The Clinton camp did a complete psychological profile on you to find out what gets under your skin. They know it hacks you off when people mention your father gave you millions or you won’t release your taxes because you’re not as wealthy as you say. Let.it.go. The moment you take the bait, you go on a spluttering rant that takes you so far away from the point you had intended to make that you completely forget to bring up cybersecurity or the Clinton Foundation, letting Hillary happily off the hook. That behavior, from a performance angle, turned the debate into an episode of ‘The Honeymooners’, with Alice calmly waiting for Ralph Cramden to stop yelling. I’m not saying you have to appear like a rigid, buttoned up member of the ‘establishment,’ but neither can you remind undecided voters of their drunk uncle at Thanksgiving. You’re funny, you’re quick, just stay in control.
Best of luck to you both in the next debate, just days away. Keep studying, keep rehearsing, watch some vintage Richard Pryor and George Carlin videos and remember, there will be plenty of opportunities to keep your eyes up, take your time, and say, “Now, that was an answer!”
Reach PAM STONE at firstname.lastname@example.org.