Years ago I worked for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and my supervisor was a distinguished yet down-to-earth lady named Daisy. Daisy was a well-dressed movie buff who often told me about out-of-the-way movies that she’d seen that I should check out (we shared a love of dry humor). One such movie was a Christopher Guest film that had come out a few years prior called Waiting for Guffman. One evening I rented the video from Family Video (kids, this was back before Netflix) and I found it hilarious; dry, sarcastic humor, and being a musician and playwright myself, it was vividly accurate.
The premise, in brief, is that the small fictional town of Blaine, Missouri decides to put on a musical stage play with members of the community. The musical tells the history of Blaine, but the problem is the script and music are bad, and I laughed the entire movie. The production is led by Corky St. Clair (Guest), the town eccentric, who has led everyone to believe that he has some big connections in the industry. One such connection (although never verified) is one Mr. Mort Guffman, a Broadway producer. Corky believes a positive review from Guffman could take their small-town play all the way to Broadway. Everything that is done from this point on concerning the production is based on the assumption that Mr. Guffman will be in attendance on opening night, including Corkys’ laughable request of the Blaine City Council to increase the plays production budget to $100,000.
How many times do we as artists use the “Guffman Approach”? Waiting on the perceived “big moment” before we deem ourselves worthy or legit? I have often said, “When I meet (insert industry mogul name here) I’ll have officially made it.” In reality, I’ve met a few higher-ups in the industry and have performed with some big-names, and you know what changed afterwards? Not much. I’ve still had to work on my craft, pound the pavement, and keep writing. Overnight sensations are a thing of reality TV shows and art house movies; most sensations that we admire happened over MANY days and nights, and if we listen closely to the details of those stories we’ll learn it was hardly easy. I guess ratings aren’t kind to those stories, and happy endings don’t always come at the 55-minute mark.
I’m learning that waiting on the big moments or the Guffman Approach isn’t practical. We all desire to accomplish what we’re supposed to, but it would be a shame to come to the end and realize that we’ve missed the small special times because we were waiting on the big thing to happen. The reality is, if our Guffman never shows, we still have to carry on-for me it’s writing great music, for you it could be painting a mural or studying science. Whatever it is, do it because you feel it in your soul and not for man's’ accolades. Only then can you embrace the attitude that if Guffman misses us, well it’s his loss!
Go watch Waiting on Guffman to see if he actually shows up on opening night; I won’t spoil the ending for you. Just remember that your big moment is not waiting on someone else, it’s waiting on you.
Marvin is a musician, recording artist and blogger. Follow him on Twitter/Instagram @mthompsonjr.