Thinking for a Change #2

Guest Post by Barry Mitchell

What Made Clay the “Real” American Idol?

I admit I often think too much about trivial subjects.  For example, I may have over analyzed the popularity of Clay Aiken from the American Idol TV show.  But I do believe we children’s entertainers may learn something from this analysis.

I believe, I stress these are just my opinions, that Clay Aiken was the true American Idol winner a few years ago.  If you have any contact with TV you know that Ruben Studdard was the official winner of the reality TV show.  However, take a look at what happened after the contest.  Who received the most media attention?  Clay.  Who sold the most CDs?  Clay.  Who’s CD came to market first?  Clay.  For several months Clay was all over the TV and magazines.  Why was he so popular?  It could be attributed to his publicity crew but I believe it was because he was a picture of the American dream He was the underdog with talent.

When Clay was first seen on American Idol he was a big earred, goofy looking southern boy.  But he sure could sing.  His talent was undeniable but his look had to change.  In time a change of hair style and clothes started to show Clay as more than a goof.  He was a picture of the underdog that can be trained into greatness.  Clay’s popularity is a result of how we all feel at one time or another in life.  We all sometimes believe we are the underdog.  We cheer when we see evidence that the underdog has a chance to win big.

How can we learn from the underdog message of American Idol?  Begin by thinking about your audience of children.  Almost everyone in that audience wants to be a star.  The majority of them feel they are the underdog in a big world.  But some of them not only feel that way, they have been labeled by their peers as a loser.  Now think about what happens when you choose one of those children as a helper in your show.  You don’t just make a little person’s day, you improve their week and maybe even their year.

I started thinking about this subject when a lecture attendee in Denmark asked me how I choose audience helpers.  I think my choices may be different from that of many magicians.  I seldom go for the best looking or best dressed kids in the room.  I look for the kid that I believe has never been picked by any other performer.  I look for the kid that will see the opportunity to come on stage as one of the greatest moments in their life.   I look for a face that needs a smile. I look for Charlie Brown!

I’ve been choosing children this way for years now.  When I see other performer’s choose the coolest kid in the room I think to myself, “That kid doesn’t need the encouragement nearly as much as some of the other kids.”  If performers can catch a glimse of the meaning of their choices on stage they would make wiser choices.

People like to cheer for the underdog because deep down they feel they’re cheering for themselves.  Make a positive change in the way you choose your next show helpers.  You’ll improve your show and improve a life.  Until next time, keep thinking for a change.

Barry is a professional children’s and family entertainer, author, storyteller, and inventor of magic tricks. Thousands of audiences and groups have laughed and learned through Barry’s message, magic, and humor.