Am I being Punk’d?
I’ve long felt that T-Pain is one of the funniest people in the entertainment industry. I’m disappointed he hasn’t gone the route of entering the realm of comedy because he’s undoubtedly funnier than T.I. I love his Nappy Boy Radio Podcast, and I eagerly await each new episode. I always feel like I learn something new from the stories he and his guests tell on the show, and his episode with comedian Roy Wood Jr. did not disappoint.
In that particular episode, Wood describes the time he unsuccessfully tried to prank call Rap-A-Lot Founder and CEO J. Prince. While explaining the setup of the prank call he planned, Wood gives away an industry secret that there are only two different types of prank phone calls. You either make an impossible request of someone that you know they’re unable to fulfill, or you insult them or something that they cherish. The comedy stems from you trying to get the person on the other end of the phone to either combat your insult or agree to the impossible request you’ve asked of them. The simplicity of the prank phone call structure resonated with me.
I watch a lot of reality television and the conflicts I see on these shows are centered around impossible requests or petty, personal insults. For example, most reality shows devolve into someone being labeled as a bad spouse, a bad parent, having an addiction or issue of some sort, or not fitting into a particular social class or group. Because these are highly personal insults, it’s human nature to become defensive and protective and lash out at your antagonizers, which creates a series of back-and-forth arguments that hold viewers’ attention.
Another example is any type of conversation about starting a family on a relationship or dating show where there’s an age difference between the couples. As women get older, there are so many issues and risks involved with trying to get pregnant, so making this type of request of a woman who is unable to do so would fall under the category of an impossible request. The conflict arises because she’s unable to meet their partner’s needs even though it might be physically impossible to do so without pursuing an avenue of surrogacy or adoption.
This theory of all conflict being either an impossible request or an insult also lends itself to identity politics. Running for elected office on a platform of gun control and reform is going to sound like an impossible request to a gun owner and undoubtedly leads to disputes. Also, any type of legislation or platform that inhibits what people view to be fundamental human rights is going to be seen as a personal attack on them and lead to strife and consternation. You’re never going to get someone to change their personal beliefs and agree with you, so the friction will never go away.
I wonder if disagreements, both in politics and entertainment, are manufactured dissension. Until Wood eloquently explained it on T-Pain’s podcast, I was unaware that most conflicts could fall neatly into those two categories. Still, I wonder how many other people were privy to that information. If you were knowledgeable that you can create conflict that will never get a resolution, it might be easy to manipulate people into remaining divided instead of uniting against a society that seems to persecute and oppress its individuals. The “united we stand, divided we fall” motto has been around for centuries and we are much stronger when we stick together, but we can’t seem to get past our conflicts.
I keep waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out of the bushes and tell me this was nothing but an elaborate prank.
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