Going Nuclear

Any president worth his salt has it. The ultimate weapon. The last resort. The big red button. The recourse so terrifying you rarely ever speak of it directly.

The nuclear option.

I used mine Saturday.

The Ship of Fools had agreed to perform at Wiley Hall’s Luau this past Saturday. We were going to be the only non-musical act with stage time at the event. The plan was to put on a half-hour show early in the evening.

Half an hour is really the bare minimum amount of time you need to do an improv show and have more than a snowball’s chance of having it go well. You need to get the audience engaged, to build momentum. The first few games are essential for pulling the audience in, and without a good audience, any improv show is doomed. With just a half hour, every minute counts.

(Now before you try to use Whose Line Is It Anyway as a counterexample, let me remind you that they film far more than the 20 minutes that ultimately makes it into the episode. You’re watching a best-of compilation of a longer show. And that’s ignoring the many differences before “recorded live” and “actually live.”)

At about 11:30 on Saturday — that’s two hours before Luau starts, four and a half hours before they wanted us to be there, and six and a half hours before we were slated to take the stage — one of the points of contact at Wiley e-mailed me about last-minute schedule changes. In particular, instead of one 30-minute set, we were now scheduled for two 15-minute sets several hours apart, and supposed to be performing them on stage while the next act is setting up their equipment.

Clearly, that wasn’t going to work. At all. We’re talking a recipe for disaster here.

After hurriedly getting in contact with the Fools scheduled to perform at the show, and verifying that we were in agreement about the ramifications of this change, I called Wiley up in an effort to restore our original agreement, but at that point they weren’t able to make any changes to the schedule.

So I had no other choice than to use the nuclear option: we backed out of the show.

A purist may argue that it’s not really “backing out” when the terms agreed to beforehand are changed out from under you at the last minute, and that when one party breaks their end of a verbal contract, the other party is no longer held to its terms. But nevertheless, it’s the first time I can remember us not doing a show we had agreed to do, which I think is significant in itself. It’s definitely the first time it’s happened under my presidency.

3 Responses

  1. It means we’re cool… that’s what it means. Yeah, that’s right, we’re big enough to TURN PEOPLE DOWN! Boo yah!

  2. The whole time I was reading this the lyrics to 99 Red Balloons were going through my head. Well, the English translation of the song was as I do not speak German very well. Ze hassen Leela!

  3. Paul, you are a man of integrity and vision.

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