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See us at New York City's Carnegie Hall (really) for An Evening of Awesome:

In which John discusses the strange story of Florence Foster Jenkins, who gave the worst performance in the history of Carnegie Hall in 1944, and who is famous (and beloved) for being an absolutely fearless, and awful, singer. This video is a kind of response to Hank's brilliant video about creation and fear; also discussed is the importance of finding the places where your talents meet the world's needs and my limited physical flexibility.

The bit I sing at the end is from "Love, Love, Love" by--you'll never guess--The Mountain Goats.


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A Bunny
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((') (')
Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday. So ever since your brilliant video on Friday I've been thinking about Florence Foster Jenkins. Her Wikipedia article has perhaps the most damning first sentence I've ever read: "Florence Foster Jenkins was an American amateur operatic soprano who was known, and ridiculed for, her lack of rhythm, pitch, tone, aberrant pronunciation of libretti, and overall poor singing ability". But lest you think Wikipedia was exaggerating, I'm gonna play you some Florence Foster Jenkins while I show off how good I am at touching my toes.

[Florence Foster Jenkins singing]

Aah, that was painful in more ways than one.

So Hank, Florence Foster Jenkins began her singing career when she was 44 years old. She was divorced, her parents had died, she inherited some money and she decided to pursue her dream of becoming a famous opera singer. And she had everything going for her: she had the drive, she had the time, she had the money, she wasn't afraid to fail. There was just the one problem with being a terrible, terrible singer.

And that's the crazy thing about Florence Foster Jenkins: she couldn't sing at all, but she really believed she could sing. She would come onstage with wings and sing Verdi and it would be like a total disaster, except that she had fun and everyone in the audience had fun. So she had this fairly successful career and then, in 1944 Florence Foster Jenkins finally made it to Carnegie Hall. She played a sold-out show at Carnegie Hall and she SUCKED.

And this is vital Hank, because Florence Foster Jenkins set the bar for worst ever Carnegie Hall performance so low that I believe we can jump over it. So Hank, to celebrate the one year anniversary of The Fault In Our Stars, Penguin has rented out Carnegie Hall for us. And we are going to have an evening of awesome where we read and talk and play music - don't worry I won't sing - and all of my four favorite bands are going be there. Because of course my first favorite band is The Mountain Goats, my second favorite band also The Mountain Goats, my third favorite band is you Hank, and my fourth favorite band is The Mountain Goats. And The Mountain Goats are playing Carnegie Hall with us. It's gonna be awesome, we're gonna do our best to put on the greatest show that Carnegie Hall has ever seen. That's a lie, we've got Richard Pryor to compete with, Andy Kaufman, Billie Holiday. We are going to be better than Florence Foster Jenkins!

So Hank, as you saw earlier, with my knees locked I can't touch my toes, I can't even come close. As a result, realistically I'm probably never going to live my dream of being a professional contortionist. But Hank, as you well know, I also can't sing and I am going to live my dream of playing Carnegie Hall.

Hank obviously in life you have to find the places where your talents meets the world's needs, but the great lesson of Florence Foster Jenkins life is that aptitude is not destiny. I mean Hank, her voice sounded like the mating and or death squeals of alley cats. But because she refused to be self conscious about doing this thing she sucked at people responded. They often responded by laughing, but they responded. And it was obviously fulfilling for her because she sang for people professionally for like 40 years.

It sucks not being good at something you love, but I really admire people who do it anyway, like I admire myself when I go to yoga class. And Hank, while I certainly hope that we don't replace one Foster Jenkins as the worst Carnegie Hall performance of all time, I admire her too. As she once put it Hank "People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing".

(singing "Love, Love, Love" by The Mountain Goats) "Some things you do for money and some you do for fun. But the things you do for love are gonna come back to you, one by one."

Hank, I'll see you on Friday!