"Ambition is the last refuge of the failure."
-- From Epigrams by Oscar Wilde
Back in 2002, Shaun Himmerick and I were looking to do a midnight show on Saturdays at our theater. We were bullshitting and came up with a quick, 45-minute show that included four comedians and one wild card, playing poker for real money and telling the grossest stories they could think of. We called it "The Sickest Fucking Stories Ever Told" and it ran for two years.
When Jon Favreau introduces the exact same concept a year after we closed the show for BRAVO, I shrugged and watched his TV show. It was decent, relatively funny and less scatological than Mick Napier talking about practicing animal husbandry on pigs or TJ Jagodowski talking about a severe and bloody injury. It wasn't like Shaun and I invented poker and telling dirty stories and neither he or I are terribly ambitious types. Later, when improvisers and festivals wanted to do the show and asked us for our permission, we were both like "Sure. Go for it."
The truly creative aren't ambitious. The truly creative create one thing and then another and then another. They don't promote their creations as "better than" the other creations because they don't have to. They don't piss and moan when someone comes up with something similar to their last thing because they are already creating the next thing.
Ambition comes from the one-note Johnny. From the cat who simply can't continue to create for its own sake but needs recognition and compensation for the act of creation (in spite of the fact that the creation is almost always the result of a thousand other creations that came before.) The ambitious tend to market by comparison rather than on the merits of their own creation. They require credit for esoteric accomplishments that only really matter to them.
No, your storytelling show isn't changing the world nor is it the antidote to white supremacy.
No, you didn't invent the term "Live Lit" (and who would give a shit if you did?)
No, no one stole your idea for a show that combines food and theater. Or poker and theater. Or music and theater.
No, you didn't invent the concept of debating opposite topics for entertainment.
No, your idea of having an open mic in every neighborhood in Chicago was not lifted from you.
Your ambition is ugly and is the last refuge of failure.
The myth that tells us being ambitious is a good thing buys into the winners/losers paradigm exemplified by the Capitalist Dogma. We want to be wealthy, famous, beautiful. We want to be winners.
If you're reading this blog, you aren't wealthy or famous or beautiful (in the Cover of a Fashion Magazine sense at least.) If you're reading this blog, you are among the vast majority of people in the country considered losers.
Think about that paradigm.
Do you feel like a loser? Is your life so mediocre that you look to the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and yearn for that life? Do you want it so much that you'd be willing to compromise all the things around you to have it? Are titles and promotions and getting ahead in the Game really that important you? Do you see the world as filled with your enemies? Do you find yourself espousing the flaws of these enemies and finding ways to marginalize them? Is your impotent rage such that the lack of wealth and fame has you lashing out routinely?
If so, you have more in common with Donald Trump than you'd likely be comfortable with.
If so, you are ambitious. I'll know to avoid you in the future.