Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ode to Wikipedia

I would like take this opportunity to confess my undying love and adoration for wikipedia. I would also like to confess that I am a nerd.

I'm taking comedy writing class at the Second City Training Center in the hopes of one day ruling the world with an iron fist. Maybe not the best place to start my quest for world domination, but that's a whole other blog entry. My class assignment for this week was to write a scene based off an episode from history. I thought to myself, "Sweet God, what am I going to do? I'm looking at the entire span of human history, which has to be what? Six or seven hundred years long? How can I take this vast sea of possibility and distill it down into that one pure drop of inspiration?"

The answer came from wikipedia, of course. Did you know that in Ancient Rome there was a dude by the name of Vedius Pollio who wanted to execute one of his slaves by feeding him to his pet lamprey?

Eureka: Comedy Gold!

For those of you who know nothing about wikipedia, it is an online free encyclopedia. For those of you who want to know more about Vedius Pollio, or want to know what the hell a lamprey is, go to and check it out.

Wikipedia is set up such that theoretically anyone can add to, alter or otherwise edit the encyclopedia. In this sense, it represents the best and worst aspects of the Internet (except of course for free pornography, which will always be the Internet's greatest contribution to society). On the one hand, wikipedia offers the free exchange of a vast amount of knowledge. You can find anything from information on the philosophical life's work of Friedrich Nietzsche to telecommunications terminology, to the real name of Falco, the artist who brought us the song "Rock Me Amadeus" (Johann Holzel for those of you who were curious). And because people are adding to the site all the time, the amount of information, useless or otherwise, available continues to expand every day.

On the other hand, any dipshit can mess around on the site. As a result, the word "penis" may show up at inappropriate point of some articles, or the CIA may occasionally doctor an entry about Iran. Also, the entries may not be one hundred percent accurate, or the entries may express the writer's biases and not provide an objective presentation of the facts concerning their topics. Whatever. I'm not writing a research paper, so I'm not going to nitpick.

For sketch writing, though, it is a very useful tool. Typically when you write a five page scene you won't need to know every detail of, say, the history of Micronesia. Most likely, you'll never write a scene about Micronesia - I don't even know if comedy exists in Micronesia or what a Micronesian joke might be like - however, you may at some point in time find that you need to know something, anything, about the history of Micronesia to make your scene work. Maybe you need some sort of detail to make your history of Micronesia scene plausible. Boom! Wikipedia, baby! In terms of overall scene writing the articles provide a good starting point for generating ideas. After all, when you're starting out on a scene the very first thing you need is inspiration. The article doesn't need to be completely accurate. It only needs to provide you with an idea.

So if you're looking to kill some time on the Internet expanding your mind, I highly recommend wikipedia. Or, for that matter, porn.


Anonymous said...

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Crump said...