Earning Success Now Dependent Upon Good Shtick

Back in the Stone Ages of Human Thought?you know, when people believed that polyester jumpsuits made a fashion statement and BetaMax was the future of video?it was assumed that what you knew actually counted for something.

Of course, as we evolved and progressed?right into leopard-print spandex pants, neon leg-warmers and cell phones so big they came equipped with compartments to hold your briefcase?we, of course, came to the realization that it’s not what you know, but who you know.

Want to dodge the draft? Well, it helps to be real friendly with a Congressman who knows exactly how serious a medical condition a bruised ego can be. Want to sell junk bonds? You could join that lucrative world if you were willing to suck Michael Milken’s?

Big right toe.

He was kinda kinky like that.

Any more, though, not even that paradigm applies. People just aren’t that impressed to hear that your best friend’s sister’s cousin’s boyfriend’s father’s pot-smoking college roommate once used the urinal next to the one being occupied by Isaac from the “Love Boat.”

No?now, I think, you’ve got to have a shtick.

It provides the kind of consistency humans long for in a world so perpetually unstable that you can’t remember whether your favorite WWF superstar is a hero or a villain this week.

So, in order to be successful, you’ve got to find some kind of routine, some persona or character that works for you, captures and holds the intrigue of your audience and milk that sucker like it’s the last cow on earth.

For inspiration, you need look no further than boxer-turned goon Mike Tyson. He’s quite masterful at this game. Back in the ’80s, he had the whole Biggest-Boxing-Badass-Since Sonny-Liston thing going on. And that worked brilliantly until he got knocked out by James “Buster” Douglas, and followed that up by being sent to an Indiana prison for a few years for rape.

But now, he’s adapted his shtick to make him successful once again. The whole boxing thing is now just a ruse, a clever vehicle for keeping people interested in his journey through supposedly psychotic behavior.

He bites Evander Holyfield on the ear, runs afoul of the U.S. State Department by making an impromptu trip to Cuba, challenges a couple journalists to fight him, attacks Lennox Lewis as he’s being introduced at the press junket for their upcoming fight, gets labeled a behavioral deviant, listens to the pundits’ calls for him to be placed on lithium and in a straitjacket, then rakes in the $49.95 you shelled out just to see what crazy stunt he’d pull at his next bout.

Pretty good gig.

Dennis Rodman also was expertly proficient at taking full advantage of the shtick. As a member of the Detroit “Bad Boys” Pistons, he earned some notoriety just by elbowing opponents in the head and flying around in some manic, heroin-induced frenzy.

When that was no longer sufficient, along came the multi-colored hair, the tattoos, the marriage to Carmen Electra, the marriage to himself? He’s been out of the NBA for several years now, and he still gets headlines for throwing hellaciously hedonistic parties that inevitably require the Santa Monica Police Department to get involved.

Then again, if being the latest Loony Toon or a Rainbow Rogaine spokesman does not fit your preferred job description, your shtick could involve some kind of trend setting.

Like William “Refrigerator” Perry. Once upon a time, there were few things more adorable than an obese athlete. Of course, these days, a 300 pound football player is as common as a case of herpes in a frat house, but in Perry’s glory days, we expected our athletes to be svelte and muscular.

So seeing good ol’ No. 72 with that gap-tooth smile and a gut looking like a mound of Jell-O quivering in a hurricane was bound to parlay numerous advertising opportunities and extend his career a good five years longer than his talent level dictated.

So remember?the key is, once you find your shtick, stick with it. Don’t pull any of this Vince-Carter-refusing-to participate-in-the-dunk contest-so-people-will-think he’s-a-versatile-player crap. Does anyone care about Vinsanity the 3-Point Shooter?

Such idiocy just doesn’t look good on a rsum.

“Best Gravity-Defying Dunkmeista Who Will Posterize You and Say ‘Yo Mama’ to Your Face,” however, is something no job application should be without.

Eric welcomes feedback at: [email protected].