Lessons In Being Terrible: How to Shut Down a Q&A With the Power of Sheer Idiocy
Everyone knows Question and Answer sessions are the absolute worst. Whether you’re at a convention or film festival or whatever the venue may be, you’ve gathered to hear someone you like speak about something you’re presumably interested in. Instead, you have to listen to a bunch of strangers ask questions that are boring, or unrelated to anything even close to the material at hand, or— worst of all— questions that are not really questions but more of an observation they made (that is almost always an observation EVERYONE made), because this person is just trying desperately to pretend they’re having a conversation over drinks with Bill Murray or whoever it may be. So for the sanity of everyone else in Hall H, remember than a question starts with a fucking W, not an I, and then don’t do any of these things.
Start doing your stand-up.
All of these lessons are ones which the SXSPajiba contingent were subjected to last week. During a Q&A following an interview with Amy Schumer, a young man started his “question” by saying that he too was a comedian. If our society was one governed by sanity, this statement would lead to a question about advice for starting out in that industry, or anything else that would allow Schumer to speak. Instead, he launched into what was clearly a prepared set. (And a terrible one, maybe a step below “What’s the deal with airplane food?”) Schumer shut the whole thing down with equal parts love and scorn, as is her way, by asking if this was his first day as a comedian. Burn.
Ask for a selfie.
We saw this happen no fewer than four times (and we didn’t stick around for much more than four Q&As). Don’t be that person. Don’t wait in line for 20 minutes and take time from other people with actual questions for cinematographers to ask Sally Field to take a picture with you.
Name drop the wrong names.
If you’re going to draw a simple question out to a three-minute verbal think piece in order to prove you know all the names of everyone in the movie you just watched, at least get the names right. During the Q&A following HBO’s upcoming tennis comedy 7 Days in Hell, an audience member asked what it was like to work with Will Arnett (plus a long list of other cast members). The director, to his credit, handled this beautifully by saying that, surprisingly, all of Will Arnett’s scenes had to be cut. Will Forte, however, was great to work with.
Insult the movie you’ve just watched.
Even worse, people love to give the backhanded compliments— the “I loved it, but probably no one else will” type of feedback. The mostly enjoyable Night Owls played early in the festival and only filled a large theater about 2/3 of the way. The cast and crew were clearly feeling self-conscious about this as they took the stage for a Q&A, so who knows why one audience member chose to start his “question” by saying he’d never heard of the movie before that night. He then proceeded to ask about how they struggled with overcoming romcom tropes in a way that Adam Pally paraphrased as “I thought I was going to hate [the movie] but then I only ended up hating parts of it.” The real lesson here is never to partake in a Q&A with Adam Pally. He will tear you to bits.
Tune out during all the questions before your turn comes.
During the Q&A for a documentary on food critic Jonathan Gold, Gold told the long and detailed story of how the movie came to be, talking about the personal connections he shared with director Laura Gabbert. The very next question was a man asking how the movie came about. Don’t be that guy.