A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.


Marshall McLuhan (1966, age 54/55).  A suggestion …

Tony Schwartz, the sound wizard, was telling me about his latest project.  He was doctoring a tape recording of one of New York City Mayor Lindsay’s speeches.

“Marshall, the idea is to take out all his ‘ahs’ so he can hear how great he would sound if he didn’t use them.  For example, in his speech Lindsay says: ‘It is ah … a great pleasure to be with you ah … tonight.’  Now listen to it without the ahs.”

No Tony I have a better idea.  Why don’t you add a ‘hah’ after every ‘ah’ it will give the mayor’s speech the element of surprise!”

Me (July, 2010, age 57).  A favourite anecdote

McLuhan liked to begin his speeches with terrible one-liners.  For example, ‘cash is the poor man’s credit card,’ ‘a streaker is just a passing fanny,’ ‘he was never so humble but there’s no police like Holmes,’ ‘he lived as if each moment was his next,’ and ‘diaper backwards spells repaid, think about it.’  Humour ages quickly.  Who knows at one time some of these may have been funny.

In his speaking McLuhan rarely used narrative-style jokes to make a point.  He seems to have preferred to use one-liners to encourage the audience to be more open to the unexpected.  There are however exceptions to this rule.  In a speech apparently given at Johns Hopkins in the 1970s, he opens and closes the speech with traditional narrative-style jokes, both of which I think are still funny.


What is your favourite McLuhan joke? [search ‘joke’ on this blog for inspiration]

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Barrington Nevitt with Maurice McLuhan, Who Was Marshall McLuhan? 1994, p. 190-191.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

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