Show of Hands

October 1st, 2005

So I'm still kind of behind on the stagecraft of being on TV. Out of the many examples, let me just pick one: Apparently, I wave my hands a lot when I'm interviewing people. In normal conversation, this might be somewhat irritating to my interlocutor -- as well as a danger to nearby glasses of orange juice, etc. -- but basically no big deal. But being as I'm currently talking to people on TV, my hand-waving creates a more pragmatic problem: it tends to block my guest from the camera's view.

And it seems to be getting worse. Last week, while I was animatedly interviewing Alan Alda (who, by the way, ate a Rice Krispy Treat -- my only guest, so far, to do so! I was practically verklempt!), it got to the point that my stage manager on the set, the very hip and spiritual Margaret Clarke, started holding up a little whiteboard on which she had written: "Hands Down!"

With the professionalism for which I am quickly becoming known throughout the broadcasting world, I nodded, put my hands down, and then, moments later ... forgot all about it and started flapping my hands around again. Once more with the sign: "Hands down!" At this point, I felt a bit like the guy in Evil Dead II whose arm takes on a life of its own and starts banging him over the head with dishes and such. I physically grabbed one wrist with my other hand and kept it pinned there for the rest of the interview.

The next week (yesterday), as we prepared to tape a conversation with the hilarious author Daniel Handler, crew member extraordinaire Harry Betancourt made the helpful suggestion that I use only my left hand (or maybe it was my right) to gesticulate or reach for coffee; this way, my gesture wouldn't block the camera trained on the guest. Unfortunately, during the interview I misremembered his instructions and -- wrongly -- used my right hand (or maybe it was my left).

I wonder if Ted Koppel ever makes that mistake. Probably not. Probably never did. Well, at least I have better hair. ...

Entry Filed under: let's digress

2 Comments

  • 1. pogblog  |  October 3rd, 2005 at 12:58 pm

    Got the Hand Answer for you, Josh. As someone who taught Community TV for 10 years — lively hands actually look GREAT on TV. The secret is what I call the Gesture Box.

    If you gesture expressively with your hands in the Gesture Box, your hands are in the shot and generally out of the way, and you avoid the Handless Idiot Zombie Look that so many canned interviewers get.

    I’m sharing this very advanced and subtle technique with you because you’ re a nice guy and your Eloquent Hands deserve Respect.

    The Gesture Box is under your chin and inside your shoulders. Under your chin so your face isn’t covered and your hands are still high enough to be in most shots without just fingers gratuitously sticking into the shot. The hands don’t go below the solar plexus or whatever that is in the upper-center of your chest that hurts if you poke it.

    Inside your shoulders keeps the hands both in the shot and out of the way too.

    It is a SHAME not to use your hands and you’ll learn the Gesture Box very quickly. (Look at some footage of yourself so you can see what I’m describing to you.)

    I MADE people learn to use their hands on TV so they didn’t look as if they were unplugged and parked in a broom closet after the show. Do NOT let people amputate your hands — DO learn where the Gesture Box is.

    Now, the instant I’m on TV, my otherwise operatically gesturing hands instantly move into the Gesture Box. When you look at me on TV, my hands are a total and magical and eloquent expression of what I’m communicating to the audience.

    Yours in Gesture Solidarity,
    pogblog
    pogblog@yahoo.com
    http://pogblog.myblogsite.com

  • 2. Josh Kornbluth  |  October 15th, 2005 at 2:04 pm

    Thinking inside the box — cool! Thanks, pogblog.


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