I often encounter so-called “serious” artists who scoff at the idea that what they’re doing is entertaining. Art should raise up its audience, not stoop to meet them.
I certainly agree that art must challenge audiences, but if you’re not considering the entry points for your audience, then you’re not a serious artist at all. You might just be an insecure gatekeeper.
Essentially, entertainment is a contract of considerate communication with strangers. Entertainment is not a distraction or empty goal. Entertainment is noble; it is the way we survive our mortality without slipping into depression.
To produce events with entertainment in mind means you are interested in your audience enjoying and receiving the messages you want to proffer. This is what I’ve learned from the initial concept behind the poetry slam created by Marc Smith, and used as a foundation for the Encyclopedia Show: if you are not creating art to commune with an audience, then you are creating art that you think people should be obligated to digest.
People don’t like feeling obligated to go to events because their whole life is an obligation. People want to lose themselves. If you value the communication of entertainment, you will not try and get people to your events through guilt and a sense of obligation. You will get them there because they will come to know you as an artist who cares about their enjoyment. Building an audience out of guilt and obligation will never last. Even your mom will get bored and start making other plans. I promise. I talked to her.
The tricky thing about entertainment is that in order to do it effectively, you must make sure people don’t know they’re being entertained. Art in general is most successful when both artist and audience are able to turn off the part of their brain that feels judgey of themselves and what they’re witnessing.
Transcendent art should make an audience temporarily leave their consciousness to live in the piece that is happening to them so that when they return to waking reality, the art feels like a personal memory of the viewer. That requires the artist to give over the piece to an audience, which means you have to recognize the audience as valuable as – if not more than – the artist.
If you can lift away the conscious, judging brains of your audience, and access their subconscious, then you can really do some damage while you’re in there.
Entertainment is the crowbar we use to break into people’s psyche, and if you’re not a jerk, there’s a good chance you can leave the place looking better than when you broke in. Alls I’m sayin’.