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Steve Martin (4) vs. David Letterman; Serena Williams advances

Yesterday‘s matchup featured a food writer vs. a tennis player, two professions that are not known for public speaking. The best arguments came in the very first two comments. Jeff wrote:

Fisher’s first book was “Serve It Forth,” which seems like good advice in tennis, as well. So, you’d get a two-fer there.

That was fine, but not as good as Jonathan’s endorsement of Williams:

Serena would be great at an academic seminar. Just like academics, she has a contempt for referees, even while purporting to regard them as valuable. Just don’t let the Chair interrupt her!

Which was echoed by Diana:

I was going to root for Fisher (whom I have never read) because her victory would make Auden happy. But then I thought about it some more and realized how incapable anyone is of *making* Auden happy—or unhappy, for that matter. In “The More Loving One,” he writes:

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

So with that motive gone or suspended, I vote for Williams. She’s likely to win a few matches before the end, and that’ll be fun. At the seminar itself, she might even treat us to a serve or two (not to mention a referee chew-out, as Jonathan noted). What could go wrong?

Most of that bit was irrelevant, but I’m a sucker for Auden so I liked it anyway.

Today the competition is a bit more serious. Steve Martin is seeded #4 in the Magicians category even though magic is not one of his main talents; and David Letterman, though unseeded in the TV personalities category, knows how to handle an audience. You can take it from there.

Again, the full bracket is here, and here are the rules:

We’re trying to pick the ultimate seminar speaker. I’m not asking for the most popular speaker, or the most relevant, or the best speaker, or the deepest, or even the coolest, but rather some combination of the above.

I’ll decide each day’s winner not based on a popular vote but based on the strength and amusingness of the arguments given by advocates on both sides. So give it your best!


  1. J Storrs Hall says:

    You could put squirrels mating in a cage on after Carson and you’re going to get an audience.

    I believe that sex is one of the most beautiful, natural, wholesome things that money can buy.

    It’s a close call; Letterman produces the top ten stupid pet tricks. But Martin reels off 20 insults about the length of your nose … and as he ends the refrain, thrusts home.

    Martin by a nose.

  2. zbicyclist says:

    Have to go with Steve Martin, just for the sheer versatility.

    Would we get the comedian, with an arrow through his head?
    Would we get the novelty songwriter, “King Tut”, Steve?
    Would we get the actor? the author/screenwriter?
    Would we get a banjo concert?
    Would we get the Steve Martin expanding the hymn repertoire to new areas? (“Atheists Don’t Have No Songs”)

    Title: “Steve Martin will do something. Come find out what!”

    • zbicyclist says:

      And I see from Wikipedia that Martin could contribute to the ongoing exchange between Andrew and Judea Pearl:

      “Inspired by his philosophy classes, Martin considered becoming a professor instead of an actor-comedian. His time at college changed his life.

      “ It changed what I believe and what I think about everything. I majored in philosophy. Something about non-sequiturs appealed to me. In philosophy, I started studying logic, and they were talking about cause and effect, and you start to realize, ‘Hey, there is no cause and effect! There is no logic! There is no anything!’ Then it gets real easy to write this stuff because all you have to do is twist everything hard—you twist the punch line, you twist the non-sequitur so hard away from the things that set it up.”

  3. Adam Sales says:

    Steve Martin once said:

    “I know what you’re saying, you’re saying, “Steve, where do you find time to juggle?” Well, I juggle in my mind. … Whoops.”

    so that’s the problem: he might just do magic in his head. and that’s no fun to watch.

    Then again, along the same lines as zbicyclist, he might be able to shed some light on the stuff you post on here. In the same routine, he said:

    “And then on the other hand science, you know, is just pure empiricism and by virtue of its method it excludes metaphysics. And uh, I guess I wouldn’t believe in anything if not for my lucky astrology mood watch.”

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