I attended w00tstock 2.1 in Chicago last night—three hours of entertainment that lasted 4 ½ hours. I’m not kidding you. The show was scheduled to run from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., but it didn’t end until after midnight. If the show had been 4 ½ hours of unalloyed entertainment, that would have been fine, but it was a few entertaining performances sandwiched in between a lot of filler. The introduction to the last song of the night by Paul and Storm ran more than 30 minutes long. It got so bad that Peter Sagal, the host of NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” who had earlier done a very funny reading about the everyday life of a James-Bond-villain-type henchman, came out and told them to “finish the f*%#ing song.”
Long ago, entertainers recognized that it was much better to leave audiences wanting more than to have them grumbling about how long the show was. Last night’s w00tstock could have been a tight, well-organized 2 to 2 ½-hour show, sans filler acts, filler videos and the excruciatingly long final act. If you haven’t seen the show, I won’t spoil it for you further, and if you enjoyed the show last night, please accept my apologies. I enjoyed large parts of the show—it was just way too long.
For whatever reason, the Internet seems to encourage people to throw away schedules—there’s no clock, so you can go as long as you want. But, one of the reasons for schedules is to keep audience attention spans in mind. w00tstock is hardly the only offender; there are many “talking heads” podcasts and webcasts that run 90 minutes long or longer. If you clipped out the asides, the digressions, and the requirement that every member of the panel answer every question, you’d have a much tighter, more interesting 60 or even 30 minutes.
“Leave ‘em laughing” and “leave them wanting more” may be clichés, but they’re true. And, if you don’t buy that, at least listen to the immortal words of Albert Brooks, performing his own candidates for new National Anthems: “Get on with it!”