Updated: May 6
If given the opportunity to live during a different artistic movement other than now, which one would you choose? and why? I've always been drawn to two golden eras of modern pop culture art. The mid-1960s music scene, particularly in the United Kingdom, and the comedy scene in the mid-1970s, both with the formation of Saturday Night Live in New York and stand-up comedy in Los Angeles. While I sometimes wish I could provide an answer steeped in art history and a time period worthy of a wing in a museum, I am very much a soul built upon the pop culture worlds around me. I'm fascinated with people, writers, performers and the like that were at the epicenter of shows, music, and content we now consider legendary that they only considered them plying their trade. An older friend of mine once told me about a night he was in the crowd of the Comedy Store in the mid-1970s and he saw comedians like Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Robin Williams perform while Richard Pryor did a drop-in spot. This wasn't some "all-star" show hyped to the high heavens -- this was just a normal show during that time. Simply stunning to think about what that type of "normal" night means now. I love that stuff. Give me the stories of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, the Beach Boys, and so many more bands inspiring, supporting, and challenging each other while the built the template of what rock n roll is now and forever. Fascinates me to no end.
So far in your career, what was the biggest antagonistic force that you encountered on your creative journey? It is the greatest enemy of all - self. While the pursuit of the arts as a career and business venture means you will often run into people that say it can't be done or have to say just simply say, "no," I find there is nothing more powerful than the resistance you get from yourself. Doubts, fears, and, worse, apathy have constantly weighed me and blocked me on my career path. All the encouragement, support, and opportunities you receive on this creative journey can be erased in a quick snap if you don't believe in yourself. It's a complicated and layered conversation and battle, too deep for my knowledge to understand or solve here, but if you master the ability to push aside that little voice inside you that demands you listen to its refrain of "you can't do it" then you will have a great advantage on your creative journey. I think it was the great modern philosopher Shia LeBouf that said, "Just do it."
If your creative work were edible, what would it taste like? If this question was just based on my cooking skills than it would be a little tough and over seasoned, but putting that aside I believe my work is a nice, sweet treat you can enjoy at any time. It doesn't require some super-refined palette and you can mostly purchase it at a gas station quick mart or convenience store, but every time you eat it you know it's going to taste good and bring you some level of joy. You can always eat the fancy, Instagram-worthy food later -- for now just unwrap my work and eat it in your car while stuck in traffic.
If you could revolutionize one aspect of contemporary society through your work, what would it be? I don't know if I have the skills to revolutionize anything, but I do hope that anything I create can help provide comfort, understanding, and, above all, joy. I like to entertain. I like to use my life, fears, and failures to entertain people. I like providing a distraction to an otherwise challenging world. That's not revolutionary, but I hope it still has value.
Which living person do you most admire? and why? I could choose many fine folks from a list of people I admire. Performers, authors, rock stars, comedians, and more. But I've always held to the truth that those are just regular people with extraordinary skills that struck a chord in me. The work is to be celebrated, they are to be celebrated too, but I choose to focus my admiration on those around me making it work without the spotlight. The friends of mine who started a small business far from the glare of the entertainment business. The single parent working hard to raise a child while working double time for their career. The young filmmaker trying to find a way -- any way -- to get their story down and made while knowing that only a small amount of people will see it. The list of those types goes on and on. Life is made up of those kinds of people. The great creators are part of that for sure, but just a part of it.
What is your current state of mind? My current state of mind is one of cautious happiness. The world itself seems to more on fire than it ever was before, but I sometimes believe this is just the wheel continuing to turn as it always has. After years of battling depression and crippling self-doubt, I have found myself focusing on the small tasks before me and the needs of those around me. It's not the "answer" to anything -- there are battles every day -- but I found that my general state of mind has improved a lot in the last few years.
What is the best way to train people to see the gradients in the world around them instead of just a simplistic “this is good, that is wrong” view of the world? Encourage listening. As a broadcaster who interviews a lot of people, the best thing I can do -- and I sometimes don't -- is to be quiet and listen. Everyone is telling a story and each and everyone is a complicated jumbled mess of personal experiences, opinions, and hopes. It's easy to look at groups, movements, and stories and cast your wide net of aspersions from afar. It's harder to do that when it is up close and personal. It's hard to do that when you just close your mouth and listen. You'll get your chance to keep telling your story. We all do. But, don't forget to listen to those around and the notes they are playing.
What life-altering moment or event should every human ideally get to experience at least once in their lives? Perspective.
Knowing where you actually fit into the grand scheme of things can be tremendously sobering -- if not painful -- or it can be wonderfully freeing. Your choice. As one of my old bosses used to say every day he walked into our office, "I'm above ground and breathing -- today is going to be a great day."
Life is a magnificent web of dreams vs reality and aspirations vs expectations, the chaos has cadence even if sometimes it demands to be explained. How do you live life to the fullest when it is also vulnerably fragile? Most of my life has been lived underneath the blanket of doubt, fear, and apprehension. I've been overprotected my no one more than myself. Yet as you move through this life I have found that each time you survive failure or each time you survive pain -- you realize that you will be okay. You CAN be OK. Not all dreams can come true, but that's no reason to work hard to make those dreams your goals. That doesn't mean you can't aspire to greatness, it just means you have to know how to carry them out. And if it all goes to hell -- you need to know you will find a way to get through it, accept it, and emerge on the other side. Life IS short -- whether you stop to realize that or not -- our job is to ride that wave until the end -- whatever end. I have failed before to live life to fullest and I'm sure I'll fail again -- but now, more than any other time in my life, I know that this is all part of the journey. Give up control and enjoy it.
The world is always revolving with billions of neurons firing at a rapid pace among its inhabitants, everyone is distracted or merely daydreaming. Being at the center and given a podium at the center of the world, you are granted 30-seconds to talk to every living person on Earth, all will listen and put to heart what they hear from you. What will be your message? I would simply smile and say the words that Douglas Adams choose to be at the center of his work in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series and beyond. -- Don't panic. Anything said after that would just be a waste. Words thrown meaninglessly at a wall. Just don't panic. Panic is about worry, doubt, fear, trepidation, anger, and stress. None of that will help you. All you need to know in order to get by is those two simple words. Don't. Panic.
And grab your towel.
Ken Napzok is a broadcaster, host, and writer. His book Why We Love Star Wars: The Great Moments That Built A Galaxy Far, Far Away is available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more. You can find him online at Ken Napzok across all social media platforms and kennapzok.com.