Monday, June 23, 2008

Your Verbal Tricks Shall Not Pass

Case File: Why Newspaper Writing is Starting to Get Frustrating

The original version of a story about the opening of a comedy club on Hilton Head (with some cheesy puns, but hey, at least I'm trying):

So two guys who want to open up a comedy club on Hilton Head Island walk into Town Hall. The third guy moves out of the way.
Thank you, ladies and germs. And for our next act, John Biddle, a former amateur touring comedian and comedy club owner who came to Hilton Head this spring to open up what will be the island’s only full comedy club. After an approval from a town board Monday, he’s on track to open the Hilton Head Comedy Club in Pineland Station, possibly as soon as next week if the rest of the construction wraps up on schedule, just in time for the peak of tourist season. And hey, why’s it called tourist season if we can’t shoot at them anyway?

Other venues on the island such as Stages nightclub, the Shoreline Ballroom and the Hilton Oceanfront Resort feature touring comedy shows, but this could be the island’s only dedicated spot for comedic acts, unless you count the Sea Pines Circle on a Saturday in July.
Biddle, who owned a comedy club on Sanibel Island, Fla. for six years, said he’s not bringing amateur hour to Hilton Head — he said he has some national acts lined up to appear, including Ron Shock, a frequent guest on The Tonight Show and other television comedy showcases, and A. Whitney Brown, who appeared on Saturday Night Live and was one of the original correspondents on The Daily Show. At least one of the comedians he mentioned, Pat Godwin, a guest on nationally syndicated radio shows like Howard Stern and the Bob and Tom Show, has listed an appearance at the new club on his Web site.

In the 1990s, then again in early 2000s, the island was home to a Coconuts, a chain comedy club that operated most recently out of the Quality Inn. Biddle’s club is located in the former sites of a University of South Carolina Beaufort branch and the Lowcountry Center for Photography, a location he said will avoid the chaos of the south end bars and help draw more locals. (How do you find the locals on Hilton Head anyway? Shout “O-H!” and see who doesn’t answer.)

Biddle first visited Hilton Head two years ago and saw lots of things for golfers to do (like tell their patients they’ll be in “surgery” all day) but the nightlife was lacking.
“They really having nothing to do at night except hang out at bars,” he said. Biddle, who worked as a food and beverage manager in Las Vegas, and his partner, former Las Vegas entertainment writer Michael Paskevich, both have connections in the comedy business through their time in Sin City. So they decided to trade “life in the fast lane for life in the bike lane” on Hilton Head, Biddle said.
Tickets will be about $10 or $12 and the owners plan to keep drink prices reasonable to make sure the club stays full. Food will also be served. Biddle said he’ll be able to book national acts because he’s selling the Hilton Head show as a vacation gig. A. Whitney Brown, for example, likes to bike, so they’ll give him a rental and point him to the bike paths, he said.

“We’ve been working night and day to make it happen,” he said. And you can expect to see Biddle on stage warming up the crowds at the new club. “I’ll be the human sacrifice,” he said.

The edited version:

The owner of a planned comedy club on Hilton Head Island got final approval from the town Monday to open his business.
John Biddle, a former amateur touring comedian and comedy club owner, is on track to open the Hilton Head Comedy Club in Pineland Station, possibly as soon as next week, if the rest of the construction wraps up on schedule.

Other venues on the island such as Stages nightclub, the Shoreline Ballroom and the Hilton Oceanfront Resort feature touring comedy shows, but this could be the island’s only dedicated spot for comedy acts.

Biddle, who owned a comedy club on Sanibel Island, Fla., for six years, said he’s not bringing amateur hour to Hilton Head. He said he has some national acts lined up, including Ron Shock, a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show” and other television comedy showcases, and A. Whitney Brown, who appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and was one of the original correspondents on “The Daily Show.”
At least one of the comedians he mentioned, Pat Godwin, a guest on nationally syndicated radio shows like Howard Stern and the “Bob and Tom Show,” has listed an appearance at the new club on his Web site.
In the 1990s, and again in early 2000s, the island was home to a Coconuts, a chain comedy club that operated most recently out of the Quality Inn. Biddle’s club is in the former sites of a University of South Carolina Beaufort branch and the Lowcountry Center for Photography, a location he said will avoid the chaos of the south end bars and help draw more locals. Biddle first visited Hilton Head two years ago and saw lots of things for golfers to do, but the nightlife was lacking.
"They really having nothing to do at night except hang out at bars,” he said.
Biddle, who worked as a food and beverage manager in Las Vegas, and his partner, former Las Vegas entertainment writer Michael Paskevich, both have connections in the comedy business through their time in Sin City. So they decided to trade “life in the fast lane for life in the bike lane” on Hilton Head, Biddle said.
Tickets will be about $10 or $12, and the owners say they plan to keep drink prices reasonable to make sure the club stays full. Food will also be served.
Biddle said he’ll be able to book national acts because he’s selling the Hilton Head show as a vacation gig. A. Whitney Brown, for example, likes to bike, so they’ll give him a rental and point him to the bike paths, he said.
“We’ve been working night and day to make it happen,” he said.
And you can expect to see Biddle on stage warming up the crowds at the new club. “I’ll be the human sacrifice,” he said.


Sigh. My editors said they didn't get it. No slight against my editors, whom I respect and admire and trust for their journalistic opinions more often than not, but I worry that sometimes we're afraid to take risks, or to at least try to break out of the mold and make news slightly more interesting. Example: last year I wrote a story about Hilton Head's approval of a $93 million budget. Pretty dry stuff, so I compared the budget to the cost of the first Lord of the Rings movie to help people conceptualize the amount. When I opened the paper the next day, none of that made it in. My boss said "People who read those stories just want the facts. No one else is going to read it." My other editor privately told me he thought some other readers might actually have taken an interest in the story if the LOTR reference stayed in.

This picture seems appropriate, though I'm not sure which character is who in this situation.


1 comment:

j.r.f. said...

I feel you man.
It's not like a clever lead or two will heal the industry, but you're right about taking chances.
If the status quo isn't working, just doing the same thing harder isn't going to work either.
Plus, the joke about find the locals? Delicious!