I have a confession to make.

I don’t actually like watching TV or movies. I love people-watching. I’d much rather watch people watch TV than be the person watching TV myself. That’s why I love improv and stand-up comedy – I can see the interplay between actor and audience. I love to watch the comedian’s face as he gets an idea, formulates it, runs with it, and responds to the audience and other actors as the scene progresses. It’s much more interesting than the nominal theme of the show. I can go back on the video and watch the same scene again and again, seeing how it clicks and being impressed at how it happens.

On the other hand, watching a show that’s the product of long hours of effort – writing, screenwriting, acting, directing, producing, editing – doesn’t move me nearly as much. I can watch movies and TV shows like that, but I’d prefer to see them with friends or family, and pay attention to how others react to the scenes. I especially like watching someone see a movie for the first time if I’m familiar with it already. I’m not the person talking through it or giving spoilers (“Watch this part; it’s good!”) but I’m definitely paying more attention to my companions than to the screen.

One of my fondest movie memories was on a day when I’d been invited along on a girls’ movie night with some acquaintances. We were all to see some chick flick – I think it was Maid in Manhattan – which I wasn’t keen on at all. (Chick flicks aren’t my thing.) When we got to the theatre, there was a line-up out the door. I found out that Fellowship of the Ring was opening at midnight and there were still tickets available for the first screening. I ditched girls’ night and joined the fellowship of the nerds in the line-up.

Oh, what an experience, to sit in the audience of a much-anticipated movie on opening night! The show was late starting and the crowd was vocal in its discontent. There were jeers during the ads and cheers during the previews. After half a dozen trailers the screen went dark and the manager begged the crowd’s patience. The audience was buzzing – under control but full of energy. At about 12:35, the reason for the delay was revealed: Sir Ian McKellan entered the theatre – he was in town filming X-men.

Finally, the show was underway. It was such an amazing feeling, seeing this film with a few hundred hardcore fans. They called out advice to Merry and Pippin in the scene with the fireworks. They tried to mumble along to Bilbo’s speech, commenting on whether they felt it was accurate enough. They shouted out warnings to Frodo when he was in danger, heckled the dark riders when they were washed away in the river, booed Boromir when he spoke of keeping the ring. I was so engrossed in watching them watch the movie that I barely watched the movie myself.

I hope, wherever I go and whatever I end up doing in life, I get to continue audience-watching. Maybe I’ll start going to live comedy shows and theatre productions. Anything but watching TV at home alone.

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