Mike Daisey talks.
He is a monologist; it’s what he does.
In a day when we watch our videos in one- and two-minute clips and read messages from our friends in 140 characters or less, Mike Daisey will talk for two hours.
No dancing. No music. No pyrotechnics.
Just talk. And audiences are listening.
That’s the best, says Daisey over the phone, on the road in North Carolina, just before he went onstage.
“The perfect response is an audience who will listen and be open and be touched and affected by what happens.
“This is the reason for doing this: a live experience of talking about things important in our lives that touch us in ways other media can’t.”
Even after the show, the conversation continues as he will often stand in an out-of-the-way corner of the lobby so that audience members can approach him, or not, to offer their own experiences.
“It is very interesting,” says Daisey. “It’s a by-product [of the show] to share their stories.”
Now, Daisey isn’t just any talker. He consumes “an enormous amount of information daily” and he finds ways of making connections and finding comparisons and then spooling it out to the audience in an entertaining way.
“I do spend a lot of time nurturing my obsessions and I wait for these obsessions to intersect with the culture at large.
“That is when the opportunity, or monologues, happen.
“Our life has a lot of irony and I try to keep my eyes open, but the ironies and absurdities are everywhere.
“It is hard to avoid them.”
Especially these days when his home country, the United States, is so polarized between left and right.
But Daisey doesn’t agree.
He doesn’t consider himself either a Democrat or a Republican, and he sees the current environment as just “spin and noise”.
“People are as polarized now as in the past decade. But the news cycle highlights those differences for page clicks and to keep people watching.
“The news cycle isn’t the truth of what is happening on the ground.
“Actually, I wish people spoke truth to power more.”
Daisey, who wrote the book, 21 Dog Years: A Cube Dweller’s Tale, and is a contributor to WIRED, Slate and Salon and is a web contributor to Vanity Fair and Radar Magazine, took his observation skills to the isolated South Pacific island of Tanna in the Vanuatu island chain east of Australia.
He saw a culture that worshipped John Frum, supposedly a bureaucrat, who arrived on the island with material to support the war effort in the Second World War.
A “cargo cult” developed and symbolic landing strips were built to encourage the Americans to return and they hold military-style parades every February 15.
Returning to America, he saw comparisons to our culture that has a finance system that is, ultimately and surprisingly, based on faith.
The result is a two-hour monologue – one of 14 in his inventory – called, The Last Cargo Cult. He will explain how we have rituals surrounding the passing of money … money which isn’t tied to anything except our universal agreement that it does, indeed, have value.
As communications in our landscape become more and more complicated, Daisey says holding the attention of an audience with just his words is always a challenge. “All things worth doing are challenging.
“But I find they appreciate hearing one coherent narrative.
“In my experience, it is working out quite well.”
Mike Daisey can be heard on the Yukon Arts Centre stage Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the YAC Box Office and Arts Underground.