Our highest-paid historians

I’ve written in the past about how an interest in comedy made me a better student. Early in my life I recognized that comedians weren’t dopey clowns, but – the good ones, anyway – were well-read historians and philosophers. The same is true of the best musicians.

Depending on how you grew up, you may have seen music, comedy, and the arts enjoyed, but been encouraged to pursue more “serious” career paths. That was my experience, though it always bugged me because my gut knew better, but my kid words couldn’t articulate it. And before the internet, it was harder to find the video interviews to support my hunch. Later I would find interviews on YouTube of Stevie Ray Vaughan lecturing on the subtle differences between Freddie King and Eric Clapton, or how T-Bone Walker held his guitar, and confirm he was a careful student of music history. Now one of my favorite pastimes is watching hour-long videos of artists talking about how they work.

Recently I’ve been drinking from the fire hose of Wynton Marsalis’ knowledge of World History as it relates to Jazz, and his growth as a person. So round is his understanding of the history of his genre, he can listen to the drum beat of any given Jazz song and tell you which immigrant group moved to which neighborhood in New Orleans and contributed it. In the same video you see Marsalis, and Late Show band leader (and fellow music historian) Jon Batiste walk you through the history of America via Jazz.

And speaking of the Late Show, you may also enjoy Stephen Colbert’s interview with a priest in which he breaks down not only the nuts and bolts of humor in politics and society, but also drops obscure church history, ontological arguments for the existence of God, and the sweetness of his affection for Christ. Five nights a week you can watch him and Jon Batiste play the erudite symphony of America past, present, and future.

Don’t let the sometimes goofy garb of performance trick you into believing you are consuming the work of fools too flakey for academia or business. In many cases you are consuming the applied science, history, and theology of masters in their field.