Tom Shadyac's Life's Operating Manual

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tom Shadyac, the director behind the hit movies "Ace Venture: Pet Detective"; "The Nutty Professor"; "Liar, Liar"; "Patch Adams"; and "Bruce Almighty," talks about how a brush with death made him change the way he sees the world. His book Life’s Operating Manual: With the Fear and Truth Dialogues is s a series of essays and dialogues that look at the way we should live our lives.


Tom Shadyac

Comments [12]

John A

"There's nothing judgmental, value-laden or provocative here."
The comment that followed yours, Frank De Canio, said:
"the fact that the prey is digestible by the predator is a higher level form of cooperation."
Higher than cooperation to form alliances? There we go with the provocation.
Strong anti-religious fervor has gone into supporting supposed "free market" economies, as there has many other modern 'new moralities'. Is this modern Social Darwinism?
When it supports man killing (or legally robbing) man, Frank, Darwinism is then no good.

Aug. 27 2013 04:51 PM
mejimenez from manhattan

Excellent! Maybe the only time I've ever heard somebody on the radio correctly describe the relative roles of competition and cooperation in the natural world. Shadyac also correctly attributed the phrase "survival of the fittest" to Spencer instead of Darwin.

His topic wasn't evolution, so it wasn't the place to explore some related ideas. But here are a couple. Since the mechanism of evolution involves organisms surviving long enough to reproduce, a more appropriate phrase would be just "survival of the fit"; it's a pass/fail system, not a maximizing one.

Also, organism lineages are not evolving in isolation while their environment, which largely consists of other organism lineages, is static. As Bateson says, organism and environment are co-evolving together dynamically over time.

Back to the topic of cooperation, Margulis points out that a lot of evolutionary change comes not from random mutations followed by "natural selection", but from symbiotic groupings. And even when organisms are killing and consuming one another, from the perspective of the whole web of life, the fact that the prey is digestible by the predator is a higher level form of cooperation.

Aug. 27 2013 02:00 PM
Frank De Canio from Union City, NJ

I never understood why 'the survival of the fittest' wherever the phrase came from, in the context of evolution, had incendiary underpinnings. Whoever coined the phrase, Darwin's theory of evolution means the survival of the fittest for a specific environment. Obviously the lowly cockroach, by way of its longevity record, was and is better fitted for the contingencies of its environment (as the dinosaur was not), as the co-operative gene would be better fitted for a society of law and mutual dependency. A civilization that had sufficient aggressive proclivities to defend itself would be better fitted to survive than one that had an unhealthy need for conquest, a voracious appetite or one that had a Pollyanna view of the world. And so it goes. The species that is best adaptable to its specific environment is best fit for survival. There's nothing judgmental, value-laden or provocative here.

Aug. 27 2013 01:13 PM

Nick from UWS, it was Samuel Goldwyn:

"Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union." — Samuel Goldwyn

I believe you are thinking of the George S. Kaufman incident when he sent a very bad performer in one of his plays a telegram:

"Am watching your performance from the rear of the house. Wish you were here."

Aug. 27 2013 01:12 PM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Ouch! My eye sockets are straining under the extreme centrifugal force from intense eye rolling.

Aug. 27 2013 12:57 PM
marisa from NYC

hmmmm... why doesn't he give this book away for free electronically if he really wants to be living in line with what he is espousing.

Aug. 27 2013 12:56 PM
John A

Proof that I am not a fundamentalist I guess, loved "Bruce" and also
"Ace". Theres a respect in those films. No word on the sequel "Evan", however..,

Aug. 27 2013 12:55 PM
Amy from Manhattan

This sounds great, & I mean that, but it seems to me it's a lot easier to put into practice when you have enough money not to have to worry about making a living while you're doing it.

Aug. 27 2013 12:55 PM
James from Upper East

Life lessons from the director of "Pet Detective?" No thanks. Let him go enjoy the millions he made from some of the worst films of the past 20 years and leave the rest of us alone...

Aug. 27 2013 12:54 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

It takes the mindset of the masses to make money from the masses. Intellectuals don't make money from the masses. Those who are successful at making money from the masses are usually at the same intellectual level as the masses. I didn't like most of his films but then I am poor. To be part of the herd you have to have the mindset of the herd.

Aug. 27 2013 12:47 PM
Nick from UWS

"If you want to send a message, send it Western Union." was neither Woody Allen nor Samuel Goldwyn. It was George S. Kaufman.

Aug. 27 2013 12:47 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

What is it with these high flyers who only realize they are mere mortals when they get a close scrape with death? What makes their egos so tough?

Aug. 27 2013 12:21 PM

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