How to flop on TV

'What matters is whether you can out-talk and out-shout and out-smile the other guy,” the coach said.

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Jack Engelhard,

Jack Engelhard
Jack Engelhard
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

Immediately after I considered an offer to appear on TV, friends and relatives started giving me advice. “Don’t slouch,” they said, “like you did the first time.”

Plus more like this: 

“Don’t blink…don’t freeze up when the lights come on…be funny…be serious…don’t forget to smile…better you stay home and write another book…”

At the Deli a man came over; Danny, a professional TV coach. 

“The best plan,” I said, “is that I should just be myself, right?”

“Wrong,” he said. “That never works, not for television. You have to put on a happy face. You don’t look happy. Do you ever smile? It is required.”

“Let’s see,” I thought back. “I believe it was 1984 or…”

“What’s the topic?” he asked.

“Israel,” I said. 

“Are you for or against?”

“Are you kidding me? Have you read my columns, my books?”


To succeed you will need to sound more like Roger Waters, Linda Sarsour, Noam Chomsky, Tom Friedman, or even Richard Gere...
“I read ‘Indecent Proposal’ and ‘The Bathsheba Deadline’ so I get your point, but for TV nobody gives a damn. You’re just another face. Will you be on alone?”

“I think there’s going to be some other guy I’ll be debating.”

“I checked,” he said. “The other guy is a smoothie from CBS-TV. He’s going to cut you to bits unless you come off reasonable. Will you be quoting the Bible?”

“If it comes up,” I said. “Israel is all about the Bible. Israel IS the Bible, the Torah.” 

“Big mistake. Never quote the Bible. Never say Torah. Makes you a gun-toting settler or an evangelist. If you’re Pat Robertson, okay. But you’re not.”

“What do you mean BE REASONABLE,” I asked.

“Don’t come off TOO pro-Israel. Nobody likes that,” he said. “Liberals and other Jew-haters always come off reasonable. People on the right, never.”

“So I have noticed,” I had to agree. 

“Good. So you have also noticed that it does not matter if your cause is just. What matters is whether you can out-talk and out-shout and out-smile the other guy.”

“That’s not me,” I said. “Not my style.”

“Too bad. Seems to me you should stay home and write another column or another book.”

“But this is an opportunity to make the case for Israel against all the anti-Semites.”

“In five minutes? That’s all you’ll get, if that much against that smooth-talker who keeps smiling. He’s a pro. You’re a writer, even worse, a novelist…and NEVER say anti-Semites.”

“That is not REASONABLE, right?”

“Exactly, and to succeed you will need to sound more like Roger Waters, Linda Sarsour, Noam Chomsky, Tom Friedman, or even Richard Gere, who is always smiling, by the way, even when he talks up Hamas and talks down Israel. You can learn from him.” 

“These,” I said, “are reasonable people?”

“In the world we live in? Absolutely. Do you intend to smash-mouth Mahmoud Abbas, again?”

“HE’S THE BIGGEST ANTI-SEMITE OF THEM ALL.”

“There you go again. Look. I’ve done all I can. You are hopeless.”

“Suppose I start smiling?”

“It won’t matter.”

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva. Engelhard wrote the international bestseller “Indecent Proposal” and the ground-breaking inside-journalism thriller “The Bathsheba Deadline.” His latest is “News Anchor Sweetheart.” He is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: www.jackengelhard.com