eLearning Going Bananas: Be an expert on anything Like Stephen Colbert

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Our belief:
At Vignettes Learning we use stories in eLearning; however, we make them interactive. The emphasis is getting learners involved in the story and not just telling the learners the story.
In this blog, we learn from no less than the master of absurdity and parody himself – Stephen Colbert. He tells us how seemingly illogical and ludicrous storylines can make great narratives.  __________________________________________________________________________

Watch Stephen Colbert’s video.

Only a Stephen Colbert can be like himself – that wacky, going bananas political pundit – even in the midst of serious lawmakers at the United States of America Congress. In the video, Colbert carried himself as the guy who is an expert in everything, treading the thin line between hilarious parody and humorless, straight forward pontification.

Oftentimes, we elearning developers are prone to get stuck with the safe and conventional aproaches when developing our story narratives – nothing wrong with that. However, we also need to be comfortable with “bringing out the Colbert in us” to create impact by using the power of “going bananas”.

In a wonderfully funny but scathing article about himself in Be An Expert in Anything by Stephen Colbert in Wire.com, he  quotes John Hockenberry:

“Stephen Colbert won’t be taking the advice offered in this guide. He has dedicated his career to passing himself off as an expert on anything. Colbert honed this skill on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, where he served as an analyst on everything from the Middle East to presidential gastronomy before gaining the title Senior Expert News Correspondent. He is a specialist in improvised comedy, which he says ‘is partly about making people believe you know everything.’ On Comedy Central’s hit show The Colbert Report, he goes beyond expertise into the arena of what he calls the anti-expert. ‘My show is an exercise in willfully ignorant, emotionally based, non-intellectual, -incurious passion about things. For instance, what gives Britannica the right to tell me that the Panama Canal was built in 1914? If I want to say 1941, that’s my right.’ Don’t even think about arguing with him.”

Stephen Colbert – along with John Stewart of the Daily Show – reinvented the narration genre. By creating confusion with the use of parodies, sarcasm, absurdities and ironies, they showed that dazzling, crooked perspectives are as powerful as clear,straight ones.  Some people prefer “fake news ” over real ones because the latter can best critique the former.

In Stephen Colbert’s advice on “how to be an expert in everything”, I picked up these tips which I think elearning story developers could use:

DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE THINGS UP. Never fear being exposed as a fraud. Experts make things up all the time. They’re qualified to.

DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF TO CURRENT KNOWLEDGE. If you worry too much about being up-to-date, you miss out on vast territories of obsolete knowledge just waiting to be reclaimed. Think of leech-craft and all the lonely experts in the use of the little creatures, which are now experiencing a renaissance in health care.

SPEAK FROM THE BALLS, NOT FROM THE DIAPHRAGM. In the expert game, you’ve got to have sack. That means speaking with confidence. In America, you’ve got to steer clear of nuance and ambivalence -and don’t even contemplate doubt.

Read my related blog 
How the ‘Anchoring Effect’ Affects eLearning Scenario Development

Colbert, S., Be An Expert in Anything Stephen Colbert. August, 2006.

PBS News Hour, Colbert stays in character at congressional hearing

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”