Give That Jacket to the Laptop Dancer
By edort on Dec 05, 2007
I was eating breakfast here in Frankfurt with one of my coworkers the other day when she said "You've got to attend the talent show." This was the first I had heard of a talent show at Sun Tech Days. She explained that the talent show is sort of a tradition at Tech Days events. Somehow I missed hearing about it at the first Tech Days event I attended in Milan. So this time I made sure to see it.
Open only to paying attendees -- no Sun employees allowed -- the talent show is designed to show off some of the hidden talents of folks attending the session. O.K. O.K. it's really all about getting laughs at someone else's expense. So what I expected were some ridiculously bad attempts at singing or juggling or worse -- my friend told me that in St. Petersburg Russia the talent show winner read poetry. What I experienced instead was part ridiculous, part funny, and part amazing.
But it almost didn't happen. Reggie Hutcherson, manager of the Sun Technology Evangelism Group, and empresario of the Tech Days events, had to do some amount of cajoling to get a critical mass of five participants up to the stage. Even the enticement of winning a Sun leather jacket didn't do the trick. I can't say exactly what did the trick, but eventually five contestants volunteered. Here's a photo of the five on stage.
Actually one of the five was disqualified when he told Reggie he was a Sun employee. With five folks already volunteering, it broke the ice and a replacement quickly came aboard. The final five included four men and one woman. Here's what they did.
Contestant 1. This guy's act fell into the fairly ridiculous category. He asked everyone in the audience to stretch out their left hand, thumb pointing down. Then stretch their right hand thumb pointing down. Then he asked everyone to cross hands, clasp them, and rotate them. So now the right hand is the left hand and vice versa. Funny? Interesting? Not!
Contestant 2. This guy announced that he was going to do a backflip. Reggie was a little concerned that this fellow didn't have enough room to do a flip. However, not only did this guy do a backflip, but he did it so fast that I didn't get a chance to photograph him. Reggie asked him where he developed this talent. He answered that he took gymnastics as a child. With that talent he could have joined the circus, but instead chose a career in programming. Alas. Put this act in the technically difficult and amazing category.
Contestant 3. This woman told Reggie that she was going to do a laptop dance. What's a laptop dance you ask? Will this woman sit on a laptop computer and wiggle (ala a lap dance)? Will she stand on a laptop and dance? Will she hold a laptop and dance? None of the above. She opened a laptop and danced in front of it, as though it were a person. And let me say the dance was pretty darn suggestive. Given the fact that this was a predominantly male audience (typical of most software developer conferences), and the fact that this was an attractive woman, her chances of winning the jacket were pretty good. This act falls definitely into the stimulating and amazing category. If Reggie were any more stimulated and amazed, he'd probably fall off the stage.
Contestant 4. This guy told Reggie that he was going to do some stand-up comedy. Ironically he has a vague resemblance to David Letterman (at least to my dim eyes). Unfortunately, his comedy was a bit stiff and halting. He seemed to be doing some sort of parody of an executive introducing a guest to a company audience. And it sort of sounded like the guest was going to be either Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer. I think I heard references to the Northwest, to an innovator, to a person with great charisma, etc. etc. etc. After about a minute of this I was thinking, pretty dull and unimaginative. Then things exploded. Just about the time I thought this guy was going to introduce an imaginary Gates or Ballmer, he said "And now I'd like to introduce ... Monkey Boy." Monkey Boy? Who's Monkey Boy? Well it only took about five seconds to find out. Bounding on stage from the audience was this crazed lunatic.
Hair dissheveled, running from one side of the stage to the other, grunting and screaming, pouring a glass of water over himself, this guy was uproarious. After a few circuits of the stage he ran up to the podium and started bellowing to the troops. I don't recall exactly what he said, but it reminded me of the legendary Steve Ballmer rant to developers on You Tube, but decibels louder. Think Baller merged with John Belushi. It was hilarious stuff and very original. Put this act in the gut-busting funny and amazing category.
Contestant 5. The last act was a dancing routine. When this contestant told Reggie that he was going to dance, I thought he'd do something very staid. Some slow movements to a slow beat. After all this was a middle-aged guy in a suit. But he surprised me with some good dance moves. He even worked in a few knee bends. Apparently Reggie wasn't very impressed. At the end of the routine he asked the contestant "Are you sure those are your best moves?" Hey, the guy tried. This one goes in the A for effort category.
So who won the jacket? If you managed to read the title of this blog you know. Each contestant was judged by the audience. The louder the applause, the higher the rating. The contestant with the highest applause wins the jacket. The hand twister, the backflipper, and the dancer got a moderate amount of applause, but nowhere near the resounding applause garnered by the laptop dancer and the Ballmer skit pair. So contestants 1, 2, and 5 were given parting gifts of a tee shirt. That left the laptop dancer and the Ballmer skit pair. Reggie asked for another round of rating applause for each. There was no clear winner. But remember we're talking amusing though average looking guys competing against an attractive laptop dancer, with Reggie extoling the fact that no Tech Days event talent show has ever had a laptop dancer. You know who won.