“A brilliant spark that will fly through the air and set the vapors of our insurrectionary imaginations alight.”

John Jordan, founder of Reclaim the Streets

Anyone can act

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“Acting is the least mysterious of all crafts. Whenever we want something from somebody or when we want to hide something or pretend, we’re acting. Most people do it all day long.”

Marlon Brando
In Sum

Don’t worry about being a lousy actor — you’re a great one.

If you want to pose as someone you’re not — for example, while infiltrating a conference — you don’t need to worry about being a lousy actor.

Andy from the Yes Men, for example, is a terrible actor. In college he got kicked out of a play. In high school he did really well in an audition, once, and got a part — but then was atrocious in the actual performance, as he couldn’t stay interested in the role. Yes Man Mike, for his part, once played the role of a dinosaur in an elementary school play. He was good at it, but only because you couldn’t actually see his expression, which was most likely not the least bit credible.

OK, you’ll say, but Andy looks very convincing when he appears on the BBC, posing as a spokesperson for Dow Chemical. Actually, look closely: he’s terrified. The whole time see PRINCIPLE: Everyone has balls/ovaries of steel. But after a week of solid rehearsals, he managed to pretty much memorize everything he had to say and spit it out. His terrified look became the look of a nervous PR flak, which is exactly what he’d turned himself into. Professional PR people are probably terrified too, but they’re very, very rehearsed.

Rehearsing is one of the two keys to successful “acting,” which in this context is basically synonymous with “keeping your shit together.” (Incidentally, here’s how you can become an excellent PR flak yourself: just memorize the five answers you want to give, and recite them in response to whatever question you’re asked, with appropriate hemming and hawing, which, in the biz is called “bridging” see PRINCIPLE: Stay on message. That’s all there is to it! And it works whether you’re pretending to be Dow Chemical on TV, posing at a conference as the CIA or speaking as yourself to a reporter about your latest action.)

The second key to keeping your shit together (AKA acting) is to realize that once you’re up there, pretty much anything you do is going to be fine. After all, you’re the most important person in the room!

You’ll quickly find that when everyone in the room believes that you’re a particular person, a magical thing happens: you start to believe it as well. That’s what makes identity correction see TACTIC so much easier than regular acting. When you’re a regular actor, everyone in the room knows you’re not actually Hamlet, or Sweeney Todd’s wife, or an elementary-school dinosaur — and they have to work plenty hard to “suspend disbelief.” In hoax-like acting, the audience already believes you are who you’re billed as. It’s suspension of disbelief in reverse: under the influence of your audience, you end up believing it as well, and acting just right.

A quick way to test the principle: just put on a suit or business dress, and notice how you act differently. See?


Andy Bichlbaum (AKA Jacques Servin) got his start as an activist when, as a computer programmer, he inserted a swarm of kissing boys in a shoot-'em-up video game just before it shipped to store shelves, and found himself fired, famous, and hugely amused. Now, Andy helps run the Yes Lab for Creative Activism as part of his job as professor of subversion at New York University. Bichlbaum once flew down the Nile in a two-seater airplane, bringing a live goat to a remote Sudanese village as a hostess gift for a homecoming party. (The party was fun and the goat was insanely delicious.)


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