The Importance of Being Yoda

Joel Eisenberg
Nov 9, 2019 · 4 min read

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”

I recently watched a 2009 episode of “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” on YouTube. I was a big fan of Ferguson’s when the show originally aired; he appeared to have a natural, effortless rapport with guests that made them more relaxed and comfortable than I’ve seen with most any other television host. On this particular episode, the guest was Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the famed South African cleric, theologian, and anti-apartheid human rights activist. In the midst of discussing some of mankind’s most repugnant atrocities, Tutu paused and laughed when Ferguson broke the seriousness with an awkward wisecrack. The cleric laughed hard, and more than once throughout the interview.

To me, Archbishop Tutu sounded like Yoda. Actually, he reminded me of Yoda in manner and intelligence. Apparently, others shared my thoughts. The audience was enchanted. Ferguson later stated Tutu was “the single most impressive human being” he had ever met. This was said in the context of Tutu witnessing so much horrific human history first-hand, and yet he retained, somehow, his warmth, wisdom and humor. Ferguson ended the episode with that sentiment, but he has since elaborated upon it in media interviews, crediting Tutu as the interview subject that changed his life.

So why lead an article on Yoda with a Desmond Tutu comparison? Wouldn’t that be insulting to compare such a great man to a fictional elf-like creature? After all, the comparison is a reach but the most enduring of fictional creations have tended to rip from the greatest of man.

From that perspective, it is not insulting at all.

And that, right there, is the secret to Yoda’s enduring popularity. He’s inspiring, much like some of history’s greatest iconoclasts, and despite the odds he never stops fighting for what he believes is right.


George Lucas’ conception of Yoda, fulfilled once existing technology was pushed to meet his vision, was to create an elf-like creature who was among the most powerful beings in the universe.

Yoda’s original look, later revised to more closely resemble a cross between its designer, makeup artist Stuart Freeborn, and Albert Einstein.

Yoda was a Jedi Master who trained some of the galaxy’s most impressive Jedis and, in the case of Count Dooku, Sith Lords. Performer Frank Oz’s voice and affectations for the character were based on the concept of anastrophe, a unique speech pattern that alters the order of the spoken subject, verb and object.

Yoda was different. He was small. He was a kick-ass fighter and a pop-culture smash unlike any we’ve seen before, whose words of wisdom have inspired generations, beginning with his first appearance in 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back.” One doesn’t attain such sage bonafides by being passive, or suffering fools, however. Through the fiercest of wars and most challenging of circumstances (you try being patient with a petulant Luke Skywalker), Yoda became pop-culture’s Confucius … with a cane and a limp and a hellacious lightsaber technique.

And, of course, there is no try.


As it is now in some circles the “in thing” to do, condemning the vast universe of “Star Wars” is a mistake, as accusations of Disney having ruined the franchise is nonsense considering the latest trilogy (so far, not counting the stand-alones “Rogue One” and “Solo”) has grossed more than the other two in current dollars, and compares favorably (though not as profitably) when adjusted for inflation.

Regardless, Yoda belongs to that warts and all, ever-polarizing “Star Wars” universe and that’s fine by me. I’ve learned more from this little green bastard than most teachers I’ve encountered.

What follows are some of my favorite Yoda quotes. I challenge anyone reading this to not be moved by at least one …

And my personal favorite, (courtesy of “The Last Jedi”):

You see, I told you. When you consider even a select handful of Yoda’s words, your life can forever change.

Not unlike Mr. Ferguson’s in reference to Mr. Tutu.

Too much credit? Enough credit it is not, I believe.

Thank you for reading.

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Joel Eisenberg

Written by

Joel Eisenberg is a writer and producer, and partner in Council Tree Productions, a television development company.

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