Nancy Cartwright — Surprise Yourself and You Will Surprise Everyone Else
Ep. 258 on The James Altucher Show
This is what she did in the middle of an audition for the top TV show in the world at that time, Cheers.
The script said, say “blah blah blah” (I forget the words) to Carla, the waitress, and then walk off the set.
Nancy Cartwright did that.
And then she walked out of the audition, out of the building, out of the studio lot, and all the way home. She just kept walking without saying anything to anyone at the audition.
She walked ALL THE WAY HOME in LA.
When she got home her phone was ringing (back when we had “home phones”).
“Where have you been?” her agent was almost angry at her. Actually, he was angry at her.
“I walked home,” she said.
“They can’t stop talking about you,” the agent said. “You were only supposed to walk off the stage. You just kept on walking.”
“I WANTED TO SURPRISE MYSELF,” Nancy said. “So I took the script literally. I left the stage and walked home.”
“Well,” he said, “They couldn’t stop talking about you when you left. You got the part!”
Nancy Cartwright is the most famous unknown person on the planet. And I say this with zero exaggeration.
100s of millions of people would recognize her voice, but nobody will recognize her in the street.
She is the voice of Bart Simpson (among many many others). Bart Simpson, of course, is the cartoon character known for his mischief in “The Simpsons” now in it’s 29th season.
I said to her in the beginning of the podcast: “I have to ask, can you do the voice of Bart Simpson? I’m afraid to ask because probably everyone asks you to do this.”
She laughed and said, “of course I will do Bart.” And she did. And she was!
She told me:
I always try to surprise myself. As much as possible. Just suddenly do the unexpected, don’t even think.
If you surprise yourself, then it’s guaranteed to surprise everyone else.
And then you leave an effect. They start talking about you. You rise above the rest because you are unique.
Why are we on this Earth if not to blaze our own unique path.
And that’s why I got that part. And many other rules.
Nancy is a classic “Choose Yourself” person.
But let’s bullet it out just to study it.
1) She recognized early on she had a talent in voices. In the podcast she does a number of voices. She is incredible.
2) Even though she had enormous talent, she spent years and years even doing more training.
The only way to get better at ANYTHING is to study under experienced mentors, either in person or virtually.
She studied with Daws Butler (the voice of Huckleberry Finn, Yogi Bear, and many other classics from the 60s and 70s. Maybe the best voice artist every until…Nancy).
3) She honed her acting skills. Hence…Cheers and many many other parts.
4) She surprised herself with everything she did.
I decided to try it for myself the other day.
I went on stage to do standup comedy. I had no idea what I would do.
I did something that completely surprised myself, everyone was at first confused and then laughed when they saw what was happening.
I’m not saying specifics because..I don’t know…I might do it again. But I’ll have to twist it to keep making it surprising. But this technique works!
5) She DID
At one point she got obsessed with Fellini, the filmmaker.
So she dropped everything, went to Italy and tried to find him. To learn.
She didn’t just read about him in a library. She went on an adventure!
When you DO things you get about 100x the appreciation of the nuances and subtleties that define a craft then if you simply study the craft or read about the craft.
DOING > 10 x THINKING > 10 x STUDYING and READING
6) PROCESS IS ART
She took her experience of trying to search for Fellini and made a movie which is out right now: “In Search of Fellini”.
It’s beautiful. Because reality outside of the norm is surreal.
Process can always be turned into art. Study how you do a work of art, how you make a sale, how you build a business or write a book, how you study a new skill.
Then write about it or video about it or paint it or whatever.
That documentation of process is sometimes more powerful art than the final art itself.
Nancy has been doing Bart Simpson for 29 years.
There’s always something new to learn when you are doing the things you love.
Every day you can talk to your peers and uncover more mysteries in hour art form than you can ever imagine existed.
This is how you get better. And be the best in the world.
When you surprise yourself, you poke holes in your comfort zone.
The reason to go out of your comfort zone is not to get uncomfortable, it’s to make your comfort zone bigger.
Getting out of your comfort zone is a muscle that needs to be practiced everyday.
Why? To laugh at yourself. To immerse in life.
The other day I was in a live show that was about relationships. I did something out of the blue that surprised myself.
It was funny. Everyone at that moment laughed.
But then it got me into huge trouble the next day. HUGE.
I’m documenting the trouble. Because trouble is fun.
James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show , which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Join the 136,000 readers getting a dose of my best and controversial content. Join here.