somebody dies they look to their family to set the tone and mentioned his own reaction
when the comedian Nipsey Russell died. He illustrates McNamee and Shotter’s notion of “.
. .how do we capture the unknown, the sense of creating something anew?” In response
to “What kind of environment can we create?” McNamee mentions creating a
conversational space where we get away from abstract positions such as ““This is what I
believe,’ ‘This is true,’ ‘This is right,’ ‘This is wrong,’ and those are abstractions. Instead I
like to invite people to root those abstractions in a life story of their own. It doesn’t need to
be extremely self-disclosive, but it’s rooted in a story. And that opens a possibility for us to
be in a different kind of conversation than we would otherwise have” (McNamee and
Shotter, p. 4). jimi masterfully creates the conversational space that McNamee states
should be “rooted in life story of their own” away from abstract position. We see this in
jimi’s personal story about the need to examine the family’s reactions to someone’s death
in order to socially construct an appropriate response.
izrael deftly provides a visual and emotional snapshot of the Jackson family in mourning,
“The sisters are all broken up, mom is in pieces, and dad is off in the corner trying to sell
bootleg t-shirts an CDs. I’ve got to say it’s a bad look. Joe Jackson just hit the wrong
note.” He then goes on to talk about the Al Sharpton circus coming to town. jimi then
shares his story of looking to the Russelll family to set the tone when the comedian Nipsey
Russell died. A personal and relatable story is an example of how getting away from
generalization adds enormous depth and color.
Improviser and Conversational Trickster
Whether jimi izrael is a moderator on NPR, a blogger on theroot.com, talking about
Shameless Joe Jackson on CNN, or jousting with a special Nightline panel about why
women can’t find a good man – jimi gets media play because he offers a distinctive blend
of “his” personal truth, reflection, irony and comedy combined with masterful
improvisational skills. His approach appears to be spontaneous, but there are the
elements of a scripted process since he relies on frequently recurring themes and readily
accessible commentary extracted from bit and pieces of his articles, blogs or books (K.
Gergen, Schrader, & M. Gergen, 2009). His ability to process and readily retrieve content
allows for dialogic playfulness.
During our freelance conversation, jimi completely switches gears and says, “Lainey, you
have some nice toes – toes like escargot.” Now what does that mean? He catches you
off guard and does not allow you to perform in typical fashion and that’s one of his gifts. I
am forced to improvise, create something new and leave my already reloaded next
question behind. The dialogue then moves from a typical scripted “interview” into the realm