How to Turn Average Talent into Fame and Fortune
Some people have great talent. Some don’t. And then, there are those people who are OK at something and yet, through smart thinking and ingenuity, create a niche for themselves that brings with it considerable fame and fortune.
I don’t know about you, but I’m OK at quite a few things. I can write. I can sketch. I can design. But I’m not the best at it. I will never be a Stephen King or a Leonardo Da Vinci. I am not a great writer or artist. And most likely, you’re not quite up there with other greats like Dickens, Mozart, Picasso and DeNiro. And yet, if you can think of a unique way to spin your average talent, you could have success anyway.
Here are the stories of five people who used their average talents to create above-average careers. Take note, be inspired (even if you don’t actually like that person), and maybe you can find a way to take an OK skill to new heights of fame and fortune. And if you make it, come back and tell us about it.
This fella’s real name is Mark Jonathan Davis, but he sings under the name of Richard Cheese And Lounge Against The Machine. Wikipedia describes his act as “popular rock, rap, heavy metal, and pop songs in a swanky lounge music swing band style reminiscent of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Tony Bennett. The band's name Lounge Against The Machine is a parody of the band name Rage Against the Machine.”
As a regular lounge music singer, he’s average. As a singer in general, he’s below average. Sorry Dick, but it’s true. I’ve heard better singers at a karaoke bar. But when Mark decided to become Richard Cheese and sing some of the greatest, filthiest and most popular songs of the last three decades in a style that feels right at home in a 70’s lounge bar, he made a name for himself. A big name. Covering bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, The Beastie Boys, Guns N’ Roses and U2, Richard Cheese has created his own category of parody entertainment. And with countless albums and TV show appearances under his belt, the boy has done well. A classic example of turning an average skill into something way bigger. (Be warned, if you do purchase a Richard Cheese album, get ready for some very strong language. The bands he parodies are not known for soft lyrics.)
"Weird Al" Yankovic
Now this guy you’ve heard of. Yes, he’s another average singer (to be honest, even worse than Richard Cheese at times) but he takes popular songs and changes the words to become something quite different. The joke should have worn very thin decades ago but it’s still going. In fact, his parody song “White And Nerdy” (a reinvention of the rap/hip-hop song "Ridin'" by Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone) got serious airplay and became his most successful hit, reaching #9 on the U.S. Billboard Top 100. It came from his album Straight Outta Lynwood, which is also riding high on Amazon.
Other famous songs by “Weird Al” include “Eat It” (a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”) and “Smells Like Nirvana.” I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of his songs because they get old after about 30 seconds. But I am a big fan of his resourcefulness. His average singing talent has taken Weird Al on the ride of his life, and he is doing very well indeed.
Before all you Bill Shatner fans start boycotting Wise Bread, take a step back, a deep breath, and think about this for a moment. Can William Shatner act well? Can he sing well? Can he read poetry well? Can he even do TV commercials well? If we’re honest with ourselves, we all know the answer to that one. But that didn’t stop Cap’n Kirk from becoming a household name.
His strange, staccato way of speaking has been parodied more times than Tiger Woods has sunk a 10ft putt. And he’s a one-trick pony. In Star Trek, he was Captain Kirk. In TJ Hooker, he was Captain Kirk with a wig. In Boston Legal, he’s a really messed up Captain Kirk. And his awful renditions of classic songs, including Rocket Man, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and Mr. Tambourine Man (from his infamous The Transformed Man album) leave most people with either a headache or a chronic laughing condition. Despite all of this, he carved out a niche for himself that few have been able to copy. With average (if we’re being kind) talent in all of the performing arts, he has done exceptionally well for himself. And yes, I think he’s great as well.
Wow, talk about fame and fortune from a little-to-no talent. Suzanne Somers shot to fame as Chrissy Snow in Three’s Company, an American version of the bawdy British comedy Man About The House. The acting was cheesy, the plotlines were obvious, but it did very well. Then came season 5. Suzanne wanted a pay increase from $30,000 to $150,000 per episode, plus 10% of the show’s profits. John Ritter and Joyce De-Witt were so sick of her spoiled attitude that they refused to work with her. And after several one to two minute appearances that were taped separately, she left the cast. That should have been the end of Suzanne Somers and her acting. But then, she became the spokeswoman for a product called the Thighmaster and made money hand over fist. The simple act of smiling and squeezing a silly-looking product between her legs secured her future, and her place in the hall of fame. From there, all kinds of Suzanne Somers diet and exercise books and videos flooded the market. And despite two or three failed attempts to return to a successful sitcom, plus a couple of stints in Playboy, Suzanne still manages to keep herself in the public eye through the Home Shopping Network. An astonishing career built on good looks and below-average acting skills. If I could do the same as Suzanne, I'd be quite happy.
Those of you familiar with the Tim Burton biopic will know the name. Conversely, if you’re a fan of Ed Wood’s dire science-fiction movies, you’ll also know of his work. But one thing's certain – the man was not a good director. In fact, it would probably not be a stretch to call him a bad director. However, what Ed Wood did have was an unbelievable passion for movies, filmmaking, acting and directing. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t really any good at it, he made movies. And he also managed to work with some once great Hollywood icons, including Vampira and the original Dracula – Bela Lugosi. By far his best worst film is Plan 9 From Outer Space, a production so bad that it is widely known in Hollywood as the worst movie ever made. But guess what? Millions of people have heard of it. Millions of people saw his movies and read his books. While he may not have got fame and fortune before he died, he certainly got it afterwards. And some say that if he had been alive today, he would have earned the same respect that John Waters, Roger Corman and George A. Romero receive. Ed Wood’s average talents, coupled with his passion for movies, guarantee his place in the hall of fame. In fact, if he’d been a better movie maker, we probably wouldn’t even know his name.
These are just five of a long list of average (sometimes below average) entertainers who found success by carving out their own space, where they didn't have to compete with their talent, just their innovation. Also excluded from this list are, among others, Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie, that idiot guy from The Hills and any other socialite airhead. They were rich to begin with and they have zero talent, not average talent. If mommy and daddy weren’t powerful and wealthy, you wouldn’t know who they were and they wouldn’t be shopping on Rodeo Drive.