As many of you know, I have spoken and sung into microphones for the better part of my life. One of the things that comes from having done so is my recognition of the following truism:
If you want to see a perfectly normal person make a complete ass of himself, just hand him (or her) a microphone.
Typically, they examine it by turning it in all sorts of directions (usually while wearing a silly grin), as if they are not quite sure which end to speak into. They then give it a tap or two tap, tap; they sometimes blow into it, and they almost always end up saying, “Is this thing on?” Problem is that while asking that question they inevitably cover the microphone with one of their hands (presumably so the audience cannot hear), which results in the inevitable blast of feedback sufficiently loud and shrill to sterilize everyone in the room and cause dogs a half mile away to howl.
Once you assure them that it is “on” and ask them not to cover the microphone with their hands, they will often again confirm that the microphone is indeed on, only this time so the audience can hear, “OK, this thing is on now.”
Satisfied that the microphone is indeed live, they begin to speak. The audience complains that the speaker cannot be heard. The speaker turns around and gives you the “You-said-this-thing-was-on” look. You explain that one must actually speak into the microphone in order to be heard and that holding it just slightly north of the navel will not get it done.
They resume speaking, but insist on holding the microphone a foot from their mouth, so you adjust the gain in an attempt to pick up the voice. That’s usually when they finally get around to bringing the microphone the proper distance from their mouth, which causes another blast of feedback and yet another dirty look from the speaker.
Naturally, the audience assumes that the speaker is doing just fine and reason for the ear-splitting squeals and speaker’s inaudibility is the incompetence of the boob turning the knobs.
I harbor fantasies handing such a person a flashlight instead of a microphone. Wanna bet they’d tap it, tap, tap and say, “Is this thing on?”
The Flip Side
The opposite of the type of person described above is the one who stands before a group of several hundred people and pushes an available microphone aside proudly saying, “I hate microphones. Never use ‘em. Can everybody hear me?”
Hearing no objections (It is rare that anyone will shout “No!”), he begins speaking, only after a minute or two to be completely drowned out by those in the audience who begin talking, because they cannot hear him.
At that point, he his handed the microphone, and the inevitable fun begins.