what’s in a name?

Sometimes when I’m creatively blocked I just start randomly typing things into Google. This time I wasn’t as random. Being a spiritual seeker, I searched for ‘God.’ Turns out, that search yielded 497,000,000 results, which I think explains why we can’t get along. Then, just to balance things out, I searched for the ‘Devil.’ Great news–only 160,000,000 results–clearly the Creator has a better handle on Search Engine Optimization. Now I’m figuring that the reason I’m not finding anything definitive is that I’m tied to archaic mythology, so I widened my search. For ‘evil,’ Google gave me 213,000,000 results, which means that there are at least 53,000,000 instances of evil for which the Devil is not responsible. This theology stuff is easy! But I wanted, at the very least, to have incontrovertible proof that is more good than evil in the world, and–voila! ‘ Good’ yields 2,060,000,000 hits! Good defeats evil! I’m a philosopher genius!

All that philosophizing took my mind off my piddling worries, but not for long. I’m just not sure where I fit in the grand scheme of things, and I’m just not feeling I’ve accomplished as much as I should. Granted I have nearly TEN regular readers of my blog, and as a standup comic, I am HUGE in Berwyn, Illinois. And Crest Hill. But I needed some perspective, so it was time to consult the Great Wireless Oracle once again.

It’s called ‘ego-surfing,’ and it involves simply typing your own name (in quotation marks) into your favorite search engine. According to the magical Google, 9,700 pages on the internet have at least one reference to ‘Michael Dane.’ So to boost my self-esteem, I decided to see how my life’s work stacks up against that of some the other Michael Danes. Instead of comparing myself to everyone on the planet, or even everyone in show business, let’s just see if I’m one of the most successful people named ‘Michael Dane.’

The first result I found was for a karaoke singer in Spokane, Washington. You can see a video here. Pleasant enough fellow, but I’m way funnier. Next I found a guy in Mooresville, North Carolina. Now he does own his own company, Dane Construction, but federal campaign records show he donated $1000 to both Kay Hagen AND Elizabeth Dole in their senate race, so that tells me he’s wishy-washy and not to be trusted. Take a stand, pal! Then, rounding out the first fifty, I get worried, because there’s a Michael Dane who’s listed as a ‘voice talent.’  But I went to his website, and first of all, he’s based in Athens, Texas, which is isn’t even the hippest Athens in the U.S. And his bio says that he was a DJ at a club called ‘Toppless,’ so I actually feel o.k. about doing comedy at Bada Brew in Crest Hill. At least I was the headliner.

The next result led me to one of the most fun time-wasting sites I’ve found in ages. Iit gives you statistical information on how your name (first, last or both as a combination) ranks in popularity, and it tells you where people with your name live. Indescribable nerd fun. There are 33 ‘Michael Dane’ listings in the entire country (making it the 613,590th most popular name), and I/we can be found in 20 states (with five of me/us in Massachusettes!).

Back to the search for my doppleganger. There’s a link to the MySpace page of a twenty-one year old girl in Lorain, Ohio, but I didn’t like the looks of her friends. She could do better. Then I think I might have real competition–an actor, and he’s actually listed on IMDB. But here’s his entire resume: in the 1985 film ‘A Certain Sacrifice,’ he played ‘Transvestite Steve,’ and in the 1987 movie ‘Hangman’ he is credited as…’Bad Guy.’ I feel much better. No disrespect, Mike, but neither of your characters had last names.

Still in the field of entertainment, Canadian singer Michael Dane apparently had a minor hit with the 12″ disco single “Let’s Make Love” (the flip side, as we all remember, was “The Dead Are Making Love), but that was in 1981, and I’ve seen no evidence of a comeback. Or a resurgence of Canadian disco.

The next contender was fun to read about. An English professor at two colleges in Hawaii, he’s listed on ratemyprofessors.com . Here’s a few quotes about Professor Dane (overall rating–4.6 out of 10):

Sometimes he seems like he’s weird but he’s very helpful.

We don’t seem to do much in class at all. He is entertaining to listen to, but jokes can be repetitive.

First impression make Dane seem intimidating. He has a strange sense of humor.

Finishing the top 100 ‘Michael Dane’ results, there’s:

a goth kid who takes pictures of himself

a lawyer in Kirtland, Ohio who in 37 years of practice has never had an instance of professional misconduct (and has apparently never left Kirtland Ohio),

a guy who owns an ‘architectural products’ company in Phoenix with a sharp-looking website where twelve of the sixteen links say ‘Coming Soon.’

a guy credited on the album “A Victorian Christmas For Brass” who didn’t play any brass–he’s listed as ‘bellringer’

So, all in all, I think I represent the Michael Danes of the world quite well.  In fact, two results of the first hundred actually quote a joke of mine, and my calendar from my website is result #104. But my favorite result actually referred to a character named ‘Michael Dane.’ In the 1923 John Ford silent film “North of Hudson Bay,”  legendary cowboy Tom Mix played a rancher named Michael Dane, and check out this synopsis from the book  “John Ford” by Tag Gallagher:

Rancher Michael Dane falls in love with Estelle while en route to Northern California where his brother Peter had struck gold. But there he finds his brother dead and his partner MacKenzie sentenced to walk the ‘death trail’…Dane tries to help MacKenzie, earns the same sentence but both excape, battling wolves, and meet Estelle, pursued by her uncle, the real murderer, who dies after a canoe chase over a waterfall.

Now that would beat the hell out of telling jokes in bars. But I am having trouble imagining the pitch meeting for that movie–it’s not exactly what you’d call ‘high concept.’ Sadly, according to the book, ‘only portions’ of the film survive, ‘with titles in Czech.’ No idea why.

MisterComedy