by Will Schreiber

Surprises generate smiles.

Catchy music is catchy because it’s predictable. We tap our feet to the beat as our brains guess upcoming notes.

Then, we click Next. If the song doesn’t surprise us, monotony sets in.

The best musicians, writers, speakers, and conversationalists surprise us. They don’t describe villages as “nestled in the foothills” or talk about the weather as a “nice day today!”


In Norm Macdonald’s book Based on a True Story, he writes about being booked to perform at a mental hospital in the north forty of Canada. It takes him hours to drive there.

“Why they built a hospital so damn far away from everybody, I couldn’t figure. It was way out in the middle of northern Ontario, where you have to pray your car doesn’t break down, and if it does, you have to pray you freeze to death before the timberwolves find you.”[^1]

I could’ve sworn he was about to say “you have to pray you have a winter coat.” I smiled when I was wrong.

Confessional omg-I-blacked-out-and-stole-a-Tesla comedy also makes me smile. But elevated shock levels eventually break the scale. Tucker Max can only have sex with so many people.

Whereas the GOATs are consistently, subtly surprising.