Stacks of Whacks

Stacks of Whacks

When Googling yourself is no longer enough, you still have choices

If, in this Googling age, you type “francophile” into your computer and then type “namesakes” and then press GOOGLE SEARCH, you come up with 142 of what are called “hits,” or Googlewhacks. At least I do, at this very moment, on this computer.

A hit, in the Googlewhack sense––for those of you who have been spending the past 20 years on Pitcairn Island––is a text, a passage or a fragment in which both those words, or any several given words, somewhere appear. An illegitimate offspring nomenclature-wise of the mathematician’s “googol,” the World Wide Web’s Google beckons toward the possibility on any occasion of one to the hundredth power hits, a number stretching all but to infinity.

Some four years ago, for reasons unknown, a fellow in Australia named Stevo fed “francophile” and “namesakes” into his computer, pressed GOOGLE SEARCH, and came up with the Web site of a chap in London who was sitting at his computer, struggling to squeeze out the first word, the first sentence, of his first novel.

This chap’s name was Dave Gorman. You can find him telling you about it any night through December 8 at the Village Theater, 158 Bleecker Street. The show’s in fact called “David Gorman’s Googlewhack! Adventure.”

Gorman’s been in New York before, with “Are You Dave Gorman?” three years ago at Westbeth. That show was about how he’d gone all around the map looking for other Dave Gormans, and had found 54 of them. Thus “namesakes.” But where does that “francophile” come from?

“I have no idea,” he said. Knife-edge slim and bearded (sort of), he somewhat resembles a 15th-century Jesus Christ, and at 33 is the right age for it.

It was Googlewhacking that interrupted his novel.

“This Stevo from Australia was how I learned in the first place about Googlewhacking,” Gorman recalled. “Somebody telling you about Googlewhacking is the perfect distraction. If you’re sitting at a computer when someone tells you about it, it’s almost impossible not to have a go. That was the beginning of how I got into this game.”

Gorman became so proficient at it that he can now narrow his Googlewhacking down to a mere three or four hits per entries.

“I’m pretty good at them,” he boasted. “Can do it in around 20 minutes. When you can get it down to just one hit, it’s beautiful!”

What amazes Gorman is the role coincidence plays in all this.

“I struck up an e-mail friendship with another Googlewhacker in Birmingham. He came to London for a weekend, and ended up at my computer looking for other Googlewhackers,” he said. “One he found led to a Web site run by a friend of mine in the South of France, a Dave Gorman I met four years ago when traveling around the world.

“Just too weird. It becomes one of the turning points in the show, one of those moments when you can feel the audience being drawn into the story. What makes the show work is drawing all these strands together, so everything I tell you in the first half-hour comes along in the second half and bites you in the ass.”

Ever finish that novel, David?

“No, I didn’t. Only my mum calls me David––when I’m naughty.”

Gorman’s book was to be a novel about a man who, in his head, could see a primary color that no one else could see.

“No one’s going to trust me to write it again,” the novelist interruptus said. “If I do write one, I’ll do it in secret. I actually did have a breakdown. Then I got into Googlewhacking, and I thought, maybe if I tell Random House what I’m doing instead, they’ll want me to write a book about it.

“By then I had basically spent the whole of the advance and hadn’t written a word.”

May one ask: How much advance?

“I’m too English to tell you. Ninety thousand miles of travel—that much. So I went to my [London] editor at Random House. Told him the story, said maybe I could write this book instead, and he said: ‘Unequivocally no––and by the way, you owe us….’”

His alternative book idea eventually did become a book, with the same title as his new show, published by Overlook Press.

Dave Gorman, David to his mum, was born March 2. 1971, in Stafford, England, a town in the West Midlands “north of Birmingham, south of Manchester, middle of nowhere.”

His mum is retired schoolteacher Fay Collins, his dad a retired design engineer named Derek Gorman. Googlewhacker Gorman has three brothers, one of them his twin.

“Every one of them, strangely, went into the military––two to the Navy, one to the Army. I’m the one who reads books, went to the university [two years at Manchester], and am the black sheep of the family.”

He started doing stand-up comedy at 19, progressed to what he calls “concept shows” seven years ago. No, no domestic connections.

“Constant traveling is not conducive to happy families,” he conceded. “This show has killed two relationships.”

Behind him on stage at the Village Theater is a large screen conveying all sorts of magical things that happen on the computer screen as you Googlewhack, or he does. Gorman did all the techno stuff himself using Power Point. Then “someone who knows more than I do” hooked it up to a screen.

“This show is all his fault,” the distractible funny man said.

Let’s see: “show”… “fault”… Googlewhack! Sixteen million hits.

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