19: A Vanity Supercut of Your Name

As long as your name is David

The year I was born, David was the fourth most popular boys’ name in the United States. Growing up, there was always at least one other David in my class. It’s an old name, biblical, but it doesn’t sound too old-fashioned. You need a good name? You can’t go wrong with David. David is a stand-up guy. He’s an everyman. You can call him Dave and he doesn’t mind, even though it’s not how he introduces himself. David’s reliable. David will loan you his garden tools. And whatever he borrows, he returns. Sure, there’s occasionally a rotten David, but he doesn’t ruin it for the rest of us. So it’s no surprise that Davids are everywhere in popular culture.

Being named David means you hear your name on TV all the time. You hear it at the movies. It doesn’t seem to go out of fashion. So I decided to gather a bunch of Davids and bring them together in one video.

Maybe you are a David. If so, then I made this Supercut for you.

And if you’re not a David, you surely know a David. So send this Supercut to the David in your life:

I used around 60 shots for that video, which is actually just the tip of the iceberg. Vox researched the most common names in movies and found 198 films with a character named David. And that makes it only the sixth most common name in movies. Jack, John, Frank, Sam, and Paul could make even better Vanity Supercuts with more sources to choose from.

You want to know how common your own name is in movies? Vox made a tool that tells you.

Vanity Pastiche?

Maybe it’s precisely because there are so many Davids that I find it so amusing to act like there’s something special about being a particular David. It’s like the comedic inverse of that scene in Life of Brian where Brian tells the crowd:

And they reply in unison:

But of course, Davids are all individuals. There’s just so many of us.

Is there a term for faux vanity for comedic effect? I tried Googling “faux vanity” and “fake vanity” but all I got were search results about knock-off furniture.

But it does strike me as a real category of humor. An example that comes to mind is comedian Judah Friedlander, whose schtick is that he’s the absolute best at everything in the world. I can’t think of another example off the top of my head, but maybe that’s because nobody is as good at it as he is.

I’ll call it vanity pastiche for now.

No, wait! I have a better name for it: schmaltz modesty.

[Sidebar: That Vox tool I mentioned above has zero results for the name Judah, even though it’s the first name of the main character in Ben-Hur. Maybe their scraping algorithm thinks his first name is Ben. But it’s also Martin Landau’s name in Crimes and Misdemeanors. So now I’m thinking that their tool might not be as thorough as advertised. It’s also weird that the article is dated in 2016 but says it includes movies through 2020. Anyway…]

The “David” Endcap

I had fun with schmaltz modesty when I worked in a bookstore after college. Some of the book displays were mandated from corporate, but we had some display space that we could use however we wanted. There was one particular endcap display that the booksellers took turns stocking with whatever we wanted.

When it was my turn, I decided that the endcap display should have a “David” theme. Every book would be by someone named David, or have David in the title. So the display had David Letterman’s Top Ten List books, something by David Brinkley, David Guterson’s book Snow Falling on Cedars, and a few others. I positioned them all so the main focus of the display was an oversized art book simply titled David.

There was no formal indication that the endcap had a theme, no “David” signage or anything. It just amused me to think that some people might notice the theme, and others would find it a random assortment of books.

The display actually performed incredibly well, with books constantly needing to be replenished. But eventually the David endcap ran its course.

A couple months later, when my turn to design the endcap came up again, I had another great idea: only books with ampersands in the title.

My manager said no.

That’s it for another week of Ironic Sans. The best way you can help me keep this newsletter going is to share this with your friends and encourage them to sign up. This week everybody named David gets 50% off the already-low price of free.

And if you’re new around here, be sure to check out the archive.

See you next week!