Photo: Cindy Ord (Getty Images)

The audience question and answer period is obligatory. Nobody likes it, everybody dreads its arrival, but the rough beast slouches toward the end of every book reading and celebrity panel with the inevitability of some sacrificial ritual. It has to be done because it has always been done. We must all fidget in our seats and burrow into our collars for the last 10 minutes of an otherwise enjoyable event because that’s simply the Way It’s Always Been.

A Tribeca Film Festival panel with the creators and stars of Westworld suggests that maybe, at long last, it’s time for the practice to fade from tradition. Capping off a discussion of the HBO show before the debut of its second season, an ill-fated Q&A session was brought to its knees after a single audience “question” that made continuing impossible. Skip to the 49 minute mark of the video below to watch a masterclass in the dark arts of awkward, mic-hogging self-indulgence. If you push your ear close enough to the speaker you can almost hear the quiet scrapes of an entire room trying to dig itself a hole through the earth with their heels.

The anonymous question-asker represents the ultimate distillation of the awful Q&A period, perfectly running through each feature of the terrible genre. We have a long, rambling introduction that circuitously praises the panel with indistinct platitudes, a besides-the-point shout-out to a different project (“My brother and I right here ... we’re huge fans of Interstellar”), and, the coup de grâce, a request for Westworld co-creator Jonathan Nolan to read their screenplay. The audience rumbles like an earthquake as this last point approaches.

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No question having been asked, the first mention that the audience member and his brother are “actually inspiring [sic] screenwriters as well” sets off a wave of disappointed mumbling that reaches a crescendo of boos as the asker says that he hopes “one day, we can actually show our screenplay to you.” His nervous laughter follows and, after an abortive attempt to continue the “question,” a furtive “Have a great night everybody!” brings the torturous sequence to a close. The moderator, knowing which way the wind is blowing, shuts the Q&A down. No further questions are needed. The entire thing’s over and done with in less than four minutes, but time, during Q&A sessions, is relative to the point that it feels like hours have passed.


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