At a time when common, everyday Americans seem to be losing their voice, the world stage may very well turn to Kevin Skinner, a ‘chicken catcher’ from rural Kentucky.
Former mobile phone salesman Paul Potts introduces himself
to the world on Britain’s Got Talent in 2007.
I’m the first one that will tell you that most of the stuff on television is c-r-a-p. My viewing habits consist mainly of news, good movies, selected funny stuff, and Auburn football. Occasional television series such as 24 and Lost have caught my eye as well, but I’ve never really been a fan of reality television or the newest batch of game shows.
In fact, I can count on my fingers how many times I’ve seen American Idol, and while I’m familiar with the similar UK program Britain’s Got Talent–the audition performance of frog-turned-prince Paul Potts still brings a smile to my face, and thanks to the miracle of YouTube millions are aware of Susan Boyle as well–I can’t say that I’ve ever watched the American counterpart. I may have liked David Hasselhoff in my Knight Rider-watching youth, but recent clips of him drunk and eating hamburgers off of the floor have soured me on the “young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law,” and I certainly had no desire to see him judging talent competitions on prime-time TV.
Last night, however, America’s Got Talent found its way onto our television screen, and one performance in particular blew me away. Kevin Skinner, a 35-year-old Mayfield, Kentucky “chicken catcher” working for Pilgrim’s Pride, ambled his way onto stage much in the same manner former cellphone salesman Potts and eccentric spinster Boyle presented themselves overseas. In this case, though, his particular background and manner struck a nerve.
In the package which preceded his performance, Skinner spoke in awe about the hustle and bustle of the “big city” and talked about how interesting he found the very same aspects of country life that so many people on the coasts would likely find absolutely horrific. Sitting on a porch, watching the world go by? Hunting and fishing? Please. If it doesn’t involve espresso, anyone not in the flyover states simply aren’t interested. And from the instant Skinner opened his mouth and introduced everyone to the slow drawl of a God-fearing southern gentleman, he was looked upon with derision.
I sat up, wanting him to absolutely bring down the house. I hoped to see this man become the American equivalent of Britain’s Paul Potts or Susan Boyle, belting out heartfelt country ballads instead of opera or showtunes. As a man who simply cannot wait to move back down south next year, I’m tired of hearing the condescension. As a conservative stuck in the northeast, I’m tired of listening to my neighbors and classmates dismiss most southerners as misguided, zealot hicks.
“You went to school in Alabama?” some ask. “What was that like?”
So, as the audience laughed at his job description and as the judges shared impatient glances and rolled their eyes, I didn’t just see one man standing on stage with a guitar — I saw middle America ready, willing and able to surprise everyone on the coasts, to shake their foundation of what your average American citizen is all about. Hard work. Dirty fingernails. Untapped depth of character, and undiscovered talent. Somehow, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. And I wasn’t.
I’m no expert on country music, but to me he sounded a little like George Strait, perhaps a little like Randy Travis. Either way, it’s clear he surprised nearly everyone, and that the NBC production was designed to do just that. Now, I couldn’t tell you much of anything about Mr. Skinner’s politics, but his genuine nature contrasted with the derision of those who might laugh at his clothes, accent or diction reminded me of the struggle for America we’re living right now.
Every day, it seems, we’re fighting an overreaching government so out of touch with everyday Americans, instead bent on pleasing and appeasing those on the Georgetown cocktail circuit. Yet here’s this man who very well could have the spotlight of the world on him.
But enough of my rambling. I don’t know if anybody else might see it in the same light. Regardless, this man has a phenomenal, God-given talent. And that being said, I give you Kevin Skinner, Mr. middle American everyman: