Which brings us back to his role in “Inside Llewyn Davis” and the Village folk era. Timberlake reveres Dylan, but he also understands Dylan as largely a construction, an artistic projection. “I always bring up Robert Zimmerman. ‘Do you know who Robert Zimmerman is?’ They say, ‘Who’s that?’ Look it up.” Van Ronk, in his memoir, describes the Dylan persona as a kind of freestyle riff on who he thought Woody Guthrie really was. Van Ronk’s memoir describes Dylan as so cosmically full of it that he himself probably had no idea what was true and what wasn’t.
Timberlake takes a different moral from the story of Van Ronk and Dylan. He sees the Dylan persona as “methodical,” and that constructedness, he says, is the very essence of how an artist connects with his audience. It’s called performing, and performing is a noble calling, a kind of greater realness. The authenticity is in the ability to make the connection. “I try to talk to people about how much acting goes into music,” he says. “How much of a character goes into what you put on stage. You ever sit down with Jay? He’s not the guy he is on stage. I’m not the guy I am on stage. I am a performer. It’s an elevated idea.”
Interesting angle: Over-the-top performing is ultra-authentic because it is a kind of "greater realness." Constructing a fake character is the most real thing you can do because it lets people get through to you in a way they wouldn't if you were just yourself onstage. Making the connection is the authentic part, even if you have to lie to get there. Not sure what this means about Dick in a Box, but, well, you know.