Monday August 5th, 2013 – Chicago, IL
Is anyone able to fully keep up with how quickly the whole world is changing? I gave up years ago, and have all I can do trying to squeak through another day. There used to be at least a bit of order in the way life worked, but now it’s completely out of control. Anarchy is the new reality.
How does anyone raising kids know what to tell them about their future? The world today isn’t even close to the world of even twenty years ago, and I shudder to think what’s in store in twenty more. My generation is going to be the official last of the old farts, as we remember how it was.
It’s hard to say what generation is better or worse, but nobody can deny it’s radically different today than it’s ever been. Progress has been happening at an unbelievable pace for what - maybe 150 years? Before that, most of society crapped in the woods and had to shoot their own food.
Then the wheels of progress started turning, and life got consistently better. It’s a lot like gears in a transmission. We’re now in passing gear and flying down the freeway so fast we’re burying the needle and have no idea how fast we’re going. It may be a thrill ride, but it’s also dangerous.
I look at standup comedy as an example, as that’s what I know. It’s not the same game as when I started, and those starting out today have a completely different set of obstacles to overcome. In my day, at least it was possible to make a living as one came up the ladder and learned the craft.
There was plenty of quality work in comedy clubs across North America, and at least there was somewhat of a route to take to rise up the ranks. The rough model was to work up to the position of comedy club headliner, and then hope for a TV spot on a network talk show like Letterman or Carson. After that it was hopefully an HBO or Showtime special, and then hopefully a sitcom.
Very few actually attained all those things, but enough did to keep the dream alive for all of us grunts slugging it out in the trenches. Tim Allen was one, as was Roseanne. There was also Paul Reiser, Drew Carey and eventually Jerry Seinfeld. All kinds of road comedians I knew received development deals with networks paying them big money to use as guinea pigs for new shows.
It’s nothing like that today. That little thing called the internet has revolutionized the planet on every level, and I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I do know it’s not going anywhere, so there has to be a new plan of attack not only for newbies but for seasoned veterans like me still out there.
Tonight I hosted the Rising Star Showcase at Zanies in Chicago. There was a very solid lineup of young talent trying to break through, but to what? Comedy club work? Good luck with that at $4 a gallon gas prices and ten times as many bad comedians trolling for a shrinking work base.
The ‘circuit’ that most people who aren’t comedians assume exists keeps getting smaller every year, and it’s harder for even experienced headliners like me to bring in work every week. It used to be somewhat attainable for a lot more than it is now. I don’t know how anyone does it today.
You Tube is another death knell for the comedy business. Why should anyone come to see live comedy when they can see every standup comic that ever lived on their computer – and not have to pay one cent in cover charges or drink minimums? That’s a serious question, and I haven’t the slightest idea of what the answer is. It’s not ever going to be like it was, so I better adapt with the times or start working in a coal mine. The times, they are a changin’ - but way too fast. It’s scary.