Monday, December 5, 2011

"A Reasonable Strategy Which I'm Not Sure Is Right"

Since I personally know virtually none of my readers, I have no choice but to make things up about you. Otherwise, there’d be a blank space in my brain called


I have to, of course, put something in there, because if I didn’t, that empty part in my brain would cave in, and my head would be lop-sided, and I’ve got enough problems without that.

One of the things I make up about you is that at least a percentage of you have or, at one time, once had show business aspirations. I imagine this to be the case, I suppose, because many of my original readers – and this may still be the case – found me through Ken Levine’s scintillating blog,, which is primarily a blog about show business.

This supposition explains why I occasionally include posts about what show business is like, and why some people went into it and some, for one reason or another, did not. If I am off base in my evaluation of who exactly is out there, I can easily imagine such posts triggering responses like,

“Why is he telling us this? We’re welders, and we don’t care.”

I actually can’t imagine many welders staying with this blog, because there is nothing in it about welding. There is the possibility that this observation sells welders short – they may, in fact, welcome the occasional diversion from welding concerns – but my experience suggests otherwise. My dentist stopped reading my blog, because he thought it was for writers. At least, that’s what he said. I suspect he stopped reading it, because I rarely talked about dentists. And when I did, it was from a less than adulatory perspective.

This post presupposes that you are considering, or once considered, going into show business. I have to believe that the following is of, at least, partial interest; otherwise, I’d be obliged to write something else, which is tricky, because today, this is what my “Command System” has instructed me to write.

Okay. Stay or go. And already, I feel like I‘m losing the dentists. And the welders, perhaps, as well.

An oft-repeated truism is that, if someone decides to go into show business – the enterprise being uncertain at best – it is essential that they have “something to fall back on.”

My definitive response on this matter is:

I’m not so sure.

Which is as definitive as I generally get. Unless I’m speaking about cable news shows, in which case, I’m most likely too definitive. I hate them, and I’d like them all to go away. You see what I mean?

The argument in favor of show business aspirants having “something to fall back on” is that, should their career never happen, or at least not happen to a degree that permits them to buy food and other necessities, then they can fall back on some pre-arranged, sturdier career alternative, and not starve.

My older brother did that. He became a lawyer, and then went into show business, knowing that if he didn’t succeed, he could still be a lawyer. Which is exactly what happened.

Lawyers do not take umbrage at somebody “falling back” on their profession because their dreamed-of first choice didn’t pan out. They are not so easily insulted, unlike, say, a prom date, who knows you were hoping for a cheerleader, but wound up with a Debate Club nerdy girl instead. Lawyers also welcome the disgruntled “Second Choicers”, feeling that their hearts really aren’t in it, and they’ll be easier to beat.

The problem is, when people have “something to fall back on”, they often – and before, perhaps, it is entirely necessary –

Fall back on it.

And then they’re done.

In contrast to my brother – and I’m aware this is a one-family sample; I’m just sayin’… – having abandoned law school after five weeks, I entered show business with nothing to fall back on, other than homelessness, embarrassing my family, and being a permanent drain on the Canadian welfare system. Which are not things you want to fall back on. Because they’re terrible.

Show business – especially when you’re starting out – is an enormously challenging profession. Faced with the massive insecurity concerning to your future requires all the single-mindedness, energy and determination you can muster.

Nobody needs you in show business. Nobody’s going, “Where’s Earl?” The only reason you’re there is because you made the decision to give it a try.

But it’s hard. And frustrating. And discouraging. And often hideously unfair in its distribution of rewards.

Him and not me? Give me a break!”

Which is exactly what you’re not getting.

With the inevitable pounding, the rejection, and the awareness that, as hard as you’ve tried, you are making little or no headway, if you have any available alternate career option, you may very well, and who in this world would blame you…

Take it.

Having said that, if I had a kid, or a friend or relative, or a stranger seeking my advice on the matter, I would unquestionably advise them to develop a satisfactory “Plan B.” I would offer that advice, because I don’t want them coming back to me when they’re fifty saying,

“You told me, ‘Just go for it!’, and now, I’m living in a shelter, where my only connection to show business is when the stars volunteer at our ‘soup kitchen’ on Thanksgiving.”

I definitely don’t want that. I also know, that from a practical standpoint, having “something to fall back on” is the wise and reasonable thing to do.

“Wise and reasonable” notwithstanding, however, I have concerns about that “escape hatch” subtly undermining your “all in” efforts to make it.

Which is true for aspiring welders as well. *

* My pathetic effort at pandering.


YEKIMI said...

I read the blog because it will sometimes make me laugh. And in these trying times, everyone needs a good laugh. [My "Show Biz" needs were filled by my being a DJ on a few stations in a couple of states. The only film I was in was one that was filmed locally back in 1973 when I was in high school.I guess the film company decided it was so bad that it was never released except to be shown once late at night on a local TV station. Someone recently discovered the only remaining print and it was shown at a local art house, although 20 minutes of it had been removed by someone at the TV station. I didn't bother to go see it. [Although it would have been nice to see how thin I was back then]

Mac said...

Your "you" is spot on in my case. I packed in my career and had a go at comedy writing.
Right now, that's going so well that I have all day to write this if I want. Not that's it's been all bad - I've had enough amazing moments that I'm not ready to pack it in, but it's not really down to me. There comes a time when the decision is made for you, in the form of the umpteenth not-returned call.
My old "fallback" isn't looking like such an option, as I've been out of the loop in that for a while now. That industry's moved on, technology's moved on.
It would be a wrench for me to give up, but also a relief. It is, as you say, a tough business and a bit like banging your head against a brick wall - it might be fun to stop doing it.
That apart, I love reading about your showbiz antics, I get to enjoy it vicariously - so don't start writing about welding. Welders will know you're talking crap and people like me don't want to read about welding - even if I end up doing it. In fact, especially if I end up doing it.

Frank said...

I'm just an old beat comedy writer frantically looking for that illusive escape hatch but until I find it I'm an avid reader eh. Cheers Earl!

Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Max Clarke said...

I read the blog because it's a good look at show business.

I don't have show business aspirations, but it's often more interesting to read about the making of movies and tv shows than to see them.

When I was a kid, I had no idea people made movies. They just showed up at the theater. The older I got, the more interested I became in the action behind the Wizard's curtain. One result of this interest is a collection of books about the movies, such as Sidney Lumet's excellent book Making Movies. Better than a ton of movies.

Lots of my audiobooks from Audible are also about show business. Michael Caine and Patti LuPone did excellent memoirs. As for television, Phil Rosenthal wrote and recorded You're Lucky You're Funny, about his work creating and running the show, Everybody Loves Raymond. I never have seen that tv show, but still enjoyed Phil's audiobook.

As for the question of having something to fall back on, that reminds me of the bumper sticker, "Real Musicians Have Day Jobs." Some people walk the tightrope better if they don't have a net, but most don't.

Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; I've never had the desire or drive beyond, "oh that looks like fun," to enter show business. I found your blog as you may have guessed because I was looking for information about "The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour" and found your place. I've stayed for the interesting stories.

Given that I am Canadian and living in the USA the most you could say about my involvement with show business is that I'm funnier than my coworkers.


p.s. they're not very funny at all, it's victory by default.

Michael Charters said...

I have never desired to go into show business. I read your blog because I find it well written and well constructed, often absolutely hilarious, and reflects a point of view about diverse subjects that gives me pause and makes me think. Actually it is the blogs that are not specifically about show business that I find the most enjoyable to read.