Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"The World's Second Greatest Job"

When I was working in show business, I discovered the “World’s Greatest Job”, which, if you’re familiar with me at all, you will not be surprised to hear was not the job I was doing. 

It was another job, which my curiosity revealed to me – on stage, I was always asking crewmembers, “What exactly do you do here?” – the question invariably posed to a not unattractive member of a gender other than my own, when I could think of no smoother way of beginning a conversation. 

It is in that somewhat questionable manner that I found out about what is arguably “The World’s Greatest Job.”

The career in question:

“Stand-By Painter.”

Yes, “Stand-By Painter” is an actual job.  If you peruse the closing credits at the end of a movie or TV show, you will notice an acknowledgment for the production’s “Stand-By Painter”, somewhere near the end, between “Production Accountant” and drivers and caterers.

“Stand-By Painter” feels like the ideal job to me, because, barring unforeseen circumstances, you do not actually have to paint.  And they pay you.  Just like they pay farmers for not growing wheat. 

It seems to me pretty simple.  You come to work, you “stand by” all day, and somewhere around five, you go home, your overalls entirely unspattered, your footwear immaculately drip-free. 

You could actually wear the same pair of overalls as long as you want (barring smelliness), because unless you are careless with a jelly donut from the “Crafts Services” table, those babies are “pristine in”, and “pristine out.”  Looking at you, most people would not even know you were working.  (Or you were, but you are incredibly neat.)

I can imagine a swelling of pride among the “Stand-By Painter” community, a source of non-participatory accomplishment.   


“You see that living room wall?”

“Did you do that?”

“No.  But right now, if the camera panned a few feet to the left, you’d see me, standing at the ready, waiting not to paint.”

Which is the entire point of the undertaking.  It’s like you’re “runner-up” in the Miss America contest. 

“Should the real painter be unable to perform their duties, the ‘Stand-By Painter’ will be called upon to step in to take their place.”

The hope is that, like the retiring police officer who was never called upon to draw their revolver, the “Stand-By Painter” can complete a long and distinguished career without ever wielding a paint brush.  Or a roller.  It’s exciting to know that people are counting on you as the second line of defense ready to leap into action should the situation demand it, while hoping it never happens, because deep down, you bear the knowledge and certainty that you can’t paint.

Being unable to paint is a valuable asset for the “Stand-By Painter.”  Imagine you can paint, and you resent the fact that they aren’t letting you.  You’d be incessantly muttering under you breath,

“You call that painting?


“A chimpanzee could do better than that!”

The director cuts the scene.

“I’m hearing offstage muttering.  Will whoever’s doing that please stop?”

(“You’d be more sympathetic if you were a ‘Stand-By Director!’”)

A person lacking in ambition and ability is far more suitable for the job of “Stand-By Painter.”  They’d just quietly stand off to the side and read.  (Or more likely, sit off to the side and read, though they are not then called the more accurate “Sit-By Painter.”) 

There are only two rules for success in this line of work: 

Be on time. 


Don’t paint.

Until recently I thought “Stand-By Painter” was the greatest job in the world.  And then a couple of days ago, while walking down Main Street, I passed a “raw food” restaurant called RAWvolution (I did not make that up), and it occurred to me that this was the world’s second greatest job, meaning not that it’s the second greatest job after “Stand-By Painter” but that it’s the second job I’ve noticed that I think is the greatest.  (There is probably a more elegant way of saying that, but I was kind of taken by the ambiguity of the title, which only I understood, so retrospectively, it’s probably not that brilliant.)

Imagine being a chef at a “raw food” restaurant.  What exactly would that take?  You don’t cook anything.  You just set it out on the plate. 

“‘Carrot placement.’  Perfecto!

“Do you see how I sliced up that radish?  It looks like a flower!

What an amazing “nothing” job that is!  The customer goes, “Could you warm that up for me?”  You go,  “Sorry.  No can do.”

Is that not wonderful?  The imagination it took to think of that career path!

“I would love to be a chef, but I can’t cook anything.  I know!  I’ll be a chef in a ‘raw food’ restaurant!”

None of this will strike home to people intent on making their mark on this world.  But a lot of us are looking for a sense of accomplishment but don’t actually want to do anything.  Sure, you can stay home and do nothing.  But where’s the satisfaction in that? 

Not to mention the paycheck.

My travels have alerted me to two such glorious career options, where you make a living from basically just standing around. 

Perhaps you know others.

I am always on the lookout for a second career. 

As long as it doesn’t involve exertion or aptitude.
Response to a recent question:\

The "John" character on Taxi was designed to be an "innocent."  (I myself am an "innocent."  That's why I did well with the "John" episodes.)  "John" was dropped because the show already had a funnier and more appealing innocent - Tony Banta.  And maybe Latka as well.  Since you did not need two (or maybe three) innocents on one show, they dropped the least funny one.  Fortunately, they retained the guy who wrote him.

1 comment:

Cavendish said...

Is the stand-by painter the one who actually watches paint dry?

I don't believe for a single minute that you'd want a stand-by career in any field. Someone who does what you're doing, almost every week day, for free, is not someone who wants to do nothing for a small fee and nice overalls!