The “Why Question” in question being:
“Why would anyone go into show business when almost everything else is a demonstrably safer career bet?”
An answer I received while canvasing several writer friends for their opinions, one that frequently escapes mymouth as well was,
“I couldn’t do anything else.”
I thought long and hard about that answer. In the end, I found that explanation factually inaccurate, although emotionally “on the money.”
My mind took me to my six-week enrollment period at the University of Toronto law school. I had signed up as an afterthought after college graduation, seeking a place to go to school after Labor Day, as I had been doing since I was three. My older brother had graduated law school and I got way better grades than he did, so I figured, “No sweat.”
I gave no thought, however, to what they were actually teaching us to become.
So I’m sitting in law school and my fellow classmates are all wearing suits. That should have been a “give-away” right there.
Nobody has fun, wearing a suit.
But it was not just the wardrobe. And it was not even the schoolwork. I got “A’s” my whole life. I could probably (eventually) figure that “thinking legally” thing out. It wasn’t an actual question of “Couldn’t do it.” (Or anything of equalcerebral challenge.) I am pretty certain I could.
What then made me quickly determine, “This place isn’t for me”? In a summarizing five words:
“‘Lawyering’ is a ‘Grown-up Profession.’”
And show business?
Show business is for children.
My experience over the years suggests that, by and large, people in show business are unfit for any form of adult undertaking – which, of course, includes undertaking itself– and, consciously or otherwise, we know it.
Could I ever imagine myself as a doctor, telling the family,
“I usually save them. But this time I didn’t”?
Could I ever, as an attorney, utter the words,
“I am sorry you are going to prison. Here’s my bill”?
Could Earl Pomerantz, the “Financial Adviser” ever possibly confess to a client,
“I made some wrong calls. Your net worth is now nothing”?
I’m in the construction business. I have to negotiate with “The Mob.” Or else courageously say “No.” Or – the more likely“or else” – skitter out the back door, leaving both unfaceable options unfaced.
I am a dentist… forget it. I can’t even goto the dentist.
When, as a practical matter, all adult career opportunities are functionally “off the table”, what remains enticingly “onthe table” is show business. Where you don’t have to wear a suit. Where you call your boss “Billy.” And where, “Worst-Case Scenario” –the catastrophically worst thing that can possibly happen in this arena…
Is that the show doesn’t go on.
Nobody dies because of you. Nobody goes to the slammer. Nobody’s homeless, who once had a healthy portfolio. Nobody’s body’s encased in newly constructed cement viaduct.
Inevitable Career Selection:
“Hooray for Hol-lywood…”
Sure, you want to be init. You think, for the glamor and excitement, for the money, for your name prominently displayed in the credits. And yeah, alsoto be creative. But underneath it all is the soothing awareness that nothing terrible happens in show business. Except, once or twice,
The show doesn’t go on.
From a “serious consequences” perspective? “Show Biz” is the easiest job in the world.
“If you don’t finish that script on time, I’ll kill you”?
It may be threatened.
But I have never known it to occur.
So that’s where we gravitate to, the unserious “small potatoes” of show business.
But get this!
Despite its comparative, low stakes considerations, we – meaning the majority of people in show business –
Agonize desperately over every moment.
‘The easiest job in the world.” And we can’t even do that!
Check out the clenched faces of people making movies and television shows. An outside “civilian” takes one look and goes,
“Are we at war?”
And that’s with pervasive, palliative “self-medication.” (My particular M.O., mentioned elsewhere, was “I suffer.”)
That’s how “un-adultish” we are.
We can barely survive “The easiest job in the world.”
A redeeming addendum:
A comedy writer friend reports saying something spontaneously hilarious to his enchanted new girlfriend, who went,
“How do you do that?”
I have experienced it myself. Having written something adjudged to be “clever” on a birthday card, the card’s recipient asked,
“Did you come up with that yourself, or did it you happen to see it somewhere else?”
For us – which we generally fail to appreciate because our peers are equally skillful – the “Funny on demand” process is readily doable. It’s not exactly a “Calling.” But you know what?
It feels like one.
The people in show business?
We may be babies.
But we are babies with a gift.