With all the alternative, available career options, many of them equally remunerative, some of them equally glamorous and attention garnering, virtually all of which provide a greater measure of reliable job security,
Why would anyone roll the dice on a career in show business?
Are they as my worrying mother would say, if not literally then in pointed insinuation,
Meshugah? (Read: Totally wacko?)
Let’s set my personal situation aside for the moment. (Though you can expect it to come back.)
Objectively… no, forget objectively. Show business has nothing to do with “objectively.” “Objectively”, no one would deliberately go into show business, as, “objectively”, no woman would opt for a subsequent round of childbirth.
I do not know the statistics. (Making this a less persuasively valuable exercise than it otherwise would be.) But let me pretendthat I do. That’s a scientifically valid approach, isn’t it?
“Someone let all the lab rats escape but let me pretendthe experimental conclusions.”
“And the Nobel Prizefor ‘Get The Heck Out Of Here’ goes to…”
I am thinking that, like, ninety percent of the people who want to be professional writers or performers or directors or musicians never get to be anyof those things, and for many who do, not for a protracted period of time.
You may recall the film That Thing You Do, featuring the fictional “The Oneders”, a clever allusion to “The Wonders” as “The Beatles” was a clever allusion to “The Crickets” who wound up being mistakenly called “The O-Needers”?
The band had one hit song and that was it, putting them an aborted show biz career behind the people who eschewed the buffeting uncertainties of show business and went straight into working for their Dads. Or something equally sensibly sane.
(The “in-house” alternative perspective was delivered by “Archie Rice” in John Osborne’s The Entertainer when he said, “It is better to be a has-been that a never-was.” So there’s that.)
The competition is ferocious, the number of show biz aspirants hugely outweighing the number of available openings. Addingto the unbalancing odds, the condition of “Who you know” provides those in that fortunate position a “Fast Passing” advantage, a short-term “leg up” because, though “connections” get you through the door, only “sustained ability” – defined as “giving them (the gatekeeping employers) what they want” – will keep you extendedly inside. And then they’re out too.
Last paragraph before the turn. (Ignore that. I am talking to myself.)
I have the sense – though I cannot prove it – that some of the greatest talents, for reasons of their own, choose the comparative security of “something else” over buying a long-shot ticket to the “show biz lottery” and we will therefore never get to appreciate their talents. (And they will never know for sure if they had any.)
That’s the reasonable majority.
Then there are the crazy “Meshuganahs” who improbably “jump in.”
What made us make such a mindless precarious decision?
To find answers, I specifically asked at various mealtime encounters with experienced writer friends,
“What exactly drew you to show business?”
One successful TV writer – twenty-year career, and counting – mentioned watching a lot of TV growing up, and deciding to “take a shot” (displaying minimal interest in anything else), a decision somewhat “normalized” by the fact that he had a great-uncle already participating in the arena, and also, he knew me.
Another writer spoke about “something inside me that needed to come out”, the incomparable jolt from receiving their first laugh, and the unique opportunity of retaining the innate childlike quality “grownups” generally surrender upon entering “adult professions.”
Yet another writer recalled seeing a bad comedian on television and knowing instinctively, “I can do better than that.” He also recalled that determining spark – supported by his then wife – that set his “writing professionally” intentions in motion.
The insightful responses I received from my fellow writers resonated with my own personal experience. I watched a ton of television growing up. I knew the dizzying excitement of getting a laugh. And I had no perceivable interest in anything else. I do not ever recall thinking, “I can do better than that.” But watching certain shows – specifically The Mary Tyler Moore Show – I sensed an equally bolstering, “I know exactly what they are doing.”
And then later, I did it.
Tomorrow, I will throw in a two-cents or possibly nickel’s worth of my own on the subject, tackling the question,
“How did a scared person with no specified dream or plan of attaining it – the dream I warily refused to admit I had – select the daunting and difficult profession of show business?”
Sounds like interesting reading.
Especially for me.