I’m Dying Up Here
In the 1970s The Comedy Store was opened in Los Angeles. Comics struggling all over the country for a way to break out, took notice once a Comedy Store regular appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The stories of Jay Leno, Richard Lewis, David Letterman, Robin Williams, Gallagher, Richard Pryor, Paul Mooney and countless others all intervene as comics moved from across the country to Los Angeles to perform at the Store in hopes of becoming famous.
They were all poor, some resorted to eating condiments and looking for change on the ground when nobody was around. After many years, some had big breaks, others hadn’t but they decided it was time that the Comedy Store at least paid the comics SOMETHING. Established famous comedians who had big breaks like Jay Leno even decided the comics should get something. Like 5 bucks for gas money at least. Mitzi Shore (owner of the club) refused. Eventually the comics decided to strike. They eventually won, and an agreement was in place to where they got paid, but love was lost and irreparable damage had been done.
This book was an AMAZING read and a fantastic insight into how things were, how they are now, and how they got to be that way. Recommended by many people over the two years or so I’ve been involved in comedy, I can’t believe it took me this long to read. What’s amazing is the book takes neither side. It doesn’t offer “what should have happened.” or solutions to todays current problems. It just is.
In my opinion the most important and amazing passage in the book comes at the end from an interview with Richard Lewis.
People in this business give too much power to those who judge them, and it is so damned destructive. It keeps you from doing what you can do. Granted, it’s a bitch to work for free and be a piece of meat, which is generally what you are in this business. But it’s a choice that actors and comedians have made, and the best way to deal with it is to work on your craft, surround yourself with good friends, be able to love people and get love back, and keep your fingers crossed.
… But if you depend on the business people – to give you credence and sustanance, then you are in big trouble.
… The business, by and large is made up of wallets, not hearts.”
I feel like there’s nothing else for me to write. That passage is so powerful to me. Especially after the journey you take reading the book. You feel like cheering with the guys in the book. This book doesn’t delve in to the politics of Leno vs Letterman. It sort of skims the top and quickly bounces away. Great focus by the writer. I’ve been recommended “The Late Shift” as a great read and it’s also a movie, apparently available on youtube (I love technology) in 10 different parts (I hate technology). I may be watching that later so expect a post about that. For now. Sit back. And take all that in. You know the feeling you get when you’re searching for words, and then you find out someone wrote what was inside your head, but 10x better? Besides reading CJ Alexander’s posts that he hijacked from my blog, that quote speaks volumes about what the whole message of my “Book” is about and every other piece of advice. Work Hard, Be Kind, Associate with those for your betterment, and get lucky. It’s so brilliant. I’ve got to shut up now.