The Game Has Changed
Wednesday March 17th, 2010 - Chicago, IL
There aren’t very many events that could cheer me up more than an all you can eat sushi dinner paid for by someone else, and that’s exactly what I received this evening from Bill Gorgo and Nick Gaza. What a night! The food was outstanding and so was the company.
There we sat, three old school comedy road dogs talking about what we need to do in a completely different world than when we started back in the boom years. Comedy used to be a lot more regimented than it is now, but I guess the same could be said for life itself.
More and more, rules and guidelines are becoming a thing of the past and everything is headed toward anarchy. In many ways, the internet is the greatest thing that’s happened to human communication since the printing press. In others, it’s the downfall of civilization.
Things are changing at such an alarming rate, nobody really knows what to do next. It’s a constant state of flux, and I for one am struggling to keep up. It’s funny, Bill Gorgo is a computer whiz, and he’s the oldest of the three of us. Nick and I struggle just do to email. We talked about how the former way of doing everything has become obsolete forever.
In comedy, it used to be somewhat of a common path. A comedian started at his or her hometown comedy club, and became good enough to go on the road. Then, he or she put in enough years to move up from opener to feature to headliner in the clubs. Then, it was time for a national television debut, usually with Johnny Carson. Letterman was fine too.
After that, it was an HBO or Showtime special and then a sitcom for a few years. After that, maybe a movie deal. As crazy as it sounds, most of us thought we would eventually have all of those things happen to us. It was just a matter of time. How naive we all were.
The three of us all went in different directions. Bill chose to stay in Chicago and teach high school, at which he excels. He raised a daughter and did comedy as much as he had time for, which was a lot. He worked the Midwest mostly, but went other places as well.
I chose to try radio, but never stopped doing comedy no matter where I was. I did move to L.A. in the mid ‘90s, but I only lasted about a year out there before money ran out. It’s a common story for many, but nobody cares. They only want to hear the tales of success.
Nick Gaza lived in L.A. for about fifteen years. He survived, but never got his big break we all dream of. He decided to move back home and start over, which is THE most brutal decision to have to make because deep down it feels like the dream is over. It really hurts.
He’s not the only one that moved back. I did too, and so do actors, singers, models, ball players, radio and advertising people and every other competitive field that requires talent and people dream about doing. Only a precious few ever hit real pay dirt, and the rest of a long obscure line end up dispersing and trying to salvage a life doing whatever we can do.
It takes guts to even try, and I respect all those who do. The only failure is not to attempt.
The only question now is, what to attempt? Anyone and their uncle’s grandmother has a website these days, and the structure of what used to make comedians good has fallen out of repair. There used to be a circuit that we could work and polish our craft. Now, there is no real circuit and it’s everyone for his or herself. The whole world seems to be that way.
In some ways, failure and rejection is a good thing. Failure forces a person to retool and rethink the reasons for the failure and make improvements to try and succeed. A rejection is often an excellent motivation tool that also causes the jilted one to upgrade their effort.
There are legendary stories of The Beatles getting turned down by several record labels and Elvis being rejected at The Grand Old Opry among many others. They overcame their failures and ended up becoming more than just show business successes. They were icons of pop culture, but they also were loaded with talent. They deserved to be superstar acts.
Now, any halfwit with a camera can take a picture of just about anything from a farting baby to a giraffe taking a dump and it gets six million hits from other halfwits with no life and nothing better to do than forward emails with farting babies or pooping zoo animals.
Believe me, I have nothing against farting and pooping email attachments per se, but if it takes bread out of my mouth it sure is a concern. Comedy clubs used to thrive because in the ‘80s the economy wasn’t great, but there wasn’t a computer in every home that had zillions of everything that ever farted, pooped, screwed or fell down cataloged in order.
How the hell is any form of entertainment supposed to compete with the internet and all that is available for absolutely ZERO money? None of us at dinner could come up with a solid answer. Yes, we know that live entertainment is better, but how can we sell that to a big enough group of people that will come out every week to see us at some local club?
The whole playing field has changed, and no matter who likes it that’s what all of us are dealing with right now. Idiots with no experience or direction can call themselves comics and undercut the hell out of real ones and make life a living hell for those earning a living by practicing a craft that’s taken years to learn. And there’s nothing we can do about it.
My friend Marc Schultz is a booker as was his father before him. Marc has stayed in the business for thirty years, and the reason for that is he knows his customers and their needs and fills those needs for a reasonable price. His reputation is stellar, and he doesn’t have a website and says he never will. I used to tease him about it but now I can see his reasons.
Bill Gorgo, Nick Gaza and I have been around the block more than once. All three of us see what’s happening, even though we’re not exactly sure about how to counteract it right yet. We’re either going to end up figuring that out, or join the bread lines with the masses.
This is a very challenging time for everyone. Those who don’t enjoy change are in for a rough time. Old dog or new pup, things aren’t like they were just a few years ago. We are all going to have to adjust to survive. I’m not sure if I like it, but this is how life is today.