Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Career Wilderness

No one ever talks about career wilderness. It is where the wild things go, except that the wild things are fictional. This is real. On top of that, everyone experiences it. A friend of mine who works for the UN mentioned a friend of hers who climbed as far as she could was 35. The next opportunity for advancement was not until she was 42, which is the minimum age for a certain ambassador position. So thus she was trapped in the career wilderness.

There is no place that is more vast when it comes to this than show business. When I began comedy, I thought you got on TV and you were a star. It was that way a few generations ago. Now it is actually quite easy to get on TV. It's strange. I knew people from back in the day who were on shows like Premium Blend and Last Comic Standing. As a 20 year old kid I looked at them like gods. They were everything I wanted to be in comedy. Younger comedians adored and respected them. However, for a lot of them this didn't last forever. Many Premium Blend alum have not done anything in years, except wander the NYC comedy scene hopelessly, going from crappy basement to crappy basement. It is as if they werent even stars but somehow fell from the sky back down to Earth. Same with the folks on Last Comic Standing. Same with a lot of people who were talking heads once upon a time on Best Week Ever. They probably go through their notebooks remembering when once upon a time they were someone......kinda.

I remember the first time I got on TV. Last Comic Standing 5 briefly. I had a bunch of people who wanted to claw my eyes out, particularly people who made the callback and didn't get as much airtime with Bill Bellamy. This didn't phase me until some fat, ugly mommy comic called it out on the web. Then I was on Rachael Ray. Good or bad, the appearance got some buzz. I was kind of doing theatres at the time. I also had inked a pilot deal for another project. Star power, right? And then I did a pre-show for Aretha Franklin. Little did I know I was about to enter the career wilderness myself.

The market popped and the day job that got me the pilot dried up, so I was forced to do bitch work handing out fliers on the sidewalk. The worst was, one day the location was outside a place I had only taped months before. Rachael Ray had given me a TV credit, but my appearance had been controversial. I hadn't killed it. Also, it wasn't a Late Show or Comedy Central credit. It was a weirdo credit. I had also officially graduated from barking and bringing. So now because I wasn't a headliner and was no longer a bringer, stage time was harder than ever to get. I didn't know what was next for me, and the future seemed very dark. Maybe it was time to hang it up, move back home. Maybe I was going to be someone wandering the scene talking about how great I could have been.

During this period I was so poor I walked everywhere, thus losing a ton of weight. I got onstage any chance I got, and put away a lot of good sets though. I spent my weekends on the road burning up all my money on gas. For as good as my comedy was getting, I feared I would never get where I wanted to go. I spent all summer performing in parks, subways, and any street corner where I could set up shop. People threw me money and I began to not only become a better comedian, but my non lip movement was damn near perfect. That fall I got the opportunity to do my own show with my puppets. I continued doing this at different venues and built a small following. I also began writing my book. Slowly, the darkness lifted and I began to see a light. Perhaps the future wasn't so dark after all. Still, I couldn't have that darkness again. It would kill me.

I did everything I could never to go back. I made videos and continued producing my own work. However, I became so scared of the dark I started to settle. I remember thinking I would trapped forever being worked to death as an open mic host, but didn't want to go back to uncertainty. One day my boss told me that sometimes we had to settle in show business, and I needed to stop demanding better spots. Another pro told me that we all deserved better spots when I was complaining about my lot. That is when my gut told me perhaps the darkness had it's benefits.

I got the fuck out.

That fall, I went past a location I had passed out fliers travelling in a limo from The Today Show. My puppet children and I were on a press tour. Things picked up steam. Soon fans were pouring in. People who had seen me once upon a time were writing me to tell me how proud they were. The darkness had cleared and now I was looking at my first blue lagoon.

However I was soon to step into quicksand. I was fired from my open mic job because I had spent too much time away with the press tour. A bigger club didn't pick me up. But instead I got a job as a talking head for a website, and began making music. "Stay" was number one for five weeks on the internet, and I published my book. I also became a regular blogger for the Huffington Post, and released the audioe version of my book. While it didn't make sense at the time God knew where he was guiding me.

The money wasn't as plentiful as I had hoped, and I still have my day job which is fine. I like my day job. But I am back in the career wilderness once again. I have one project that was inspired by my book, that was turned down by someone major. Now it is in new hands and I am waiting. We have a new person on it pushing things forward, but I am waiting. I have another major project having to do with my puppets in the hands of someone important. Both have some legal red tape, and both could be good if they happen. However, with the red tape comes limitation of movement. Additionally, I have a new web start up job as a sports broadcasting talking head and a  teaching artist job.....steady money but they haven't started yet.

Still, this is a blessing in a way because since CBS Local I have wanted to do more with sports broadcasting. So I am looking forward to that new adventure actually.

I am also filming a DVD. The whole thing is killing me in a lot of ways. I am busting my ass readying things. My material is coming together. But there is a chunk in the middle that is questionable, and I am wrestling with how to end it. Also, publicity is making my head explode. I made a poster, am passing out postcards, and am listing it on every site ever. I got a friend who films comedy DVDs to do me a favor and do it. I am scared of my fans not showing up and the venue pulling my show. I just want everything to be perfect, and am losing my mind. Yesterday I was yelling at my assistant which was pretty funny actually.

I was talking to a friend of mine, a career actress who has done regional theatre and television her entire career. Kind of an aunt/mom type, she was one of the first people to buy my book. She explained this was part of the profession, this is what I signed up for. My Neighborhood Auntie mentioned that once you find yourself in the uncertainty, you find yourself out and you just need to have faith. She also gave me hope, mentioning that all the things that were stressing me were good things. Things I have worked for. Additionally, while the future is unknown it doesn't mean it's bad. It could actually be quite bright.

I also fear I won't get to the next level with my career. I have exposure but no money in the bank. I don't know what is next for me, either. At the moment, the future feels very dark and unsure. However, I remember how sparkling and bright the blue lagoon was and how the sun shone on it. For some reason, my Higher Power wants to humble me and teach me new lessons. Hopefully the brush will clear and I will know answers soon.

Hopefully, I will be out of the career wilderness.

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl

Come see me April 22nd @ 7pm
Metropolitan Room
34 W. 22nd st.

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