This week's email is all about getting your fair share: getting credit for your work, getting evaluated fairly, and getting paid. It's way harder than it should be! In the best of times, it's challenging to advocate for yourself. It's especially hard right now, when so many people are out of work that many of us feel lucky for whatever we can get.
A skill that I never expected to learn from doing comedy is negotiating. But since every writing gig, brainstorming session, and Zoom show is its own separate thing, I'm constantly having to think about my rate and what I'm willing to do for free. A full day of prep and a two hour show in exchange for a magazine subscription and "promotion to thousands of our social media followers"? Probably not, although I guess it depends on the magazine. A Zoom panel for senior citizens interested in podcasting? Sure, why not?
Over the last few years, I've semi-regularly gotten emails from college students or recent grads trying to figure out how to have a career in entertainment. I try to always respond, since I had so many strangers kindly do the same for me. (Including the hilarious and wonderful Doug Abeles, who gave me a very memorable pep talk when I was still working as a teacher and he was a writer at Saturday Night Live. Then, in a pure coincidence, we ended up writing together years later and I got to thank him in person.)
This week, I had a phone call with a college student who was worried that having a not artistic day job would hurt her comedy chances. I gave her my standard advice, which is: I don't know anything, everyone's path is different! Please hire me when you are successful. Worry less about getting a comedy job and more about making work that you enjoy and that makes you and your friends laugh. Make sure you put that work out there where strangers can find it, even if that's scary (don't worry about making perfect art, just make it consistently). Be nice to people and reach out to people whose work you admire. Having a day job means you can worry less about making things that make money and more on making things you enjoy and developing your voice. Plus, having work experience makes you unique. Most people are more interested in a comedian who spent 5 years as a long-haul trucker than a comedian who also worked at a production company. So just do what you have to do to pay the bills and find your people and make funny stuff that you know has value. And then, rely on your community and don't be afraid to advocate for yourself. Also, once again, when you are successful, please hire me.