So Close To Being a Host
Admittedly, this whole rant could be fueled by the fact that I’m reading the Johnny Carson book now, but I’m bummed.
Story is this: I had the chance to host a weekly talk show on TV and now it appears that if the opp were any more dead, it would have been photographed in the company Rob Ford.
Yes, it would have been voluntary. Yes, it would have been without pay. Yes, it would have been hard work. Yes, I was totally up for it. And yes, the producer wanted me to do it. But the all the scenery fell to the floor Charlie Chaplin-style.
The problem is that I belong to an actors union. Now, before you think I’m about to hike down my khakis and crap on my union, I’m not. This union does a great job for me. It protects my interests. It guarantees a pay rate. It ensures that I am treated in a professional manner with every engagement. Thanks to my union, I am not subjected to the olden days of actors in tattered rags and fingerless gloves, huddled around a fire in a garbage can on set, waiting for the director to lash them with a bull whip, letting them know that it was time for “places” for Scene Two of the “Colgate” commercial.
I get it.
But this opp was for community television. Read “Make as much as you do doing your little ‘fake radio show’ over there“. I went for an audition for what would turn out to be a weekly televised talk show at night with guests, comedic monologue off the top, the whole bit. I figured, “Hey, I’ve written a joke once. I’ve asked people questions on my podcast. Seems like a fit as perfect as it would satisfy my needs for television experience, comedy, conversation and never being paid for anything I do. I was willing to forego the salary aspect of it strictly for the experience of putting together a talk show. I’ve been on co-op positions before. None had me behind a desk talking to a bunch of people staring blankly at me. Outside of being a math teacher. So, I gave it a shot.
The producer was more than happy with the audition and wanted to move forward and help build a show around me as the host. No way I could have been happier. The only issue was that the whole affair was cowering in the shadow of my union membership. The producer couldn’t pay me. My union stood out for me to make sure my work was paid.
But here was the thing. I was willing to do this for free. I wasn’t forced to do this. No one had a gun to my head, and Jay Leno hadn’t promised the job to me, so I thought I stood a chance if I knew going in that this was just a way for me to learn. So, I went to the union, cap in hand, to ask.
I pictured my union standing there like stern parents, listening to their misfit son pour his soul out to them, letting his providers know that he didn’t want to work in the mines like his dad. Or his dad’s dad. Or his dad’s dad’s dad before him. He wanted to be a choreographer for a community theatre production of “Annie, Get Your Gun!” and he was going to do his darnedtootenest to do it. After this heart-renting performance, the parents would look at each other knowingly, their judging scowls Easter-Islanded to their faces. And then would nod ever so slightly, enough to let permission pour into the boy’s soul, letting him imagine being on stage, bringing the woman playing Annie Oakley to sloppy tears, her shoulders heaving in sobs as he yelled at her for her hapless dancing, the sleeves of his knotted American Apparel cardigan around his neck fluttering in the bombast.
That didn’t happen. It was a flat “no”. Back to the mines with you.
Don’t get me wrong. My union has provided me with great work and wonderful opportunities. I appreciate them being there for me. I’m a proud member in good standing. It’s just that this is the first time I’ve seen them as a stumbling block between me and personal development that I can’t get anywhere else. There’s no way to go outside into the world and try to improve my craft so that I could better my chances for paid work later. Play the piano, but don’t practice.
Whatever. It’s done. Lesson learned. And if you want me to host a TV show, looks like you’re paying me.
“If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor.” – James