Monday, September 10, 2012

It's Called Talent, Jackass!

I happened upon Howard Stern’s radio show the other day while he was talking about his upcoming contract negotiations with SiriusXM. He claimed that management couldn’t grasp the concept that talent isn’t interchangeable. To them, talent is like any other commodity. If you’re having trouble with one supplier, you go to someone else.
It doesn’t work that way.
If you are successful in the arts it is because you have created a product (your art) that people want. And unlike other products, you’re the ONLY supplier. There is not a second you out there. 
They can try getting a replacement and sometimes they succeed, take M*A*S*H for example. Several characters were replaced over its eleven year run but the show they ended with was nothing like the one that started the series.
I have spent most of my life in the arts. I have worked as a singer/songwriter, as a writer/publisher and as a graphic designer.  I am relatively good at all of them because I have the God given talent and the creative process is the same for all three. You tape yourself to your chair and work and work and work and scream and cry and throw stuff out and yell at God and work and work and work and crawl up into a ball and tell yourself you stink and work and work until finally, something far beyond your ability to produce is created.
And you’re astounded! “Wow! I’m an artist,” you say. “Gather at my feet and hang on my every word. Introduce me to your rich artsy-fartsy friends and celebrities. Worship me for I am of the enlightened illuminati!
Yeah, you’re the tits all right, but there is one art form that requires more talent, courage and skill than any other and one that doesn’t get anywhere near the respect or recognition it deserves.
And that, my friends, is Stand-up Comedy.
 I can be a pretty funny guy in the right situation. I have received e-mails from people who read my blog, telling me one post or another had them ROFL. And once, during my rock and roll days, I decided to introduce comedy into my set in between songs.
Probably the biggest mistake I have ever made on stage. Every single joke or witticism was met with silence and blank stares. I kept at it though, figuring I could turn it around. I knew how to work an audience; I was no newbie at this.
Apparently, I was!
I did a forty minute set. And for the first time in my onstage career I left the stage amid stunned silence. I never attempted comedy again.
Why is stand-up so hard? Because it is the only art form where you can be punished for not doing it perfectly every time. I performed on stage for thirty years and made a number of mistakes. A wrong chord here, a forgotten lyric there, a broken string midway through. I was never heckled; in fact, except for the one time I attempted comedy, I always received generous applause. Yet at those very same venues I have seen very talented comedians heckled, insulted, slapped, spit on, and on more than one occasion, physically assaulted.
Just for trying to make people laugh.
This is the reason I get so pissed off when I download an e-book and discover the author hasn’t taken the time or made the effort to learn their craft. For some reason they feel they can upload and sell their half-assed, poorly written and unedited manuscripts, because they are under the deluded impression that any attempt to improve their phenomenally brilliant piece of literature would only ruin it.
I admit to having the exact same thoughts when I was an amateur. But 15 years in as a novelist, I’m not an amateur anymore.
Personally, I think every member of the arts should be treated like comedians. Because comedians have to get it right every time. Because comedians know that every sentence must be perfectly crafted or they risk public humiliation. Because comedians know their pacing must be impeccable or they’ll be dismissed and ignored. Because comedians know that should they stumble while dancing around a sensitive topic, they could get punched out.
So the next time you go to a poetry slam, slam a poet. Either they’ll get really good at their craft or learn to slip a punch.
I have learned to do both. And to prove it, every one of my books comes with a 30 day money back guarantee. So slap down a couple of bucks and join the Noon Revolution today by downloading one of my books from the above slide show. You have nothing to lose and a hell of an adventure to gain!