The point is it can be done. And why not by you, right?
The factor that I touched on last is perhaps the most important. Desire.
In a really competitive marketplace you’ve got to really want it. Advice I’ve heard given to actors is that if there’s ANYTHING else they would enjoy doing as a fallback, do that. Only pursue a career in acting if there is nothing else in the world that would give you satisfaction. That’s probably good advice. I’m not an actor (which makes me unique in this town).
But the upside of that need for desire is that it is very exciting to want something badly. I look back at my “hungry years” trying to break in as a great period of my life. Comedy was inspiring. Watching every sitcom, learning the names of those who wrote them, devouring books, hanging out at the Comedy Store, going to improv shows, taking night classes, catching every Woody Allen and Mel Brooks movie countless times, listening to comedy albums, marveling at funny disc jockeys – these were not chores, these were not “homework” – these were pleasures.
I used to live for hanging out with other writer wannabes. We could spend hours at an all-night coffee shop dissecting that week’s HAPPY DAYS episode.
David and I both had day jobs but would get together three or four times a week at nights and weekends to write our spec scripts. It was great fun.
We didn’t see the endgame as making a ton of money or even seeing our names on television. To us nothing seemed more heavenly than to get up in the morning and get to go to a studio, sit in a room with really funny people all day and get paid for writing comedy. We weren’t thinking of creating our own shows, or getting a development deal, or winning awards – we just wanted to be a part of it. We wanted drive-ons to Paramount.
My latest play is about this subject. Called OUR TIME, it’s very loosely autobiographical about breaking in in the mid ‘70s. Present are all the frustrations, setbacks, angst, competition, and despair that go along with excitement, drive, and dreams. But it’s a comedy about comedy so pain and neuroses have to be part of the bargain. Along with (hopefully) a lot of laughs. But it’s a time in my life I cherish. And for all the angst, I’m always kind of envious of those young people just starting out today. Enjoy as much of it as you can tolerate.
I hope in the telling of my breaking-in story that I convey some of that excitement and maybe inspire one or two of you to keep pressing on (towards whatever your goal is, not just show business) despite the odds.
Again, why not you???