Feast, Famine, and the Actor

Anyone who has made a living or tried to make a living as an artist knows about the cyclical nature of money coming in. Sometimes a bunch of money comes in. Sometimes no money at all comes in. When it doesn’t come in, insecurities rise and panic kicks in and the wonderings about ever working again start to take over.

I had a great summer. I don’t particularly like it when actors boast on social media that they got work because it makes other actors feel that much worse when they haven’t. But I’m on television right now, my face popping up here and there, so the facts are clear: I got some work. (Sorry to those who are having a harder time, but trust me, I know how it feels and it sucks and if there was anything a little guy like me could possibly do about it, I would.) I was very lucky this summer in that I got to do my recurring role of Vernon on You’re the Worst (Wednesdays at 10:30 on FXX) again this year and I also did a couple episodes as the father of one of the lead characters on a kids show for Amazon called Just Add Magic. I was very, very busy. I had to memorize a lot of lines and try to take care of myself so I would be at the top of my game when on set. I had to go to a lot of wardrobe fittings, too. I got really good at getting in and out of clothes at lightning speed. In no other industry could this possibly be an important skill. But, anyway, I have it.

And then the summer ended. Both shows wrapped for the season. And it is the weirdest feeling. It’s as if I was in a lush rainforest, luxuriating in the vegetation and moisture, and then suddenly I took one step out into an empty desert. Where did everything go? I mean, I do get to see the work I’ve done on an almost weekly basis when it airs on television, so at least there is a window into the rainforest that so suddenly disappeared. But I want the work back. And it isn’t just about money. It’s about focus. It’s so much easier to focus on a task at hand if someone else is valuing you enough that they pay you for it.

You see, I am rallying my psyche to get back into creating my own work. Yep. That’s what we entertainers have to do when nobody is paying us for it. We have to make up our own shit so we don’t shrivel up into a ball of creative atrophy. The older I get, however, the harder it is to rally. And I start thinking “if I was a star I wouldn’t have to hassle with this.” That’s true, sure, but it doesn’t do me any good. So I have to be thankful for the professional experiences I had over the summer, but while the world is watching and thinking, “That guy is doing great for himself!” I have to figure out what to do next. It is never enough to sit and wait for the next audition. An actor needs to act.

So I’ve got my web series and podcasts and I can sit down and start writing again. (This is of course my weak stab at launching back into the habit.) But let me be clear: I want to be back on set, with a proper crew and that often elusive magical feeling everyone gets when they are making a show in that atmosphere: “Holy shit. We’re getting paid to do this!”

I mean, we should. We should always get paid. We’re worth it. But still. It’s a good feeling.

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