Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Willing to work for it...

Hello Friends.

Did you ever see that show, Inside the Actor's Studio? They used to parody it on Saturday Night Live. The crux of the show (and parody) is that James Lipton interviews an actor for an hour and fawns over them relentlessly. Depending on the guest, it can be a really interesting show. The fawning gets a little much, though, especially when the actors just sit there and take it, as if Matthew Modine really is the second coming of Brando, or Rosie O'Donnell was actually transcendent in A League of Their Own. The program always concludes with the questionnaire that Lipton Frenchily says was made famous by “Francois Jambon in his program Pamplemousse. It's a series of faux-deep questions, sort of a lightning round of pretension, and it always includes the puzzler, “What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?” The rich and famous guests always say something noble like AIDS-curer or Peacekeeper, with such conviction and phoney grace that one suspects they actually believe they are capable of this. Then there are the cutesy answers. Sarah Jessica Parker said she would just love to be a “grocery store proprietor”, which just cooked my noodle.

“You do not want to be a grocery store proprietor!” I yelled at the tv, setting down my english muffin pizza with a clatter. “You really want to stock shelves all night so you can hawk cheap wares to bargain-hunting old ladies who will try to get a discount on a can of soup because part of the label is torn? You want to carry bags of groceries to some douche's car so he can watch you load stuff into his trunk and offer the timely advice 'Don't touch my shit'? That's the plan? And will you do it all with that breathy, Minnie Mouse voice and little high-heeled baby step thing you do? Proprietor indeed!”

But to those of us who aren't Modines, O'Donnells or Jessica Parker Cougar Mellencamps, a career change is a very real and frightening prospect. We've had a tough couple of days here at the ranch. Jon's search for another job is not going as smoothly as it should, and my hours have been cut again. Rent was due today and I couldn't make my half, which is humiliating. Jon is understanding, but can only be so up to a point (specifically, the point where his current contract runs out and our only source of income is my now 20 hour workweek). Embarrassingly, my lack of income is not for lack of trying. Auditions for legit acting jobs notwithstanding, a quick scan of my sent emails in the past two weeks reveals twenty-one cover letters, cv's, and portfolios sent out for twenty-one jobs for copy editors, freelancers, bloggers, article-writers, proofreaders, technical writers, assistants, receptionists, moderators, breast inspectors and con-artists. A lack of twenty-one responses means I've had to set my sights considerably lower, but the plethora of students out of school for the summer means there are no openings to be had at coffee shops, bookstores, record stores, clothing stores and furriers, and today I had to sit down and write a cover letter to Harvey's. Harvey's, should you be unfamiliar, is a chain akin to McDonald's or Wendy's whose slogan is “Harvey's makes your hamburger a beautiful thing.” And they do make a delicious hamburger, but a terrible life choice.

While I was explaining how my education as a theatre major would make me an ideal burger-flipper, I began to wonder about the statistic that a person changes careers five or six times in their lives. If my present career has yet to be established, could I still “change” careers? Why the hell not?

Dream: Have a successful and stimulating career change.

Goal: Achievable. This guy I know was once a football playing punk rocker and now he's an accountant, filling his Facebook statuses with comments like, “It's RRSP time again! Call me and let's talk!” I need some S to start an RRSP and this guy seems pretty happy in his life, so I shall take my cue from him and make a few changes.

Plan: Go balls out into new employment fields and hope my staggering lack of qualifications don't catch up with me.

I could be a doctor. Like a good one, a GP you'd wait eighteen months to get a spot with. I'd build my practice on warm hands, and a pleasant bedside manner. When and how do these doctors forget to hold regular conversations with people? For my last check-up (which was too many years ago now), I met with Dr. Ranasari, who kept calling me Mister James, like I was a five year-old. Dr. Ranasari went through the requisite list of embarrassing sex life questions, then started in on the embarrassing drug questions. This grew tedious in its specificity. “Have you ever injected heroin, Mister James? Have you ever consumed angel dust, Mister James?” By the way, what is angel dust? I mean, I know it's bad, but I can't believe that's what we call it; we need to give it a more threatening name. To overdose on angel dust sounds like participating in too many good deeds or something (“Three walkathons in two weeks? You're just knee-deep in angel dust!”). Anyway, I cut off Dr. Ranasari and said, “I don't do any illegal drugs, you don't need to keep asking me these questions!” So he got all huffy and said, “I am required, for the sake of your health and wellness, to ask these questions of you. It is my duty as your doctor!” I apologized and he continued, after which he said, super-condescendingly, “Now I know you're a private man, Mister James, but now I need to examine your testicles.” Good times. Come to think of it, he may not have been a doctor.

I could be a lawyer. Recently, I attended a dinner party at the home of a big city lawyer and four of his big city lawyer coworkers. It was a really fun and very classy affair. This is to say that I found it classy, but I got the impression that for these legal-eagles, it was just another dinner with friends. For instance, the host determined we were short on vodka and texted a latecomer, asking him to pick some up on his way. No sweat for our guest, who brought in a forty of Grey Goose like it ain't no thang. I couldn't believe it. I'd only read about Grey Goose in books! I took a shot straight, but sipped it like Turkish coffee, savouring each drop like a pretentious connoisseur. For comparison's sake, when someone asks me to bring something to drink for a party, I pick up a bottle of Sprite and take it home when I leave. I think the best part of being a lawyer would be using all that legal jargon. If, for instance, a Harvey's employee asked if I wanted fries with my burger, I'd say, “I'm going to allow it.” But then if they put vinegar on the fries, I would scream “Objection!” and call for a sidebar.

Finally, I could be a James Lipton. In spite of my lack of beard and little blue cards, I have a genuine interest in what actors do. If I get nothing else from my theatre training, I will always have the friendships I have cultivated with people who have become legitimate actors inside their studios. I know it seems pretentious and self-indulgent to talk about an actor or writer's “process” (well, it seems that way because it is), but I really am fascinated by what it takes for somebody to become or create somebody else. If I don't get to practice these processes myself as much as I'd like, too bad, so sad, but theatre tickets are cheap if you know the right people (and I do!) and for the moment I may not have a lot of money, but I've plenty of time. So invite me to your summer shows, friends (and if you have any job leads, for the love of God, share them with me!). Even if I'm making your burger this summer, let's keep our friendship a beautiful thing.

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