Thursday, April 15, 2004

Can comedy be a nice little earner?

As Stuart Koop has noted apropos of visual artists, the Australia Council has – for reasons best known to it – highlighted the state of poverty most Australian creatives (“knowledge producers”) live in with a series of glibly-titled reports, including Don't give up your day job [2003], But what do you do for a living? [1994] and When are you going to get a real job? [1989].

For comedians – especially Gen X ones – even the phrase “day job” tends to be a grating, 1960s anachronism; suggesting, as it does, that there is some kind of acceptable fall-back position if the “art” side of things doesn’t work out. Oh yeah? Look into the eyes of call-centre worker-cum-comedian Luke Whitby (who would be on about $30k for his day job) and try to express in words what you see.

Lacking the option of a cushy day job, like Marcel Duchamp’s 49 years a librarian before he became an artist, Gen X creatives have to sink or swim, like probably no other generation before them.

Which is another way of observing, without apology, that today’s best-paid Gen X creatives cannot be qualitatively differentiated from the broader pile of slime that is Oz showbiz at large. Sorry, Rove McManus, a new entry to the BRW “Top 50 Entertainers” list with a 2003 income of $7.5 million, but you really are up there, or down there (take your pick) with John Farnham and The Wiggles.

Thus, please do give up your day job, Rove – you really are better than them. And in time, you’ll probably learn to be funny again. If you need help remembering, try watching some old tapes of yourself on “The Loft”. Or even better, try watching the pants-wettingly funny Chris Lilley (a.k.a. “Mr G” and “Extreme Darren”) on the otherwise-ordinary new “Hamish and Andy” show on Seven.

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