THE ACTOR VS. THE COMIC
For some reason I feel I am a world apart from the 200 actors in this room who have been auditioning for 18 years and still haven’t booked. If only because these “professional auditioners” are very loud, making sure we know they’re in The Biz. “Yea I got called in and Bernie Telsey saw Me.,” she says. Bernie … like they’re friends. Yes he saw you and 4000 other people. There’s also the actor who always jumps in with, “Oh, that role? I was up for that. Ya, I was supposed to get that.” No ya weren’t or you’d be doin’ it mother**ker! Can we turn the bullsh**t meter down? I’m trying to finish writing this bit about Creamed Corn.
That’s right. I write bits. I’m a comedian by trade so I have a different take on these delusions of self-importance. Don’t get me wrong. Comics do the same thing. In social settings around other comics, they are “on” in a different way than actors, loudly letting ya know he’s in The Biz. “So I’m ready to go do my set and LENO walks in to do 10. He tanks and I have to carry the whole night! So then LENO and I are at the bar and LENO and I have a drink…” We get it. LENO. You’re blood brothers.
Every performer has their verbal nonsense. Dancers are all about the “5-6-7-8-Fierce!” and singers are all about the vocal riffing. With comics, everything is about “the bit”. You’re trying to have a normal conversation and they interject, “Hey, that’s a good bit. You need something in there about Obama.” Jesus. I’m not doing a bit. I am just trying to ask you to pass the bread rolls.
Sometimes you think your having a nice, fun conversation with another comic, then he goes up on stage and you realize he was doing his act for you. There wasn’t one piece of natural-organic-give-and-take in the 45 minutes I was talking to the guy and I didn’t pick up on it! THAT’S an actor! I’m not even annoyed. I wish I had his acting chops.
But the difference between comedians and actors are in their public personas. A lot of actors or people that want to be actors create the “brooding, strategically messy haired artist” facade. Unless you’re in musical theatre, then you assume the forced, “let’s be fabulous” facade by going out to see and be seen because they care a lot about the scene.
Comics aren’t like this attention-wise. We just go up, say our sh** and leave. We don’t require post-audience accolades because #1) we are painfully shy and self-deprecating and #2) we were there and we know how it went. The last thing we want is some civilian commenting and judging our guts that we spewed out onto the floor. “Why don’t you have your own sitcom yet?” or “Your material is offensive. You’re going to hell” are just some of the Greatest Hits.
Despite popular belief, the biggest ego in show business isn’t the high-powered agent, the multi Oscar winner or the high belting diva. In New York, it is the dancer-singer-ensemble-gay boys. They are so snotty. I try to explain to them that they aren’t curing cancer, they’re tap dancing in the back!
In Los Angeles it’s the young actors who have the perspective issue. You introduce someone as an actor and they cut you off announcing, “I AM AN ACTOR/DIRECTOR/SINGER!!” In truth, he’s a Valet Attendant / Waiter at Sizzler / Porn Actor, although in a sequel film he did play “Angry Guy Number 7”.
To be honest, I am envious of the actor. They just have that air about them that I don’t have. You know, that very open, tall, eye-drawing charisma when they walk into a room. Comics don’t have that. We’re sketchy and schlumped over.
I like the actors who use all three names to introduce themselves giving the impression of more seasoned legitimacy. “Hi, I’m Howie Michael Long.” Well hello to you! I’m, Still Not Interested.
There are also the actors that are begging for so much individuality that they change the spelling of a normal name to phonetics. “Hi, I’m Cindy … C-y-n-d-e-e?” It’s worse when the guys do it. “Hi I’m Daniel. D-a-n-y-u-l.” Kill yourself.
From now on I’m going to spell mine, M-i-k-SCHWA-l. Remember the schwa? The upside down, backwards “E” that makes the “UH” sound? I do not believe elementary schools teach the schwa anymore but thank you Mrs. Keller, 1st grade.
I say I’m a comedian instead of an actor because it’s like a badge of honor going off to war every night. Comedy is the most truthful art form. Unlike many “singer/dancer/actors”, they don’t really require the audience to get the job done. They can just zone out and do the next song. It’s not his or her creation so the blame goes to someone else. Comedians are risking doing their own work, receiving immediate feedback without filter. If I have a bad night, I have to suck all by myself for 45 minutes!
“Excuse me. I was just saw your show? I paid 20 dollars but I only got about 8 dollars of entertainment.”
Actors interpret someone else’s words and if done correctly, breathe the most honest life from the page to the body. Comedians have created something from absolute scratch with no previous template. As for you, the audience, your opinion is uneducated, presumptuous and generally unsolicited. We don’t come to your job and tell you what to do. (I just make fun of it). So, on behalf of both Creatives, please butt out.
In closing let me say I now call myself a writer. That’s right. After all this posturing about being a comedian, at least I’m not getting in line to be an actor! So in the event that anyone of power is reading this, I have several scripts. Call me. I’m very funny.
– Michael Paul Ziegfeld (3 names)