Show Business

Show Business – The Biz Of Show


For some comedians, stand up is simply a stepping stone to their own show, movies and all the fame and money that comes with it.  For others, myself included, it’s a life’s work.  When I first came to New York, I told myself if at the end of my life I looked up and all I was is a comedian, I’d be quite fine with it.  Most big time comics have representation, but I don’t care for parasitic agents and managers.  You make a few calls and want 20-30% of my money?  I don’t think so. You didn’t write joke one! My early experience with these people wasn’t positive, and over the years my distaste has grown to the point I hardly be in the same room with these soul suckers. I’m sure this has cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars, but having my spirit intact is more important to me.

I did have a manager for about a year who booked me into the Aspen Comedy Festival. That led to a couple of meetings with casting directors and agents in LA. Those meetings led to nothing.  The relationship ended soon after I was asked to audition for a TV show called Homeboys In Outer Space.  Based on the title I knew I didn’t want to have any part of this project.  As I predicted it was one of the worst shows ever to make it to the small screen.

Most of the work I’ve gotten outside of standup came because of my relationship with some truly funny people.

One day in the late 90’s I ran into Louie CK who was sitting in front of the Comedy Cellar.  He showed me a script he was working on, a movie called Pootie Tang.  I knew he worked with Chris Rock, writing on his HBO series but didn’t know Pootie was his idea.  I was familiar with the Pootie character and I asked him to put me in it because I loved all things Pootie.  I was elated when he told me he wrote a small part for me.  I had been in a couple of short films Louie wrote and directed and always enjoyed working with him.  Louie works well with comics and the movie was filled with the likes of Wanda Sykes, Dave Attell, JB Smoove and many other comedians.  My day and a half on the set was some of the most fun I’ve had in show biz to date.  While Pootie Tang has since achieved cult status, it did not do well at the box office.  I remember going to the “premiere” in the summer of 2001 with no red carpet and 12 people in the theater.

Being a comedian for me isn’t about trying to be all things to everybody.  I’m not even sure I try to be some things for anybody.  I just can’t bring myself to work for any other reason than the funny.  I don’t have that part of the brain that allows you to schmooze, or deal with out of control egos.

I might always be a broke ass comic because of this attitude but don’t bet the house on it.

William Stephenson


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