Congratulations, friend, you have made it!
At some point in most artist’s lives, they decide they want to create their art as a career choice. They want to do it. They want to make it. If there is one term in the comedy industry vocabulary to describe success, it’s making it. We leap and sometimes flop over our occupational hurdles in rabid pursuit of making it.
But you’re wrong. You’ve already made it.
By most people’s criteria, I’ve just recently made it. I’ve performed standup on The Tonight Show and now have the opportunity to get paid to create a sitcom I co-created. So at this point you might be saying, “Well, Andrew, fuck you. Sure it’s easy to sit on that little sack of success and holler down at me, the toiler, that I’ve made it. Save your fucking pep talk.”
But that’s exactly why I can tell you that you’ve made it. Because I’ve walked a bit ahead, just around the bend, so I can report back to you. I’ve spent twelve years focused intently on my comedy career, and the only epiphany I’ve had since making it is that I actually made it long, long ago.
The first time I made it was in May of 2003, when I was holding on tightly to the cool rock wall backstage at the downtown Comedy Works. The terrible book on how to perform comedy I read said not to drink before going onstage but I had lubed up with a few vodka cranberries. When my time came I lurched through the curtain and babbled two minutes of jokes.
But I made it. I did some art. I created some jokes, shared them, and- without trying to sound pretentious when describing jokes about traffic construction- put something enjoyable into the world that wasn’t there before. And this is the greatest of human endeavors, art.
But somewhere along the line, I bought into the fucked-up and just dumb inverted power dynamic that turns art into a commodity, and places you, the creator, at the bottom of that flipped pyramid. You, the comedian who just ate shit on a TV showcase, who walks alone to your car, wondering just where everything dissolved. You, the writer, sending out submissions and feeling lucky just to get a rejection letter in return. You, the musician hammering out songs wondering how anyone will ever hear them. You are not making it because other people cannot make money off of your efforts.
This inverted power dynamic tells you that your art is only valid when it is a product that is consumed on a large scale. Get on TV. Get paid money for what you do. Sell your book. Sell your album. But this isn’t making it, it’s selling it. As a quick aside, there’s nothing wrong with selling it. I’m incredibly humbled and mind-blowingly fortunate to get money for telling jokes and writing scripts. This is all I want to do, and the more I can do it and not worry about rent, the better.
But I would do it for free. I know I would because I have. Lots. When I was making The Grawlix web series, I remarked many times how much I loved it and how I would do it for free, forever. Because I was making it. Because I had made it. So if you love what you do and you would do it for free, then congrats- you’ve also made it.
To you, the comic who has waited all night to go up last at an open mic in front of six people- you’ve made it. To you, the actor waiting for an audition, feeling insecure and out of place- you’ve made it. To you, the writer who self-publishes your books just to share them with friends- you’ve made it. To you, the musician who would rather give her music away online just to be heard, you’ve made it.
So take heart, creators.
You have already made it.
You are already here.