Show Business is Not Your Parents: Lessons for Creatives from Marc Maron

Listening to Marc Maron’s WTF pod-cast with Andrea Martin this morning, I was struck by one of his statements about the relationship between comics and the industry: “Show business is not your parents.” Hollywood (or whatever industry you’re trying to enter) is not going to just tell you you’re great and give you whatever you want.

Maron, who was described by Rolling Stone as “One of the darkest, funniest, most influential figures in comedy today,” has delivered this message before. In 2011, Maron presented the Keynote Address at the Just For Laughs Comedy Conference in Montreal and gave young comics advice, including,

Show business is not your parents. When you get to Hollywood you should have something more than, “Hey! I’m here! When do we go on the rides?”

I think this is a lesson that has to be learned by anyone who thinks s/he has something creative to offer the world (not just comics, since I’m certainly not a comedian); the problem is that the world doesn’t necessarily want whatever you’re offering. You can’t just put it out there and assume it’s going to go anywhere. Instead, to “make it” (whatever that means) as an artist, you have to take extreme risks:

I respect anyone who goes all in to do what I consider a noble profession and art form. […] Whatever it is, we comics are out there on the front lines of our sanity.  We risk all sense of security and the possibility of living stable lives to do comedy.

I would love to be the kind of person who can have such faith in herself that she risks everything to “make it.” The problem (at least for me) is that I need security. Especially in today’s age of economic struggle, the idea of not knowing where my rent will come from next month is just about the scariest thing I can think of, barring a major illness. Maron, who now has one of the top pod-casts and a television series, spoke to one of his extreme low moments:

25 years in and I had nothing. I was sitting alone in my garage in a house I was about to lose.  […]  Fuck, you can build a clown, and they might not come.

This is absolutely terrifying to me. I never want to sit in a garage and have that realization. So instead, I try to work the creativity into the spaces left in my life once the job and the commute and the responsibilities are taken care of. It’s compulsive, even if I don’t do it compulsively full time, because I can’t delude myself into thinking it will be worth it:

Delusion is necessary to do this. […]  Some of you will get [opportunities] and they will go nowhere and then you have to figure out how to buffer that disappointment and because of that get funnier or fade away. Some of you may be perfectly happy with mediocrity. Some of you will get nothing but heartbreak.

Is it weird that I find comfort knowing there are other artists out there struggling to find this balance? Sometimes it’s heartbreaking to me that I’ve “given up” on myself, and sometimes it’s comforting that I’ve come around to the fact that the world won’t just give me an artistic career on a platter and I’ll still be ok.

Check out the rest of Marc Maron’s address and advice for young comics here.

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