Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Defense of the 1%

I was recently talking with my parents about how doing comedy is simultaneously the most terrifying and fun thing that I have ever done. A couple times a week I stand up in front of anywhere from 10 to 300 people and try to make them laugh. I love being on stage, I love getting to work with comedians that I have seen on TV and in movies, and I love having hilarious friends whose Facebook statuses do more than tell me where they just ate lunch. But what I really love is chasing after a goal that I know is nearly impossible to reach.

That’s the scary part. What if ten years from now I’m still just making the rounds at open mics, getting the occasional hosting spot at clubs and get stuck at 250 Twitter followers? What if no one knows my name and I sacrificed years I could have spent working on building a solid career pursuing some unattainable dream?

I’m not mentally stable enough to just “live in the moment” and enjoy the ride, I need to constantly be going after something bigger and better with the hopes that the next level will finally satiate that need for strangers to love me.

So what happens if I finally make it? Then what? I guess if I get a writing job on a TV show and get to start touring with the top comedians in the world, then I’m going to get bored with that and have to get my own TV show and headline comedy shows. After that I guess I’ll have to work on a movie or two and if they flop or only do so-so then I’ll have to finally write my masterpiece that is both a box-office success and so critically acclaimed that they name an award after it at Sundance.

My dream is comedy, but I know that’s not everyone’s dream. Some people want to be doctors or lawyers or traders on the New York Stock Exchange. They want to own their own business and become the next Warren Buffet or they want to come up with the cure for AIDS (Or retrieve it from the government labs where it’s under a double lock.). There’s a need in a lot of us to be not only really good at what you do, but to become the absolute best.

The problem is that in order to run the best business or become the best trader on Wall Street, you probably have to completely screw over a bunch of people to do it. You make your first million and then you need to make two, then five, and then you have to double that in a year. Even if that means giving yourself a disproportionate bonus to the work you did or doing whatever you can to put your competitors out of business. You do what you can to get to the top in your field and then you move on to the next one and try your hand at taking over a completely different sector of the economy.

There are plenty of millionaires in this country and there are plenty of funny comedians who never make it beyond the level I’ve reached. The real fun (Or neurotic need) is to go from being in that 1% to being the 1% of the 1%, and then to get even better. I’m sure there are even the people who are part of the Occupy movement want to be known as the guy who helped change the banking system through protest or the woman who did the most to fight for the working poor.

I’m not saying that this excuses all the golden parachutes or demanding tax cuts from the government to create jobs and then using the extra money to open a plant in a country with no labor laws so you can pay your new workers 14 cents an hour. I’m just saying that if the best way for me to become a successful comedian was to do whatever I could to make sure other comedians didn’t get to any gigs, there’s a decent chance that I would probably spend my Fridays slashing tires and stealing transit passes.