When trying to break into an industry, it’s best to know somebody in the business or use a crowbar.
I jimmied open the back door of the comedy world enough to peek inside, but that’s as far as I’ve got. Not long ago, I attended a panel of comedy writers from various reputable funny shows, such as SNL, The Daily Show, and The Trump Presidency. Afterward, at the mixer where appetizers and cocktails were available, I walked up to the writer from The Daily Show.
“How did you get a job at The Daily Show?” I asked, getting right to the point.
“You have to know somebody,” he said.
When I probed further, I found out that he didn’t know somebody directly.
“A friend of mine knew this girl who has a cousin that has a sister who works for the show.”
“Wow, ok, well I know you now, so can you put in a good word for me,” I asked, only begging slightly.
“Man, that’s not how it works,” he said, shaking his head.
“You just said that’s exactly how it works,” I responded, incredulously.
“I’ve got tons of comedy friends who want to work where I work,” he said, scanning the crowd to see if any of them were here so he could excuse himself.
“Oh, so I have to know someone well?” I asked, pulling him back into the conversation.
“No, not really, I sure didn’t,” he said, bragging a bit.
“I’ve got like one degree of separation from The Daily Show right now because I’ve met you.”
“I’m not really in a position to get people jobs there. I’m just a writer.”
“But someone was in a position to get you a job there.”
“Yes,” he said, without hesitating.
“Can you introduce me to him or her?”
“Great. Can you introduce me to her?” I said, begging.
“Why not?” I demanded. A few of the other attendees and panelists were looking at us now.
“Because I don’t know you. I can’t vouch for you,” he said, sympathetically.
“Are you in the mafia?” I asked.
“When you say vouch it sounds like something a mafia person would say.”
“Man, give me a break.”
“That’s what I want. A break.” I said, smiling slightly at my witty response.
“I just mean I don’t know you that well or your comedy so I can’t recommend you,” he said.
“I can send you samples,” I said with a clap of my hands.
“Sure,” he said, in a way that meant no.
“Can I have your email?” I asked while getting my phone out to type in his information.
“I don’t like to give out my email.”
“Why’s that?” I was visibly angry now.
“If I gave it to you then I have to give it to everybody I meet who wants a job in comedy and that’d be like a ton of emails to read.”
“You could make an exception,” I said. I thought about winking, but reconsidered.
“I really can’t,” he said, folding his arms.
“So, let me get this straight. To get a comedy writing job I have to know somebody well who is in a position to hire me and willing to look at my writing samples.”
“Yeah, that could at least get you in the door. Plus a lot of hard work.”
“I work hard. Sounds like I have to work hard and stalk a TV show producer,” I said, throwing my hands in the air.
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
“Well, you didn’t have to.” I was infuriated at this point. “You just had to know somebody who knew someone else who had a cousin or whatever. I know a guy who works directly for the place I’d like to work, but it means nothing!”
“You don’t really know me, man. I dunno, comedy is crazy,” he said with a shrug. “I saw some fantastic looking dip I want to try, so I’m gonna go. Nice meeting you. Good luck.” he said, making a beeline for the dip.
I stood there scratching my head and feeling no further along than I had before I went to the panel.
I walked toward the exit. I stopped to try the dip. I stood there shoveling chips and dip into my mouth. I played the conversation I just had with The Daily Show guy in my head. Goddammit, he was right.
The dip was fantastic.