Late last Thursday, I stopped at the fruit stand and some big, vivid red grapes caught my eye. The vendor said a two-pound bunch would be $6, which seemed steep. I was about to tell him as much, and then came to my senses and gave him the money.
I wondered why I hesitated when it came time to pony up and realized that, as just one more participant in the Something for Nothing economy, I’d grown accustomed to getting all sorts of lusciousness for the price of zero.
Throughout that day, I used a suite of services from Google — email, contacts, documents — for a price of nothing. I deployed a free app called HopStop to plot my subway route to Brooklyn to meet my daughter for dinner, then used free mapping built into my iPhone to navigate to the restaurant. Along the way, I listened to song after song on the free version of Spotify. There were some nominal charges for the data services, but in general, I was free-riding.
The outbreak of free is being felt all over the economy, but music is an industry that has produced the soundtrack of contemporary American life. Artists are singing the blues about the crippling effects of streaming, and no one wants to be part of the day the music died.
I love the contortions and the gymnastics my audience will put themselves through to rationalize how is it that they don’t need to buy a ticket to my show:
1. “It’s for free, right?” No, it’s not for free. If I tell you that my intellectual property has a price tag on it, that’s the end of the debate.
2. “It’s your own fault for putting it on the internet. Information wants to be free. Ergo, your show is free.” That is the most cockamamie thing I’ve ever heard, that ‘information wants to be free.’ That belief was cooked up by some trust fund college student with his skinny jeans and BMW, his college education paid for by mommy and daddy, some naif who doesn’t understand that it takes people to put in the effort to “mine” information, much like iron ore is mined. Information must be mined, and it must be interpreted, and it must be presented. It takes effort to do that. “Iron ore wants to be free, and that’s why I feel justified in stealing your car.”
3. “Oh, it’s okay, Chris. You’re getting exposure. Having our ear is its own reward. Now sit down tonight at the dinner table and feast on your exposure.”
4. “It’s your own fault, Chris. You should have gone to work for Disney Studios ten years ago when you had the chance.” Though the serial, episodic, short-format nature of the television medium appeals to me for certain projects, this show here is a smash-and-grab, a rollicking, free-wheeling, Mad Max at Thunderdome kind of a show. This brand of stand-up simply will not play on television. The engine and the transmission would be mismatched, so to speak. After only two words, I’d drop the transmission on the pavement and immediately get fired.
I recall recently seeing an actor by the name of Jonah Hill going on a late night comedy show and apologizing profusely for having offended the homo mafia in Hollywood for calling some papparazo a “cock sucking faggot” or something. It was sickening to watch that guy grovel to have his TV career back. “What I said was, it was just, it was disgusting and I’m disgusted with myself and what I said wasn’t in keeping with my longtime support of the LGBTCCRAD community and I don’t deserve your forgiveness. But please let me continue having a job on 22 Jump Street.”
It’s not my style to grovel. I would be far too quick to tell a network executive to get bent. I didn’t get where I am today, and I didn’t succeed at wrangling my target audience into their seats over an entire decade, by playing it safe. This brand of stand-up of mine would never work on television. And I cannot produce an episodic, written, video show because I can’t hire camera guys and writers because you people refuse to buy your tickets.
My show is not part of the comedio-industrial complex, and that is precisely why you attend this show. It is something you can’t get anywhere else. So since you value talent that is not now, nor likely ever will be, suitable for carrying within the establishment comedio-industrial complex that is television comedy, don’t you now agree that you need to buy your ticket? Or is it that you’re cheap?