In my childhood, one of my fondest memories is the joy of popping into a Video Rental Store (ask your parents, children) and grabbing the VHS for Mary Poppins. Again. My adult self giggles in retrospect to be honest, because god knows we rented that goddamn tape from that little store so many times throughout the years that my mother may as well have bought me a tape of my own long ago. Maybe she simply liked the tradition and consistency of my grabbing the tape as she looked through the “boring adult” section of new releases.
And my favourite character? Bert. I mean, come on, who couldn’t love that chimney sweeping, art making, one man big band scallywag? I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the affect he had on my young life. He made me realize that you need not be ashamed of your work- as long as you’re passionate about it, that the process is the joy, to have a sense of humor about yourself, and probably most importantly- money matters little.
I’ve struggled with that in adult years, as I found out slowly but surely that Walt Disney had not engineered our lives, and that money in fact matters a lot. We need it to eat, we need it to keep warm, and, like it or not- it’s what people use to define you as a professional or amateur artist. Is he making a living or not?
Well- it depends what you mean by “living”, I suppose. I need art to live, like anybody; and my art cannot, could not, would not live without me. Is that enough?
Should it be enough?
I found myself wondering this as I came down from the stage of my first comedy show in Melbourne. I was excited just to be on the poster, and to get on stage, and I knew, if successful, money would come. Or not! It didn’t matter.
Well put simply? It was wonderful. I hadn’t practiced in months and it was my first time being a comedy show MC. I’m not going to lie, I felt I probably sucked a little, but made up for it enthusiasm. The acts were varied, strange, bouncy and quick as a whip, warm and dry… it was so wonderful being the ringmaster of that crazy circus… and I learned a lot.
I thanked the audience for coming, and pick up my bag to leave. All of a sudden, the host, Lawal, and the guy that brought me on board to the show, shoved some money into my hand. This was not expected. We had agreed this would be pro bono. An experiment… Yet there was the money, being placed into my hand.
“You did a wonderful job”, Lawal said. “Thank you.”
I was flabbergasted.
“Holy fuck mate, no, thank you” I said, putting the cash into my pocket without a word of protest.
“It really means a lot.”
He clapped my shoulder, smiled and went to talk to someone else. I could feel the cash burning in my pocket. Was I a professional now? What did it all mean?
Did I deserve this? Guilt began to rear it’s ugly head.
And then, my favourite worst cockney accent of all time popped into my head.
“No remuneration do I ask of you, but me cap would be glad of a copper or two!”
Pride took its place as I made my way to my car. Who can say it better really?