Wednesday, February 20, 2013

For Frees?

For Frees?

So a quick perusal of yesterday’s New York Times Arts Section will lead a few careful readers to the latest article on the Upright Citizens Brigade, a newish juggernaut in the comedy industry. Performers here have gone on, according to one commenter, to write or contribute to:


Fallon (4 writers)
SNL (3 or 4 writers, 2 cast members [Kate and Bobby])
Colbert Report (2 writers)
Parks and Rec (Aubrey Plaza, Amy Poehler)
Key and Peele (2 or 3 Writers)

Every time you see a shot of the writer's room on 30 Rock- those are almost all UCB people.

BFF, Jeselnik Offensive, Brickleberry, The Daily Show.

Rob Riggle, Donald Glover, Ben Schwartz, Ed Helms.


These people owe most of their success to UCB, or at least so says Illisdub from NYC. The reason for this rather detailed internet description, was because while at UCB, none of them got payed.

In a growing era of intern exportation of labor, it becomes little irksome for a great deal of artistic comedic, performers, both doing stand-up and improv, to be treated like, well, as one hyperbolic commenter from California put it “slaves.”

Now glancing past the problematic discussions that arise from that sort of statement, it does seem that more often than not students are okay with the term. Instead of worrying, many laugh it off as just another stepping stone to real professional development. However, the performers at UCB individuals aren’t students like your college buddy stepping up for open mic night. Many of them are performers that are trying to make this their living.

But the UCB says  it’s okay because “they don’t pay their performers in money.” More or less meaning they pay them in exposure and a decent probability for some high-totin’ position that will pay. Though until then, the thought is, well, you [artists] aren’t valuable enough to pay and not essential enough in society to get in a hub-ub about. If you like art, sucks to your asmar.

Seems like a big difference from the age of guilds and whatnot where people were taken in and taken care of, all while learning a craft. Now it seems like we pay more--either in time or money--for exposure and education, than at any previous time I can recollect.

Sure you can love it, but it feels kind of slimy to know that someone else is making a living off of you trying to make it to making a living.

Or maybe that’s just the English major in me.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article. I didn't know that UCB didn't pay their performers, and that does seem kind of exploitative. I've definitely felt a growing frustration with the unpaid internship model as I look for post graduate work, especially when they market it as if experience can fund my housing and food costs. It sounds like UCB provided instruction though, yeah? They mentioned that teachers get paid. So I guess in that sense it's like taking a class and doing final performances as a part of that. That would be a little different than the free intern structure.