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January 14, 2016
I am, in comedy terms, a hack. It’s a derogatory term, meaning that even though I’m a “professional,” I’m not worthy of mainstream exposure. Good thing for me I don’t care.
I’ve worked with just about every kind of act there is: stand-up comics and cabaret singers; Broadway actors and rock ‘n’ roll bands; directors and magicians and producers and puppeteers and whatever-else-you-can-name. Most are professional, or could be professional, and many of them are as good as the game. I cannot begin to estimate the number of talented, hardworking and very deserving artists there are in the USA. It’s overwhelming. None would fall into the category of “hack” in my mind.
I judge artists and performers and writers and creative types by this simple test: do they bring something unique or different to their craft? Is there one thing they do I haven’t seen or heard or read before? In a world where “creativity” is at such a premium, coming up with something “new” or “singular” is really tough. I admire people who can do it on a regular basis. Heck, I admire anyone who comes up with just ONE new take on any subject. It’s hard to do.
To be a hack is to be scorned – not that it bothers me and I’m comfortable in my own skin, so there isn’t any animosity on my part. I don’t compare myself to others. I have a job to do, and that is to make audiences happy. Which I do with all the energy I can, while performing to the best of my ability, and “tayloring” (sorry) my act to a specific client.
Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, had two criteria for art that have not been improved upon. “… it should entertain and instruct.” The hip, cutting-edge artist says the masses cannot think and feel at the same time. I’m a more-amusement-and-less-instruction kinda guy, though both those descriptions are present and neither is slighted in my work.
To be truly entertaining, one has to appeal to a mass audience’s common humanity, and that means to include, as opposed to exclude. To interest viewers and listeners (and readers!) by a considered appeal to intelligence. I know, I know, if you do it badly, you deserve to be made fun of (me included). But if you do it well, only the elite get mad and disrespect you. Because by furthering the notion that art – ALL art – should disclose, not secrets to the few, but treasures to the many, might get you named a “hack,” but it has been my calling card for some 250 performances per year.
I can live with that. To be frank, I’ve graced more stages and I’ve done more live performances than Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Jeff Dunham and whoever your favorite musician or entertainer is. What some people call “hack” I call a career.
Come watch me work! I’m in Elkhorn, Nebraska on January 23.