Thursday, June 12, 2014

Acting for Beginners

Most actors have a second job. This has been common practice since the days of Shakespeare, when your average actor was so cash-starved, he had to take a backup job as a codpiece. Still, I think we can agree acting is the best job. You get to wear wacky-ass outfits and you never have to do anything hard. For proof, consult the following chart, which does not lie:
                                                                  Other Professions                        Acting
WACKY-ASS OUTFITS?                                     No                                       Yes

EVER HAVE TO DO                                          Yes                                       No

(Source: Scientific American)

If you don't believe me, you might do worse than consider my in-depth analysis of Other Professions vs. Acting, as follows:

A complete list of the things people in other professions have to worry about: Advancing science, administering justice, furthering education, eradicating disease, whether a patient will die, whether a circuit is properly wired, whether a generator will power a neighborhood, whether a little boy named Timmy will get out of a well, the plight of the persecuted, ice dancing

A complete list of the things actors have to worry about: False eyelashes; thighs.

I am of course being reductive here. Some actors - these are the really intellectual ones - also worry about whether or not they were "on" last night. I recently heard the following conversation between two actors, which I repeat unretouched:

ACTOR 1: Last night, I felt like I was "on."
ACTOR 2: Awesome.
ACTOR 1: But I'm not sure I was "on."
ACTOR 2: Yeah?
ACTOR 1: Yeah. It's like, was I "on?" Or was I, like, not "on"? And like... I don't think I was, like, "on." You know?
ACTOR 2: Yeah.
ACTOR 1: It's like... I coulda been "on," though.
ACTOR 2: Right.
ACTOR 1: I mean, I felt like I was "on."
(Loop conversation 4,569 times.)

Granted, this sort of thing is not an issue for most performers, who are "on" at all times including in deep sleep, during which they can and will break into a rousing round of "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" if asked. I should note here that I'm referring to your up-and-coming actor, rather than your established one. The up-and-comer can never afford to be "off," lest a casting director come within range, which will be clear by scent. This is why most actors in the early stages of their careers never even go to the bathroom. Their bladders look like advanced-stage Marlon Brando.

Yes, our lives are not without hardship; to wit, we occasionally must also update our resumes. This is a harrowing task, especially if you haven't had work in awhile. Just think how much easier this would be if you were the employee of a regular corporation:

Employee of Regular Corporation
Position: Associate Codpiece

- Stapling (in many dialects)
- Once thought saw narwhal off port bow of conference table; turned out to be chair

Whereas we actors without work must instead bloat our "special skills" list:

Represented by Codpiece Mgmt., Inc.

- Organ donor
- Can pick things up with toes

Eagle-eyed readers will notice the weasel wording. The actor in question doesn't say he can pick things up with his own toes. It could be anybody's toes. I told you we never do anything hard.

Listing one's special skills can induce great cosmic ass-pain in a certain subset of actors such as myself who do not even have any regular skills, let alone special ones. The older I get, the greater my discomfort over having no actual skills. This is a very precarious state of affairs indeed. Oh, sure, things are fine right now. But I'm concerned for the days ahead, when I start to look less like Amélie Poulain and more like Grampa Simpson. What then?

Some of you will think I'm exaggerating about my total lack of skills. Others among you - those who have seen me attempt to open a door unfamiliar to me - will know better. So that you grasp the severity of my situation, here are some other examples of skill deficiency I live with on a daily basis:

- I can't properly spread peanut butter on bread. I don't know why this is. Other people get a nice even coating of spread across the slice, and I'm not sure they're even trying. Whereas I can only manage a sad and unmalleable blob in the middle. This one really makes me worry about the future, because you know how they say choosy moms choose Jif? Well, clearly I will never be a mom of any kind, because even if I had the intuition to choose Jif (which I don't, because the Target brand is cheaper and "Skippy" is funnier), I wouldn't know how to apply it to bread, and my children would grow up emotionally disturbed, eating sad sandwiches, and eventually become drug dealers.

- Nothing in my house is homey. Sure, everything in my house is nice, but that's different. That's because I have a knack for buying things. What I don't know how to do is arrange them tastefully. Any semblance of taste in my apartment is the influence of my landlady, who left pleasing objects to give me the illusion of having aesthetic judgment. Whereas left to my own devices I would not know how to position a salt shaker.*

- Nor does anything in my house smell good. I mean, it doesn't smell BAD, either. But it also doesn't have that nice smell I associate with the homes of fully operational humans. I'll spend the night at a friend's, take a sniff of the comforter and marvel, "Ooo! Fluffy comforter smells like flowers!" Whereas I'll sniff my own comforter and marvel, "Ooo! Fluffy comforter just smells like comforter."

- I cannot operate an unfamiliar coffee maker. This point was driven home to me long ago at a dull temp job I took while at college. The boss gave me very specific instructions on how to use the coffee maker, but predictably I failed, and the coffee maker spewed forth coffee onto all nearby surfaces, with expensive ones getting priority. I'm not sure whether this was true incompetence on my part or just the fact that I can't keep my mind on things.

- I can't keep my mind on things. In fact, I

So, to what fatal flaw in my being can all these shortcomings be due? Well, I can't answer that, but I strongly suspect an adrenal deficiency, just because it is the first thing I thought of, offhand. I should look into that further, but frankly, I can't keep my mind on it.

Meanwhile, if you have any skills I can borrow, feel free to drop them by my house at your earliest convenience. I'll give you a coffee for your trouble, but you'll have to operate the maker yourself.

And in a pinch, if called upon, I can do a mean rendition of "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" in my sleep.

* Martha Stewart advises that the correct position is upright.**
** I'm not sure if she was talking about salt shakers or what, though.