by Shaun Broyls
Sorry for the tone of this post but this bit of news has been a steel-toed, syphilis-laden boot up my ass all day. Initially, I struggled with whether to title this article, "Fuck you, Hollywood", because for some reason, my naive mind foolishly assumed that 1)anyone would be reading this blogpost, and 2)someone of massive importance in Hollywood would read this article and be so upset with its title that he or she would take the time to pull a Joseph McCarthy, label me a threat to the entertainment industry and have me blacklisted forever. Only a few problems with that theory. Who would I have been blacklisted from? The agents that never call me back? The publishers who never even bother giving me a "No, thanks"? The networks who refuse to take anything from anyone who isn't connected with one of the aforementioned bigwigs? In the end, the phrase "Fuck you, Hollywood" is apt and, considering the topic of this post, may do more good than harm anyway.
This post is only partially about me and the many others like me who have continued to plod away, working hard at our crafts, taking classes, creating content, writing, whatever...only to see something like the picture above happen. Just so you have some sort of frame of reference to the frustration I'm feeling at this point, the picture above is of rookie "News Anchor" AJ Clemente on Live!
With Kelly and Michael. This picture was taken on the same day he also made an appearance on David Letterman, and also did an interview with US Weekly. Now the reason I put "News Anchor" in quotes is because AJ Clemente, on his first day anchoring the news in North Dakota, said "fucking shit" on air, obviously not knowing he was on. He was fired the next day. And now, less than five days later, he's an instant celebrity, and has accepted a job with Kelly and Michael covering a movie premiere. I guess if I had said "fucking shit" on air, I would have gotten that co-hosting gig with Kelly a few years back
There's so much wrong with this I don't know where to start. Never mind it's a Pierce Brosnan movie, at a premiere that even Pierce Brosnan probably doesn't want to be at. The fact is, AJ Clemente is going to get more National Television screen time in five minutes than many of us will ever get in our lives. And all for saying "fucking shit" on air. All for fucking up a job that he never should have gotten in the first place. I actually was a News Anchor
for years, a pretty popular one as well. I graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. The FIRST thing you learn is that the mic is always hot. It's basic journalism 101. Yet he blames his producers for turning on the mic. Well, try not saying "fucking shit" when you're on set at all, asshole. When I was let go in the last year of my Anchor contract(right before Christmas) for what the News Director literally said was because I was "too funny", they trusted me enough to leave me on-air through the next two months. In the face of that injustice, I could have easily gone off on-air, but in doing so would have blown any chance of getting another anchor job, and my family would have suffered. However, seeing as I'm not interested in anchoring anymore, maybe I did MORE of a disservice to my family by NOT telling the station on Live TV to go fuck itself.
This stings. It stings because for the last few years I've been watching as the Entertainment Industry grabs a hold of the first thing that goes viral and latches onto it like a Vegas working girl on a tourist. The problem is that in the past, these things were simply sideshows, 15-minutes of fleeting fame that came and went like, well, a tourist on a Vegas working girl. (Whatever, I can use the same metaphor twice. It works). Now, however, these sideshows are actually becoming SHOWS. People who made the news by doing embarrassing, shameful, even illegal things, are actually being REWARDED for their screw-ups and given shows, money, fame, all for having no discernable talent of any kind (SEE: Kim Kardashian).
The problem with this is that it's people like myself (and many others like me) who are left out in the cold. And before you give me grief about "Well, you chose to be an actor/comedian, so you should know how it works", I'm going to stop you right there and ask would you tell an underworked architect, educator or plumber the same thing? No, you wouldn't. They went into the field which offered the most promise for their abilities and passions, as did I and thousands of others like me. However, the entertainment industry is different. Unlike all of those other fields, which usually adhere to the adage that "hard work pays off in the end", the entertainment industry bucks that trend with stories like AJ Clemente's. The biggest Catch-22 on the planet is in Hollywood, and it's well-known and well-despised by actors and comedians alike: You have to have an agent to get in front of the people who matter, but to get an agent, you need a referral from, you guessed it, the people who matter. Getting one without the other is damn near impossible and forces thousands of people out of the industry every year just as a new crop of hopefuls, some talented, most not, get off the bus to try their hand at achieving fame in the City of Angels.
Just so you don't think I'm crying "unfair! unfair!" for no reason, I most definitely HAVE tried the standard way of "getting in", sending out hundreds of envelopes with headshots to agents, making phone calls, emails, working small parts for free, building a resume, asking friends for referrals, everything. 99.9% of the time, I don't even get the courtesy of a response. So because of this, I've gone the non-traditional route probably more than anyone in this city. Besides sneaking into agencies to leave scripts, selling myself as a writer on eBay, hiring a publicist, running my own stand-up comedy club and financing my subsequent comedy tour, sitcom pilot and self-published humor book among many other things, I've produced content
all across the board- videos, podcasts, scripts, blogs, pilots, all for free, all to continue working towards my goals. I even made The Onion's AV Club
this past month with my latest video, a tongue-in-cheek but real petition to all Television Networks to at least look at my work and give me a chance at a show. Watch it and you'll probably like it. I've freelanced as a writer, columnist and even work with a non-profit agency/City of Chicago to write grant proposals, along with producing/writing/shooting HIV/AIDS Awareness and Prevention videos for a Youtube franchise I started called "Lights, Camera, Survive!
"- videos I'm very proud of and which I just learned have been recognized Nationally.
This is why AJ Clemente's good fortune has struck such a chord with me. I'm tired. I'm exhausted. I'm sick of trying everything under the sun to get someone to look at my extensive body of work with no success, while people who say "fucking shit" on-air get paying gigs and more publicity than I could dream of.
I remember when I was in AJ Clemente's position. Just graduated from college, Broadcast Journalism degree, internships...I was young, eager and ready to take on the world. Sent out about a million resumes, got no responses. Not even an interview. So I gave up. It's the only time in my life I actually gave up on something. I decided I'd go back to school and be a teacher. I took the GRE's, was accepted into grad school, rented an apartment, and was resigned to my fate of being in a career I wasn't even close to being passionate about. That's when I got a call from a small news station in Wausau, Wisconsin. You see, little did I know, my mother was still sending out my resume, (something for which I can NEVER repay her) even as I sat in my apartment ready to embark on another couple years of school. I accepted the job, broke my lease and moved to Wisconsin just a few days before I was due to start grad school. I eventually became an award-winning journalist, voted "Best Personality in Kansas City
" and made some good money, all after "giving up
Sadly, and this is difficult to admit, I find myself in that frame of mind again. And I've invested A WHOLE lot more in this industry than just a summer of sending out resumes. I've put years and sweat and heart and tears into making this work. I've gotten praised for my scripts, performances and work ethic from network executives, agents, producers, comedy club owners, directors...("praised" = jerked off repeatedly without any climax). This isn't just a pipe dream like one of those sad saps on American Idol who thinks they're the next Mariah Carey but sing like Drew Carey. I may not be good at changing a tire, cooking a meatloaf or growing hair, but I'm good at this. No matter who we are, we ALL have at least one good thing we excel at. Mine happens to be acting and writing comedy, whether on the stage or on the screen. It's what I'm best at and what I feel like I was put here to do. However, AJ Clemente just may be my nail in the coffin. The promise I used to feel when I see talented, hard working performers like Jim Gaffigan, Kevin Hart, Amy Schumer, Louis CK, Patton Oswalt, Key & Peele, Kelly Oxford, etc. get their own shows, movies or book deals has been cancelled out by the disgust I feel when watching the likes of the Clementes, Snookies, Kardashians and one-hit Twitter wonders like Shit My Dad Says reach the peak of the mountain through the "train wreck" and "it's hot right now so go with it" requirements that networks and the industry in general covet. Let's be clear: I'm NOT a hater. I just want to see someone get what they deserve, and deserve what they get. Call me crazy that I feel good to see people succeed who have worked hard to get there. I've contributed to people's Kickstarter projects, worked for free to help friends out in their projects...I WANT those who deserve it to succeed. Whether that's me or someone else who deserves it, it doesn't matter. As long as they DESERVE it.
I had a producer recently meet with me after seeing all of my work and ask, "How are you not on TV right now?" If I knew that I wouldn't be writing this blog. Maybe me doing all of this work, helping others, offering to help friends in their endeavors without wanting anything in return...maybe it's all been for naught. If there is such a thing as Karma, I would ask it to please kiss my ashy black ass.
By the way, before you get all Sally Struthers on me, I realize there are more important things in the world than the problems of one or even a thousand under-employed actors. But for those of you who want to comment that I need to shut up because kids are starving in Africa, to that I say that kids starving in Africa doesn't make the problems of individuals any less important. While I don't complain much, when I do complain, I shouldn't have to temper my frustrations by recognizing and keeping in perspective the problems of the entire world. When it comes to our lives, we all have the right to be frustrated, angry, even jealous, and right now, I'm all of the above. Writing is a way for me to feel better about the deck of cards the size of Kanye West's porn budget that continues to be stacked against me. I have a wife...kids, I want them to live well. I want to support them by doing what I'm good at. All I want is an opportunity, and I shouldn't have to go on air and say "fucking shit" to get it.