Laugh Track Suit

Posted on 23 January 2015 | No responses

I didn’t say “Laugh! Track suit!”, I said “laugh track suit”. This is genius! Awesome way to be a geek AND a comedian.

The Monkeys in The Fruit Tree

Posted on 22 January 2015 | No responses

Once upon a time a tribe of monkeys lived in a fruit tree. The fruit tree was large, and since the weather had been clement for many years, it bore much fruit. So much fruit dangled from each long woody branch that the entire tribe had all they needed and more to feed themselves.

Most of the monkeys would eat until sated and leave the rest of the fruit to whatever other birds, animals, and insects had need of it. A few were greedy and hoarded more than they could possibly consume. However, since the tree was so incredibly fecund and the monkeys were only few, it didn’t really matter. The monkeys lived in peace with one another.

Then one year a giant storm blew through the the little monkeys’s forest. The branches of their tree swayed and whipped around until most of the fruit was shaken to the ground. At first they still had enough, since the fruit on the ground continued to be edible…yet, only enough if they agreed to share. The greedy monkeys could no longer take more than necessary.

At first the greedy monkeys screamed and wailed at having limits put onto their gathering. “This is unfair,” they cried, “We have always taken this much.” Or grunts and hoots to that effect. Some came to realise that too much for them meant suffering for the other monkeys. Some found they could not live without the grooming and companionship of the other monkeys, keeping food from them meant loneliness and suffering for the greedy as well. Some would not cooperate and had to be chased from the tribe.

As fruit on the ground rotted and the fruiting season was nearly done, the monkeys had to live with less and less. One day one cunning monkey had the good fortune of coming upon a hole beneath a bush where many good fruit had rolled and were as yet undiscovered. A couple of the cunning monkey’s siblings wandered over to see what the monkey had found. They were very hungry.

“You have found fruit! Can we have some?” ooked the furry creatures.

The cunning monkey thought about it and asked, “What will you do for me if I give you the fruit?”

“We will give you extra grooming!” said one monkey.

“I will give you my favourite shiny pebble,” said another monkey.

The cunning monkey didn’t care whether it had one piece of fruit or a hundred pieces of fruit. Just so long as it had enough to fill its belly. Nevertheless, it liked the idea of being able to tell the other monkeys what to do. So the cunning monkey agreed to the trades, but only gave each of the siblings one fruit each and kept the rest in order to make other such trades.

The cunning monkey knew that soon the nut bushes that fed the monkeys when the fruit tree became dormant would have ripe nuts. When that happened the cunning monkey could no longer tell the other monkeys what to do. The cunning monkey liked its position of power too much to let that happen.

The cunning monkey found the strongest monkeys in the tribe and gave those monkeys extra fruit to do as they were told. The cunning monkey had the strong monkeys build fences around the nut bushes. When the nuts on the bushes were ready for eating, the cunning monkey gave the strong monkeys first pick. When the rest of the tribe came to the bushes eager to once again know what it is like to be satisfied, they were surprised to find they could not get to their bushes: the bushes they had all planted in previous years.

The strong monkeys were at first happy to keep away the rest of the tribe. They were receiving all they needed and more by following the cunning monkey. When the other monkeys found they no longer had the strength to take back their bushes, in desperation they were willing to do anything, anything at all, that the cunning monkey could possibly want.

The cunning monkey at first had the self control to give the other monkeys enough to keep them coming back for the nuts it now owned. The monkey also came to realise that the other monkeys no longer liked it. The monkey found that whenever the others had a chance they would steal a nut or throw a pebble at its head when its back was turned.

The cunning monkey moved to a nest in a high tree and set some of the strong monkeys around the bottom to guard the nest. Others of the strong monkeys brought the cunning monkey everything it needed, so that it never had reason to leave the tree.

As the cunning monkey started living further and further away from the other monkeys, it forgot what their lives were like and how the tribe functioned. It decided to keep more of the nuts, believing that the new level of desperation the monkeys would feel would convince them to stop throwing pebbles.

The little monkeys did become more desperate, but also realised that appealling to the cunning monkey was no longer going to work. They had to look past their fears and their desperation. They had to stop doing what the cunning monkey said. They had to find food they could once more share.

The monkeys put together what little they had and left their beloved fruit tree to find another equally fecund tree. The strong monkeys, missing their mothers, their fathers, their sisters, brothers, and children, soon decided it was no fun hanging out with the cunning monkey and left to find their families.

In the end the cunning monkey was all alone.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

(originally published 2014 January 14)

The Arts and the Internet

Posted on 15 January 2015 | No responses

2006-04-15-Brisbane-Conjure-panel-Groucho+Cory-Doctorow+Shane-Jiraiya-Cummings

This is a lengthy video of Cory Doctorow giving a lecture at CopyCamp 2014. I have been on panels (dressed as Groucho Marx) with Cory. He is the former European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I am a lifetime member of Electronic Frontiers Australia.

The content of this video is important to artists, all types of artists. You will have to put your thinking caps on, but it includes information crucial to your future. It covers issues to do with your ability to make a living and your ability to live in a free society. I strongly suggest taking the time to consider what Cory has to say.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

I Will Grieve. I Will Laugh. But I Am Not Charlie.

Posted on 14 January 2015 | No responses

I was about to write this article. I am deeply concerned about the rise of world hatred, whether it is about ethnicity, age, religion, or ideology, etc. People are scared and scared people make poor choices. Scared people are easily herded for a time, until the whole thing explodes. We should not be feeding the hatred. We need to be finding ways to cross divides. The below article says pretty much what I had in my head when I was taking a shower this morning. It’s also Creative Commons, so I thought I would publish the whole thing.

by Josh Healey from Common Dreams

I am a satirical writer. On my good days, I find comedy in the contradictions of daily life, using humor to illuminate larger points about race, class, and the undeniable musical genius of Justin Bieber.

So when I heard about last week’s tragic murders at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, my first reaction was: Oh God, don’t let this be real.

Don’t let this disgusting, heartbreaking thing be real. And please don’t let this inevitable tragic backlash to Charlie Hebdo be real either.

Which led to my second reaction: Wait. Who the hell is Charlie Hebdo?

As I saw many of my Facebook friends (and even more of my Facebook enemies) taking up the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, I wondered, Do we really know who we’re claiming solidarity with? Is the enemy of my enemy necessarily my friend? Or is this a situation not of righteous heroes and evil enemies, but bad jokes and even worse policies?

Murder is murder. That line is clear. The attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris were murder. We should all grieve the twelve people whose lives were stolen, as well as the four people who were taken hostage and killed at the kosher market. We should also stand against the Islamophobic reaction from Western governments and media, from old douchebags like Rupert Murdoch to young douchebags like Don Lemon.

The definition of murder is clear (to everyone outside of NYPD internal affairs, that is), but other terms are more malleable to political calculations. According to mainstream media, the mass killers in France are “Islamic terrorists,” while the American generals who order drone strikes on children in Pakistan are “heroes of war.” Printing anti-Muslim cartoons is “freedom of speech,” while Holocaust jokes are “unacceptable” to a civilized society.

To which I say, as a Jew: it just depends on the Holocaust joke.

And that gets to the heart of what makes Charlie Hebdo such a problematic hero. Since the attacks, the American media has taken to calling the French publication a “satirical” magazine. To Americans, satire is something that is fun and harmless that you watch at night on Comedy Central. Here’s the thing, though: Charlie Hebdo isn’t the French version of Jon Stewart. It is closer to the bastard lovechild of Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh, with all of their nastiness and even worse jokes.

In a country (France) and an era (post-9/11) where Muslims face rampant discrimination and often violent exclusion, Charlie Hebdo’s cheap shots at Islam added fuel to the racist fire. I understand the desire to make fun of organized religion in all its absurdities, but it’s possible to do that without graphic cartoons of Muhammad being sodomized. That’s not brilliant satire, that’s pornographic hate speech. And I don’t know about you, but I prefer my porn without violent hatred.

Of course, the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo didn’t deserve to be killed for their drawings. Not in a million years. But that doesn’t mean that what they drew or published was worth defending in its own right. I love free speech as much as anyone, but I can separate the right of people to have free speech with my support for their actual speech. When the ACLU supported the right of neo-Nazis to march through the suburban shtetl of Skokie, IL, they didn’t go around saying #IAmHitler.

Let’s be fair: Charlie Hebdo isn’t the graphic novel version of Mein Kampf. In fact, as much as some of my progressive friends don’t want to admit it, it often leans politically more to the left than the right. The magazine ridicules fundamentalism in all forms, from the Pope to ultra-orthodox Jews. It was against the bombing of Gaza. This doesn’t mean they’re not bigots, it just means they’re liberal bigots. (Something that we never have a problem with here in America. Right, Hollywood?)

While Charlie Hebdo mercilessly mocks others, it practices its own religion, a kind of “ultra-secularism” that I sometimes believe in myself. But as we’ve seen with Bill Maher, the problem with ultra-secularism, especially the so-called colorblind version, is that it believes that all targets are equally worthy of derision. And as Saladin Ahmed pointed out, “In a brutally unequal world, satire that mocks everyone equally ends up serving the powerful.” (Note the countless presidents and dictators all rushing to march for free speech in Paris, then going home to suppress their own dissidents.)

From Lenny Bruce to Aaron McGruder, the number one rule of political comedy is to punch up. Make fun of the corporate billionaire who owns a gold course on each Hawaiian island—not the chubby guy who has to work as a caddie just to pay the rent. That doesn’t mean that certain topics are off limits. It means that while in search of that big laugh, we should expose social divisions with the goal of empathy and solidarity — not further division.

As the late great Molly Ivins said, “Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel—it’s vulgar.”

Charlie Hebdo is cruel, vulgar, and what in their eyes would be the harshest criticism possible, just not funny. And as my uncle Jerry once told me: if it’s racist and it’s not funny, then it’s just racist.

So I will grieve. I will condemn the violence. I will push against the backlash. And I will fight and write and laugh in the hope that we can create a political world, an artistic world that is both principled and nuanced. And it precisely because of these principles and nuance that at the same time that I stand against the violence and the backlash, I also make it clear:

I am not #Charlie.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Josh Healey is an award-winning writer, performer, and creative activist. He is currently the Culture Shift Director for Movement Generation, producing innovative shows, comedic videos, and creative interventions from the frontlines of the climate justice movement in the Bay Area and beyond.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Destructive Myths and New Storytelling

Posted on 6 January 2015 | No responses

Computer game design, improvisational theatre, roleplaying games, and oral storytelling have a habit of falling into well-recognised story tropes and myths. People are familiar with these sorts of stories, so the creator doesn’t have to fill in as much detail or think as much about the genuine ramifications of certain circumstances. With improvisation especially, since you have microseconds to come up with something, performers may comically drop into a trope as the most readily available tool to move their performance forward.

The problem is many of these tropes and myths need to be re-examined due to their destructive nature. “Five Destructive Myths Perpetuated by Roleplaying Games” is an excellent article on some of the more pernicious myths.

The most important thing to remember when examining these roleplaying myths is that none of them are insurmountable. They don’t mean that roleplaying is a bad medium for storytelling. Quite the opposite. Addressing these issues in your game is a great way to get players thinking, because they can actively participate. That said, not every game has to be about raising awareness or combating a flaw in our pop culture. Sometimes you just want to have a fun night without worrying about this stuff, and that’s fine. But if you plan your game to avoid these problematic myths, you’ll be taking a step towards improving both the medium and our society as a whole.

~Oren Ashkenazi, “Five Destructive Myths Perpetuated by Roleplaying Games“, Mythcreants: Science Fiction and Fantasy for Creatives.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Your Audience Thinks These Thoughts As well

Posted on 5 January 2015 | No responses

Ursula Vernon writes the most hilarious children’s books. In a moment of despair she wrote this blog entry. Don’t worry too much about the entry. This has the most amazing replies to a posting that I have ever seen. Comedians and artists take note what her audience has to say.

There’s this comment:

There’s a lot worth striving for. We have to keep plugging along, fixing what breaks, and putting it back on track when stuff goes sideways. If you feel you aren’t doing enough, change what you do but demanding that you fix all of the world’s ills singlehandedly is crazy. Even the heroes of fantasy novels have companions.

I don’t want stories that prepare me to lie down and accept attrocity or the status quo. I don’t want to settle. It’s inspiring that Tolkein created and held onto his vision of beauty and purity from the trenches of WWI through the bombings and death camps of WWII. Keep writing with a vision of what’s good- we need it.

And this one:

I think you are underestimating the importance of artists. My daughter is a hospital doctor who cares for very ill people; it’s immensely stressful and sometimes rewarding. It feels good to pull someone out from under the wheels of the proverbial ten ton truck, but it doesn’t happen very often; the main thing which keeps her on track is her passion for music. With it she is wrapped up in learning the piece she is going to sing next, or the concert she is going to attend; without it she’s lost. She reads books which interest and amuse her; she looks at paintings and sculptures which intrigue her. Without all of those things she couldn’t do what she does because it would be unbearable.

So, please continue to be a painter and a writer; scientists need people to do that so they can be scientists. On a bad day, when she had lost someone she had hoped to be able to save, your Valentine’s made my daughter laugh out loud; you took some of the burden off her shoulders so she could carry on. We are both grateful…

And if I quote much more, I’ll start crying again.

http://www.redwombatstudio.com/blog/2014/12/10/unfixable/

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

6 Comedian Resolutions

Posted on 1 January 2015 | No responses

As a comedian it’s often worthwhile to make new year resolutions in order to break them. I mean, what could be funnier? What could be funnier is resolving to do things that will improve your performance. If you are serious about your career, the following resolutions should help to increase the laughs.

1) I will look after my voice.

Your voice is your most precious tool. Comedians early in their careers may lazily rely on their microphone, thinking all they need are a venue, some fart jokes, and a good set of speakers. The reality is that even good seasoned comedians can end up in the hospital to have nodules removed from their vocal chords. Non-stop talking for an hour, six days a week, for four weeks during festival time without warm-ups can destroy a voice.

Also crucial to your career are annunciation, vocal variation, and projection. People have to understand what you are saying in order to find it funny. A droning voice puts people to sleep: you have to either create variation in tone or variation in pacing, or preferably both, to ensure you are memorable not soporific. You may not always have a microphone when performing to an audience, and even if you do, projection isn’t always about volume. It’s also about engaging all of your audience whether they are in the front or back row. If you are only playing to the front row, become a bartender and tell your jokes there. Necessary to good annunciation, vocal variation, and projection is breath control. Increase your lung capacity and learn how to take and use long deep breaths.

You can find resources online to help with this, if you are self-motivated. Or you can find yourself a good vocal coach.

2) I will make friends with my audience.

I know far too many starting comedians who see the audience as their enemy. They want the fame, they don’t want to have to engage people. That’s a failed career right there.

As a comedian you have to put yourself forward. You have to be willing to expose yourself. You have to trust in the basic goodwill of your audience. You have to actively pursue a friendly relationship with the people within your audience. How do you do that? How do you make friends?

Introduce yourself to your audience. I would say, do away with the hidden voice introduction. Come out and state your name clearly and with pride. Spend some time finding out who your audience is. Ask them questions, talk with them: just make sure you listen and respond directly to their answers. Comment on things you like about them. Be genuinely concerned about their welfare. Show them that you are willing and happy to do your best for them.

At a storytelling gig I noticed some people who looked like hipsters in the audience. I said, “Are you guys hipsters?” At first they looked a little nervous. “Oh I do hope so. You guys are my best audience. I just worry that means I’m not cool yet.” And they were then on my side. Sadly, a couple of comedians who followed me started in on the hipster put down jokes. Who had some lovely bearded gentlemen chatting with them afterwards? You don’t have to be in your twenties to still be the belle of the ball. Just be nice.

3) I will make friends with other comedians.

Comedians come from the most diverse backgrounds of any art I know. Most have no training other than standing in front of a mic until they got it right. As such they often miss opportunities that are available to people who sat in classes. I would say more than half the value of participating in some sort of course is the alliances you form with the other people learning with you. Okay, so you didn’t take a class. You can still take the time to get to know and make friends with the other comedians at open mic nights, at a workshop group, or have a few drinks with performers at a festival.

It’s much easier to get your foot in the door of professional comedy if you share costs and work with another comedian to put a show on some place like the Melbourne Comedy Festival, maybe even the Edinburgh Fringe. Opportunities that don’t suit your friends may get passed your direction. If the opportunity to write for Giggle and Hoot were passed to someone like Dilruk Jayasinha, he might get excited by the offer but not feel it’s really his style and then pass it on to me (if this does happen Dil, I’m right here). Also, comedy is a hard job. It’s good having people who can give you a little advice and commiserate with you when things aren’t going too well.

4) I will watch my expletive to content ratio.

Any filler is bad in any performance. In Australia “um’s” and “ah’s” are often replaced with four-letter words. I will say to young comedians that language used in a mean-spirited fashion will switch off many potential audience members. It’s possible to find people who enjoy that sort of thing, but you will be limiting yourself. But also consider that people paid money to hear you perform. If for an hour show you spent twenty minutes of it swearing, your audience only received thirty to forty minutes of jokes. They may feel they’ve been ripped off by 30%.

If you use blue language, use it sparingly. Then it will act as an intensifier for what you are saying, rather than as distracting noise. If you are concerned about censorship, then please support the George Carlin Freedom of Comic Speech Day on 12 May. I studied Anglo Saxon as part of my English degree at university. We can say “excrement” in “polite” (read upper class) society because it is a Latin word representative of the language used by the conquering Normans in Britain. We can’t say “shit” because it represents the language of a conquered people and the lower classes. I consider our society not caring for the poor, the young, the disabled, and the elderly much more profane than someone pronouncing a few consonants and a vowel.

5) Practise, practise, practise.

This one should be obvious. Go out there and find places where you can trial your material, trial your performance, and learn how to get the laughs. You don’t have to go by usual routes to get this practise. Comedy open mic is one way. You can also join a group like Toastmasters. You can sometimes convince music open mics to let you sneak in. For one year I went around to loads of slam poetry events. Not only did I perform humorous poems, usually people have explanatory introductions to their works and I practised on stage chatter.

I would suggest making out a calendar and filling it up in advance with venues where you have booked yourself to perform, cutting that time out from doing anything else.

6) I will donate some of my time to good causes.

Artists of any sort including comedy are going to have to do a lot free performing before seeing money happen. If you are going to be giving away your time, why not do it for a good cause? Not only are you helping to make the world a better place, you get to practise your performance and build up an audience. To those comedians who have made it, it’s important to give back to the community who have given to you. As I mentioned in a previous article, don’t let yourself be exploited, but some groups are sincere and will be genuinely grateful for your help.

Happy New Year everyone! May your days be happy or at least funny.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

All Are Worthy

Posted on 23 December 2014 | No responses

My parents visited me not long after I moved back into my Melbourne house. For two and a half years I lived in a rented house in Adelaide hoping I could find better opportunities as a larger fish in a smaller pond. The Melbourne house was rented out during this time. My real estate agent assured me things were fine with the property, but never allowed me to personally inspect whenever I was in town. Upon return I found all sorts of serious damage to the place, costing close to a thousand dollars in repairs.

My mother refused to believe that middle class people would behave in this manner. One thing the renters did that wasn’t destructive, but I wish they hadn’t, was build a fernery on the side of the house. They put up an awning, installed a misting system, and planted a bunch of non-native ferns. My mother started creating this story whereby our ex-renters were growing cannabis in the fernery, and if they were middle class, they had earned it illegitimately.

Who Is Good?

Our culture runs a lot of narratives about who are good people (usually white middle class folk) and who are bad people (usually poor people of a different ethnicity). When a white middle class person commits a crime, it is seen as a-typical. Sometimes it elicits shock, because “our sort don’t do that kind of thing.” People will try to crawl out of their cognitive dissonance by adding to the story, inserting details meant to re-inforce their world view.

With the turmoil brought on by events in Ferguson, we are seeing quite clearly that this isn’t solely about an African/European divide. This is about a rich/poor divide. People are surprised President Barack Obama isn’t doing more. But remember, Obama is rich. The mindset that has infected the US and many other countries is that those with money are good and deserve their wealth, and those without money are bad and deserve their poor luck (you have a lot to answer for John Calvin).

To further entrench people in their poverty is the rags to riches “land of opportunity” myths. If you work hard enough, smart enough, and have a positive outlook, you too will achieve wealth. This puts the destitute in a number of diffcult positions. First, they become subject to victim blaming: we don’t have to care about you, because you are at fault for your situation. Second, any number of aspirational people make authors of “how to get rich quick” books wealthy by swallowing the story. They judge and separate themselves from their compatriots, voting for greater and greater benefits to the rich as they count their imaginary dollars. They damage their own ability to overcome their situation while damaging other’s as well.

Art: Luxury—Necessity?

The system is seriously messed up. If you have the bad luck to care about creativity and care about the state of humanity and the planet, you have a hard road in front of you. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it, but you should probably steel yourself for the journey. Western culture has skewed ideas of who should be given status and remuneration and who shouldn’t. It’s very likely you aren’t going to be someone accorded sufficient respect to earn a living.

The arts are seen as a luxury item that only the rich should afford and the poor should do without. Nevertheless, we are surrounded by storytelling, music, and visual aesthetics non-stop every day. Even the chair you are sitting upon has a consciously selected shape and colour.

The arts don’t seem to many directly relevant to the necessities of life such as food, clothing, and housing. Nevertheless, going to a gym may not seem directly relevant, but it serves to maintain physical health. The arts are similarly crucial to mental and emotional health. Mental well-being is deeply undervalued, because it’s portrayed as something you should be able to just manipulate. As long as your body isn’t being killed, you’re fine. I spend time with refugees at a detention centre. Artistic activities have helped some from committing suicide. We are not meat robots.

Arts are crucial to our social well being. The arts reveals us to ourselves. If only the stories and the vision of the rich are portrayed, we neither understand or achieve emotional connection with people from other walks of life. This is what made Charles Dickens’s works revolutionary in the mid 1800s and John Steinbeck’s works in the 1940s.

Topsy-Turvy Values

Equally treated with low esteem are our teachers, lecturers, and mentors who are training the next generation of workers and citizens. Treated with even less respect are mothers. Giving birth to, feeding, and caring for children…you would think should be the most highly valued of occupations. You would not have life without these people, but they largely go unpaid, and more frequently face poverty in order to raise little ones. Why are we allowing such topsy-turvy values?

If you are a poor starving artist, you have done nothing wrong. There is nothing wrong with you as a human being. You have every right to create. You have every right to expect support for creating. You should not be punished for choosing a field of endeavour you enjoy. Rather the divide between rich and poor needs to be reduced and everyone should have greater access to meaningful employment.

After simply having wealth, our culture’s highest value is an ability to sell. When one person sells another, that is known as slavery. When you are forced to “sell yourself” in order to get by—that’s still slavery. You’ve just eliminated the middle man. No one should have to do that: not women to men, people to employers, and not artists to those in power.

Your Right to Create Your Culture

People would miss art if it were removed from their lives. They would miss even more the artists who create it and help us all to be more humane. We need to re-assert everyone’s right to build a culture and express a viewpoint. We need to knock down the barriers between ethnicities and social classes. We need people seeing one another with all honesty and recognising that bright spark of consciousness we all share. You cannot dehumanise another without dehumanising yourself. However with recognition and cooperation, we can become greater than we are.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Donating Services to Charity

Posted on 17 December 2014 | No responses

A number of years ago I was on an organising committee for an industry conference. Every year this conference has a charity event on the last night. I was asked if I could get some of my comedian friends on board. Many of the people in this industry are quite well-off. I knew that this event had in the past collected thousands of dollars for their charity. So, I asked what the budget was for entertainment.

They said they expected the performers to work for free, it was for charity after all. I asked them if they were paying for the food preparation. They said, yes. I asked them if they were paying for the servers. They said, yes. I asked them if they were paying for cleaners, they said yes. How much money do you think these workers make for their time? Do you expect them to work for free because this is a charity? How much do you think the performers make in a year? Often they make less than these other workers, and yet you are asking them to work for free.

I was told these performers should then be grateful for the opportunity to be seen by the members of this conference. It would boost their career. I said I own my business, I know what it is like starting out. You don’t boost a person’s career by not paying them. You are taking away from what precious time they have to support themselves and practice their art. If you can afford to pay, you pay. Otherwise, this is exploitation.

But it’s for charity, they repeated. I said, that makes your expectation no less exploitative. They don’t owe it to you to perform. You are not a registered charity, you just happen to have a charity dinner. You are not doing them any favours, but if they agree, they are doing you a tremendous favour and it needs to be respected.

I was then told, they must not be very talented if they can’t afford to give their time. My response: How many great artists have died in poverty? How many of them needlessly died in poverty? The charity dinner went forward without any performers.

The vast majority of the public has no idea what it is like to work as an artist of any stripe. Most of them don’t want to know. And most artists won’t say, because if they do, they know they will be judged due to false expectations. Hollywood beefs up the rags to riches story because people like to imagine they could become a wealthy mega-star. Just work hard and it’s yours, goes the myth. Such a tiny hand full of people manage this and their contributions will be largely forgotten compared to more significant artists. Then of course there’s the mean-spirited and punitive expectation, you enjoy your work so you should accept poor living and working standards.

Right now the arts are in crisis. A report in Britain revealed that they have lost a whole class of professional writers and are concerned about what this bodes for the future. Because hardly anyone is getting paid, everyone is being judged as a hobbyist regardless of skill and talent. This needs to change. Arts are not an optional extra. They are a significant part of individual and social well-being. They are about creating social cohesion, greater understanding of the human state, and a better future.

Everyone needs to be involved in making the world a better place, but this isn’t going to happen when you are helping some by taking away from others. I would encourage artists to continue helping with charity, just be careful under what circumstances you are donating your skills. Charities and those running charitable soirees, if you are serious about your intent, then I expect you to hold your events with the utmost integrity and sensitivity. Think about what you are asking your artists to do and how respectful those requests really are.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Artists Need To Eat

Posted on 15 December 2014 | No responses

Art is not an optional extra when it comes to individual well-being and the well-being of a society. As such artists must have some way to make a living. As creative people they will experiment with how this is done. As people who are sensitive and deeply care, they may feel it is important to be transparent about their experiments, so other artists don’t have to recreate the wheel. This is legitimate and important.

Perhaps the stickiest problem when comparing art and business is that the definition of “success” becomes muddied when you opt for a career in music. On the one hand, you’re told you haven’t “made it” until you’re a megastar – making a living at your art isn’t enough – and, on the other hand, musicians aren’t supposed to be concerned with profits if they’re “real” artists – Didn’t you get into this job just for the love of it?

Art is a BusinessAmanda Palmer
The Guardian

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

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