The Problem With Desirable Jobs

Posted on 24 February 2014

I have a brother who works in aeronautical engineering. He’s crazy about planes and loves his work. The people who work with him are also passionate about their jobs. They are seen as having plum positions, because more people are graduating in the field of engineering than there are available positions. As such the company employing him feels little pressure to ensure their engineers are paid at a level commensurate with other engineering jobs. It’s a difficult decision when these engineers finally strike, none of them wants to lose their jobs.

For many years I taught storytelling for computer game design. A number of the game companies in this country were aware that a position with them was considered a dream job. So, they underpaid and overworked their employees until they burnt them out. They were regularly having to replace developers. I tried to encourage the young people in my classes to find work elsewhere or at least skill up to start their own companies.

The comedy industry is a way to get media attention and fame. As such it also suffers from “desirable job syndrome”. Any number of people who are crucial to your success can and do use their positions as a way to bully you. Venue owners, festival organisers, publicity companies, media producers, journalists, agents, etc are all in positions where they can threaten and abuse you. When a performer gets famous enough, sometimes they turn around and do the bullying as well.

When the whole Jimmy Savile sex scandal burst into the media people kept asking, why had no one said anything sooner? The answer is easy: he had all the power. He had the money, the media, and the force of popularity on his side. Why would anyone want to risk being further hurt by this man by exposing their pain to the public when confronting him?

Within comedy our desire for success can be such that we allow all kinds of people to walk on us. And when a few comedians have had enough, if the younger comedians undercut an effort to stop abuse, they just ensure they are going to have to travel through hell as well. Don’t go thinking that toadying to a few significant figures will help you. You just lose people’s respect and actually put a ceiling on your career.

Fear is the enemy of attaining just and respectful behaviour. Willingness to cooperate with one another in gaining fair treatment is crucial. It is true to say that sometimes you just have to take it when someone is dishing up sewage soup. Carefully pick your fights. Sometimes the time is right to lay it on the line. Sometimes you need to say, there are abuses here that need addressing because they are harming me and they are harming a good many others. If this is the case, talk to people and see if you can get any support. I can’t guarantee any wins, but you are more likely to see a better world.

One of these day we really need to form an Australian comedy guild.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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