I was 21 years old when I became a professional entertainer.
Today, I am closing rapidly on 57, which means I’ve spent the last 36 years of my life trying to earn a living by making people laugh.
Wow, 36 years! I had hair! And a 1974 light blue Ford Pinto Stationwagon!
I guess the stress of the career made it fall out. That will be my story anyway.
When I went pro, I saved enough money to pay all my bills for six months. I guess I did okay because I never looked back.
But times have changed.
In 1984, I ran an ad in the local classifieds offering birthday party shows. That little ad kept me pretty busy.
I’d hit the library to search for mailing addresses for malls and schools.
The internet wasn’t an option back then. My computer was a Timex Sinclair. I thought I’d hit the bigtime when I upgraded to a Commodore 64.
Those shopping mall and school addresses got mailings and the shows they generated paid more. Next I added in cruise lines, entertainment agencies and fairs/festivals.
It was a lot of work. And I thought I had “made it” several times before life slapped me with reality.
Fast forward to today. Now everyone connects online. Information is readily available. Entertainment is everywhere you look.
It has gotten much harder to get shows because everyone is busy and inundated with things they aren’t interested in.
How many emails do you delete without reading them? How much “junk mail” do you throw away without opening? How many calls do you ignore because it may be a sales call?
That made marketers become smarter. Now advertising follows you from place to place, website, phone, online, and snail mail. They know repeated visibility generates sales.
But entertainers are artists and tend to study their art. So most of the older generation was left behind.
Smart acts took courses and learned new techniques. They stayed current with marketing and sales.
Today’s audiences and clients have changed too. They have access to more outlets for entertainment, so they are much smarter consumers.
Gone is the day when a ventriloquist could move their lips freely. Now you get compared to the flawless technique of Terry Fator and Darci Lynn.
What was funny yesterday is no longer funny today. That forces those who want to move forward to change and update their acts.
How many specials has Jeff Dunham had? He is an excellent example of staying fresh.
If anything, showbusiness has gotten harder in the last five years. And it will continue this trajectory.
In any other business, 36 years would likely mean some seniority, respect and a hefty paycheck with retirement.
In show business, it means you may be aging out of certain markets as people look for the next big thing.
Being a professional ventriloquist is tough. Very tough.
But I wouldn’t change my decision for the world.