I donated money tonight to a fellow comedians’ gofundme campaign, as I’ve consistently done for magicians and other artists. A lot of people need help of late. It strikes me that these campaigns are popping up with greater frequency. Health, living conditions and just plain cash. It’s all in short supply. A lot of acts later in their career really have a hard time of it. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a wealthy patron paying our way, come from money or marry into it or have real business savvy to help out. It’s troubling the mess that the arts can pull a person into. I don’t look forward to when it comes for me, and it does universally for almost every artist I know. Collectively as a community of artists, we ought to work to help acts prepare for these kinds of emergencies. An organized retirement plan sure would be useful 😉. Something needs to give.
I see more often than not that it ends ugly and that’s really a sad place for the arts in Canada.
I’ve been very fortunate, I’m one of the top comedians and magicians working in Canada and Toronto specially. As a corporate and conference entertainer, providing corporate entertainment for the last 25 years, I’ve been very lucky with my work. I’ve owned homes in Toronto and its suburbs over the last 15 years and have enjoyed a fair quality of living. I sure love the luxury cars, and a host of other completely useless material things I’ve acquired. Who can live without a Mrs. Pac Man arcade game? Really?
Until not long ago I’ve always lived own my own, and to this day have never had someone to split bills with. The opposite in fact, I’ve supported people, along with myself. Showbusiness has been very good to me. Performing on cruise ships like Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean have been a joy and a real help along the way. What I’ve noticed over the 25 years of working in this business is that more than talent or hustle, its largely luck that divides the successful from those less fortunate.
Even the successful seem keep pushing it forward a bit too long and the bottom falls out. “They should have switched careers earlier”, that’s what everyone always says. “They should have got out of the arts and done something else” is the common refrain. It’s just not that easy. I’m currently 44, fairly well educated and have connections at a host of different companies. Seems I’m well set up to make a switch were it necessary but I’m not sure I’m employable now either. I’ve never once in my life had a 9-5 job. If work stopped for me I’m honestly not sure I could get anything other than a retail job, and that’s not going to support a wife, kid and house. That’s the problem, for a lot of entertainers and artists, by the time you need to get out; you just can’t. You keep pushing hoping something will break for you to get you over the hurdle.
I’ve seen it many times. I know people who’ve inherited houses and lost them. All they would have had to do it get some sort of job that would pay the bills and property taxes and they’d have got to keep the house to sell down the road for retirement. No one, not even retail would hire them. I’ve seen other artists lose their spouse and kids, to the poverty that can come from being over 50 in the arts in Canada. I’ve also seen people take their own lives because of the lack of prospects, and even worse in some ways, artists who just abuse their bodies with drugs and alcohol in the hopes it will get them before the poverty. Those are true, and frightening stories.
As I said I’m lucky enough that things are going pretty well right now. I know that won’t last. People always say these things won’t happen to me, and they give complex explanations as to why. Thing is it ALWAYS does. I don’t know a single act… not ONE, unless they became famous or a bit well known, who’s doing well and set up for retirement without the aid of family money, marrying into money, a patron, or married someone with a pension. That’s the state of the arts in Canada.
I hope I never have to burden the community with the gofundme campaign for my failing life. I have other plans for when that happens. But I’m glad there ARE gofundme’s for artists. I’m glad the community supports each other and I’m glad there’s enough of the pie to go around that acts and help each other when its needed. The irony of it all is, that armed with the knowledge that it’ll end badly, the draw of that very community is the thing that pulls us in and keeps us here. Funny old world isn’t it.
See ya at the work houses kids. Until then,
Good Night and Good Luck,