Most American’s work all year for a vacation. You work day in and day out looking forward to the next national holiday, and planning how you’ll spend your cherished, and much deserved two-weeks of paid time-off. That life also comes with a 401k, health insurance, and the stability of knowing when your next paycheck is coming.
Professional entertainers don’t enjoy any of these “civilian life” stabilities and perks. For some reason, our need for that hug only a stranger can give us, has propelled us into a life of a high-wired instability. Professional entertainers do their best to avoid vacation as much as possible. For us, “vacation” means, unemployed.
The “entertainer’s vacation” is something every pro is going to go through several times in a career…whether they want to or not. When an entertainer sees a “vacation” in the horizon, we start to panic a little. We call our agent to make sure they’re alive and working. We call friends to see how their calendars look, and pick up any industry gossip they might have heard. Then we start looking at the classified ads hoping we see, “Retiring Entertainers Wanted for Super Easy, High-Paying Job!”
Like any other industry, things go in cycles. So, it seems every 8-years or so there’s a tectonic shift in some facet of the industry. A comedy club chain closes. Corporations cut their entertainment budget because the economy is down. The booker you or your agent has a great relationship with is suddenly promoted, fired, or changes companies. Or someone, somewhere just decides they want to see ‘new faces.’ Any of these scenarios and countless others will send a working entertainer into a tailspin.
Until the calendar fills up every worst-case scenario from a job that requires you to wear a name tag, to homelessness, to adopting a life of crime runs through our head. And the longer the “vacation,” the more likely some of the worst-case scenarios are likely to become a reality.
You see in this business, no one will tell you you’re done. The reality is, no one wants to tell anyone bad news, and it’s easier to avoid the confrontation, or worse, begging. It’s sound harsh, but I think it’s a good idea to be pragmatic about things like this. Besides, it’s true. They’ll just simply stop booking you. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, they stop booking you for just a little while. Other times that company, club, agency, organization, or cruise line, is just done with you. Oddly enough, for the same variety of reasons.
Then an email from your agent rescues you from the cliff with 9-weeks’ worth of work in the Spring! Suddenly you’re as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning. Having a full calendar and knowing that you’re going to be able to take care of the people who depend on you is a true luxury in the life of an entertainer. Hard work, good planning, and doing the right things will go a long way in keeping “vacation” times at a minimum and somewhat planned, but we’re never “safe.”
So as easy as it can be to complain about delayed flights, bad hotels, and road food. I always remember…it’s better than being on vacation.