August 26, 2008

Actually, No. Now That I Think About It, You're Just TOTALLY Wrong

Ever have a critic, a person who doesn't really even know you, pick at you just enough that you really start doubting yourself? Someone who's personal discontent cannot allow them to see others free of the projection of their own unhappiness?

That's been happening to me, and I'm a very circumspect, self-critical person. So even when everyone around me is saying "They don't know you, their points are totally invalid, everyone who knows you knows this is wrong, you shouldn't let this bother you" (and I know they're right) I still poke around the anthole with a stick a little bit, to see if there's any nugget of truth to the criticism. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

This prompted me to make a little tally, off the top of my head, of stuff I've done for Chicago's comedy scene in the last year.

When I came up with this much in three minutes, I decided not to give a shit anymore.

Stuff I've done (pro bono) for the Chicago comedy scene in the last year, not counting editing the Bastion or always being the designated cupcake-bringer:
  • produced audition showcases to try to get people into comedy festivals; taped, edited, delivered those clips to performers
  • taped and edited highlight reels and individual clips for at least three shows I don't produce or perform in, all of which feature people from every comedy show/circle of friends on the scene
  • recommended people for things like network auditions every time an email looking for Chicago comedy talent came my way
  • helped New York comedians book local talent for Chicago shows; that local talent was then booked to perform with those comics for paid gigs in New York and Boston
  • co-ran a weekly stand-up writing workshop, the initial invitation to which included 50 people from various shows/circles of friends within the comedy community
  • edited and delivered performance clips every week from my own show, for cast members and guest comedians who asked for them
  • helped people put together promo packs, quotes/recommendations for potential representation, etc.
  • produced audition showcases to try to help people get cast on network tv shows
  • spent weekend nights biking to and from other people's shows to videotape and photograph, later editing, burning, and delivering CD's and DVD's
  • recruited/recommended Chicago comedy talent for corporate projects
  • used every single instance of the media approaching me to get exposure and recognition for as many others as possible
  • generally tried to be an active connecting element among all the talented people I know, following up on as many emails and phone calls as possible (and there are a LOT)
Guess what I didn't do?
  • Make any money
  • Grab any stage time
  • Accept invitations to put my own face out into the media
  • Etc.
Also, because I'm a freelance writer, every hour I spend (happily) editing clips, taking photos, and coordinating/connecting on behalf of others represents a large hourly rate I could have pulled in for work.

Oh my god, did I just write a sort of comedy producing resume?

Holy crap, thanks, detractors! The next cupcake is on me!

Now if you'll excuse me, a friend wants me to do some editing for him.


Carrie said...

In private, you need to tell me who has been picking at you. You are vital to the comedy scene here, and you always put in way more than you get back. You deserve every opportunity you create for yourself.

Chancelucky said...

The great thing about your blog is the way it documents the growth of your career. I just read the thing occasionally and it's quite inspiring.

Any criticism is a kind of compliment. It means that the person's at least noticing you. Beyond that, you don't have to listen to the parts that you don't find helpful.

Elizabeth McQuern said...

Aw, thanks you guys, honestly I am over this. Seriously, writing this post helped me put things into perspective.

Bryan Bowden said...

Yeah, those haters need to stop frontin' and put away the hateraid. I'm glad you're realizing all the amazing stuff you do for the Chicago comedy scene; it would be a completely different scene without you. I think you should take up some of those media offers. Or look into ways to make money doing what you're good at (I think it's called talent managing and makes 10% of what the comedian earns).

Chancelucky said...

The great thing about your blog is the way it documents the growth of your career. I just read the thing occasionally and it's quite inspiring.

Any criticism is a kind of compliment. It means that the person's at least noticing you. Beyond that, you don't have to listen to the parts that you don't find helpful.

Kduck said...

Where do I get a friend who describes herself as "a cupcake-bringer?"

Having one of those sounds delicious.

K.Rock said...

--helped friend K-Rock not die in the last two years.

somethin' else for the ol' resume! ;-) srsly, you're an angel on comedy earth. i think chancelucky hit something, too: when you're noticed enough for someone to be pissed off at you, that means that your efforts are valid and desired. i wouldn't be pissy w/ someone i felt was doing a shitastic job -- rather, i'd feel blessed that they hadn't sullied my good name by associating me with them (much like i do to you, har har). i'm finally getting to the point that i actually DO see my own work/love as valuable, and when it's disrespected in any manner, i have quite a few things to say about it. and then i forget to even give a shit anymore about it, b/c really, the disrespect means zero to me when i know who's on my team -- and those ranks include writers, movie stars, festival producers, television actors, and web moguls. etc. etc. etc. so whatever.

so when is the Angel Farewell Show vid gonna be done?????? GET ON IT, MCQUERN.


Nellie Ann said...

I already know who has been picking at you, and I'll take my scrappy ass to them myself and see what they have to say THEN.

Tell them to go SUCK IT. Oh no wait, I'll do it.

(yeah, I'm in THAT mood)

Dewidiot said...

Let me just say on this forum that what Elizabeth does is absolutely fundamental to having a working comedy scene. In reality there should be many people like Elizabeth, humbly working behind the scenes to keep a creative en devour on its feet. However, like most amateur scenes, it appears more people are concerned with the limelight and instant gratification that comes from being center stage. If Elizabeth were to stop doing what she does, you would see and feel the repercussions immediately on the Chicago comedy scene. Ever since I started getting involved with the Chicago stand up scene I was stunned at how much stronger it seemed than the improv or sketch scene. Once of the reasons for that is the hustle from people like Elizabeth, of which there are very very few, that sets apart groups of talented performers searching for and fighting for an audience every week, and a true vibrant SCENE, with fans, audience members, self promotion, and media. Tammy and I owe Elizabeth quite a bit and it would be very hard to put that exactly into words. I feel like my career as a comedian in chicago sat stagnant for 4 years until I got involved with Dan and Elizabeth and Bryan, who really took us under their wings and shit just took off. In fact, if I have my selfish way, Tammy and I will steal Elizabeth away to LA because the idea of not having someone around who is so dedicated, resourceful, humble, smart and creative behind the scenes is like having a ship without a rudder.

Dan Telfer said...

I love stand-up. It's my favorite form of comedy to do. I will say this though: theater, sketch, and improv do not foster the amazing level of whining you find in stand-up. Holy shit, do those lonely malcontents complain about what they "deserve".

Granted, I am a HUGE whiner, but you can't get away with the ENTITLEMENT whining in any other form of comedy. It makes you look so instantly unprofessional and negative. Sooner or later I hope stand-up comedians also realize how much they need to let their entitlement go. I'm not even talking about how it affects me as a producer- you can't have a fucking beer with people without them trashing a show, club, or person that won't help further their careers and it is mind numbing.

Erica said...

I (heart) Elizabeth McQuern.

I am happy you moved here.


Carmi said...

I felt every word in this entry, because I've been in similar situations before. People who give without expecting to receive in return are often thrust into a position much like you describe.

I console myself by saying the critics secretly fear and respect those they criticize. That they open their mouths only for the people who show up on their radar, who they'd openly emulate if only they had the courage.

You have the courage to push, to do and to get out there. They, simply, do not.

Elizabeth McQuern said...

Thanks, Bryan.

KDuck - designated cupcake-bringers are more common than you might think. I think the CTA has one installed on every 22 bus.

K-Rock, well, yes, I am proud to have been whatever positive influence I've been on you since I got here. You've certainly been a valuable support/friend/guru to me.

Nellie Ann - how about you nurture the crap out of them, instead? I've seen you at work - you're pretty fierce with that casserole/salad/heart-to-heart chat combination.

Dewidiot - okay, now you're just embarrassing me with this. But thank you. :)

Dan - whining is acceptable. Like you, I am also a big whiner. but you're right, it's the entitlement that feels weird to me. Or anyone feeling like anyone else owes them something and/or the way they can get what they feel they're entitled to is by being unpleasant and demanding.

Erica - oh, thank you! You are nothing but sweetness.

Carmi - thank you for the kind words. I know you're been working in a field where this sort of stuff happens much longer than I have, and I know from your reputation what a kind and thoughtful person you are, so I put a lot of stock into your view.

nora said...

I hope you're feeling the tidal wave of love and support. I think it is hard for people to understand someone who does things selflessly for the community (that is a whole 'nother conversation).
I had a very vocal critic in the community. He would always make snarky comments in public and say things like "I should be writing for the paper, I've been around Broad Ripple longer than you have." I was always very nicely say, you should submit something.
It all came to a head in one evening at the Art Center. I was on a field trip with my Butler creative writing class. We went to hear Jeanette Walls read from her beautiful book, The Glass Castle. Mr X. walked in and growled in front of a hundred people and growled, "You again. You're everywhere. Is the Gazette paying you for this too?" It gave me a chance to explain that I don't get paid for my column, that it takes me a good six hours to write and research and I pay for most of the shows that I attend."
Then someone in the audience said, "Oh, is that Nora? I love her." and a mummer of support for me rolled through the aisles. I hated the public showdown (and the fact the tears started once it was over), but I was glad to have it resolved.
So if you want to me come and draw a circle in the sand for a smackdown, just say the word.

And Dan, singer/songwriters have a lot of that entitlement thing going on also - must be the solitary life.

Dan Telfer said...

Nora- I'm sure that's it. And I'm sure my "dream" that they will learn to be professional is ridiculous and arrogant of me. It's something that really sucks about being a performer as well as a keeper of something other performers want (popular online content, a performance stage, etc). If you were a group of people who had to collaborate to discuss your image, you would learn to edit yourself and each other when it comes to what you put out there. Even if it's an EXTREMELY small amount of editing. You'd bounce ideas off each other and attempt to look polished. With stand-up, when people get together they just want to vent and take others down a peg. There is very rarely any talk of self-improvement or compliments. Perhaps it's another sign I should move though, because there's no point in acting like I'm "right" about this stuff in a city without pretty much no industry to act professional for. I'm sure in Indianapolis you also occasionally get it in your head that, whether you like where you live or not, people would carry themselves differently if the town were larger and scraps were harder fought for.

Elizabeth McQuern said...

Wow, Nora, that sounds like a very similar sort of thing. Ugh. Good for you for standing up for yourself. One thing I KNOW I can always say honestly is that I never pick on, belittle or discourage others from doing what they want to do. And, frankly, fuck people who do.

And you may be right Dan, this may be just another indication that the time is right to move on.

I was just interviewed for yet another Chicago publication (yes, that crimson-tinted one we are all given free on our way into the CTA) and yet again, when asked a somewhat leading question (this one about overcoming "female comedian" stereotypes), I said the most positive thing I could, and something I believe in very strongly:

"I think the best way to combat stereotypes is to tune them out, focus on your work, as Steve Martin said, 'Be so good they can't ignore you.'"

This is all I care about. Doing what I do. Not combating other people's negativity and misperceptions about me and what I do. Working, creating, facilitating talent, and having a damn good time doing it.

Dan Telfer said...

That line of Steve Martin's solves so much of this issue it's ridiculous.

Dale said...

You seem so tireless and dedicated to making things work. The cupcakes alone should be enough. Everyone hearts you and that's a good thing.

Elizabeth McQuern said...

Aw, thanks, Dale. I heart YOU.

Geli Girl said...

Thank you for everything Elizabeth!


I miss you and everyone in Chicago right now.


Geli Girl said...

Thank you for everything Elizabeth!


I miss you and everyone in Chicago right now.


Mo said...

You rock, Auntie E.

And that's final.

Dan Telfer said...

Ha! Well, the time is not right for ME to move on, I will say that much. I'm not "better" than this scene by any stretch of the imagination, and I can nowhere near afford a move. But if you think it's a sign you should, then CONGRATULATIONS! I will start all the rumor mills of your abandoning everyone who NEEDS your work. :)