Hey everyone… sorry for the [extreme] lateness in this blog post, but I truly honestly did not know what to write about for this entry. I couldn’t find any theatrical-related incidents happening in the world that I felt overly excited to share with you or give my opinion on. I didn’t want to potentially bore you with an awesometacular entry that documented how I REALLY like to paint (which is very true. I really like to paint. And I got to do that last week here). I was at a loss, I had run into that very familiar mental wall that is universally known as “writer’s block”. And there I stayed for a good week, poking at this “writer’s block” wall in my mind in an attempt to make it just go away.
Then I had one of the biggest arguments (or very heated debate, if you will) of my life just last week. And lo and behold, I found my blog entry.
I had an argument with someone on Facebook about the recent Daniel Tosh incident (which I don’t really want to get into on this blog). The guy I was arguing with came to Tosh’s defense, saying it was his job as a comedian to “joke” about issues that society deems taboo. Eventually he revealed something about his perspective on art that made me understand why, to an extent, he was so quick to defend Tosh.
He said that a performer’s job (and artists by extension), their goal, is to entertain. That’s it.
I was floored by that comment. When he said that about performers, that struck a major chord in me. On first glance, there seems a potential to overreacting to that comment (which, depending your view about performance, may or may not be true). But upon further examination of this comment, I found that, coming from an artist’s perspective, I really wasn’t overreacting.
First, let’s examine the definition of the verb “to entertain”:
en·ter·tain [verb (used with object)]: 1. to hold the attention of pleasantly or agreeably; divert;amuse.
As an actor, that’s not what I do. I don’t aim to “divert”. I don’t aim to “amuse”. I don’t aim to “hold the attention” of audiences in a “pleasant” or “agreeable” manner. If diversion, amusement, and a pleasant or agreeable distraction are byproducts of what I put out in the theatre, then that is fine and dandy with me. But I never aim to “amuse” someone. That’s a waste of my time and effort, and that’s a waste of the audience’s time and money. Now I’m not saying that entertainment in performance of any kind – visual, musical, or theatrical – is a bad thing, but rather that it’s not a substantial goal of an artist. It’s not enough to carry an artist through a life-long career in arts. Pursuing any sort of artistic career is hard, and it takes so much passion in order to do it. When I look at what “to entertain” really means as a word, it doesn’t capture the essence of what a performer aims to do at all. There’s no mention of passion. There’s no mention of sharing something intangible with a targeted audience. There’s no real emotion involved.
It saddens me to know that there are people in this world that believe that performance of any kind is aimed to amuse. That’s like saying that a lawyer’s job is to get rich, rather than defend and uphold the law. Or that a doctor’s job is to work at a good hospital rather than save lives. Or that a police officer’s job is to gain respect rather than protect the people. Entertainment is a byproduct of the artist’s intent and goal, just like getting rich, working at a good hospital, and gaining respect are byproducts of the goals of the lawyer, doctor, and police officer. I thought a comedian’s job was to bring laughter and joy to people and show them the light in life. I thought a dancer’s job was to show humanity in the most powerful of languages for those who cannot. I thought a writer’s job was to keep imagination alive. I thought a painter’s job was to show the hidden beauty in the world we’ve created. I thought a composer’s job was to take us on a wonderful odyssey through music. And I thought that an actor’s job was to reveal the best and worst of humanity to those who need a reminder every now and then.
I thought an artist’s job was to inspire others to do something with their lives. That’s what I signed up for when I decided to be an actor. I aim to inspire others. I aim to inspire myself. Through that aim to inspire, I aim to challenge. Isn’t that far more fulfilling than to aim to amuse? I think it is.
So when someone says that my job is to entertain others, I know that they’re not an artist themselves… yet. Either they don’t have that passion and fire that drives an artist, or they haven’t found a way to articulate their goals other than to say “I entertain”. And there’s a way to distinguish the two types. Simply ask why they entertain. The former will give a vague answer or say they do it because it’s fun. But the latter will say something along the lines of “Because it’s the only thing I can see myself doing”. That’s the sign of an unrealized artist… give them time, and they’ll realize there’s much more to their art than “to entertain”.
Until next time!