Do Good Work is a funny podcast that seriously talks to creative people about their ridiculous jobs, and what it means to ‘work’.
I am fully aware that starting a podcast is not a noble endeavor. In fact, it almost seems like a requisite project for a modern comic. I started doing stand up comedy just over three years ago, and I will not pretend that it is a difficult job but it’s like dating a really really hot, abusive boyfriend. I know this relationship might not produce happiness or longevity or stability, but maybe I can change him! Did I mention that he’s Really. Really. Attractive?
Stand up comedy was a booming business in the 1980’s. Comedy clubs lived in medium sized towns all over the country, and I’ve heard many a tale about comics who would just show up and could work the weekend in exchanged for a small paycheck and some mid-grade coke. Once you had been around for a while, these clubs would front your travel, your housing, plus you’d get paid. And probably some coke. Talking to comics today, you can’t get anything paid for, you’re lucky if you get a paycheck that will make you break even, and who even does coke anymore?
BUT we live in the Internet age, goddamit. I don’t need to be a road comic to hopefully get recognized by a Letterman booker and maybe get offered a TV writing gig that will maybe lead to an hour Comedy Central special that will maybe give me a fat paycheck for a few years while I fade into obscurity and drink myself into creative retirement. I want to work in this business. Even if I don’t get paid.
Which brings me to the point of the podcast. There is work that we have to do to live, and then there is work that we have to do to be alive. OH NO IT’S SO CORNY. But do you really work at Dell because listening to an 80 year old woman yell about her cat chewing her computer cord is what gets you out of bed everyday? Or do you do that so you can spend your nights writing a book of short stories so that when you die, you’ve left something behind? I think that’s just it; we all want to make something that says we’ve been here. Sometimes it’s a kid, sometimes it’s a painting, maybe it’s even a garden, but so often we are hindered in creating our legacy because we have to pay the bills.
People have stopped asking us what we want to be when we grow up. That questions has been replaced with, “What do you do?”. I can’t answer that question honestly. I feel like I AM a comic, a writer, a performer, but I get PAID to track my marketing metrics for a shady e-commerce company. I think we should stick with asking each other what we want to be, not what the job that gives us money makes us do.
Studs Terkel’s 1970 book, Working, was my other main inspiration for this project. He interviewed dozens of people from dozens of fields of employment to find out what they get from their jobs, what they want, what they wish they hand, and how their work has defined them. It was a way to make The Janitor in your office building a real man who’s feelings get hurt when he doesn’t get a Christmas bonus. It was a way to learn that The Fireman really wants to be The Singer. He mined the humans out of the jobs and examined how those jobs made them human.
I can’t pretend to be as awesome as Studs was, but I hope that Do Good Work will function as an audio collection of today’s working stiffs. I will be interviewing others, and writing weekly posts about my own experiences from the past, present, and hopes for the future.