As a little kid I did not understand television. I just thought that some people happen to get to view the lives of other people sometimes. For whatever reason, my family had the ability to see this other family called The Huxtables once a week. To a five year old this didn’t seem weird, because I grew up watching TV and no one ever explained what was really going on, so my assumption was that it was a window into someone else’ reality. I didn’t know how the studio audience figured into it, but I don’t even remember thinking it was odd that we could also hear the other people in their respective living rooms who could also watching the same family we could. And for some reason those people were way more animated with their laughter and ‘oohs’ and ‘awwws’ than my household.
Anyways, I also assumed that my family was being watched by others too. It seemed perfectly reasonable that some other family out there may have been watching The Bakers. Lord knows we had some good story lines. I was born years after my mom was told she physically couldn’t birth another baby. My dad legally adopted my brother who’s technically my half-brother (but I never consider him anything but the closest of family I’ve ever had). I had a sassy mouthed grandma, major health problems, and a cat named Caesar. My home life was filled with interest just like all those families I watched on TV. At least it seemed that way to me.
Then at some point my mom explained that the Huxtables weren’t real. Just characters played by actors. In real life Cliff (or Bill Cosby as she called him) was not even married to Claire. Are you serious? If the Huxtables aren’t real, then what else didn’t I know that I thought I knew. Next thing you’ll tell me that Kermit is a puppet and the guy who played the Hulk didn’t really have green skin.
Sure, I was a bit heartbroken at first. But to be honest I was more disappointed to realize that no one was tuning into my life once a week. I’d always felt like even when I was alone I probably wasn’t alone, because at least one other person who I’d never met was likely watching my life on their television screen. It was comforting. Without that my alone time became truly alone. It was such a paradigm shift for my whole world.
But after a short while my disappointment turned to awe. It donned on me that people – real human beings – were capable of pretending to be other people so well that I thought they were real people. And not just five year old me thinks they’re real. 32 year old me thinks they’re real. Not real like they can vote or come to my house for poker. But they are real in that they still cause me to have real feelings for them. I get viscerally upset when something bad happens to Walter White or The Starks or Piper Chapman. And I know I’m not the only one. That’s the very reason why we watch them. We’re emotionally invested in the characters. If we weren’t we wouldn’t watch.
Let that sink into your brain for a moment. There are people talented enough at pretending to make us all feel real emotions for fake persons. That’s freaking amazing. We take it for granted because we grew up watching TV, and it seems as if there are countless numbers of actors able to pull it off. But it’s actually really amazing when you think about it.
After I had that epiphany, I was hooked. I knew what I had to do. I needed to be a professional pretender. I wanted to make people feel things for characters that I breathed life into with my performance. Of course I had no idea how to go about doing it. It’s not like Fort Worth, Texas was crawling with movie studios and professional actors. But I held onto that dream until I was old enough to figure out where the heck to begin this journey I was so hell bent to go on.
And one day I eventually achieved my goal. As of now, I’ve been a professional entertainer for over ten years. Five of those years I didn’t have any other income. Just getting paid to pretend.
So, I’ve made a decision tonight. For some reason I feel confident right now, so I thought I’d write it down lest I find myself feeling nervous at another point in the future. I’m going to do it. I’m going to be on TV. I’m finishing month six in L.A. and I haven’t accomplished anything to brag about, but I’m in this for the long haul. And I ain’t stopping until it happens or something strikes me down.
L.A. is a great town. People will tell you it’s hard to make something of yourself out here. And they are totally correct. The odds are probably similar to winning the lottery. The difference is, I’m not picking numbers and hoping for chance. I started investing in my lottery ticket when I was a kid. I used to put on skits for my parents when I was a kid. I would read books out loud and assign a different voice for each character. I would talk in a foreign accent for no reason at all. My ticket has grown bigger over the years as I’ve invested thousands of hours of my life to the study and practice of this immensely freeing art form.
It may take twenty years. It may happen before Xmas (wouldn’t that be a great gift!). But I’m going to be on television. And I won’t stop trying until I get there. I love the art form too much to trade it in for silly things like retirement accounts, good health insurance, and private property. Those things are fine. And to many people those things are worth taking a job that’s not very interesting or fulfilling in order to have. But in my eyes they’re not worth giving up on my dreams.
So, I’m writing it down. Putting it out in the universe as they say. Really, I just thought everyone should know I finally made the decision. No more halfhearted attempts. I’m a pro. I’m gonna start hustling like a pro.
Rich Baker – Professional Pretender