Last week, Secret Agent Man headquarters received an interesting question from an actor who's getting ready to market his first big show in Los Angeles. It's a sketch comedy show. It opens at the end of April and runs for five weeks. And the theatre is located downtown. His question was: "What are the chances of me getting some agents to show up?"
I responded, "Slim to none, and slim just left town." That's probably not the answer he wanted, but it's the truth. Why am I so certain? Well, let's break it down step by step.
First, the actor's putting on a sketch show. That's dicey. Over the years, I've learned the hard way that most actors aren't as funny as they think.
Also, a sketch show produced by an unknown group of actors has a lot of established competition in Los Angeles. We've got the Groundlings, Acme Comedy Theatre, Upright Citizens Brigade, Second City, and a few others. If I go to a sketch show at one of those places, at least I know I'm in for a fun night out, even if I don't end up meeting with any of the performers.
Now let's discuss those dates. His show goes up just as pilot season is winding down. That means I'm going to be exhausted. May is a time of rest for guys like me. It's the month when agents regroup from all those long days of cutthroat competition. Some of us leave town; others like to rethink our career choice.
Either way, there's usually a lot of alcohol involved. So there's just no way agents are going to attend a show during May. And let's face it: This actor has already shown bad timing by scheduling his show during our hiatus period. Is there any reason to believe his timing will be any better on stage?
And finally, as a third strike, the actor has chosen the worst possible location to put on his show. Downtown L.A. is nothing like downtown New York. In Manhattan, downtown is where all the action is, baby. But here in L.A., downtown is a barren wasteland that's miles and miles away from the real city where everyone lives and works. It takes forever to get there, and once you actually cross the great divide, there's absolutely no parking. Trust me, Petula Clark wasn't singing about this city in her No. 1 hit. So unless we're talking about the Mark Taper Forum, the only way to get this dude downtown is to offer free booze and a lap dance during intermission.
Here's a different take on the same situation: In this new scenario, the show is still a sketch show that's going up in May at a location in the middle of nowhere. The only difference is that this time, the actor putting on the show is an important client who's generating money for his agency. Now, that's a totally different story. Agents know how much clients love to see their reps sitting in the audience, laughing at lines that aren't funny. It's part of our job.
At my office, we usually assign at least one agent to "cover" a show that has a client in it. And let me tell you something: If that client happens to be an actor who's on a series, you can damn well be sure that every single one of us is going to show up. (So I guess the lesson here is if you're going to put on a show, make sure a lot of your cast members have representation. If nothing else, that should help get some suits in the audience.)
And there, ladies and gentlemen, you have true insight into the mind of an agent. Thanks for listening, and I'll see all of you during intermission. Maybe.