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DAN FRENCH has an M.A. in Rhetoric, and a Ph.D. in Media Studies, but don't let that fool you. And he still hasn't mailed us an 8 X 10.

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Dan French

The original "What Works"
"Tom Kenney"

"Inside the Box, Pt. II"
TV Development

"Whose Line is it Anyway?"
French's gag in a Quote-A-Crostic!

"Inside the Box, Pt. I"
TV Programming

"Your Showcase Set"
How to craft an L.A.-ready set

"The Clogged Drain of Comedy"
Who belongs on the stage? Comedy in L.A.

Why move to L.A.?

"Good Side/Bad Side"
What does comedy mean to a culture, post-911?

What should a manager do?

"Standup on TV"
What does TV want?

"Cash for Words"
Writing for dollars

"Stoking the Joke Machine"
Writing for a living

"Screenwriting for Standup Comics"
Just what it says

"Random Realizations"
Wisdom born of experience

Casting Season in L.A.

"Ladies & Gentlemen: A Job"
Working at Best Damn Sports Show Period

"LA Freefall for All"
It happens to everyone: Freefall!

"Hollywood or Bust"
How to change to succeed in L.A.

"How Edgy"
Column #2

"How Hip"
Column #3

"Who Writes Your Stuff?"
Why don't comics ask for help?

"The Art of Standup"
What would we gain by "turning up the art"

"Christmas Wish List"
Holiday column

"Getting Exercised"
A writing exercise

"High Octane"
Road vs. L.A., Monologist vs. Performer

"Inside the Box, Pt. I"
Television Programmers

"Inside the Box, Pt. II"
Television Production and Development

"Castle Breached"
Working at Late Late Show, Network television gig!

"I Like LA"
The third of five columns on writing comedy for money

"Hollywod Carousel"
Between BDSSP and Late Late Show, what I learned



It's the holidays in Los Angeles, which means 75 degree days and a mass exodus at every airport as the transplants head back to New York and all points Midwestern to spend a few days with the people theyíve come to despise since moving to California a few years ago.

Hollywood is shut down through mid-January, because the producers actually take some time off to visit their kids that they never see during the year. With no producers around, thereís no one for the agents to schmooze and harass because no work is being given out, so the agents take off as well. And without agents sniffing out work, the actors and writers have nothing to do but sit on their thumbs and drink and wait to be rejected until the new year rolls around.

When the new year does indeed roll into focus, that means casting season is right around the corner (mid-Feb through April), and so all the good little boy and girl actor-standups are scrambling to get their showcase sets together so their managers can get them on showcases at The Laugh Factory and The Improv so they can mesmerize the people in suits who have all the green stuff to give away.

Showcase season is alternately painful and hope-filled in LA. Painful to be in the audience, as comics and "actors" go up not to be funny, but to show their energy and their acting and their zany chops. Hope-filled in that comics know that if the right person sees them, they might be summoned in for "meetings" with casting people or producers, or called in to do cold readings, or maybe even called in for a hot reading where they already want you for the part, but they have to see if you can handle it in the way they want it handled.

Thereís a big separation of veterans and newbies during this season. The veterans do the showcases and try to summon some genuine expression of interest, but they really donít believe in the process anymore, knowing that during showcase season the clubs are mostly filled with assistants and people without power, and it is really up to your management to get you real auditions where you will surely "seal the deal." Newbies are more frenetic, and believe wholeheartedly that showcase season is an open door to stardom, and so they pour their hearts and souls into every single set, turning to the industry-thick audience with all the earnestness and zeal of Shirley Temple on her best night.

Iím not sure which I hate to see more, the burned out vets trucking through their hundredth showcase set, or the wide-eyed newbies who donít have any idea what they should actually have in their set, and are so all over the place that they donít end up exciting anyone because itís so hard to figure out what they are actually offering.

I do know this: thereís nothing like casting season anywhere else in the standup world, and so standups come ramming into the season unprepared, like salmon smacking into a dam they never realized was hidden upstream. Comics are either burned out, thus in no decent psychological space to do themselves much good, or uninformed and under-experienced, thus also unlikely to do themselves much good.

So here are my holiday wishes for the new year and the new crop of showcasers. If you are a vet, I hope you find some way to come once into the breech once more with your best game, realizing that even if this is all mostly futile, itís so much more poetic to be your best even if they never wave the starting flag in your direction. And Iíve heard talk that the money is starting to flow back into Hollywood, advertising revenue is up, so maybe this is your year. Letís believe so, itís so much prettier to see it that way.

If you are a newbie, it is my hope that you find the set that will show your skills without revealing your weaknesses. I hope that the acting classes youíve surely taken during the past year begin to pay off. I hope you can feature that one thing about yourself that will help execs look past everything you cannot do, and hire you anyway. And I hope they bring you along slowly, so you learn to swim before the room fills to the ceiling with water.

And so once again the season is upon us, my friends. Raise your toasts to your friends who will make it, and if they retain their souls they might bring you along for some of the ride. And raise your toasts to your friends who will not make it, and bid them farewell as they trudge away, cursing the day the road dried up and they moved to this soul-sucking purgatory named, we all know, after Lost Angeles. HOME Back to the Top