Acep Hale


news media

So here's the post from today that tipped me back over the edge into blogging; dealing with the media.

This happens fairly frequently, whether it be scouts for another worthless reality-tv talent show straight on down to local stations trying to fill out their news coverage with a human interest story.

Before we begin, I don't have a problem with photographers snapping pictures. I know fellow performers who get cranky if a photographer doesn't tip them for a photo they snapped. Me, I'm okay, because I recognize we're one of the most striking features on the street, and if I was looking to photograph someone interesting, I myself would be shooting street performers. As long as you don't get in the way of my show or ruin the line of sight for any member of my audience, have a blast. It would be nice if you could send me a copy of any good photographs you get, but I have a hard time returning library books on time so I totally understand.

Once you get above that level of cameraman though the whole game starts to change. The larger the camera, the more likely they are to barge right into your show, and I have yet to see a single time where they will talk to you beforehand.  Every damn time I've been in the middle of a show, look over, and *bam*, there's a tripod with a broadcast camera on top of it. Blocking people's views, right up on my hands, no questions asked on the way in. I have also had them drop a microphone pack right onto my table, mid-trick.

So let's keep this in mind. This is my day job. As Greg Paul so wisely put it, "I'm living my back up plan." The crowd is how I pay rent. The people in the audience that were laughing and having a great time before this schmuck walked up and plopped down that monstrosity of a camera are the ones who pay me. Directly. The money they put in my hat is how I live. With that in mind, as much as I would love to 'unlock my word bag' right then and there, it's not going to endear me to my audience. Because let's face facts, my word bag was befouled before Beowulf ever began his own personal blitzkrieg.

I do understand their mind-set. We live in a society that is convinced that if you make it on TV you're golden. You're famous, soon to be rich, all the right doors will start opening for you. Most people are thrilled to be on television.

However, if I was most people, I never would have started street performing in the first place. Plus, I've watched enough demo reels from other performers to know that being on TV doesn't mean shit to anyone except a programming director trying to fill two minutes of dead space, and maybe, some douchebag entertainment booker in Branford, Missouri. Which, we all know how eager I am to work Branford.

Face it. Anyone that tapes you for a news program is going to edit your footage until you're saying exactly what they want you to say. You have no choice in this once they've finished taping, that footage is theirs. Plus, how much money are they going to put in your hat? Nothing. They're so used to people being eager to be on television that they automatically assume everyone will welcome them with open arms.

My case today happened when I had this boy, four and a half years old, who every time I asked him a question would go off on a totally surrealistic monologue that had nothing whatsoever to do with what I was asking him. It was hysterical.

"Do you want to pick a different card?"

"No. But my dog, Anna, she would. She lives with us. 294 East Main St...." and on and on and on.

Plus the kid was cute as hell. So I've got my own trifecta going on. Big crowd, cute kid, and he's making the entire show all by himself. I live for these moments. I always tell people I'm only as good as my crowd and most people assume it's some type of bullshit new-agey self-depreciating bullshit but it really isn't. I need those crowds. I need the 80 year old grandmother that flirts and kisses me, the drunk sorority girl that has a go at heckling, or the super cute kid that's going off on random stream of consciousness. They make the show. It's my job to get the hell out of their way and let them have at it. My bad shows are with people who don't respond. Give me a family out of Gig Harbor (and if you're from outside of WA State just think of your local town where all the children are fat and the dads are sporting tribal tatoos and Ed Hardy clothing with a boat in the  backyard. Simply put, white trash with cash) and I'll finish that show in under two minutes. I need interaction, I fucking love hecklers. Hecklers are a gift from god. Not only do they give me my best lines, but when you win a heckler over, they're your biggest fan for life. Guaranteed.

So with this in mind, I'm on my knees with a cute as hell little kid (that was dressed better than me! The little shit!) who's rambling on about how he lives in Paris (when I looked at his parents they're shaking their heads like, "We have no idea where he comes up with this stuff") and a full tight crowd that's laughing their asses off watching him.

And there's a network news cameraman with his camera 18 inches from my face making hand motions like, "Cut this short, cut this now!"

And that right there is why I have no respect nor love for anyone involved in the media. My world does not live within a soundbite. In my world, kids are the true creative geniuses and can go on as long as they like. Most of all, in my world, working for the local FOX station would bring you more scorn and derision than any  bum that works my neighborhood. Because no matter which way you try to square that one, by working for FOX in any way, shape or form, you're sucking Moloch's cock. That's just a simple truth.

Let's be honest about this. This is not just a moralistic 'holier than thou' stand. In very down to earth practical terms, I will get nothing from interrupting my show so this schmuck can get back to the station in time to edit his footage. No one has ever sat around watching FOX news and gone, "That guy looks hysterical! Honey, get the kids, we're heading downtown to catch his show!" However, the parents of this kid who's rambling on about living in Paris with his talking dog and imaginary sister? I'll probably see them again. Several times. The people in that audience? Maybe about a quarter of them. If they live in another state, I'm betting in the next year I'll get one or two people that they have told to check me out when they come through Seattle.

I don't want exposure nor do I seek it out. The only people that come from exposure are fickle at best. I build my crowd one at a time, face to face, and I've shaken hands with each and every person that truly supports me. That means the world to me. That is what makes my life beautiful, and it's why every night I come home exhausted, but also, more in love with the world than when I left.