Nov 9, 2010


Interesting Onion AV Club interview with Mike Birbiglia, who's putting out a book called Sleepwalk With Me that's based on his one-person show, which in turn contained material he's previously offered on a blog and performed on This American Life. I thought being a journalist in the age of blogs and social media was confusing, but consider the life of a comic/storyteller. Birbiglia:
It actually is a weird and complicated media landscape that we’re in now, where you blog and then you write about something that happened that week, and then you refine it, and it becomes funnier and funnier and better and stronger, and you do it onstage, and people are like, “Yeah, but we knew that from your blog.” It’s like, “What do you want from me? I’m writing my fucking ass off.” I write like crazy. I’m putting out as much new material as I can of a caliber that people will be happy with, and then I’ve done pieces on This American Life, and some of those pieces are integrated in my forthcoming one-man show which I’m opening in New York this winter, and it’s actually what I’m touring with right now...People go, “Yeah, I heard that on This American Life. It’s like, “Okay. You heard that story on a free podcast, and I’m sorry about that.”
In the days when a comic would tour with the same set and buff it to a fine sheen until he got his cable special or album or sitcom deal, this was less of an issue, of course. As Birbiglia points out later in the interview, Twitter has perhaps made comics too accessible, and in a world where your niche fans follow everything you do, where can you go to try out and develop material? The parallels with music and journalism may be tenuous, but the general theme holds: that the media landscape seems to continue its long warp into a kind of click-through, on-demand meritocracy with dubious returns for the creators of the media itself, except to the extent that we can all share the pleasant illusion that somehow we're all collaboratively creating this media soup we swim in, and at a relatively low cost--with accordingly low financial returns.

As someone who snipped my cable TV subscription earlier this year because the Web can deliver more than enough of the content my household requires, and who not only does a large majority of my reading online but also increasingly writes with an online readership in mind, I'm as uncertain as the next guy how long this can possibly continue. On the other hand, precisely when and where have the performing arts, let alone writing about them, ever offered the kind of stable and lucrative careers our parents would have wished for us?

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