To my trusted readers: I am going to do this for real now. From today forward this newsletter will publish a minimum of twice weekly. Access to both editions will cost a modest subscription fee. Access to one will remain free, though I'll warn you now that the public newsletters will generally steer clear of subject matter that might incite SNL head writers and/or hordes of angry comedy fans, if that’s important to you. Paid subscribers also earn the right to tell me what to write about.
Here's the deal. A monthly subscription costs $6, or you can purchase an annual subscription for $60. That gets you two months of free content. As it always has, the newsletter will include a mix of reporting, criticism, and old-fashioned blogging. I say it will publish a minimum of twice weekly because 1) I anticipate writing more as events and my schedule warrant, and 2) the goal, obviously, is to grow well past that. Your support now will help make that possible.
Some brief navel-gazing about why I think this is worth paying for:
This newsletter is a little over a year old. While traveling last winter, I received a flood of tips about imminent layoffs and restructuring at UCB. Having had difficulty pitching UCB stories in the past, I did not relish the thought of trying to sell the piece while reporting it from Eastern Europe and fielding other deadlines. (Although I've called myself a comedy journalist for the last five years, I've mostly paid my bills making web content for law firms.) So I did it here. In the year since, I've kept this newsletter free and occasional while focusing on the steadier work that subsidized it. Freelance journalism is precarious—maybe you've heard. It involves endless dead ends and abandoned stories; the day you spend at a public records office is generally not a day you make money. Copywriting for small businesses, on the other hand, provides steady income and rarely sets into motion a chain of events that ends in Norm Macdonald threatening to beat you up.
Lately I've realized this arrangement is nonsense. Copywriting is boring and sucks. Comedy is full of fascinating and infuriating and important stories. But the business and its workers are underserved by a dwindling arts press incentivized to focus on aggregation and quick shareable hits, to maintain the goodwill of massive media companies and their publicists, and to choose freelance work that pays regularly over freelance work that pays 30 days after publication if you're lucky. It shouldn't be this way. There is no good reason for so many stories to go untold, so many hard questions left unasked. At the risk of undermining myself here, it takes no special skill to discover that one of UCB's owners borrowed $200,000 from the theatre ten years ago; it just takes a little bit of time and skepticism toward people in power. Nor does it take any special skill to uncover grossly bigoted jokes in an SNL hire's recent past; in my case it took only a little bit of time and the trust of a few tipsters, trust I like to think I earned through a consistently critical stance toward comedy's sacred cows. What I hope to offer with this newsletter is the sort of adversarial coverage that will continue earning and honoring that trust. Your support will buy me the time to do it.
Often when I am discussing my work ("work") with people (my extended family), they ask some form of: what's the endgame? A staff position? Editorship of a comedy vertical? No, I don't think so. The dream as I dream it now is twofold. On the one hand it's what I got at above: to scrutinize the famous and powerful; to question whether comedy's established institutions live up to their professed values, or if they even have any. On the other hand—and this is several hundred subscribers down the road—it's to nomadically wander the earth reporting on local comedy scenes, so many of which are isolated fiefdoms run by incompetent and unaccountable figures lording over masses of unpaid creative workers. Putting both hands together, the dream is to combine wide-angle analysis of the comedy industry with granular reporting on its ground floor; to take a hard look not just at famous people and their comedy but also the systems that decide who gets to be famous and make comedy; and, hopefully, to help build solidarity across a fragmented comedy workforce dangerously low on it.
If that sounds like something you want in the world, I hope you buy a subscription. If you do, the first subscriber-only newsletter will land in your inbox this Friday, February 7th. Thanks as always for reading, and a special thanks to those who have chipped in on PayPal along the way. More soon.