I Think It’s Called Having Faith

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

If you compare the headlining comedians of the 1970s to the headliners of today, the ones in the 70s seemed more diverse in their backgrounds, opinions and characters that they played. They were also cleaner and funnier.

Richard Pryor and George Carlin were a couple of the bigger names of the decade, and a bit edgy, given the social commentary they had as a part of their act. There were also cleaner acts like Nipsey Russell, Don Rickles, and that loveable lush, Foster Brooks.

You’ve heard of Foster Brooks, even if his face doesn’t immediately come to mind. He was the comic that played a guy that had too much to drink. He was tipsy but didn’t let on, and tried to play it cool. He did his character without the use of profanity, cursing or being offensive.

What’s interesting about his story is when he got his big break.

According to Wikipedia, he was doing his stand-up and acting for quite a few years already, when he decided to move his family to Los Angeles for what he hoped would be more opportunities in the entertainment world.

But life was not that kind to Mr. Brooks upon arrival. In fact, he worked three or four jobs at once just to make ends meet. He did small acting parts in t.v. shows, was the manager of an apartment and worked as an usher at Dodger home games.

I know what it’s like to fail, so I can relate to how he must have felt having to juggle so many jobs upon moving cross country with his family, but never really having the success or happiness that he wanted.

But his luck changed in a big way in 1969, at the age of 57 when he was discovered by Perry Como.

Como was as big as Frank Sinatra back in the days of the crooners and was as commercially successful as Ole Blue Eyes was. Anyhow, Como saw his act and wanted him to open his show in Vegas. Management balked, citing Foster’s age and lack of a name. But Perry Como stood his ground, and eventually Foster was part of his show.

Well, that first night, Foster was a smash hit. Nobody had ever seen anything like it before. Foster spent so many years perfecting that character that people weren’t sure if he really was drunk when he hit the stage. That’s how convincing he was.

From there, his career took off and within a couple years of that start, he was on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Carson asked Foster how things were different in his life now that he was a name and making more money that allowed him to quit all those other side jobs. Foster said “the recognition is nice. It feels good to be recognized.”

After all that time spent with those different jobs and small acting parts and performing in local clubs, I wonder if he ever doubted himself, or didn’t think he’d get the big break that came his way. I think being in the entertainment/arts field is the only profession where you can pull up your stakes and move halfway across the country and see if you can be a success someplace else.

It’s interesting that he made it big at 57, once his kids were already grown and out of the house. I wonder how they felt, seeing their dad work all those jobs while keeping his foot in the entertainment door as well. Did he feel like a failure because maybe he couldn’t provide the type of living he wanted to for his children? Did his wife try to talk him out of a career in entertainment? What made him keep going even when his level of opportunity and success didn’t seem to change from year to year?

I am only 45. I don’t think I’ll be a failure until my big break comes at that age. But, it does offer the comedian, regardless of their age, some hope. When everything seems to be against you with your circumstances not changing, and the level of your success plateaus, just keep going.

If the audience enjoys what you do, and you get something from it too, eventually if you stick it out long enough, somebody will ask you to join them.

If you hang around the door long enough, eventually somebody has to let you in.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.