Friday, April 14, 2006

The comedy sweatshop

This week, there was a story in the Times about call centers that handle McDonald’s drive-through orders. You order your burger in Tucson, and Namu from Bangalore takes it. Whatever happened to cow-worship? Another victim of globalisation. Home Depot’s going to use something similar – a speaker attached to the shopping cart that you use to contact a call center for shopping advice. Or, knowing the average American, directions. “Rigoberto, listen, I’m lost in aisle fourteen-J.” “That’s hardware, sir. Send a flare…”

Who knows -- some day they might adopt that technology to show business. I'll be working in a comedy sweatshop, where thousands of comedy writers making eight bucks a day have to churn out gags by the hundreds. Their bosses would have software that would time their productivity, and every so often a red box would pop up on the screen – “Bush gag needed in Sector 6!” And I'd have 1.75 seconds to come up with it.

And we'd reiterate labor history -- there would be attempts to set up a Comics' Union (this has actually been tried, with predictably futile results); strikes; scab gag writers brought in from the WB; silent protests in which the writers only would write set-ups, no punchlines; the comedy writers would become members of the Teamsters; their leadership would become corrupt; guys with names like Sal "Power Tool" Provenzano and no discernible gag-writing skills would show up in the writers' room for "The King of Queens"; the union would protest as Fox shows employed illegal aliens to write gangs for their new sitcoms. (These seasonal workers would write gags during pilot season, then return to Central America to harvest bananas.)

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