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Why Be a Film Critic? Joan Rivers Explains

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by Matt Singer
September 17, 2012 4:17 PM
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"Louie."

I know I'm behind. I know this episode first aired a little over a year ago. But when you're watching something like 20 movies a week, it's tough to keep current with television. Next week on the Filmspotting: SVU podcast, we'll be reviewing "Pootie Tang," directed by comedian Louis C.K. -- which I used as an excuse to catch up with a few episodes of C.K.'s acclaimed FX series. One of the episodes I watched (on Netflix Instant) was "Joan" -- in which C.K. bumps into Joan Rivers while both are appearing at the same Atlantic City casino, and the two share a long conversation about the life of a stand-up comic.

Earlier in the episode, C.K. -- frustrated by a crummy gig in a small room with an inattentive crowd -- deliberately gets fired rather than face a whole weekend of similarly bad performances. Then he sneaks into Rivers' show in the casino's theater, and goes backstage to tell her how great her set was. She invites him back to her room for a drink, where she takes him to task for his immature behavior. Trying to fix his bad attitude, she reminds him how lucky he is to have the job he has -- even if that job is a crummy gig in a small room with an inattentive crowd. With the wisdom of maturity, she gives him some advice:

Rivers is talking about stand-up comedy, but she sounds like she's spent some time trying to make a living as a film critic. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes it's exhausting. Sometimes you write something great, and no one reads it. But you do it because you love it more than anything else. You want a real job? There are plenty out there. Film criticism isn't a performance -- but it's also about entertaining an audience. Reading it should make people happy. If it doesn't, why read it? And if you don't enjoy doing it, why are you writing it?

Here's the text of that great monologue (written, according to this interview, by C.K. with input from Rivers). I figure you may want to save it and keep it handy. Maybe print it out and hang it above your desk so you can look at it when you need a pep talk. 

"Listen, I wish I could tell you it gets better but it doesn't get better. You get better. You think it's easy? I've gone up, I've gone down, I've been bankrupt, I've been broke, but you do it. And you do it because -- because we love it more than anything else. That's why you're doing it. You want a real job, honey, there's a million things you could do. But what we do is not a job -- sounds so stupid. What we do is a calling. We make people happy. It's a calling."

Watch the rest of the "Joan" episode of "Louie" on Netflix.

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