Up until 1973 if you wanted to get ahead, you got a hat. Now if you wish to play Hamlet, publish your memoirs or even just walk down the street in a jaunty pair of cufflinks, it’s time to lasso yourself an agent.
Agencies tend to have compound names (Squiggle Cheek & Pob) or are named after one person (The Susan Pus Agency). There are two principal breed of agent: literary agents, who read all day, pausing briefly to dictate letters that say, “thanks, but we don’t feel your work is quite right for our list,” or, “sorry not to reply for four years…” And theatrical agents, who spend their time speaking with their clients, uttering statements like, “but dahling, Police Academy VIII is a departure for the genre…” and, “the moment I hear back from Findus Crispy Pancakes, you’ll be the first to know!”
I’ve got an agent. Let’s call him Charles (even though his name is Alan). Until recently I thought Charles was dead, so quiet had he been. When I discovered he was alive I felt great elation, mixed with mild disappointed you see Charles is very rude and coughs without using his hand. AND he takes 15% commission. Still, I can’t complain 15% of nothing is still nothing. I’d hoped our relationship would resemble the one Larry David has with his agent in Curb Your Enthusiasm: playing golf together, taking long lunches, discussing future plans. Instead I’m reduced to sending letters by recorded delivery just to check he’s even awake (he did finally email me last week, though only to complain I’d woken him up). The one advantage to his existence is that every so often in a crowded room I get to utter the words, “speak to my agent” into my mobile – though last time I tried this, somewhat embarrassingly, it rang at the same time.
So whether you’re an actor, writer, singer or even just a promising young milkman, don’t just sit there, get out there! Sing! Dance! Do something funny! Stand on your head! Do a wheelie! And if no one notices, set up your own agency and take yourself on.