You wake up in your room and slowly manage to get yourself to a point where you’re sitting on the edge of your Ikea futon. You sit there for a moment…yawn...and then stare at that Bob Dylan poster you bought a couple of months ago from your school bookstore. You cringe a bit as your mouth is unbearably stale from those two cups of coffee you had last night in an attempt to defy sleep as you put a little more work into perfecting your masterpiece. Your stomach growls at you… You lift yourself off of your futon and lazily walk into the kitchen, scratch your ass a bit, open the fridge….Mustard, catsup, some old takeout, half a litre of milk, flat Cream Soda and extra packs of salsa from that taco kit you devoured a couple of months ago. You close the fridge, walk toward your cupboard…You start to chant to yourself “C’mon Mr. Noodles! Coooommme Oooonnn Miiissstteerrrrr Nnnooooddddlllleeessss!!!” ….You approach the cupboard, your heart’s racing… "Food, need, me, yes, I, food, need, yes” you mumble to yourself in a disoriented manner as the hunger pangs clench tighter, you open the cupboard, ”Yyyeeeessss!!” one cup of Mr. Noodles sits there, calling to you oh so sweetly. You prepare it, head back to your room, and continue working on your masterpiece. Your life is both sad and hilarious at the same time. You my friend are a starving artist.
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting up and speaking with a group of multi-talented Toronto actors, who have all felt the joy and pain of being “starving artists.” The stereo-types associated with this particular lifestyle has led to the creation of the “Starving Artist: The Show.”
Co-produced and written by Melissa Berg and Lauren Stein, “Starving Artist: The Show” is a web-based series (webisodes) which can be found at starvingartisttheshow.com.
Webisodes have become an increasingly popular medium as of late. Many artists have begun to use the internet as an effective medium for not only creative expression, but also exposure. A couple of examples are “Clark and Michael” (starring Clark Duke and Michael Cera) and “Star-ving” (starring Michael Faustino aka Bud Bundy). For “Starving Artist: The Show,” choosing a website/webisodes as a launching pad was easy, “with the web we can do our own marketing and try to raise our own money, and it can be seen all over the world!” exclaims Stein, adding that “we’re not waiting for some studio executive to approve our ideas anymore. We’re making it, and then the people can decide what they want to watch.”
“We can all relate to being a starving artist, and the idea that if you make money doing it, you’re a sell out” says Stein, adding that “with the show, we also to look at the dynamics of friendship and roommates, and what happens if one is successful, and his friends are so unsuccessful that they will never be (successful), and you can tell they’re so untalented that it’s embarrassing.”
These dynamic, at times dysfunctional and embarrassingly untalented characters that Lauren Stein refers to are:
Casey Cassum (played by Tristan Bell) is an actor, and the only person in the household who has found any type of success at all. Casey landed a role as a heartthrob in the movie “Heaven Heartbeat” and because of this Casey has become a huuuge tween sensation! Casey goes through his days trying to hide this success from the rest of his roommates in order to avoid hurting their feelings, as their careers seem to be going nowhere.
Jessica (played by Carrie Hage) has dreams of becoming a huge pop-star, the only problem is that she believes that she needs to sleep with producers in order to get her big break. As the website says, “she wants to get kicked out of rehab, like all her pop singer icons. Only she hasn’t even found her addiction.”
Steve (played by Isaac Kessler) is the brooding and disgruntled writer that nobody wants to read about, he’s part nice guy, part douche bag and will harass you until you provide him with a synonym for “pissed-off” (see episode 1)
Cassandra (played by Victoria Simmons) is considered to be one of the roommates, even though she lives in a tent in the backyard. Cassandra is more hippy than hipster, and doesn’t believe in owning anything, however, she will borrow everyone else's shit, which includes guitars…and…well…dildos.
Mark (played by Myles Stocker) is the unlovable and at times lazy actor who enjoys playing Zelda and drawing on his friends faces. Mark also kind of prefers the idea of being a starving artist more than the art-form itself, as he says, “yeah, I don’t think I have the nerve to actually get up on stage though, it’s kind of stressful. I’ll just stay here, and drink, and be poor.” (see episode 3)
These characters, although comedic and stereotypical in nature, are identifiable to the actors who play them. “In the words of Pavement the band, you’ve got to pay your dues before you pay the rent,” says Myles Stocker, adding that “the joke of it is that for every 100 people who are in the exact same situation, maybe one of them will make a living, 99 of them will not.” For Isaac Kessler, being a “starving artist” doesn’t carry the same interpretation as it does for many, “I live at home with my parents. I feel that in order to be a better artist I need to get out and have my own place to really explore my creativity, but I can’t do that because I don’t have enough money. So I’m starving when it comes to creativity more than anything else,” something that many people can definitely identify with.
Other than just representing starving artists, these webisodes also represent Canada, after all. With the use and reach of the internet, people can generally be whoever they want to be and market their identities accordingly. These talented Torontonians have something else in mind, and make it a big point to show that they’re proudly Canadian. Lauren Stein explains that, “the show is packed with layers of going at stereotypes, and one of them is that a lot of films always pretend that they are in Detroit, Pittsburgh, namely American cities. In movies Toronto is always pretending that we’re some American city and I wanted to make a point of the fact we are Toronto, we’re proud to be Toronto, and show that Toronto is under-represented.”
What does the future hold for the show? At this point they are planning on releasing new episodes. “We are trying to launch all of our careers with this. Getting us better known, getting us a wider audience,” says Stein, and with such awesome (and fucking hilarious!) actors, directors and writers, the future for these “starving artists” looks to be extremely filling.
So the next time you’re frolicking on the interweb, which is actually right now, as you’re reading this article and supporting your favourite post-pomo arts and culture zine (insert flirtatious wink here), make sure you also do your part as a citizen of said interweb, and more importantly as someone who has a sense of humour, and also support our friends at http://starvingartisttheshow.com (while you’re there check out their online store) you will laugh and learn valuable life lessons, but you’ll mostly laugh….And who doesn’t want that?
“Starving Artist Appe- teasers”:
Some hilarious quotes from the show:
“Really juicy Manga Hentai Breats”
“I do know that he tried to put his fingers in my bum, and not just one or two or three…Eight. Eight Fingers, and he got three of them in….And I’m not proud of that, but he massaged my prostate.”
“Fisherman’s friend, not a good substitute for human companionship. I had a cold and I took one, and I was fuckin' lonely!"
“Starving Artists Meal Plan”:
A guide for other Starving Artists:
Starving artist food ideas, tried, tested, cheap and true (which just might work for you too):
Myles – Potato soup or lentil soup
Cassandra – I’ve had lettuce and mustard only
Tristan – One time I was really desperate and hungry, and all my roommates had were processed cheese slices and all I had was Dijon mustard, so I would fold them into sandwiches and put Dijon mustard on them, then eat that. And I also had a teabag that I re-used from earlier that day.
Survivor Essentials for a Starving Artist:
Lauren - Towel, Toothbrush and a good book or journal
Tristan – Eggs, they’re cheap and have a lot of protein. And baked beans on toast!
Isaac – Kosher salami, tastes great with salad. Also rice, because it makes you feel full.
Best cheap & good spots in Toronto for a Starving Artist:
Lauren – Tristan’s house! Or stay at home and invite friends over…Spending no money is the best thing to do.
Cassandra – The Green Room (best avocado)
Isaac – Future’s Café and Bakery, as it has “free coffee with all day breakfast.” The Savannah Room and The Bad Dog Theatre have cheap and good impov.
Tristan – Any Value Village
Final advice for other starving artists:
Lauren- Tap water is drinkable, if you want to do it, do it yourself. Don’t audition, don’t wait for someone else to create your career for you.
Victoria- If you have to stand on a street corner to get people to pay attention to you, do it, because eventually the right person will come along.
Tristan- Keep truckin’ dude.