Country Music Television - Nov 28th - 2006

Country Music TelevisionTuesday, 28th November
Every comic wants to be on television. Unlike regular day jobs, we don't have any job promotions or awards so sometimes people measure our self worth by how many television credits we have. Doing a set on the Tonight Show or Letterman is the ideal but most comics will pretty much do anything that comes his/her way. There is a perception that television makes you official. It's like being on television means you are finally accepted by the masses, but in reality, a television appearance comes down to a talent booker's opinion or simply who you know.

Some of my early TV credits include bad children's programming. I was on a Nickelodeon pilot as well as a short-lived CBS show called "Wild Wild Web" – a program that blended teaching kids how to use computers with stand-up comedy. (I think the description says it all) When I was living in NY a new type of programming trend was just starting to take off – television commentary

You know what I'm talking about. It's pretty much the only thing that plays on VH1 and the other B-cable channels nowadays. These shows basically play music videos or relive parts of the 80's while a bunch of no name comedians and actors make fun of whatever is on screen. I got to be one of those lucky comics, well sort of.

It all started one day in New York. I got a call from a new manager I was working with in Los Angeles. "Tarun you're going to be on TV!"

"Really? When? What channel?" I replied.

"Country Music Television! You're going to commentate on the videos."

Let me just emphasize that my manager was in Los Angeles and had never even seen me in person. Also, I didn't even have to audition for the show, which goes back to the old showbiz rule, half this business is not even based on talent or merit.

"Great!" The problem was that I didn't know anything about country music. In fact, I didn't even know there was such a thing called a Country Music Television Channel.

For those of you who are like the millions of other Americans who watch commentary shows, I'll give you the backstory of how these shows work. Usually a producer from the show will contact you a day or two before the taping and send you a bunch of topics and fun facts to write jokes for. In my case, the show was called "40 Greatest Done Me Wrong Songs" and they were counting down, you guessed it, country music songs!

The segment producer called me up.

"This is so and so. Do you like country music?"
"No, not really."

"Have you ever heard country music?"
"I think so."

"Perfect, I'll send you a DVD of some videos we'll be playing and some notes. Come up with some material, and be at the studio next Friday at 1pm."

A few days later I received the music DVD along with a large packet of useless country music trivia. Every night I would go over the information and write down any funny thoughts that came to my head. The whole thing was retarded. I did some research on CMT and found out that the channel is pretty popular in the South. I wondered what people would think when they saw me, a 23 year old comedian nobody's ever heard of, thrashing their favorite country song. It was a tough job but somebody had to do it.

Friday came, and I went to the studio at the Viacom building in Times Square. By "studio," it was basically just a small room with a camera set up against a blue screen. Some lady put makeup on my face while I placed a few notecards I made the night before on the floor next to me.

The next 25 minutes went by pretty fast. Somebody off camera asked me questions, and I went rapid fire through my jokes. I can pretty much go on automatic when it comes to comedy. Boom-boom, camera man laughs, boom-boom-boom. Thank you very much you've been a great audience! I thanked everyone in the room and made a quick exit.

A few weeks later, I tuned into the program with my family and we counted down the videos. It was my career defining moment. Out of about fifty jokes, I think I was used about three times, usually right after the comedian, Carrot Top.

It was a brief appearance but that day, like my peers, I finally had a TV credit which meant nothing in the grand scheme of life. A credit that reaffirms my belief that stand-up comedy is to the entertainment industry as candlepin bowling is to professional sports. A credit that serves as a lesson for everyone reading this. If you work hard, believe in yourself, and catch a little bit of luck, just maybe... you too can be a country music telelvision star.


ps. I went home this Thanksgiving and was going through some old stuff. I found a clip from the actual show! It really is ridiculous. If you want to see it, just click on the following link. Ciao
Tarun ShettyComment