Why Entertainers Earn So Much Money

A friend who appears on a highly-rated situation comedy on television told me that every time he gets his weekly paycheck he feels as though he’s stolen something. He earns more in one week of inspired buffoonery than most people earn in a year, but even if his pay was half — or a quarter, or an eighth — of his present rate, he’d still feel as though he’d gotten away with larceny. Sure, he realizes that he’s a star, and stars help people sell lots of stuff, and therefore stars get paid lots of money, but still. All he does is goof around and look handsome, and producers throw buckets of money at him.

It’s crazy, he admits. What about teachers? What about nurses? What about the poorly paid folks who administer homeless shelters, and counsel abused children, and grow the vegetables we eat?

And what about professional athletes? And tattooed street poets who can rhyme “birthday” with “birthday”? Why do they earn more in a year than the average person makes in a lifetime? Is the reason simply because life isn’t fair?

Entertainers — and this includes singers, talk show hosts, basketball players, news readers, actors, and folks with no discernible talent who are famous for being famous (e.g., Paris Hilton) — earn enormous salaries because, to varying degrees, they aid us common folk in escaping the banality and crushing hopelessness of our unglamorous existence. We are not fabulous. We are not hot. We are not even thin. We’re just regular. Living in a culture that constantly reminds us that the goal in life is to be what we probably are not — rich, beautiful, and distinguishable from the billions of other people roaming the planet — we require a relative handful of others to distract us from our ennui and to serve as glorious examples of what we could (and should) be if only we believed in ourselves, had better genetics, or could stick to our low-carb diet. (Pick one).

Entertainers are the court jesters of our society. We pay them dearly because they’re not us.

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