my first one cent paycheck

Well, it finally happened.  I just got my first residual paycheck for $0.01.  Yes, you read that correctly.  One cent, one penny, 1/100th of a U.S. dollar.  In the past, I had always heard stories on the mean streets of Hollywood about actors getting the infamous once cent residual paycheck in the mail.  However, I have never met any of these penny beneficiaries in person so I kinda just wrote the whole thing off as some sort of urban legend or street myth.  You know, stuff like unicorns and four hour erections.

But before we continue, for those folks not familiar with the esoteric pay practices of the entertainment industry, here’s a quick explanation of how actors earn their keep.  Here we go…

An actor makes money in two ways – 1) a day’s pay for a day’s work (trading your hours for dollars) & 2) residual pay (getting paid in your sleep).  Most of us are familiar with trading your hours for dollars.  It’s how most of us make our living (unless, of course you’re Paris Hilton or the lucky dude that gets to snuggle up against her soft, boney body every night).  Residuals, however, are a bit different.  They’re the royalties an actor receives for the projects they worked on in the past for reruns, DVD sales, syndication, licensing, foreign territory sales, etc.  Basically, it’s making money without technically having to go to the office.  Pretty cool, huh?  It’s kinda like getting paid over and over and over again for something you did once a long time ago.  Actors love it.  But then again, not only do actors love it but they need it to survive.  You see, without the residual payment component, many working actors today would not be able to make a living purely through their acting talents alone.  Obviously when you’re Tom Cruise or Will Smith, this may not be as relevant.  If you’re an A-List star, your up front pay can total well into the eight figures and you’ll probably have a percentage of gross/net ticket sales and global profits which can easily dwarf your up front salary.  That’s big money for sure but only a handful (literally) of people on earth can command that kind of bling ching.  So what about the working joe, the journeyman actor, the middle class of Hollywood talent?  You know, the accomplished creatives who do it for scale?  The dedicated individuals who work on hundreds projects ranging from TV commercials to movies to stage productions to television shows over the course of 30+ years but never become household names?  You know, those folks that look familiar when you see them on the street but you just can’t place a name to the face?  For those individuals (aka working actors), the difference between financial stress and a nice, comfortable, middle class living comes down to one thing: residuals.

Now back to my penny conundrum…

A one cent residual paycheck?  Yes, ONE CENT.  Getting a one cent residual paycheck in a serious buzz kill.  Normally, when an actor opens up his/her mailbox and sees a residual check from their agent or SAG, it’s like a surprise, holiday gift.  Nothing gets me smiling more than opening up my mailbox and seeing an unexpected residual paycheck sitting there smiling and saying, “tear me open big boy and see what delicious bounty awaits you on the inside!”  Sometimes the check’s substantial and I can take my girl out to Sizzler for Sunday dinner and a night of dizzying pleasure at the Red Roof Inn (deluxe suite, of course).  But most of the time it’s just a few bucks, enough to pay the month’s bills and add a little girth to the saving’s kitty.  But never, ever in my life have I received a check for one penny.  I just stared at the check in shock.  The value of the paper was greater than the check amount.  My mind had to rewire a few synapses to comprehend the number one sitting two decimal places to the right of the decimal point.  $0.01 How is that even possible?  It cost 44 cents to mail the darn thing.  That’s a 4,400% delivery fee!  Uncle Sam can’t even tax it because there is no denomination smaller.  Seeing the check was as shocking as unbuttoning the bra of Megan Fox and seeing her breasts detach from her chest, bounce onto my shag carpet, and melt into a puddle of man sorrow.  Or, for the hetero woman and gay dude, I imagine the equivalent would be unbuttoning Brad Pitt’s pants only to have his thick and perky member detach from his crotch, fall to the floor, sprout legs, and scurry out the van door.  A one cent residual check is good from afar (when you can’t see the digits) but far from good.  Far, far, far from good.  In fact, the one cent residual just plain sucks donkey balls.

But I am not one to wallow in human negativity.  With every storm cloud there exists a silver lining.  With every heap of chicken shit lie the ingredients to make a bountiful chicken salad.  With every small bust or crotch exists underwear that can gift your confidence with bumps and lumps of public envy.  A one cent residual check can and will be a good thing.  Here are a few “glass half full” scenarios…

I could take this one cent residual check to various bars in Hollywood and exchange it for an alcoholic drink (bars like Maeve’s Residuals).  Most of these establishments will take any residual check under a buck and allow you to barter it for some booze.  Being Asian I would employ a strategy for maximum return on investment (ROI).  I wouldn’t swap it for some low value liquor such as $4 tap beer.  That’s only a 4,000% return on my one penny investment.  No, I’d go for something really expensive, massive in alcohol concentration, and has some sort of fancy name that makes no logical sense at all like a “Long Island Ice Tea”.  Hell yeah.  That’s what I’d get.  A Long Island Ice Tea usually runs about $12.  At $12, that’s a 12,000% ROI!  Now we’re talking.  Even Donald Trump can’t churn out these kind of returns (though his pageants are pretty darn priceless).  Put it another way, if you got a 12,000% return on a hundred dollar investment, you’d have $12,000.  Such a move would make you a financial genius, especially in an era where professional money managers would be considered gods if they could get consistent 12% returns for their clients.  This is a good option.  I’d get some serious bang for my buck and pickle my liver like a champ.

or

I could use it to roll my finest blunt.  Just know, I am not a marijuana or hash connoisseur.  God knows I have tried for years to addict myself to the herb.  But unfortunately for me, I’m one of the 25% that gets incredibly paranoid and violent when partaking in the doobage.  And given that I prefer not to be in a state of rage and punch out my friends during casual social gatherings and late night chill sessions, I tend to stick to drugs with a more calming and pedestrian effect like Elmer’s Glue or Bud Light Lime.  But for the one cent residual, I will make an exception.  I’ll sift that check through a bed of gunpowder (makes it burn slower), toss in a pound of Amsterdam’s finest, and roll myself and my best friends a fatty that even Tony Montana would envy (cause he does the blow).  It would be the ultimate FU to capitalism.  I mean, how cool would it be to say to my friends, “Hey man, wanna come over to my place?  I’m gonna use my residual check from that movie I just did to roll a joint?”  And when my buddies all go slackjawed and bug-eyed in amazement and say, “But that’s money.  How can you burn money?”  I’d just kink my head, crack a smile, and whisper, “Cause I can afford to…”  I just wouldn’t tell them that the check was worth a penny.  Gansta fo sho…

but

What am I really going to do?  Hmm…  I think I’m just going to frame the darn thing and place it above the fireplace in my living room (right next to my autographed photo of David Hasselhoff in a red speedo).  And I’m thinking about putting it in a HUGE frame.  A MASSIVE frame.  Perhaps something 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide with gold trim and black matting.  I want this check to stand out and be the first thing that everyone sees when they come for a visit.  I’m going to turn this symbol of financial turditude and convert it into an intelligent and ironic piece of art.  It’ll be my homage to Edvard Munch’s The Scream, just that my check will symbolize the universal anxiety of modern man.  Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.  With this paltry sum a sophisticate de artiste I will become.  C’est si bon! Though the check may be small, the statement does not have to be.  Through art I will express my shock and awe over such a miniscule paycheck for I am worth more than a penny (I hope). Through art I will explore man and capitalism’s false sense of created self worth through the size of one’s paycheck.  Through art I will find the beauty behind this one penny payment for my acting services.  Through art I will find the happy hidden within the steaming dung heap of sucky sucky.

The one cent residual paycheck – it’s for real.  May you never ever get one.  But if you do, enjoy the pleasure of all it’s pains.  C’est si bon!

Ahhhh! I got a one cent residual! Uckfay!

12 thoughts on “my first one cent paycheck

  1. 1. I would like to buy your piece of art. The price I have in mind is $00,000,000.01

    2. You never told us what piece of work the residual check is for

    3. Nice working that picture of Megan Fox in there!

  2. yeah… I still have my 18 cent on my night stand… i can’t figure out what to do with it. btw, what was your total earnings? Like 10 cents?

  3. “I tend to stick to drugs with a more calming and pedestrian effect like Elmer’s Glue or Bud Light Lime” hahah Rog I love this line. You should got a bottle of Tequila with your check man! Now, thats using that Brown degree for something with maximum ROI.

  4. Damn. You can’t even cash that at the currency exchange. One penny candy hasn’t even been around since the 80′s. Turn tragedy into triumph, make a mockumentary about it. It will pay in dividends. The zeros will go behind the 1 next time. =)

  5. @The Kenosha Kid – payment was for a studio movie I did in the last few years of which I was a supporting lead. scary, huh? btw…$00,000,000.01. that’s a good one. i’ll have to use it.

    @Junko – my total earnings? $0.01 was the GROSS. So one penny was my total earnings before tax. they couldn’t even tax it b/c it was sooooooo low.

    @Robs – the bottle of Tequila would be most appropriate. so i can inject it directly into my veins with a Capri Sun straw to dull the pain of my hollywood windfall.

    @MM – i look forward to the day that there are many zeros to the left of the decimal point as well as a number above zero to the left of the many zeros. until then, you can find me at the freeway exit of 10 and La Cienega (eastbound exit…gotta get people while they’re going to work…better mood = more handouts)

  6. Sorry ’bout that. ;-(

    Actually, to help the economy you SHOULD go to cash that check.

    It will keep the bank teller “new person of the week” employed (don’t use the ATM in case it gets eaten/lost), the backoffice check processing and clearing center employees, the monthly statement processing center employees, the army of accountants employed to keep track of things, the IT staff that is needed to make sure all of the computers and databases are working properly, the gas station attendant for where you refill your fuel tank in your car so that you can drive to the bank, the fuel tanker driver that brings the gas to the gas station, the oil tanker and refinery workers, the factories and workers that make the tanker trucks/ships, oil industry equipment, the people in sweatshops that make the clothing for those other people, the envelope makers that residual checks get mailed out in, the postal employees that deliver those checks, the agents and other entertainment industry people that work behind the scenes to close the deals, the coffeeshops & workers where all of the above go to congregate and commiserate, the police that have to arrest the robbers that try to rob the coffeeshops, the paramedics and hospital workers for those injured in the robbery attempts, the journalists that cover the stories, the writers and publishers that put out books about the stories, the producers that then buy the rights to the books to make movies, and the actors that are then hired for the portrayals, etc.

    That 1-cent has a huge impact. To not cash it would be selfish and put many people out-of-work.

    LOL. ;->

    Don’t spend it all in one place…..

    Very Best Wishes on the next residuals check. :-D

  7. Roger – you should forge that 1 cent check a hundred million times and frame it ala Warhol to illustrate the tension between perceived and real value, fraud and authenticity… I think you have a rich second career ahead of you as a conceptual artist.

  8. Hey, at the very least, it inspired you to write a terrific post. That was a great, funny, bitter rant! Bravo.

  9. Pingback: What I Learned on YOMYOMF This Week – May 30 – June 5, 2010 | You Offend Me You Offend My Family

  10. The penny has turned into good things. A blog masterpiece, and some entertainment for us.

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