Understanding the Artistic Pissing Match

Once, a long time ago, a friend and I came up with an idea for a show.  It was a late night show and involved getting four performers (improvisers, comedians, actors) and one wild card (a non-performer but who worked in an unusual or colorful profession) and have them play poker for actual cash while telling the sickest fucking stories they could come up with.

It was a great show, a fun show and, for me, part of it was the tension between the poker game and the desire to perform, always at odds with each other, always raising the stakes.  Some players focused more on the game (the winner could walk offstage with a hundred bucks in hand) and others focused on the stories.  It made for a genuinely entertaining and fun show.

We closed the show after a two-year run and immediately people from other parts of the world started requesting use of the title and format.  My friend and I knew we hadn't invented anything artistically relevant nor a huge money-maker, so we pretty much gave anyone who asked written permission.

Another friend, a bit later, wanted to remount it in Chicago.  So we said "Sure."  Adam Felber (Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! And Real Time with Bill Maher) recently mentioned doing a version of it in New York.

It did well.  Except.

This new version eliminated the poker game.  Or at least the playing for real money part.  It eliminated the wild card.  The host started scripted bits within the fabric of the show.  It became a completely different experience while retaining the same title and sense of legacy.

Because we asked for no fealty to the premise and we hadn't created anything more than an entertaining format, the pretension of artistic legacy seemed silly.  It was also a really entertaining show with great people working it.  It was just...different.  So I let it go.

I suppose, if the format and content of the show were something more important - say, the foundation of one of the longest running shows in Chicago spawning countless "plays," books, whole companies in other cities, and changing the lives of both performers and audience members - I might've been a bit more protective of it.

I suppose, if I had created such a show and had been summarily dismissed by the company that produced it for personal reasons rather than artistic ones and saw that the show had become more "sketch comedy" than originally intended and executed, if I saw the focus becoming more about personalities and a singular type of identity politics rather than a focus on broader, more encompassing issues, I might decide to take the show format back and try to reboot it in the vein that I had in the beginning.

I don't know.  Never happened quite that way for me.