What do you do when you’re not acting?

Philip is an actor and stand up comedian and a regular freelance contributor to The Stage
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What do you do when you’re not acting? There’s a question that never gets old...

Having always been told to ‘have something to fall back on’, for the past decade I have mainly worked as an office temp when not acting. Some job have lasted a day, some a few years. But all have at least one thing in common; when done by an actor, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

One very successful comedienne I know used to work on the switchboard for a large organisation. She perfected many of her voices by answering calls in character. Imagine phoning to discuss something quite serious and being greeted first by a mad French girl with a stutter and then a nervous Brazilian with an attitude.

I sometimes create characters for myself, if only to pass the time, but it is possible to get carried away. I once hated a job so much I resigned telling them I had an acting job. When they surprisingly showed interest I fuelled the lie and built a whole back story about a production I’d be doing in Norwich (don’t ask me why Norwich), and I got so into it that when I got home, I nearly started packing and looking for digs.

On the whole, though, I love working in admin when I’m not acting. The work is varied, and you meet some great people who are genuinely interested in your life as an actor. Of course, as soon as it comes up in conversation they can’t help themselves:

‘Ooh, my child/sibling/cousin/friend/neighbour/someone I once queued behind at the butchers is an actor…it’s very hard, isn’t it?’

As if they’re the first person to tell you that. Of course, it’s even worse when their friend is doing well. I met someone recently who was talking about his best friend, an actor, who was doing ‘alright, actually’, and when I probed further the friend turned out to be James McAvoy. So, yes, not doing too badly then.

[pullquote]I’d love to know what other jobs actors do that pay the bills, but also help keep their performance skills honed?[/pullquote]

But the main thing I like about working in offices is that I’m always at a computer. I’m very good with what many older colleagues still refer to as ‘word processing’, and I’m able to use my downtime to network through Facebook and Twitter, print submission letters and scripts, and when you’ve a franking machine crying out to be used, who among us could resist sending out the odd CV?

I’ve been very lucky with the work I’ve been able to do, and when I’m not acting, doing voiceovers, corporate or roleplay jobs, teaching, performing stand up or writing these pieces, it’s a really great way of keeping my mind active.

I’d love to know what other jobs actors do that pay the bills, but also help keep their performance skills honed?