Tess Vigeland: The monthly jobs report comes out at the end of this week. Don't ask Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke for a forecast; he peered into his crystal ball this week and pronounced it too cloudy to call.
But our employment doldrums are providing fodder for the funny among us. Jokes on Leno, Letterman and SNL. And in New York, a sketch comedy show called "Employee of the Month." Josh Rogosin went for an interview.
Josh Rogosin: Backstage at the Upright Citizens Brigade, in the basement of a grocery storey in Manhattan. Writer and comedian Catie Lazarus is gearing up for the latest installment of her show "Employee of the Month."
Catie Lazarus: Oh hi, I'm Catie. Nice to meet you.
It's a live, on-stage interview show, where people talk about landing their dream jobs. It all started about thee years ago, when Catie was laid off from her gig as an animation writer. She was piecing together a living -- writing articles, hosting a web series -- but everything was short-term. Other opportunities fell through, like being offered a writing assistant gig for a major motion picture. She also wrote a pilot that never got off the ground.
Lazarus: And I couldn't get job interviews. But I found I could get informational interviews. So I decided to share these interviews with other people. I wanna know about jobs. That's where we spend the majority of our time. So why not hear from people who've made it so that they really enjoy that time?
So last year, she worked her contacts to create a show on landing that perfect job.
Lazarus: Being unemployed is such a difficult and isolating experience. And so I did want this show to be a place where people could come together.
Hany: My name is Hany and I am from London. I have a dead-end job working as a business journalist and I'm trying to find some inspiration.
Woman 1: I actually heard about this show while checking my e-mail at work.
Man 1: I'm employed now, doing fake flower decisions and dog walking.
Woman 2: Living the dream-ish.
The show is a labor of love for Catie. She barely makes enough money to break even. Audible.com is a sponsor and that helps her pay the band. There's a $5 admission price, but the theater takes 100 percent.
During the show she passes around a can for donations.
Host: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming out to the UCB Theatre. The show will begin in just a few moments. Welcome to the stage your hostess of the mostest. The employee who deserves all the bonuses, Ms. Catie Lazarus!
Seventy-five people squeeze into the black-box space with scuffed floors and a crackling sound system. The show's sold out. It's long before commercial actor Paul Marcorelli takes the stage.
Paul Marcorelli: The first commercial I got I actually crashed the audition. I had nothing to do all day and I was hanging around with a friend and he got a call and we both got cast in this commercial and it ran for two years. And I made a f---ing fortune.
Lazarus: Tell us about that 'cause I like to live vicariously.
Marcorelli: Oh it was so great! It was like...
Lazarus: No, no. Exactly, how much?
Marcorelli: Yeah, no. I remember... I made $37,000 on an accident job.
He continued as a successful commercial actor until his big break.
Marcorelli in a Verizon commercial: Can you hear me now? Good.
Theater house band sings "Can you hear me now?"
You guessed it, Paul is the Verizon guy. And that gig has enabled him so pursue his other passion, screenwriting.
Lazarus: With Paul, he came in with such a professionalism to his job -- he still does. And then he used those resources -- he acknowledged that he had them -- and used them to produce the art he loves, so one for them and one for me.
Rogosin: What do you hope your audience gets from coming to your shows or listening to your podcast?
Lazarus: I hope that they are inspired to finish the novel that they're working on. Keep their day job if they have one. Now that I'm older I'm advising people to do that. But that they get inspired to continue on their path or figure out what it is they want to do when they grow up, even if they are very grown up technically.
Catie's day job is part-time, writing for kids. She's hoping "Employee of the Month" will help her score her dream job of becoming a successful writer and comedian.
In New York, I'm Josh Rogosin for Marketplace.