Whoever coined the phrase, “Money can’t buy happiness,” definitely had plenty of it.
Money is a strange thing. If you have it—especially if you’ve always had it—cold hard cash doesn’t seem that important. But if you’re one of 43 million Americans who live below the poverty line, or are one the many more who live paycheck to paycheck (never falling behind, but never really getting ahead), money can consume your every thought. Do I have enough this month? How can I get more? Why do so few seem to have so much, while the rest of us struggle?
When I set out to make my documentary, Chris Gets Money, I was—and still am—firmly in that second group. I worked 40-plus hours a week and did comedy during my free time. Making ends meet was never a sure thing, but it became so normal that I just learned to deal.
Electricity turned off? No problem! Break into the circuit breaker and turn it back on. Rent finally paid, but there’s no money left for food? The comedy club has a canned-food donation box. Shoes falling apart? Take used ones from your female friend Lulu, who shares your size and style.
But when you live in a city like Austin, you’re constantly reminded that this isn’t life for everyone. You serve meals you can’t possibly afford. You clean toilets stained with the vomit of tech millionaires who drank too much Pappy Van Winkle. You do it all with a smile because Texas is an employment-at-will state, which means anyone can be fired at any time for any reason. But hey, at least you’re leaving work at 4 AM with some cash in your pocket and a few shift drinks in your belly. On the way home, you pass large groups of people who have it much worse. Lying on the side of the road and under highway overpasses. Curled up under newspapers and torn blankets during winter. Barely dressed and dehydrated during summer. You feel lucky that you’re not them.
Go home. Pass out. Wake up. Repeat.
That’s really what motivated me to make Chris Gets Money. I’d see people spending more on a night out than I’d spend on groceries for a week, and think: Do they know how good they have it? Do they even think about their privilege? I’ve dreamt many times about sitting next to these people at a bar, ordering one of those $100 pours of bourbon, and getting answers straight from the Arabian race horse’s mouth.
So, when Fusion asked me to do just that, I jumped at the opportunity. Ultimately, my experience was far different than I thought it would be. I went in with very black-and-white expectations about what people with money would be like, and what having money would allow me to do. And while some of these expectations were met (as it turns out, money can buy happiness if your idea of happiness is spending a day in a giant pool in a beautifully landscaped backyard, pausing only to check your new laptop to see if your custom-made suit is ready for pick-up), many were subverted.
After my adventure, I now hate and like rich people. It’s complicated. Hopefully, Chris Gets Money will enlighten and surprise you. Maybe even change your perceptions, too.
Chris Cubas is a standup comedian based in Austin, Texas. He was one of the original members of the Altercation Comedy Tour, and his unique style has brought him to perform at festivals such as Fun Fun Fun Fest, SXSW, The Moontower Comedy and Oddities Festival, and The Funny Or Die: Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival. Chris Gets Money premieres Friday, October 21, at 8 PM on Fusion.