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Smooth-Talking Talent Agent

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The funny thing about performers and athletes: they're trained to play sports, or to act—in the latter case, they're sometimes also trained in choreography, singing, martial arts, or other skills important for their parts. But no matter how good they are at these things, there are crucial skills that can drastically affect their income that they're not typically trained in. To name a few: understanding contracts, knowing how business deals work, knowing what possibilities for moneymaking exist, and negotiating with studios or team owners. As such, if they want to get paid fairly, they need to have an agent who does understand these things.

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On screen, agents are stereotypically depicted as smooth-talking, phony, and primarily interested in making money. The good news is that these agents generally make a percentage of their talents' income, so they have a strong incentive to help their talent make as much money as possible. The bad news is that money is pretty much all they care about: the comfort, sensibilities, non-monetary goals, and values of their talents often aren't even on their radar—unless of course any of these get in the way of opportunities for making money, at which point the agent tries to smooth-talk them out of caring about these things.

And, of course, if a talent becomes a washed-up has-been who won't be making the agent any money, the agent has no time for them.

All smiles and no empathy, these agents are often reviled and parodied.

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Examples:

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    Advertising 

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): The first (named) villain Diana runs across in Man's World is a sleazy Vaudeville agent named Al Kale, who talks her into doing bullets-and-braclets as a sideshow gimmick. It proves to be a smash-hit, but when Diana (who was mostly doing it to kill time while Steve Trevor recovered in hospital) calls it quits, he tries to run off with a 100% cut of the receipts.
    • The post-Crisis reboot created a much more nuanced take in Myndi Mayer, who launches a massive publicity campaign and merchandising empire in the name of spreading Diana's fame (and message of peace) across Man's World. While frequently tacky and egotistical, Myndi does legitimately like Diana as a person, and never willingly antagonizes her before her sudden death via drug overdose.

    Comic Strips 
  • Sid Kibbutz from Doonesbury is a jaded talent agent based in Los Angeles, who almost always wears designer sunglasses and a wireless phone clipped to one ear. He used to rep for Barbara Ann "Boopsie" Boopstein, until she grew tired of getting small parts in Porn with Plot productions.
  • TankMcNamara has the Gentle Giant Superstuff Jones repped by a ruthless shark of an agent. He begins by reminding everyone in the boardroom that Jones is an amateur athlete. After sharpening a carving knife, the agent stabs it into the table. "I never was." The recruitment more closely resembles a hostage ransom, complete with briefcases full of unmarked currency.
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    Films — Animation 
  • Bolt: Penny's agent is all grins and no empathy, constantly doing what's good for the show's continued profits, even if it hurts Penny to do it. He shuts down her concerns with the phrase "Let's put a pin in it!" so often that it practically becomes his catchphrase, and on top of all that, he tries to use a fire that could've cost Penny her life for publicity!

    Films — Live Action 
  • Wimbledon has Ron, Peter's old agent dropped like a fly when he started losing his tennis matches, and tries to weasel his way back as if nothing happened once Peter starts winning again. Peter doesn't fall for his faux-friendly attitude but still hires him because Ron is actually good at the job.

    Literature 
  • In the Whateley Universe, a mutant named Solicitor owns a talent agency called Solicitor, Inc. He's helped in his smooth-talking by the fact that his mutant power allows him to know what people want.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Slim Goodbody: One puppet-villain in this series is Sal Soda, modeled after one of these types of agents, who smooth-talks Slim into making an appearance and schedules a limo to pick him up to take him there. That limo then drives around in circles so he's out of communication and nowhere near where he needs to be to foil Sal's plans.
  • The Arrangement (2017): Big Hollywood star Kyle has two agents, the married couple Terence and DeAnn, and both don't particularly care about what Kyle wants and constantly manipulate his professional life for maximum profit.
  • Criminal Minds: The Unsub in "True Night" (a mentally-troubled comic artist/writer) had one named Bobby Kim who actually cared about his client/friend's well being.
  • Frasier: Bebe Blazer could be the patron saint (or devil) of this trope. Frasier's long time agent, she usually showed up once a season when Frasier's radio contract was up. Tellingly, she would often push Frasier to take his show to new heights, getting him guest hosting gigs and segments on talk shows to boost his value. This ran contrary to Frasier's desire to be seen as a legitimate psychiatrist who used his radio show to help people, even as it ran right up against his addiction to fame. In fact, she's done illegal things to try to boost Fraiser's rep, to the point where she's seen as a Satanic Archetype in-universe. To name a couple examples: In one episode she reveals that she convinced a (legitimately) suicidal man Frasier helped into trying to jump off a building just in time for Frasier's negotiations to get a booster shot with him being seen as a hero, and in the Grand Finale Frasier gets a radio gig in San Francisco, and it's not even subtly implied that it's because Bebe murdered his competition!
  • Joey: Joey has an agent named Bobbi. She's shown to be ditzy and has an obsessive crush on Joey's nephew. She manages to get Joey a role on a hit series, only to get his character killed off by suggesting he ask for a raise. At one point, she takes Joey's sister Gina under her wing. Gina also engages in some sleazy acts, such as sleeping with a client.
  • Kingdom Adventure: In one episode, Vibes agreed to play his instrument for The Prince as part of The Prince's plan. Trying to get him to stop, Dagger put on a Paper-Thin Disguise as one of these kinds of agents to try to talk Vibes into playing for him, telling him that he could be playing for royalty. Vibes told him he already did play for royalty; whether Vibes saw through the disguise or simply realized Dagger had nothing to offer him wasn't entirely clear.
  • MST3K: In the Danger: Death Ray episode, T.V.'s Frank was an agent briefly. Mike called him out on his phoniness when he brushed Crow's script off, but then when Frank says he can get 20 grand per performance of Anything Goes, Mike's dressed in a sailor costume, singing Cole Porter songs.
  • Square One TV: Subverted in one episode of the Mathnet Police Procedural miniseries called The Case of the Unnatural, and not in the way you'd think, either: a pitcher in a minor league baseball game is performing amazingly, and has an agent who says he owns him. This agent displays little empathy, and the pitcher seems like a Cloud Cuckoo Lander, but all is not as it seems: The pitcher is actually a Ridiculously Human Robot, and his remote control is the agent's cellular phone. And the pitcher was created to look like and impersonate a specific human being, who the agent had kidnapped!

    Music 
  • Bo Burnham: One of the characters Bo meets in "We Think We Know You" is a Los Angeles Agent who rambles on for a while about how Bo needs to "pander to kids" and "reestablish his presence on the internet" while pretending he cares about Bo's music and not just money. Later, he gives a condescending "We know best", and tries to get Bo to call him to continue their "conversation".
  • Kids Praise: Risky Rat, in his first appearance, is essentially this crossed with being a Con Man: he smooth-talks Charity Churchmouse into signing a contract that literally traps her and has her Made a Slave.
  • In "Radio Friendly Pop Song", the singer is meeting with an agent who praises his looks and singing abilities but tries to encourage him to hide his sexuality, acting as if he's just helping him make money and make it in the industry, but is very dismissive and condescending during their conversation.

    Theatre 
  • In The Little Dog Laughed, Diane is protagonist Mitchell's agent, and uses verbal steamrolling to push through negotiations, which is necessary because Mitchell is severely closeted but also prone to accidentally outing himself if left to his own devices (the play takes place in the early aughts, when coming out or being outed was still a potential career-ender.)

    Web Animation 
  • Dorkly Originals has a whole series about a smooth-talking agent for video game characters who does outrageous things, like separating Sonic and Tails, kicking out video game characters who are no longer popular, or even trying to convince Mario not to propose to his girlfriend, just because he can make more money with a Princess as a love interest! It can be found here.

    Western Animation 
  • A Boy Named Charlie Brown: Lucy voices a desire to become one of these for Charlie Brown, pointing out that she'd own 10% of him—while also hoping to get 15%. She says this while watching Charlie Brown doing well at the national spelling bee on television. But the moment he gets eliminated, she howls that owning 10% of him is like owning 10% of nothing!
  • BoJack Horseman:
    • Princess Carolyn is a determined Hollywood agent (and later manager) who always has the right pep talk to get clients on her side and sometimes sacrifices morality for monetary pursuit. She does have a heart though, especially for on/off boyfriend/client BoJack, and later episodes establish that she's so focused on her career because she went through hell to get where she is today.
    • Vanessa Gekko and Rutabaga Rabinowitz are Princess Carolyn's rival agents who strategically work through an entire company to get their client the dream projects.
  • Family Guy: In "Ready, Willing and Disabled", Joe wins the Special Olympics, and is soon after approached by a smarmy agent who piles on the compliments, and offers Joe everything (including his car) if he signs with him. Joe agrees, and his skyrocketing fame ends up making him so full of himself that he forgets all about Peter, who not only suggested to Joe the idea of participating in the Special Olympics, but coached him as well. After seeing the error of his ways, Joe admits that he had lost himself.
    Joe: That slimy agent had me believing the hype.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: Parodied in the episodes "I Totally Shredded My Cheese" and "The Masked Jackhammer", where Beezy tries to be Jimmy's agent and self-proclaimed owner of the "Beezy Got Talent Agency." His business card is beat up with a crudely edited photo of himself with marker-drawn hair and a tuxedo taped to his waist and his negotiations with Lucius always result in the latter giving him minor things like a pen or a bag of chips while Lucius profits off everything Jimmy makes, which Beezy always accepts with no hesitation.
  • Stickin' Around: An Imagine Spot in the episode "This Is A Hiccup!" has Bradley being this kind of agent for Stacy, who is supposed to be singing in front of a stadium full of fans, but can't because of her hiccups. Bradley takes it upon himself to cure her, although both of his attempts fail. The first being to push her off a diving board higher than Earth's atmosphere, and the second having Bradley getting Stacy to drink a tanker truck full of water until she becomes a human water balloon with hiccups powerful enough to destroy the stadium. After the second one, Stacy decides enough is enough and fires him.
  • Viva Piñata: Simone Cinnamonkey is Hudson Horstachio's quick-talking agent, who, while she has a tendency to be very snarky and sometimes cares more about getting paid than she does about Hudson's career, always has his back and does whatever she can to encourage and support him in tough times.

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