Trying To Survive As A Road Comic

Road comics are the blue collar guys of the comedian totem pole.  The idea of traveling around the country, making people laugh is a romantic one.  The reality of the situation though is a little different.

The biggest issue I think I run into when I am on the road is the driving.  In the past week I will have driven 2800 miles.  A lot of it through the snowiest areas of the country, so you can’t just put it on cruise control and relax. You have to have lots of things to keep your mind off the clock.  Podcast, audiobooks, terrible radio stations, you will need something. I also like to have a lot of snacks so I don’t have to stop all the time to eat.

Then there are the hotels.  Most of the time, you will get a hotel as part of the gig, and you really don’t know what you are getting.  This week I have gone from great to sad.  Whenever I get a hotel that looks a little sketchy, I will usually just take all of my valuables with me when I leave to go somewhere.  When you are on the road for 10 hours, you want to catch up on your emails and stuff, but for some reason hotels have not gotten the message that a decent wifi connection is important.  If I had to give it a number, I would say that about 60% of hotels have crappy internet access.  I think they just want to have a bullet point.

The least concerning thing about being a road comic is the actual show.  I know that sounds weird, but after all of that travel and everything, an audience is an audience.  People want to laugh, you have to be aware of the uniqueness of a new region (the midwest may not laugh at the same stuff a group in Seattle will).  The thing is if you are this far in your career that you are on the road that you should know this.

Sometimes the time doesn’t add up.  You travel 20 hours for 3 hours of actual work.  You try to eat as cheaply as possible which means a lot of the time you eat trash, and sometimes you perform in front of a group that are just there to get away from their kids.  It is not for everyone.  If you imagine yourself only playing in front of adoring fans then being on the road is not for you.  If you can’t budget your finances or wake up on time to hit the road then the road is not for you.  If you like seeing new people and performing in the basements of pizza parlors…Then go get a Honda Civic and book some shows.




2 thoughts on “Trying To Survive As A Road Comic

  1. being on the road sounds really really shitty. not glamorous at all.

    I watched one of your Uncle D’s bits on youtube.

    Regarding people stealing jokes: I saw this firsthand – Spokane (2 comics). And another in Moscow. He was a headliner and just came off cruise ships (which does not sound sucky, but i have a 4 year old and frankly, id like a couple months all alone) , but This guy had taken one part of a Lewis Black bit and some was a copy, some was a tangent of different material. What do you think of that?

    The writing is my favorite part: creating the core of the story, the joke, then throwing the ideas to my friends, for the free association, it’s basically a reason to hang out and chat. It almost always helps, because their points of reference are wildly different than mine.

    perhaps you can talk about your current process. refining jokes. and not feeling depressed after a show. you have letdown, right?

    1. Like other jobs, being a road comic has parts that you would rather not do. The thing for me though, is that the bad parts of road comedy are not as bad as the bad of other jobs (if that makes sense).

      People try all sorts of things to justify the material that they lifted. I really feel (for Spokane specifically) that the older comics do most of the lifting because in the day, it was all just about the charm of the entertainer.

      My process is a little more free flowing then most. I don’t sit at the computer or with a pen and pad and write. I wait for the idea and then if I have the time I write the entire bit down in either my phone or on a piece of paper. If I don’t have the time, I write the idea down. I refine my jokes on stage. Most of the jokes I have written somewhere are just the foundation. I tend to find what is and isn’t funny about the joke on stage. I feel like that is the best way to see if what you have will work. Everything seems to work in your notepad.

      If you are not depressed at some time or another then you are not doing comedy right. That goes with the territory. I think it is because we are putting some of our deepest thoughts and ideas out there for people to react and it can be a heavy toll. If a show goes bad, I just remember that I can not be great every show and I will try to do better next time. I also try to get away from comedy from time to time. Hang out with my kid, take photos, play video games, read, I do all those things to keep my mind from getting to occupied with comedy.

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