Many comedians try to break into the comedy club circuit. I mean why not? That is where the comedy happens, right? Here’s the thing, comedy clubs as we have romanticized are for the most part over. Bad business dealings, terrible customer service, and total lack of comedic knowledge have left a lot of clubs scrambling to find ways to get people back in. Some have found it, and that doesn’t mean that you are getting a call anytime soon. It’s the celebrity comedian.
When I say celebrity comedian, you have to understand what I am trying to say. Dave Chappelle is a celebrity, and a comedian, but he is not a celebrity comedian. When I say celebrity comedian, I am talking about celebrities that later decided to become comedians to supplement their income. Let’s take for example Steve-O. We know and love him from the Jackass series. It wasn’t until later that he turned up in comedy clubs across the country. His celebrity means he can fill a comedy club, and that attracts club owners who are trying their best to get people into the club.
You may be thinking, what does a celebrity comedian have to do with me? A lot if you are trying to increase you work by getting into comedy clubs. It is already a struggle to get into most club in the country because of the lack of knowledge from the casual comedy audience. Clubs want people that the audience either knows or is assured can make them laugh. You have to be a proven entity to even get a feature spot at most clubs. You may have an easier time getting hosting work, but you will have to pay a lot out of pocket for the possibility of coming back in the future as a feature performer. Clubs like to see that you have done something in your career. That is why so many comedians scrabble for the limited number of tv spots so they can have that on their resume. That shows clubs that you have been “filtered” and makes it (a tiny bit) easier to break into the comedy circuit.
Now, you factor in that there are not many spots in comedy clubs, and the fact that there are even fewer when you start adding in celebrity comedians, and you can see where this can be a problem. If you are a comedian, your potential work shrinks because those spots are taken by a celebrity that has decided to become a comedian because everyone knows that they can sell out a club for a weekend. It’s like watching an exotic animal. You don’t know what they might do, but you want to see it when it happens.
So, if you are like me and are on the cusp of headlining smaller clubs and featuring in the larger rooms, this can be a big problem because now that a celebrity is taking the spot, everyone drops down. A headliner will probably agree to feature (especially if he can’t find some other work for that weekend) and that feature drops to maybe a MC if he gets that spot at all because it is difficult to make money driving across the country hosting, and you can see where this can be an issue.
Comedy clubs need to make money. They are businesses, and if they want to stay afloat they have to have people coming in and buying drinks. There can be a negative to this if no one is coming out except to see the one guy from that movie, but that isn’t your concern. You have to worry about how to make a living knowing that with the increase of celebrities turning to comedy clubs to make money. One thing you can do is turn to theaters. There are a lot of tiny theaters all across the country that are looking for events to put in them. You can just google these places and see what they can offer. I have done 300-400 room theaters and walked away with as much money as I would make in a weekend at a comedy club. The thinking is simple. Small towns get passed over for entertainment options. If all of a sudden the town’s theater is gonna have a comedy show, you will get interest. A lot of comedians have turned to this as a way to deal with losing dates because a celebrity took their spot (or they can’t get into many clubs like me😭).
Instead of getting mad that a club wants to bring in Screech from ‘Saved by the Bell’, use it as a chance to probably make even more money by going to these theaters that are starving for a way to stay relevant. I have been in discussions with people that get so angry about losing work to a wrestler that decided he will go to comedy clubs. I don’t see it as a club not wanting me. If they could get the same interest with a comedian like me (that they don’t have to pay as much) I wouldn’t have a free weekend ever. That is not how it works though. Everyone is trying to feed their families and we all have to adjust.
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