The world keeps turning, but the world of comedy doesn’t seem to spin at the same speed. As an industry, we are really behind the times in a lot of ways. Let’s talk about some of them.
Pay: This may be where the comedy industry as a whole has fell way behind. Right now, the going rate on the west coast of the United States for one nighters (just one show) is $100 for a feature and $200 for a headliner. That has been the amount of pay for about 25 years! What other profession has been this stagnant? Hell, teachers have gotten more raises, and no one like to pay teachers. The reason it is this way is because comedians just accept it as such. Whenever someone does say something, 2,000 comedians come out of the wood work and agree to the old price. You can’t fix what most don’t see as a problem.
Venue Responsibility: It has been this way since I started, but if a place wants to do comedy and they are not willing to invest anything in it (just throwing up flyers in your bathroom is not going to cut it) then you have to decide if it is worth it. If you are just trying to line your pockets, then you don’t care if four people show up to a bar show if you already have your money, but they may never do another show again.
Merchandising: Selling items after shows has become more than just a way to supplement your gas budget. Years ago, you would sell a cd or a shirt, but now comedians are selling everything from pens to bumper stickers. This makes it easier for a comedian to go to any venue in the country because then they will be able to make a decent amount of money. That doesn’t mean the pay shouldn’t be raised though.
Social Media: No longer do you just walk into town and do a show. You can announce your arrival weeks in advance. This can generate buzz, and in the future, when you do return, you can build a following that can help you make even more money.
These are just some of the things that can help the comedian in the modern market. What is important is to keep looking for ways to get noticed by more people. More people that know you exist means more potential people that will show up to a show.
You hear it all the time: “Follow your dreams!” “Do what you love!”. It is such an empty statement. Following your dreams isn’t enough, and if that is all you are doing then you will most likely never achieve them.
We will look at this saying from a comedy stand point of course, this is a blog about comedy (and photos sometimes). I see it all the time where someone wants to be a comedian, but then there are a lot of stipulations to when they want to be a comedian. They come out to an open mic once and now they plaster their social media accounts with the label: comedian. That isn’t enough if you REALLY want to be a comedian. What people learn quickly is that there are a lot of funny people at the bottom and a lot of not as funny people at the top. Comedy is not an empirical discipline where the funniest get the great stuff and the not funny remain at the bottom. That means that if you want to be a comedian, it takes more than just the thought of being a comedian, and it frustrates me when I see comedians that are “following” their dreams when instead they should be fighting for them.
Every successful comedian’s story is full of times they had to fight to keep doing what they love. They didn’t sit at home because it was cold outside. They jumped on a greyhound to get to a show. They sat around all night to get that three minutes at an open mic. They kept getting on stage and proving to management that they were good enough for more than just last minute replacement comic. They sat their asses down and wrote and wrote and wrote. Then they got lucky enough to be seen by the right person, but that also meant sleeping on couches and in their car. The thing is, when I say successful, I am not talking about just the ones you see on TV. This is the story of all the guys you see come through your town to perform on a given weekend. That is what it takes to do this.
It frustrates me when I am talking to local comedians and they will give me so many excuses to why they can’t come out. They have class. They have a job. They have a child. These are all things that I personally have had to deal with, and you have to make some sacrifices. When I was in college, I would get my class work done and then I would get my ass to the local open mic. It was harder to get work, so what I did was only take stuff where I could get back home the same day. I had a job after class as well. It usually meant being tired some nights, but I kept doing it because it was something that I truly enjoyed. When I started my kid was three, so that meant that if I could not find someone to take her I could not go, but I did sacrifice a lot of time with her to pursue comedy because I felt I could make a living at it and she would benefit. Before college, I spent a lot of time driving for hours for shit pay so I could one day be able to do the shows I want for the money I want. Not everyone has my exact situation. I’m just giving an example of some of the things you have to do. After all of this, no one knows who I am. I am not a nationally touring headliner. I don’t have TV credits. This is what I had to do to get this far. And this isn’t all of it. There was homelessness and overdue bills and all that, but it is what I loved so I fought to keep doing it. Look, if you just want to come out every once and a while and dabble in comedy, then go ahead and do that. Nothing wrong with stand up as a hobby, but I am talking about those whose dream is to do this for a living. If you are not fighting for those dreams, then you can not be shocked when they do not come true.