Allow myself to introduce... myself


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Comedian Facts part 2

I'd like to take a moment of your time to talk about the underserved segment of our population, the struggling comedian. For the purposes of this discussion, let's define "struggling" as any comedian who has not yet been the voice of a character in a Disney cartoon, and must still actually work for a living. These are the people who go out on the road whenever possible, and aren't stationed at studio city where they can film their own weekly television show.

Something you may not know about those guys you see at your local comedy club - they have no union. Actors have a union, but most of these folks are comedians not actors. I think models have a union, even strippers have a union. Now I don't want to debate the merits of unions as an entity in the workforce, but I have to acknowledge that there are in fact some perks that come along with membership in an organization that will go to bat for your profession. Like getting paid for your work. Here's how it works for comedians for the most part: When you're starting out you mostly perform at Open Mics at your local comedy club. As you get better, they might give you a five minute set on a night people have paid to watch comedians. As you move up the ladder, you can start doing Feature gigs which are about 30-40 minutes. The guy whose performance is actually advertised and who performs last, usually for at least an hour, is the Headliner. The Headliner is usually paid, the Feature is mostly paid, and the other guy is almost never paid. So that's Comedy 101.

Now for the nitty gritty, the nuts and bolts. A struggling comedian never knows when he'll be paid for his work. Many times it's cash or a check on the night of the show, but also as often it can be an "I'll mail the check to ya". We've waited as long as two months for a check, and only got it because we kept calling. That wouldn't be too bad if the gigs in questions were performed right next door, but they aren't. Usually there's a great deal of travel involved in the life of a struggling comedian, and the struggling comedian should take as many jobs as are offered so that they may "hone their chops" so to say. (That means practice. Comedy takes lots of practice). So the comedian is driving many hours to get to a gig, sometimes in dangerous conditions, and he may not get paid when he gets there. Sometimes they drive the hours, and perform as requested, and get paid less than promised. If the club owner or promoter didn't bring enough people into the club, they will pay the wait staff, but not the comedian.

Now I know I promised that I wouldn't be talking about special causes today, but I think this is different. I mean, what would we do without laughter? Mark Twain (a very smart man) said "The only effective weapon is laughter". He knew what he was talking about! So go support your local comedy. Find out where the struggling comedians (which are quite often very good) are, and support them. And if you think they were great, please for the love of god don't just buy them a drink. It's a great gesture I assure you, but these guys already have to drive home in the middle of the night. Tip them! Buy what they're selling if they're lucky enough to have a DVD or a t-shirt to sell. Give them gas money, or a box of macaroni and cheese! Oh yes, hear my call. Tell everyone around you how funny they are, blog about them, get their names out there. You too can be a comedic supporter!

Thank you, and I think I'll go rest now.

Oh yes, and if you want to hear some Travis Simmons comedy (shameless plug) go here: funny4food on youtube or here: funny4food on myspace. Careful, there's "language"...

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