One of my favorite parts of doing comedy is learning about the game from comics who have been doing it a while. I realized that I missed the gravy train of comedy from the late 80’s to the early 2000’s. Believe or not, the pay has mostly dropped and the shows are harder to get. Youtube, internet access, Comedy Central, 457 channels on TV all equal less people going out. There are theaters, which huge names try to sell out. There are clubs, which are tough to crack into. Finally, there are the independent shows at your local lodges, bars, clubs, and coffeeshops that fuel your career.
Apparently, one could make a good living in a year back in the day because these shows were everywhere. I had one comic tell me he made over $1000 a week with gigs and t-shirt sales and didn’t have to travel more than 150 miles. As a middle act. This is depressing. I once drove 10 hours for a $100 gig. Each way. Why? Because I am an idiot and wanted to cross another state off my list.
It’s not all rainclouds, kids! You get pretty good advice from experienced comics that you would take a decade to find out on your own. Here’s some freebies I got – Black is the best selling color of shirt. Don’t accept cocaine as payment – you can’t put coke in your gas tank. (That is actual advice I got once.) If you make the front of the crowd laugh, the rest will laugh watching them. Don’t drive drunk with out of state plates back to the hotel – cops are not impressed you did a 25 minute set Mel’s Tavern. There’s also another couple I learned on my own. NEVER pay for a hotel room when it’s supposed to be “taken care of.” I have wasted more time chasing hotel money because Johnny the door man forgot to put down his bong and reserve the room for me last Tuesday. Also, call beforehand if you’ve never worked for the booker. I have been sent the wrong address to gigs, incorrect hotel info (as in not the right fucking hotel), and oh yes, one of my favorites, the wrong start time for the show – both too early and too late. Nothing, however, tops the best ever – one mix up led to a restaurant posting my comedy resume. That’s right, everyone. My cell phone #, email, and home address on a cork board in the entryway of a restaurant that seated 250 people. Oopsie!