Since comedy is done, possibly for a long time like forever, I am turning this into an expose. Like a political opportunist, this is my big book deal now that I’m out of the game forever or another week or whenever.
Here’s the secret, a lot of things suck doing entertainment, stand-up in particular. I will focus on one that I was reminded of recently. When you do stand-up, you are typically being paid a fee for the length of your set and your level – aka emcee, feature or headliner. It’s usually not an insane amount of money, so you learn early that a way to supplement your income is to sell merchandise. It’s my least favorite part of comedy. “Hey, was I funny? Hope so, cause now I’m awkwardly starting at you by the exit as you walk out!”
Not only is it already humiliating, the interactions range from uncomfortable eye contact followed by a head nod, straight up being ignored or people that treat you like a yard sale and want to haggle over the 1-3 items you sell. One of my last shows before the great unfunnying known as COVID-19, a couple approached me. “How much is your book?” “$15.” They drew back like vampires exposed to a cross. “How much are the coozies?” “$5.” Again, this time with garlic and sunlight. The lady in the group asked to see my book. Keep in mind, I had just done 45 minutes of stand-up. “Tell ya what, I’ll do both for $15.” She stepped back, whispered with her male companion for about 20 seconds, then melted away into the background without a word.
Let’s break this down. I wrote the book over the course of six or seven years, it’s well over 100 pages and I just did a 45 minute interview for you. Should I have sold it for $2? Made an audio version? I’m already offering it a such a small profit, it is barely worth lugging up the stairs, but apparently not good enough. Do you own any other books that the author did an in depth tap dance for you beforehand or do you just steal them from the library?
As annoying as that was, the more serious offender after a show is the person who doesn’t buy, yet wants to talk after the show while you’re trying to sell. It’s also never good conversation. I headlined a loaded room and this drunk idiot made a beeline for me. Shirt? Book? Coozie? No, just a 27 minute “conversation” where he told me he loved the Trailer Park Boys. How many times he had seen them, where, when…nothing at all other than that. I dropped body language tips for naught, even at one point stepping around him and moving my table. He didn’t stop. I sold almost nothing to a room of 200 people because somebody decided since I did stand-up, I needed to hear about some other group or comic was better than me. I’m sure if I had said to go pound sand, social media posts calling me rude would have been all over the place or he would’ve told the venue, but me losing $50-$100? Meh, no worries.
The apex was a run of shows I did in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. It was a five day run and a ton of windshield time. I woke up on a Thursday in Illinois and realized I was sick. Full blown sore throat, losing voice, sweating and so exhausted I had trouble sitting up. I loaded up on gas station over the counter pills and meds and drove five hours to the next show. I slept until 30 minutes before the show and crashed after in what was the smallest hotel room I have ever seen in real life. I spent the next two days on the road and then performing in a comedy club, sweating out disease and hiding in a downtown hotel where I had to pay $20 to park. Finally, after three days of barely being able to perform (I had throat drops in my mouth while I did a 30 minute set), I felt normal for the last show. The room was sold out and the crowd was hot. I could finally sell some merch and hopefully get the parking fee back and some gas money. A couple approached as soon as the crowds let out. “Can you take a picture?” Grrr. Fine. At least they enjoyed my set and want a picture with me. I stepped towards them. “No, we meant take a picture. Of us.” You mean you walked all the way over here, in front of 200 people, staring at me standing at a table full of terrible shirts and coozies and a forced smile and you thought I was the only person in the whole club to take your picture? While blocking the exit? I took a terrible picture on purpose and by the time all this was done, over 60% of the crowd had left. Literally like $12, gone forever from my life. To not rock the boat, I didn’t say anything, but knowing how my comedy “career” has gone since and realizing I will literally never perform there again in my life, I wish I had lit them on fire and then snapped the picture.