Stand-Up Comedians: 4 Realities Nobody Really Talks About


Being a humorist is a combined bag. On one hand, it’s nice since you get to be your personal boss. On the opposite, you additionally must be your personal worker, and typically you notice why your whole earlier employers saved eager to have closed-door conferences about your work. There are additionally a variety of issues about this job that nobody actually addresses throughout your new rent orientation. These are simply the bugs within the system you simply must be taught to cope with alongside the best way. 

The Pay Fee at Comedy Golf equipment Has Barely Modified In Many years

For those who suppose inflation is hitting you arduous nowadays, simply be grateful you don’t work as a humorist. As a result of a variety of comedy golf equipment are nonetheless paying their comics the identical fee they had been again within the Eighties, and it’s solely actually stayed this fashion as a result of nobody has provide you with a greater system. 

How a lot cash are we speaking about? Properly, first we’re gonna must take the in-demand, superstar headliners out of the equation. They’re in a significantly better place to call their worth. However for comics beneath that degree (customary headliners, characteristic acts, openers and emcees) at a typical comedy membership within the U.S., it could break right down to anyplace from $1.50 per minute on the low finish to $3.00 per minute on the excessive finish. Some golf equipment pay extra, some pay so much much less.

And certain, it sounds so significantly better once you math it out to say we technically could make $100-200 an hour. However once you’re solely actually on the clock for anyplace from 10 to 45 minutes per present, one or two exhibits every night time, and perhaps solely two to 4 nights that week, it often doesn’t add as much as a complete helluva lot. And between the spherical journey journey prices of constructing it to and from the gig, probably having to spring on your personal resort, and the human physique’s pesky want for meals in an effort to perform correctly, some comics are fortunate if they arrive near breaking even on an out-of-town membership gig.

Lots of golf equipment do provide facilities that assist cushion the blow somewhat bit. They provide their comics a meals and bar tab, put them up in a resort, or have a condominium they might keep in. And don’t get me unsuitable, these little issues assist out so much. And a part of being a touring comedian is with the ability to discover each method potential to lighten or offset each expense. We pinch each penny, promote merch after exhibits (when it’s allowed), sofa surf or sleep in our vehicles if we now have to, tackle aspect hustles, have day jobs, or if all else fails – we use bank cards. We’re kinda conditioned to consider this stuff are all a part of “paying our dues” within the business. 

And comedy golf equipment will not be the be-all-end-all of each comedian’s profession. There are a lot of several types of gigs we work at: Bar gigs, one-nighters, company occasions, casinos, cruise ships, schools, comedy contests, and so forth., and plenty of of them pay very effectively. A few of them pay ridiculously effectively. However in an effort to land these larger paying gigs, the factor these bookers prefer to see on our resumes most of all… is membership expertise. 

Now, I don’t need to sound like I’m condemning all comedy golf equipment for this downside. I’m not, particularly not the golf equipment I frequently work with (we nonetheless cool, proper?). As a result of I don’t essentially blame the golf equipment for this downside. One of many primary causes most golf equipment haven’t adjusted their pay charges in practically 4 many years is as a result of there’s by no means been a scarcity of comics prepared to simply accept a low-ball provide simply to get the stage time. That kinda kills our collective bargaining place to push for higher pay throughout the board after we know the booker is one telephone name away from discovering somebody who will take our spot for method lower than what we simply scoffed at.

Not that unionizing hasn’t been profitable earlier than. For years, The Comedy Retailer in Hollywood didn’t pay their comedians something till comics went on strike in 1979. The strike labored, and the comics began getting paid $25 for a 15 minute spot within the membership’s smaller Unique Room, whereas these performing within the Primary Room would cut up 50% of the door. That pay stays the identical… 43 years later. 

In 2005, comedians once more went on strike, this time in New York. The Comedians Coalition gathered the help of over 400 comedians to protest wage stagnation at NYC’s greatest showcase comedy golf equipment. It took them a number of months, however quickly these golf equipment began elevating their comics’ pay by as much as 250%.

Right now, there are extra indicators that this downside may be approaching the same boiling level, however there aren’t a variety of straightforward fixes that don’t contain passing the price onto the patron. Most comedy golf equipment, particularly in smaller markets, don’t precisely have essentially the most financially solvent enterprise mannequin as it’s. Sadly, a variety of golf equipment can solely elevate costs a lot on tickets, meals, and drinks earlier than they begin hemorrhaging prospects, and the very last thing this business wants proper now’s smaller crowds. Properly, that and perhaps Chris D’Elia.

However till we are able to determine this sh!t out, everytime you see a comedy present, please think about shopping for the comedian’s merch after the present, or perhaps tip them a pair bucks after the present. After you tip the wait employees, after all. They’re getting hosed far worse than the comics are.

Comedy Golf equipment are Very Territorial

As comedians, we work as impartial contractors and have to stick to contracts. The contracts are usually fairly minimize and dry with not a ton of positive print, and more often than not, it’s nothing greater than a verbal settlement. Nonetheless, when you might have a number of contracts with a number of golf equipment in play on the similar time, there may be one facet that may be notably maddening: the non-compete clause.

Almost each membership has their very own “territory.” For those who work at a selected membership, you comply with not carry out inside that territory inside X period of time earlier than or after the date you’re booked. It makes excellent sense. They don’t need considered one of “their” comics drawing folks to a close-by present that they’re not taking advantage of. This territory could also be restricted to that metropolis, or inside a selected radius of the membership. Some golf equipment don’t even need you performing anyplace else of their state.

This may typically be a problem as a result of when a comic book is planning a tour schedule, it helps to get every gig lined up shut to one another alongside a smart path, particularly should you’re driving. You don’t need to find yourself having to do one thing like Indiana, California and Florida proper in a row. One that did not perceive that: an nameless headliner who took me on tour with him for 2 years hauling his present gear throughout the nation within the trunk of my automotive whereas he flew to every gig! I like you want my family, buddy, however goddamn that was a tough three-week stretch.


Actual tough.

Non-compete clauses with golf equipment are the one a part of that contract you might want to make completely certain you perceive. There are technicalities and loopholes that go each methods. Typically they don’t need you to work inside that radius solely on nights their membership is open, so that you may be capable of get away with doing a present throughout city if it’s on an off night time. Or, say a membership doesn’t need you doing exhibits inside a 100 mile radius. You might e-book a present that’s 105 miles away in response to Google Maps, however since highways don’t all the time take you in a straight path, it might nonetheless be thought-about a battle if the membership goes by the 100 mile radius on Google Earth. Can they actually be that nitpicky? Sure. 

Lots of comedy golf equipment function as a sequence, which suggests in case you are getting booked at one, you will get booked in any respect of them. Typically, these chains can have a membership in the identical metropolis as one other membership chain. For those who’re working with each chains, you need to ensure that working at a kind of golf equipment doesn’t doubtlessly bitter your relationship with the opposite chain. Typically it’s not a problem should you simply hold issues skilled, however when confronted with that selection it could have an actual “Will they nonetheless let me sit on the cool youngsters’ desk?” vibe to it. 

And it’s not like comics might pull a quick one on the golf equipment. Golf equipment hold shut tabs on their competitors. They know the place these different exhibits are occurring and who’s acting on them effectively prematurely as a result of it’s not just like the exhibits aren’t being closely promoted in every single place, together with the comics’ personal social media profiles. 

So, what’s the punishment for violating a non-compete? All of it is determined by the membership, the comedian, how nice their working relationship is, and the character of the violation. The membership could ask the comedian to again out of the opposite gig or threat getting their slot canceled. They could simply resolve to not e-book that comedian for some time or put them on some type of tremendous secret probation. Or, they might simply blackball them from the membership completely. 

Typically, the Present Should Go On Whether or not You Really feel Prefer it or Not

Stand-up comedians don’t all the time have the posh of calling in sick or taking a psychological well being day. It’s been a a lot completely different matter because the pandemic, however within the earlier than occasions, typically you simply needed to energy by an sickness or emotional disaster just because it was both too late to again out of it, otherwise you actually wanted the cash. 

Luckily, there’s a phenomenon referred to as stage well being, the place a performer’s physique will begin pumping simply sufficient adrenaline and endorphins to get them by the efficiency. You may’t all the time rely on that being the case, or that it’s going to final the entire time you’re on stage. Simply ask Patton Oswalt.

Personally, there have been occasions the place I went on stage with the flu, migraines, laryngitis, meals poisoning, a freshly sprained ankle, a concussion, too drunk, too excessive, too sober, you title it. I did two exhibits one night time after making an attempt to beat a sizzling sauce problem at a neighborhood restaurant that afternoon… with my mouth nonetheless on hearth for the primary present, my ass for the second. I had a girlfriend dump me proper earlier than a present began. That was enjoyable. 

Typically once I was in any other case , the present would go about in addition to you’d count on. Typically I fully crushed it, which made me marvel if being that sick may need been the lacking X think about my act.

The hardest a part of the stage well being phenomenon by far is the crash that comes later. Your physique could have granted you a Tremendous Mario invincibility star whilst you’re on stage, however that was given to you on credit score. As quickly as your physique feels just like the work is completed, the curiosity funds come down on you want a ton of bricks. Quickly powering by a bodily ailment is one factor, it’s method worse when it’s your psychological well being.

While you dwell with any type of melancholy or nervousness, you perceive the impulse to placed on a false entrance in entrance of different folks out of worry of judgment or social stigma. You simply don’t need to be in a scenario the place your issues change into everybody else’s. Standing on stage in entrance of a room filled with strangers can crank that feeling as much as eleven. For comedians with nervousness, the scene in It: Chapter Two the place Invoice Hader needed to take the stage in the course of a panic assault was most likely a thousand occasions extra terrifying than the rest in that film.

The frenzy of being on stage doing comedy may be exhilarating, and that rush of adrenaline and endorphins is basically why so many individuals mistakenly suppose stand-up comedy is a wonderfully positive various to really going to remedy. It does provide you with an opportunity to drown out the detrimental ideas in your head for a short while, however these ideas are sometimes ready simply off stage, they usually actually didn’t recognize being ignored whilst you had been on stage. 



We thought a partially-creepy child would work right here.

Comedy is Nonetheless a Big Boy’s Membership

Go to any comedy membership web site and have a look at their record of upcoming exhibits. Now, rely the variety of girls you see listed on the calendar. Some golf equipment are higher than others, however by and enormous, you’re most likely extra prone to encounter a white elk within the wild than you’re to see a lady headlining a comedy present. Comedy showcase lineups typically have a worse male to feminine ratio than a distant Alaska logging city.

That actuality doesn’t routinely imply the bookers of exhibits are inherently sexist or misogynist (though some may be). It’s primarily as a result of there simply aren’t that many ladies in comedy normally, and plenty of of them give up the enterprise earlier than they attain the upper ranges as a result of the work surroundings is simply too poisonous for them and far more typically than anybody cares to confess, some guys on this enterprise are too harmful to be round. And it’s not like they will report anybody to HR about it. 

They typically must face harassment and abuse from their male friends, they must combat method more durable to realize any respect, and any time they discover even a modicum of success, folks all the time discover some strategy to insinuate that they didn’t actually earn it. Somebody begins whispering rumors like, “Properly, I assume everyone knows how she acquired booked on that present, proper? (Wink, wink)” Actually?!? Is that how you acquired booked on the present as effectively, Dave?

 An enormous a part of the issue is the shockingly nonetheless standard notion that girls simply aren’t as humorous as males, or that girls can’t be humorous in any respect. It definitely doesn’t assist that every time that topic comes up, it’s all the time framed like each side of the difficulty carry equal weight. They actually don’t. If somebody believes that girls can’t be humorous, their causes for that perception go far deeper than simply their style in comedy, so there’s most likely nothing that anybody can do to persuade them in any other case. I’d say it’d be like arguing with a brick wall, however I’m undecided brick is a dense sufficient materials for this metaphor to work.

Comedy, like most industries, does stack the deck closely in favor of straight, white cis males. As a straight, white cis man myself, I can’t deny that I’ve benefitted from that system. I’m not attempting to white knight this challenge. Any member of a marginalized group has to work further arduous to realize any form of footing on this enterprise, nevertheless it’s further tousled that girls are actually the one group the place folks routinely doubt their capability to be humorous within the first place. 

And on prime of all the pieces, there’s the fixed sexual harassment! (It isn’t sufficient that girls must share the stage with guys who deal with them like one-dimensional intercourse objects on-stage, however off-stage a variety of these guys make it clear they meant each phrase of it. Intercourse scandals involving male comics are solely a shock to folks outdoors of comedy. For lots of girls in comedy, that will simply be a typical Friday. 

Nobody, no matter gender, actually desires to talk up about this stuff as a result of A) they worry how which may have an effect on their personal profession alternatives, and B) they don’t really feel prefer it’ll change something. Even when the intercourse monsters on this business do get outed, they’re by no means actually punished for it. Chris D’Elia is nonetheless getting booked, Louis C.Okay. simply received a Grammy and has a brand new film popping out, though Invoice Cosby did go to jail… for a 12 months. 

Girls want extra alternatives in an effort to achieve comedy, however that’s not gonna ever be potential till the working surroundings turns into a lot safer for them. Clearly the present technique of placing on the occasional all-female showcase and calling it “Ha-Ha’s with Ta-Ta’s” ain’t making up for it. And if getting extra stage time for girls implies that much less alternatives for males, so be it. Perhaps begin by blacklisting the abusers, that’s a terrific leaping off level! If these guys can’t get laid with out asserting their energy and affect, then maybe we shouldn’t be giving them any extra energy or affect. 

Dan Fritschie is a author, comic, and frequent over-thinker. He may be discovered on Twitter (, and he thanks you on your time.

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