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From the beginning of comedy time, there has been an adversarial
relationship between standup comics and comedy club owners.
If I fire up the old way-back machine, I can see the owner
of the Comedy Cave arguing with Neanderthal Man about charging him
full-price for the Wooly Mammouth steak. "Thog,"
he grunts, "I told you to only order from the left side
of the menu." Thog, of course, then calls the owner a prick,
vows never to work his cave again, but then proceeds to call him
the following Wednesday to book something in the fourth
And so it goes.
To be perfectly honest, I've never really understood why
this dynamic exists or how it got started in the first place.
I once had a heated argument with a comedy club owner in Florida
and, while I can't recall the specifics of our disagreement-- besides
the fact that it was all his fault, I do remember the last two lines
of our fight. "If it wasn't for me," he said in a
contemptuous tone, "you comics wouldn't have a job."
"Well, if it wasn't for us," I spat back, "this place
would be a restaurant."
We were both right.
Part of the problem is the perception of comics on the part
of the comedy club owners. Owners, for the most part, have an
annoying habit of lumping all standups together in one big group.
In other words, if one comic is an asshole then all comics
are assholes and they use this assessment as an excuse to not
treat us as well as they should. How many times have you heard
one or more versions of the following sentences:
"Yeah, well we used to give the comics free booze, but then
we booked this guy from Boston... "
"Yeah, well we used to only charge the comics half-price
for the Funion Loaf, but then we booked this fat comic... "
"Yeah, well we used to put the comics up at a nice hotel,
but then we booked this guy from Long Island who took a shit
in the pool... "
Yeah, well I didn't do any of these things so why
am I being punished for the bad behavior of others?
Many owners simply do not understand that comics just want
to feel wanted. And by wanted I don't mean in a
Freudian I-need-love-and-acceptance kind of way, I mean
wanted in a we're-happy-to-have-you-at-the-club
kind of way. We don't ask for much. Give us a place to sit!
Give us a plate of nachos! Don't put us up at the Motel Sex.
At the same time, comedians must stop abusing whatever comedy
club priveleges come their way. Because, while standup comedy may
be an individual pursuit, our behavior can, and often does, affect
how the rest of the comedy community is subsequently treated.
If some comics insist on engaging in childish behavior,
perhaps what they might need is a guide. To illustrate
how they might alter their behavior, I'll borrow shamelessly
from Highlights, the magazine for kids, and use Goofus
No Charge For Liquor.
Gallant Comic orders domestic beer and house brands, limiting
his intake and making sure to tip the bartender at the end of
Goofus Comic downs five Hennessey's before the MC can say,
"Are you ready for our headliner?" and has sex with a
different waitress each time he's booked at the club.
No Charge For Food.
Gallant Comic orders a moderately priced entree and tips
the waitress 20% of what the bill would have been if he had paid
for the meal.
Goofus Comic orders surf 'n turf and has sex with a different
waitress each time he's booked at the club.
Gallant Comic is polite to the hotel staff, doesn't allow
strangers to stay overnight and keeps noise to a minimum during
Goofus Comic kicks his luggage through the lobby, demands a
whirlpool suite upgrade and skips out on a $200 long distance
Gallant Comic checks with the club manager about the availability
of complimentary tickets before promising them to fans and loved
Goofus Comic demands 25 free tickets for his biker friends
just minutes before the start of the Saturday 8:30 sold-out
Gallant Comic discretely accepts the cash payment and reports
the income on his tax return.
Goofus Comic brags about his wad of cash to bar patrons and tries
to convince the IRS that he supports 3 kids and 2 ex-wives on $5000
Gallant Comic books his airfare well in advance and absorbs
the extra cost if he does not do so in a timely manner.
Goofus Comic reserves an unrestricted coach ticket just hours
before departure and takes out his revenge on the club for not paying
by getting offstage 15 minutes early during the second show
Gallant Comic limits the number of green room visitors and takes
his empty glasses and bottles out to the bar after the show.
Goofus Comic invites 16 of his old fraternity brothers to
the Green Room during the show and writes "This
club blows" on the wall before leaving.
Free Tickets To Area Attractions
Gallant Comic jokes good-naturedly about his experience
and won't even mention the attraction onstage if he can't say
Goofus Comic tells the audience a "true story" about
his day, frequently using the words "suck," "crap"
Free Comedy Club T-Shirts
Gallant Comic graciously accepts the gift and wears the T-shirt
around town to help with advertising.
Goofus Comic says, "If I get one more fucking comedy club
T-shirt... " and then requests a free sweatshirt
instead so he can give it to his "wife."
Free Admission To Area Health Club
Gallant Comic jokes with the staff and uses the equipment
in a responsible manner.
Goofus Comic smokes on the lat pull-down machine and has sex
with a different personal trainer each time he's booked
at the club.
Remember owners, a happy comic is a funny comic and if you
book a comic who isn't happy, please just don't book him again.
Trust me, there are plenty of well-behaved comedians out here
waiting to take his place.
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