Like most comedians, I can become frustrated by some booking agents. Sure they sometimes make too much money on the gigs they book and yes, there are times where you feel like you should just do it on your own. I generally don’t feel like that for too long, though, as I’ve booked enough shows to realize they are way more stressful than I would prefer.
I chose to discuss this subject after my show last Friday night. I headline clubs in most of the major cities in the midwest, but oddly, I don’t in the place I grew up, Des Moines. I’ve had a lot of friends ask when I would be doing shows in Central Iowa, so I figured I would put on my own show. My high school friend, Jason Brady, was kind enough to offer me use of his banquet room that is part of the golf course his family owns. (Toad Valley) The first show I did was a little below expectations, but I had enough people show to make it worth my while financially. I know it sounds a little calculating, but comedy is my job and if I can’t make my regular rate, I can’t do it, despite how nice it is to see my friends.
What I left out was how great the response was from my friends who showed up to the first show. It was a fun show for everyone involved. I had a lot of other people contact me and ask when I would do it again because they couldn’t make the first show. I figured I would wait a year and do another. I tried to use Facebook to help promote the event. I felt like I was whoring myself out a bit, but since it was a one-shot show I knew I would need to mention it a few times so people would be aware. From the response I got, I was expecting a pretty good turn-out, which was encouraging.
I drive into Des Moines that afternoon and everything looks promising, as the weather is cold, but the roads were good. About an hour before showtime, an unexpected blizzard takes over. For the next 2 hours, the weather is crap. Now, when I’m working a club or a regular one-night show, I get the same pay if it’s packed or no one shows up. Sure, smaller audiences impact my merchandise sales, but at least I don’t have to sweat the base pay. When you are working off the door, it’s a total crapshoot.
While the title of this story is a little dramatic, a half an hour before the show, there was no one there. And to be completely honest, I totally understood, as the weather sucked shit. Fortunately, we would wind up with about 20 people, who just happened to be a really good group. My opening act, Des Moines’ own Rob Rivera, did a great job kicking off the festivities. I had a lot of fun on-stage and it was great seeing some people I wished I saw more of. This is no attack on the people who didn’t make it. I can’t say I would have shown up myself, if I wasn’t the entertainment. Such is the life of standup comedy in the Midwest during the winter.
So the next time I do a gig where I feel like I’m getting taken advantage of, I will have to keep in mind that I do think it generally evens itself out. Sure there are a few clubs that I don’t perform at because they rip the comics off so badly I don’t want to perpetuate their thievery, but for the most part booking agents, club owners, and comics are all just part of a collective group just trying to pay our bills through live entertainment. I’m working this week from Wednesday to Saturday, with the weekend shows at a one of my favorite comedy clubs, Goonies in Rochester, Minnesota. I’m looking forward to just showing up and doing what I do best, perform.
(I want to thank again Jason, Allison, and Theresa Brady for all they did in setting up the show at Toad Valley. I also want to thank the brave souls who made it out to the show Friday night. It was the most fun show I’ve ever done for free.:)