Working with Someone Who Wasn’t Professional

With one of the managers in Canton--Good times

The club I was booked to play in St.Louis last week, shut their doors after NYE, so I picked up a last minute gig for Saturday in Canton, OH.  It was at a really nice ballroom in a golf course and the place was packed, with them turning away as many people as it held. It was designed to be a 2 headliner show with both acts doing around 50-55 minutes.  The first headliner did not do well, barely did 40 minutes and ejected from the stage to sell his merchandise during the intermission.  Comedy is best done with each comic following each directly, but with the newer smoking ban that many states have, many one-night shows are taking a ten minute intermission between sets.  Not crazy about it, but I do understand.

I would rather just have an opening act do 30-35 minutes and then me do close to an hour,. It is my belief that no comedy show ever gets better after 90 minutes, and most of the time the peak of the show is between the 25 minute to the  75 minute part. There is a reason most Hollywood comedy movies are 90 minutes or less.  What did bother me about the other act was that he was getting paid for doing 30-35 minutes less than me, because the manager of the gig wanted me to do longer to make up for his ass. (no problem, time-wise) And if I was pissed off enough that he did almost half the time I did but made the same money, this guy also sold stuff between the show, so he could leave back home when I got on-stage. REALLY UNPROFESSIONAL.

Selling merchandise is an important element of making enough money to survive in the standup biz.  At worst it will pay for your gas and on a really good night you might make as much on it as you will get paid for performing.  By this dude selling between the show, he undercut me, as people had a chance to buy his stuff before I even had been seen.  Don’t get me wrong here, I always encourage opening acts to sell stuff after the show, as I know they are making less than me and  know how important it is for them to make some extra scratch. Here are a few things opening acts should know on that front.

  • Don’t undercut my price. You might not feel like your CD/DVD is worth what the headliners is. I get that, but that doesn’t mean you should sell it for less.  What that does is cause audience members who want mine to say “hey, he (opening act) is selling for 5 dollars less, how about you selling it to me for that price.” It’s not like I can respond with “hey, you know mine is worth 5 more bucks than his or you would be buying his CD otherwise.” If you feel that you are ripping off the customers by charging 10-15 dollars for your DVD/CD, well then you shouldn’t be selling it in the first place.
  • Don’t set up in the prime selling area.  Since I’m generally the headliner, I get off-stage last, so the opening act has time to get their stuff all set up.  That is fine, but don’t set up your stuff at the table in the first-see position.  Not trying to swing my dick around here, but I just finished doing close to double the time you did and should have been the main focus of the show, so give me that little respect.  If the opening act is better than the headliner let me mention that it won’t stay that way for long, as standup is a pretty fair business when it comes to being performance based.
  • Don’t sell too much stuff.  I will be the first to admit I sell a lot of stuff.  While I support the opening act selling too, selling more than a couple shirts and CD gets to be too much of a  flea market on the way out.  Recently I did a show where the opening act sold 4 t-shirts.  Where most headliners would have just been pissed off about it all week and quite likely would have said something to the booking agent about it, I confronted the guy about it the first night.  I didn’t tell him that he couldn’t do it, I just was honest with him and said I thought it was overkill.  He continued to sell all of them the rest of the week so my comment didn’t make much difference that week. Between the 2 of us, I think it looked a little ridiculous, but it was his choice.  I’m not using the comedian’s name, as I’m not here to slam other comedians and I never said anything about the subject to anyone else, but I will tell you I would never ask for him to be my opening act again.  One day here I will discuss what makes a good opening act, but don’t think that your behavior off-stage not being part of it.

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Canton, Ohio is home of the NFL Hall of Fame. As a kid, it was my number 1 destination dream spot for a vacation.  We never went because my Dad didn’t see the vacation being something that a child should be part of the planning process for.  About a decade ago, I was performing in Akron, so I drove down to Canton to see the Hall of Fame.  Maybe I had too high of hopes, but it was kind of a let-down.  The first thing you notice is the exterior of the building is lame. 1960-70’s architecture, like it was designed my Mike Brady before he met Carol.  I’m a history buff, so there is some cool stuff in there, but overall it doesn’t live up to what you might hope. Maybe it’s been much improved over the past decade, since I’ve been there.  I hope that is the case because Northern Ohio is a great place to have the Hall as there is so much football tradition, despite the Browns bringing none of it over the past few decades.

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