So about a month ago I got a call saying, sorry Scott, but we doubled booked the week and you are the one we are kicking to the curb. We will rebook you for the next open week we both have (ended up in May), but that’s the best we can do. Now that is probably the best they can do, but it doesn’t make up for me sitting home this week without any work—-not getting paid. Comedians book most of their gigs 3 to 6 months ahead of time, as that is the way the business works. It is rare when a gig drops into your lap close to the date. Of course, I did get 2 bookers asking me if I had next week open, as it would have worked out too well if it happened to be this week. Since I’m sitting at home this week, I thought I would make it a theme week here at Adventures in Comedy Fly-Over Country. This week I will discuss assholes that I’ve dealt with during my career.
Back in the 90’s, when I was featuring, I booked a week at a Funny Bone. It was my first time working a full-week at one of their clubs, so I was stoked. The manager, who also was a comedian, booked me for a week in December. This club had a reputation of bumping acts last minute, so I called the week before to make sure I was still on the schedule.
“Oh Scott. I’m glad you called, I was just going to call you. I just found out today that the headliner is bringing his own feature act. Yeah, I’m so sorry. I will make it up to you. I hate this happens being so close to Christmas. Get back with me in a few weeks and I will reschedule you.” (click)
This is pretty much how it went down. I had lots of friends in this city who I had already told I was going to be performing there so I had to get back with them with my tail between my legs saying I wouldn’t be there, after all. I’m sure these friends were thinking “I just don’t think this comedy thing is going to work out for Scott.” Pretty humiliating. Now for those that were unaware, most of the time, headliners don’t bring their own opening acts. The exception are big-draw comics who can pretty much do whatever they want. I went to the club’s calendar and the guy headlining didn’t seem to be a heavy hitter. I also remembered I would be working with the same guy the following month. I was worried that the same thing might happen at the next club I would work with him, so I contacted that booker. Fortunately, no problem.
So a month later I’m in Detroit working with this comic. The first night the show goes great. We are sitting at the bar after the show and he was very complimentary of my performance. I was all set to be pissed at this guy because of him bumping me. I told him that I was set to work with him the previous month, but I didn’t because he brought his own feature act. He responded by saying that wasn’t the case because he doesn’t get to bring his own feature act. Then he smiled and said, “Do you know who was the feature act the week you were bumped? The manager of the club.”
Son of bitch. What a dirty, dirty fucking move by this guy. Not only did he bump me last minute around Xmas, but the guy lied directly to me without batting an eye. Now this guy has become legendary as the years go by for doing this to MANY comics. It’s almost like a rite of passage in the biz. He was psychopathic in his talent for this, but there is not much you can do because he had the power. I have non-comedians ask me sometimes, well why don’t you sign a contract with these clubs? Because unless you are a major draw, you are a just a cog in their machine. No shortage of other comics to do the job, especially as an opening act. They would laugh at you if you said you needed a contract. Corporate events I get a contract, but almost never with comedy clubs or one-nighters. I’m not a comedy club booker basher because I know the job is hell getting calls and emails all day from comics begging for work. This kicking you to the curb at the last minute is my main beef. When a club bounces you a month before your date and doesn’t treat you with any respect while doing it, it just shows an absolute lack of respect. Most booking agents don’t work like this, but it happens enough that it still is pretty sad. Even though we might not be playing the same positions, I do look at comics and managers still working for the same team.
NOTE: I’m sure many of you can guess who this booking agent is. No need to play guessing game in the comment section. I’m not going to allow any comments which mention names because I’m not doing this blog to lose work or burn bridges. I’m doing it to have fun telling some stories and hopefully inform some younger comics occasionally, while I’m at it. —Scott