Scott Pet Peeve No. 27: Broke Jokes

Not proud, but sometimes I have to sell my body for sticker money.

When you start out as a standup, you don’t make shit.  Even when you are headlining, unless you are big draw, you don’t get rich.  To make up for the lower pay I receive, I write for TV projects, I do corporate events, and I try to sell as much merchandise as possible.  Now my favorite thing to do is standup, but I figure if I’m doing something creative, I can’t complain too much about the gig.

All these different hats allow me to live a pretty nice lifestyle.  This is greatly aided by living in a metropolitan area where the cost of living is good.  In LA or NY I would be scuffling to afford a shitty condo, but in Indy I have a nice suburban home.  I would actually be doing even better if I wasn’t paying 1250 bucks a month in health insurance.  (having twin 2 year-olds and a child with special needs adds an extra mortgage payment a month to fucking Anthem) Just something to think about young comics who dream of making a career in standup and also having a family. No health or dental insurance.  No vacation or sick day pay.  No pension.

I bring this subject up because it annoys the shit out of me when comics do bits about being poor. Now, I’m not delusional enough to think these comics are not poor.  If you are road feature act working 52 weeks I have no idea how you can escape living in an apartment.  Since most acts I work with might work half the year, I don’t know how they even escape their parents basement.  Look, I’ve been there. I waited tables the first 6 years of my career, as I didn’t want to be broke-ass and being a waiter gave me some schedule flexibility. During the waiter/struggling comic days, I also was paying off my college student loans. It ain’t much fun pumping out student loan payments for a degree you didn’t need, but I always kept in mind, no one asked me to be a comedian.

When a comic brings up they are poor, I think they are self-sabotaging themselves.  When the audience hears that they either feel sorry for you or think, well you can’t be very good if can’t make a decent living doing the job.  Neither one is good to project to the crowd.  Why I hate it most is that it puts an image out there that if you are not on TV, you can’t make a pretty decent living being a standup.  By no means am I bragging about how much I make, because it is definitely not making enough to brag about.  I just don’t like people thinking that I’m some kind of middle-aged bum touring the carney-comedy circuit getting by on cheap laughs and even cheaper booze. I hustle enough to do pretty good as a comic and I’m proud that I don’t go to some soul-sucking job day after day.  My job just soul-sucks maybe once or twice a month.

I have seen a few comics have such good jokes about being broke that it’s hard for me to knock them for it, but generally, I think it’s mistake to go down that road.  Also, considering a majority of young comics are hoping to get laid, why would you put anything out there to women that would make you seem like loser?  Create a little sense of mystery.  While women don’t flock to comedians like they do to rock band members, it is an added bonus to be an entertainer when you are meeting women.  Now if you are talking about being poor, much of that glamour goes away, as the last time I checked, women are attracted to successful dudes more than live in your parents basement dudes.

One of the few good I’m poor jokes I have ever heard was by Tommy Johnagin.  Even though I felt there was some guilty by job association that stuck to me when I followed him from it, I couldn’t dispute it completely worked for him at the time. I’m guessing he would have a hard time selling that one at his current status. Now, I need to get ready for my show.  I got to make some bank to give to my friends at Anthem.

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