No gigs are more hit or miss as a group as Tribal (Indian) casinos. I like doing them overall, because the pay is usually good and the amenities like hotel and food are superior to other one-night gigs. Here are the things that can make them tough to get laughs at.
- They have a wide variety of age. Standup is different than other art forms because at a movie or concert, the audience ages are within a couple of decades because that is the way they are marketed. Not comedy and definitely not at casinos. Since a lot of older people go to casinos, this is the place they are most apt to attend a comedy show. I have a joke that states that having ages ranging from 20 to 75 puts a lot of pressure on me. I don’t have a joke that is going make both groups laugh. I don’t have a joke where Hannah Montana meets up with Matlock and they solve a crime. I think I do as well as any comic with wide-range of ages, but I do know this type of age range can make it more challenging to connect with the whole audience. It’s kind of like performing on a cruise ship.
- Since the casinos main goal is to get people through the doors, they often don’t charge a cover. This generally is a negative because if you don’t charge something, there seems to be some type of psychological thing which makes the audience have less respect for the comics. It’s almost like they are sitting back thinking, well this guy can’t be very good considering they let me in for free. There are a couple exceptions to this, but I think charging something at the door, even if it’s just 5 bucks makes the product seem more worthwhile. It also keeps out the riff-raff.
- When I started doing comedy in the 90’s, a lot of Tribal casinos were in their infancy. They hadn’t really thought out the entertainment element, so most of the shows I did were sitting right out in the actual casino. These were death-gigs, as hearing slot machines going off all around you makes it nearly impossible for the audience to concentrate. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem the case anymore. All the casinos I perform at now have the shows in separate rooms which makes things way better.
- One other thing that can be difficult about performing in a casino: The comics lack of self-control. How many people out there would like to get their work check and be down the hall from a casino? I generally like to get paid in cash, but when playing at a casino I think it’s best to get paid by check. Since my gambling problem is not cards or slots, but pointspreads, it doesn’t impact me unless I’m in Nevada, but I have seem plenty of other comics check-out the next morning knowing they just worked for free. Just something to consider if you are booking yourself at a casino and you don’t have self-control.
Overall, there isn’t any type of entertainment that fits better with a casino than standup comedy. Putting on a comedy show doesn’t take much logistical effort, it is 75-90 minutes (which gets people back to gambling), and it has a more reasonable price-tag than other types of entertainment. I don’t know why every smaller casino doesn’t have a comedy night, as it gives them something to tout on an entertainment level. If I was a booking agent I would be targeting all casinos that don’t have comedy. Oh and give me a call if you end up booking one, as I like doing them.