One of the questions I get asked the most during interviews is what is my favorite city to do standup in. I always explain that the best audiences have 3 factors.
- Reasonably smart.
- Looking to have a good time.
- Usually half in the bag by showtime.
Now some of this is just being funny. Hey kids, comedy in 3’s! It is true, though, that being reasonably smart is the best. Being unable to get references can get in the way of what I do. Being too smart, though, can be troublesome as those audiences want you to be clever above be funny. As I wrote in the piece yesterday, some audiences don’t seem to want to have a good time. Never ran into that in Milwaukee. Finally, having your buzz on never hurts the laughter. It takes some of the self-conscious defense away from laughing hard. Now being too drunk is never good, but since people in Milwaukee are professional drinkers this doesn’t pose a problem for them.
During my career I’ve performed at 4 different clubs in the city. The first place I ever did is the now defunct Stooges Comedy club. It was run by a woman named Joey (later became manager of Fairview Heights Funny Bone) and the room was your classic 90’s smaller club which had a great neighborhood vibe to it. I then moved over to Giggles in Germantown, which when it opened it rocked. Next up is the showroom at the Potowanami Casino that is a headache for a lot of comics since it’s a free show, but I always enjoyed doing it, as I connected well and the place treats you great. (Best green room in Comedy? Could be.)
Now we come to the place I currently do in Milwaukee, the Comedy Cafe. It’s what I consider the perfect layout for a comedy club. Almost perfectly square, the stage is smaller, the lighting is good, and the audience is right on top of you. It’s a tight room. My guess is it seats a little over than 200. If I was to open a comedy club, this is how I would build it. When the room is too big, that makes weekday shows seem too empty and puts lots of pressure on the clubs overhead to sell 300-400 tickets on Saturday night.
Of course, if I didn’t do well there every time, I wouldn’t list it as my favorite city. A couple weeks back, I was at the Cafe and had a great week. Ended up having bigger crowds than they have been averaging every show and then on Saturday, we did 3 shows, including the final 2 of the night being sell-outs. I was greatly helped by the radio morning show, Dave and Carole, who I really connect with. (see my radio show piece from 2 weeks back) They had me on for an hour, mentioned that I was on their best of CD from 2011 and then re-played me on Saturday during their Best of the week show. I also did ESPN radio afternoon drive, which helped.
Often people ask who my manager is? I have never had one. I’ve spoken to a couple big Hollywood manager types, but since I have never moved to LA or NY, full-time, I didn’t see the purpose in having someone take 15 percent and then push me into having an agent who was going to take another 10 percent. Just didn’t see how that was going to help me. I’m starting to think that I’ve reached my pinnacle of doing it on my own now, though. Not many more clubs can I add on my own. It might be time for me to get someone who represents my best interests, as some markets like Milwaukee, where I draw, I need to make more money. I’m thrilled that the club is doing well, but when you get paid like everyone else, even though you have busted your ass to build a following and have developed radio relationships that get people in the seats, you start to feel a little taken advantage of. My guess is by next year at this time, I will have someone doing some of my bookings. For those of you early on in the biz, there is NO reason to have a manager, unless you live on the Coasts. Unless you can draw people to the clubs or you are someone TV is interested in, it just doesn’t serve a purpose. The only exception could be if a major act likes you and plans on having you open for them. Then maybe it would serve you well, as the major acts manager will look out for you, just because his major client has a friendship with you.
As the title of this blog denotes, I grew up in the Midwest. Born and raised in Iowa. Lived in Chicago for a stretch after college and then moved to Indianapolis. (Super Bowl city still basking in the glow of its triumph) I’m sure this is a big reason that I like performing in cities like Milwaukee. My other Top 5 would include Detroit, St. Louis, Indy, Kansas City. I have had great shows in places outside the Midwest like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, Baltimore, etc., but my comfort zone is the middle of the country. My favorite state is definitely Wisconsin, though. From LaCrosse, Eau Claire, Superior, Wausau, Madison, Janesville, Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Green Bay and many smaller towns in the state I’ve always had great shows. Wisconsin narrowly beats out Michigan for my favorite state to do standup in. Remember, reasonably smart, looking to have a good time, half in the bag by the time the show starts…