New Year’s Eve is the biggest night of the year for comedy, as more places have standup shows that night than any other. Because of the demand for quality performers, the money goes way up for this night, as the venues are able to charge a lot more admission. It sounds like a total win/win for comics, right? Not exactly.
Here are the pitfalls of doing standup on NYE.
- This night has a lot of people who aren’t real comedy fans. This is the only night of the year that many of these audience members will see a show. It’s kind of like Easter service at the Church. A lot of non-believers make an appearance just to hedge their bets. “I’m not a big comedy fan, but hey, it’s NYE, so I guess I will do it for the night.” Amateur hour.
- You are not the focus. New Year’s Eve is about the audience. It’s about the event they are having. You are just party favors. Not much more important to some than the hats they are wearing and definitely behind the ball drop and the champagne toast. Check your ego at the door. You are getting paid more to deal with this shit.
- Some places will pass out noise makers before the show. MAKE SURE THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN. No joke can survive a foghorn in the middle of it.
- The audience is going to be more drunk than usual. The goal for many is to get bombed.
With this less than focused atmosphere, this is not a night for artistic merit. I have a lot of darker material, so I try to stay away from that stuff, as they are there to celebrate, not to feel your artistic angst. The quicker the punchline the better. Make sure to not take any long-pauses between bits. Just stay on them. It really helps to be able to interact with the audience on NYE, but do it in a way where you weave in and out from your material, as the more diverse your performance, the more you can keep their attention. If you feel like I’m describing performing for a bunch of 12 year-olds, you would be right.
I want the validation of the audience liking my stuff, but I got into comedy for myself. I wanted to express myself and my frustrations with the world. Well, on New Year’s Eve, I temper that some, as it isn’t my party–it’s the audiences.
1 friend of mine, who is a very successful standup, doesn’t work New Year’s Eve for this reason. He turns down a good year of salary for most of us, not to perform on Dec. 31, as he hates dealing with all the jackasses. His act needs more attention so he doesn’t do this night, anymore. He doesn’t need the money. I do, so I recognize that I’m doing the show more than any reason because it’s a good payday. I haven’t seen my wife at the start of the New Year in 15 years. It’s all part of the deal of being in a relationship with a standup.
For 7 years I had a good run doing a NYE gig at the Hyatt in Indy. It was 35 minutes from my house. I got paid over a thousand bucks to do 3 shows that night. Three years ago, they cancelled the comedy part of their show and I got stuck trying to hustle something up last minute. While I had to travel 7 to 10 hours to get there, I was able to get the 4 figure money I was seeking.
(Part 2 will be a recap of this year’s NYE.)