I don’t go to too many standup comedy shows that don’t include me on the bill. I live it pretty much every week of the year, so I’m not that interested in taking it in when I have a night off. In the past 5 years, I have went to 1 comedy show that didn’t include some friends of mine. Last year I was in town on a Saturday night and went to see a comic I am a big fan of, Nick Griffin.
If you don’t know Nick Griffin, buy his CD. He is one of the best standups in the world. The guy is what most comics would consider living their dream–headlining some of the top clubs in the country, doing sets on a lot of the late night talk shows (letterman, conan, etc) and having a comedy central half hour special. I went to his show and there was around 50 people there on the late show, Saturday night. This despite having been on Bob and Tom that week and doing great as he usually does on their show. Look everyone, it ain’t easy to put butts in the seat. This business is not all based on merit.
As a comic I was knocked out by how smart his material was. I have only worked with a couple of standups that made me feel negative about my own act afterwards because of their supreme talent. (David Crowe, Robert Hawkins. Fuck these guys making me feel badly) Put Nick Griffin right at the top of this list. The guy is a brilliant joke writer, but what makes him truly special is how the way he delivers it perfectly fits the material’s tone. He sells it beautifully, without having it come off like there is one false note.
I believe I had met him once 15-17 years before in Oklahoma City, when he was featuring and I was doing a guest set. So I don’t really know him at all. I went up to him after this recent show and told him how great a comic I thought he was. I even told him I wanted to buy his CD, which he told me he wouldn’t allow and then gave me one. He was very appreciative of my words. We talked for a minute and that was that. I’m not much of a go out a party guy after the show and I didn’t get the impression he was either.
I have no idea what Nick Griffin makes each year, but he’s one of the best at what he does and from what I can gather from his act, he ain’t living the life of the rich and famous. Watch this clip to see what I’m talking about.
I didn’t write this as a buzzkill, but instead, just to open some eyes to how great Nick Griffin is and how no matter how good you are in this biz, it doesn’t lead to riches. I’m not trying to shit on some young comics dream, but this concept that you are going to become a big time celebrity from standup is pretty much over. Who are the standups getting fat sitcom deals? Billy Gardell and…well let’s just say the days of standup comics getting half million development deals ended in the 90’s. SNL never hires standup’s anymore, as the key to entry there (and the potential movie career that goes with it) comes from the improv world.
I’m not telling you to not to follow your dream (not that you would listen to me anyway, if it is a burning desire), but just have some perspective. You are not as funny as Nick Griffin. Ok, hypothetically let’s say you are. Because you are as funny as him, you will be able to do something you have a love/hate relationship with–living in a city like New York or LA where your rent will be so high you can never contemplate living an upper Middle-class lifestyle. The reality is you can be 1 of the top 50 comics in America and be making less than a mediocre accountant. I think the amount of standup comics who can claim they do it full-time is less than NBA players. (There are around 400 players on NBA rosters. There aren’t 400 comics making even 30 thousand doing standup.) Despite being in such an elite club, it doesn’t mean the pay is commensurate with it.
Enough about Nick Griffin for a minute. Let’s talk about me. I headline a few A rooms and a lot of B rooms. I do some corporates and do a little writing for TV. I don’t think I’m crazy to rate myself as 1 of the 200 best comics in the US. I looked up a rating system for all the NBA players and Kirk Hinrich was rated around 200. I think it’s a fair match for me. He’s from Iowa. I’m from Iowa. We’re both solid acts, who have nights where we can look like an all-stars. Gives 100 percent. Check. Solid contributor. Check. Here’s where our careers have a major divergence. Kirk Hinrich makes 4 million per year. And on the insane NBA pay scale, that seems about right. I’m not going to get into what I make, but I would be deliriously happy if I somehow made 4 million during my whole life. Let’s just say unless the currency has some wild fluctuation, it doesn’t look promising for me.
Sorry about the reality check. I just like to share the truth that few are willing to discuss. Now get out there and make people laugh. If you are half as good as Nick Griffin, you are off to a good start.