COMEDY CLUBS: How to Make or Break a week.
People will always have their opinions on what makes a comic funny. Comedy is not a science, it’s art. There are those who really hate my comedy, those that love it, and those who couldn’t even care enough to take a position. You know what, they all are right.
There are no rules in comedy and it can be extremely subjective. What one person finds hilarious, may repulse another. Not unlike music, food, fashion…comedy is an art form and some styles are not for everybody.
But what about the Comedy Club? The venue. The business side of comedy. Do you think if you were to see a comic at one club it might be a completely different experience than if you saw that same comic and another? What part does the venue play in the success of a comic’s performance. You’d be surprised the impact that a poorly run comedy club can have on even the most seasoned stand up comic.
After twenty years and too many comedy clubs to remember, I’
ve complied a short list of things that bug the hell out of me. These are the things that club owners do and allow to happen in their place of business. Even though it is their club, It’s also a comics place of business and somehow the needs of that player is sometimes overlooked.
1. Bad music – Most of the sound guys are young, probably paid minimum wage and would prefer to be headlining a hot night club down the street. They know the kind of music they like and that’s pretty much all the thought that has gone into planning the sound for the evening. So, while you are being seated, they play the music they want to hear. Little research goes into the type of comic that is performing that night and the audience that they might attract. For the record, I enjoy a nice mix of 80’s hair bands to get people ready to rock for one of my shows.
2. Illogical Bookings – Just because a local comic did well at the open night
mic of Tuesday, doesn’t mean he should open on the weekend for the headlining act. He may be great, she my have killed a few nights before, but if the style of comedy has to compliment the headliner. It’s the opener. It sets the mood for the night. This is why most comics bring their own openers on the road with them. If you went to a concert to see Depech Mode would you want the opening line up to include 2 live crew, Ann Murray, and a circus juggler? No, it makes no sense. Unless the show has the word “Variety” in it , there must be a common theme or sentiment for the night. There is nothing worse than walking on stage after an opener and thinking, “What was hell was that.”
3. EQUIPMENT ISSUES - Mics, mic stands, maybe a stool with four legs. We need these pieces of equipment to function properly and to do our jobs. You wouldn’t expect a dentist to “make do” with a pair of commercial grade plyers…. or a hairstylist to work with rusty scissors and a bowl. So, why is it okay for a comic to struggle through a set with a wobbly, unsteady microphone that shocks him every time he touches it. Spend the fifty bucks and get a mic that works and a stool that doesn’t topple over.
4. LIGHTING – “And let there be light,” but damn, not so much that a comic can read the tattoos on the forearm of the dude in the back row or that the audience’s pupils are so dilated that they need shades. Darker is not always better. If I feel a tug on the leg of my pants, I wanta know if it’s a rodent that just crawled out of the alleyway looking to nestle in my sock, or if it is that creepy looking guy in the front row who’s a little too friendly. Staging is so incredibly important. People will be in a room for two hours, staring at the comics on stage. Proper lighting is an important part of the show.
5. Service Staff – Unless you’re slingin’ hash for the lunch crowd at the local grease pit, it isn’t necessary to shout. The comic is the only person in the room who is supposed to be talking, so there is no one else to try to speak over.
Random fact: Some club owners do not allow the staff to hang out or even talk to the comics. This is such a stupid rule. As a comic you travel across the country by yourself and arrive at the club, only to receive the silent treatment because no one is allowed to speak to you. I guess there is an epidemic of comic-to-waitress pregnancies, or maybe the owner wants to keep the staff to themselves.
6. Audience Chatter – When people talk during the show, usually those raised by wolves and have zero respect for the people around them, they should be pulled out by their nads, tossed and told not to come back until they know how to behave. It’s a show, a performance. We are not teleported in on a big screen in the front of the room. We can hear you. We can see you and the audience paid to hear and see the comic, not the lady who had too much to drink and won’t keep quite…or the guy with the voice that vibrates across the room, even when he thinks he’s whispering. Come into a show, take a seat, order your food, your drinks and when a comic appears on stage it is your cue to STOP TALKING. That tidbit of information that you meant to tell your friend about the bad day you had a work today …it can wait!
I could go on and on about what bugs me and how the simplest little adjustments can make the Comedy club experience a great one, for everybody…but then it would just seem like I’m bitching and I don’t know if anything would really change.
So, next time you see me live, you will have insider info on what is happening behind the scenes and why I may be a little pissed at the end of the night. Just a little something to consider.