Not long ago I did a late night show on a late weekend night. I don’t want to get too specific because, although elements of this story are directly aimed at specific people, I’ve always found being more general in your frustrations is more effective for understanding how they can affect your own life and happiness rather than simply blaming others for being dicks.
Anyway, not long ago, I did a show on a late weekend night for a some total dicks.
I booked the show through an outside source, talked to the main guy who was running it about expectations, and then actually ran into him the week before the show at a comedy rap battle (where I annihilated onstage and he did so poorly he and his opponent were both deemed losers and their spot was given to someone actually worthy of moving on).
The show was a hard sell. It was a holiday weekend. It was in the valley. It was at 10:30 pm and it was $15 cash at the door. For a comedy show.
The only person I was able to “sell” that to was the man I date and that’s only because he’s like in love with me so he likes to support me even during B.S. shows. Everyone else I invited was out of town or got (understandably) too drunk to want to come to the valley at that hour and spend $15. Even my guy was pretty shocked at the price. He doesn’t mind paying to support me but I wasn’t seeing a dime of that money and I don’t like him paying more than $5 or $10 for anything. It was, after all, a no guarantee’s comedy show. For $20 we could have gone to one of the major comedy venues in town and seen some of the best comics in the world drop in.
But nevertheless, he paid it and I apologized to the booker (because I’m midwestern) for not having more people out there. He was rude and ignored me and acted like I was really being unreasonable.
There were only 4 comics including the host who showed up to perform. One was the man who booked the show, one was another guy I guess was also running the show who I’ve seen around town, another woman, then the host. That’s it. So you’d think, if we’re going to do an hour or so show, it would be pretty evenly spaced out on how much time we get.
I should note- I almost thought about not going. I didn’t want to leave my place on the westside super late to go to this because I was afraid it was going to be yet another shitty experience. I had a gut feeling these guys were dicks and wouldn’t respect me or my time at all. But I thought better of it, put down the delicious wine I was drinking, and gave up an episode of Game of Thrones to go do this show in the hopes it would be a really positive experience.
I got 4 minutes.
I was told I’d get the light at 3 minutes and I had to get off after that.
I accidentally ran the light and did a whopping 5 minutes. But I had them laughing the whole time, so whatever.
The guy who actually booked the show went up after me. He did 20 minutes. He did not have 20 minutes worth of good material, but he stood onstage and talked for over 20 minutes. Then the next comic, the other girl, went up. She got a whopping 5 minutes, too, even though she was also really funny.
And then the last guy got up. And he talked. And talked. And talked. And talked. And eventually, after talking for a really really long time, he asked how long he’d been onstage. The host told him 38 minutes. He laughed and kept talking for at least 5 more minutes. My guy and I were tired and wanted to leave. It was way past midnight, we’d been up since 6 am working and doing lots of different stuff. So we did the “faux pas” of not “supporting the show” and left while he was still talking and the show was still technically going on. I tried to keep my face calm as I looked at the guy who booked me. I smiled and said thank you. He made eye contact yet still managed to ignore me.
I was shaking with anger as I walked to my car.
Here’s the thing. I get it. So called “bringer” shows, where you book 30 comics most of whom have never done comedy shows so they’re able to bring everyone they know who will sit through 3 hours of shitty comics interspersed with decent ones who are friends with the host while they pay exorbitant prices for tickets that their friends don’t see a dime of… suck. They suck. Also too many free shows in LA suck. A comic I’ve seen in the scene wrote a great piece about it. The best show I did recently was a tiny theater down the street from the shit one for a friend of mine who’s young and wants to book good comics and puts up shows every couple months. He brings a great, really supportive crowd who are happy to pay a little money and they divvy up the money at the end and split it amongst the comics (who all have about the same amount of time… about 8-10 minutes). That’s a great motherf***ing show. I make like $10 and feel like a king. Or a queen, depending on how much you care about royalty political correctness.
My point is this- stand up show culture in LA is weird. I don’t know exactly what the answer is. But I do know that there is a gross underlying culture perpetuated by a bunch of dicks who act like your job as an up and comer is to pay your dues to them, the so-called gatekeepers. And I also know it’s only a matter of time before we all see that these dicks won’t make it. Not because they outright lack talent, but because they’re dicks and nobody wants to work with a dick.
I certainly don’t. And as angry as I was, I’m also grateful. It was a reminder that I don’t want to waste my time with people like that in any capacity. I would have much preferred to stay at home and watch an episode of Game of Thrones with my boo while drinking cheap wine and passing out. That would have relaxed and recharged me. And I could have been more creative and happier the next day, not pissed off and tired and writing two new additions to my “NEVER WORK WITH AGAIN” list.
My friend Natasha and I have been working a lot together recently on a number of different projects. Her work ethic is part of what draws me to her. One of the things we talk about is how we only really want to create cool stuff with people we like to be around. Because that’s what it’s all about.
I did the show with dicks party because I felt obligated. I felt like the more I get onstage the better I’ll become. The more people I meet the better network I’ll have to “make it.” The more dues I pay, the more people will respect me. But I learned that night that most of that isn’t true or isn’t necessary. Everyone trajectory is different. Of course, more stage time will make you better, but sometimes you reach a point of diminishing returns. If you’re not respected as a comic (or even as a person) it won’t matter who well you do in this scenario. You’re nothing more than a person who didn’t “bring” enough people for the bookers to talk at for 45 minutes and take money from.
You don’t have to do everything. You just have to do what you love and what brings you to life. For me, that often means staying at home to write and hang out with the imaginary friends in my head. Or spending a day blogging and catching up on the events in my life. Or reading. Or getting tipsy off red wine and watching Game of Thrones on the couch with my man. These are all things that fill my well of creativity.
Feeling guilty for not providing enough audience for a bunch of dicks… does not.
So thanks, you dicks, for reminding me of what I love to do and what I no longer want to waste my time on.
Lesson here: Every dick can be a teacher.