14 thoughts on “You Know What Comics Really Hate? The Audience.

  1. Jeffrey Morris says:

    This information is very nutritional!

  2. Will Green says:

    I think its safe to assume the comics who think of the audience more positively were probably off doing a show somewhere and not at home on the computer.

  3. Here’s the scoop, Josh:

    I’ve never been an critically-acclaimed comic, nor a “comic’s comic”. I’ve been accused, in fact, of being a “crowd pleaser” too often. As if it’s an insult. But, yes, I’ve heard it.

    That said:

    This idea of the audience deciding the pay IS a bad idea. And not because I hate the audiences. But because it’s just not that simple. There are many, many factors that go into what makes a good comedy show on any particular night.

    Did the waiter annoy the customer? Did the box office person lose the reservation? Was the service horrible? Was the commute bad? Are the seats something less than desired? Believe it or not, these are factors that affect a show. I’ve read comment cards where audience members were so furious by their service, that they fumed throughout the show…and reported it as such. If you think it doesn’t happen, you’re just plain wrong.

    On top of that, yes, any kind of “vote-based” payment system can, indeed, be manipulated.

    And, as I pointed out before, there are roles in professional shows. Maybe you’re used to too many showcase club sets. But in a three comic show, the feature spot is, frankly, easier than the headliner spot. Especially if you’re already headliner-quality. It’s 30 minutes of banging the audience with your best stuff, as opposed to 45 minutes to an hour of a build-up. Including the notorious “Check Spot” time.

    So, yes, you come up with some great marketing ideas. But when it comes to standard comedy clubs, this kind of idea isn’t a good one.

    Now, go suggest that comedy club managers and bookers have their pay decided by a vote. See how that flies. Have the audience vote as to whether or not to raise or lower the cover charge. Have the audience vote at the end of the night which waitress leaves with all of the tips. No one would suggest any of these things, because people would say “whether you think they did the best job or not, the fact remains that they did their jobs…and someone thinks they were great at it”. Well, it’s no different for comedians.

  4. And, not for nothing, but audience members write “CHRIS ROCK” in the section of a comment card that asks “What comics would you like to see here”. In a club with a $10 cover charge.

    Yeah, they may know what they think is funny, but they don’t understand how the comedy biz pays it’s comedians.

  5. As for your other points:

    “No one owes you anything”?

    Um, I’m a professional, international, headlining comedian. You make a deal with me to come to your club, you’re damned right you owe me something. They pay we agreed upon.

    Many of your ideas sound like great ideas for new comics, people wanting to book their own shows, and people trying to break in via open mics, etc.

    But to those of us earning our pay this way, many of these ideas won’t fly.

    Like it or not, if you want to work IN COMEDY CLUBS (not bars where you’ve booked your own gigs, etc.), then you’ll have to learn to play by their rules and their game a bit. And many of those venues are still following the same rules they’ve been following for years.

    As for your statement about the entertainment industry and saying “it’s foolish to think comedy will somehow be different”…well, comedy IS different. I’ve worked in TV, film, radio, theatre, and publishing. Comedy IS different. It plays by different rules.

    Don’t believe me? Go ask my union rep. Oh, wait…that’s right…no union.

    If comedy was so much like the rest of the entertainment biz, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. But it’s not. So we are.

  6. And, lastly, NO…the value of what you provide is not equal to the number of audience members you attract. We’re not all about numbers.

    I’m not surprised to hear a marketing guy say that, but I know of almost no pro stand-up comic who would. If everyone thought that way, many truly talented acts would never get discovered and never work. Believe it or not, comedy clubs used to pack their houses without the comedians doing it for them….and then they were able to actually focus on discovering and developing new talent.

    I know that many people find this hard to believe, but it’s not really 100% the comedian’s job to find the audience every week at a comedy club.

    Door deals? Sure. Booked as a “special event”, yeah. But the average comedy club paying scale wages to the average, working road comic? Um. No.

    I’ve got to tour 40 plus weeks to make a living and not have a day job or rely upon my spouse. I’m already plugging away, promoting my shows, and trying to build my audience. In numerous cities over numerous weeks throughout the year. Include in that the fact that I’ve got to actually travel, work on my act, promote my act, etc. It’s not crazy to expect the club to pull some weight doing some marketing and PR in their own city for the club that is in the same location every week.

    Why would you NOT want to build your own audience for your club, rather than rely upon a changing audience depending upon the act you bring in every week?

    Clubs aren’t paying 5 grand per week to headliners. If you’re paying $700 for a week of headlining shows, it’s a bit presumptuous to also expect that $700 to be selling out your club every night.

    And, btw, America is the only country that seems to see it as important for the comic to be the one drawing the audience. Every other nation makes the club the star and trains the audience to trust that the club knows good comedy and books it.

    You know what that is? Good marketing.

  7. How about this for a good article?

    “Top Five Things Clubs Can Be Doing To Get More People In Seats”.

    …and don’t make any of those points have to do with booking talent that brings the audience for them.

  8. Club: “Hey, I know that we’re only paying you $700 for the week, despite the fact that we don’t cover expenses, gas is $4 per gallon, and you drove 12 hours to be here…but, hey, you’re only worth the amount of people who came here to see you. You should be trying harder to earn that $700”.


  9. Damon Blake says:

    I thought it was an interesting idea to see what viewpoints it formed. People seem to have taken it very personally, although I must have missed the memo where presenting an idea became the norm. A discussion point is a discussion point, not a paradigm shift.

    But whatevs. A growing model at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a “pay what you like” model in contrast to the ticketed shows, the audience throw money into a bucket at the end if they like the show. Bad show, you don’t pay. The venue still makes it’s bar money, bucket money goes to pay the comics. Of course this sort of socialism isn’t going to fly in more established clubs, but AS AN IDEA it’s been proven to work. They get the crowds in, comics don’t lose money (playing at Edinburgh can be riiiiiidiculously expensive) and the more you work on your show (and it’s marketing) the more money you make back.

    The model has now gone on to be used at some clubs around Ireland and the UK and they are getting crowds. Comics can be friends since they’re not being stuck for minimum drinks/tickets, crowds don’t feel cheated, you are not left paying for acts when an audience doesn’t come (it’s more common over here for promoters to also be comics).

  10. Johnnie Flowers says:

    Thanks Josh, Always on Point..
    i Appreciate you!

  11. Amaru says:

    I think if the chirpify method was used AFTER the show as a mechanism to tip for a job well done for ANY of the performers could be good if implemented correctly. Everyone should be paid regardless!

    But what if it was a low paying gig… a one night filler? What if it was a gig with no hotel? What if the patrons have enough to tip and not enough to buy merch? We have to try and figure out how to close the pay gap that is getting bigger and bigger as the years go by.

    Just my two cents.

  12. Mike Moses says:

    I’ve been a feature now for 3 years and was an emcee for 5 years. As a feature I depend on the audience to like me. They come out to see the headliner. It is my job now to entertain a crowd who probably could care less about me as an emcee or feature. It is my mission then to deliver every time I hit a foreign stage. I cater to the audience. I’m blessed to have enough material that I can change my set while in the middle of performing it. I will do this until the day my name is on the marquee and people come to see me for me, and even then there will be certain nights I’ll still have to cater to the audience.

  13. willy kabayabaya(Michou) says:

    thank you very much for what you teach as is very necessary for me like a new comedian In Canada

  14. skip clark says:

    We Must be studentes of this comedy game,understanding what you role is With,comedy clubs Across the country,and where you are in your career,This will Give you Better Insight.There can be some Great Relationships Made,But At The end of the Day Its all business.

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