Thursday, 5 July 2012

Comedy and the recession

Dear all comedians currently hassling me for work because the recession has left a load of comedy clubs shut/reducing their money/taking a Summer break when they wouldn't normally,


I've made a point of not booking people just because they run gigs themselves and might return the favour and it's cost me a lot of shows down the years because some comedians who promote comedy just aren't good enough to play my Lastminutecomedy Clubs. This isn't showing off - I only have two acts each month performing extended sets and I can afford to be very choosy. It's left me without huge swathes of work myself that jobbing comics get routinely because entire circuits-within-circuits are closed to me because of my monthly weekender.

This also doesn't mean I think the aforementioned promoters are terrible performers. Many of them are good comperes but I MC ALL my own shows so I can't help them there either. The long and the short of it is that I've generally done great shows all year and am having a bit of a resurgence. I'm doing two shows at Edinburgh this year and am already at the point where I'm turning down work for the month up there as four shows a day is enough for anyone. I've just today got a new album out that will accompany the Edinburgh performances which I'm really pleased with.

Edinburgh work is generally for nothing, though. I' will probably do eighty shows while I am there, beginning as early as 1pm and finishing as late as twelve hours later. It's what happens after it that is becoming a worry. This recession has affected numbers at my own comedy clubs. Everyone is within their rights to decide to save themselves a bit of money by staying in when they would otherwise go out. Collectively this becomes a death knell for comedy clubs around the country because if fifty people think the same thing, the venue is massively down on numbers and can VERY quickly become insolvent. I'm still holding on to good crowds at my shows but my Hitchin show has dropped from around 200 per month to around 150, my Letchworth show from 120 to 90. People who used to come along every month now come along every other month. People who used to come along everyother month are now showing up four times per year and so on. We are still getting new people coming to the events all the time but this largely due to the brilliant support we have had from the local press - and who knows how long THEY will be around, either?

The net result is that the audience still has a good time, the comedians still get a decent wage, the printing place get their monthly (albeit small) fee, the email girl gets her twenty quid, the venue get their room hire, the sound men get their fee but crucially, I don't make enough money to be able to justify keeping the thing going long term. 

I suppose, what I'm trying to say is this:

If you are a comedian and you are a little low on work against usual, put yourself in other peoples shoes. A lot of us are struggling, regardless of what we do in life. You may well have an excellent fifteen minutes and have made it through to the quarter final of an excellent competition but it doesn't mean you have a divine right to get booked for my shows or anybody else's so please don't be offended when I delete your generic email.

If you are a promoter, have a look at the people you don't book and decide whether it is because they are not good enough to do your shows or whether the reason is personal/petty. It's well documented that I don't like a number of people but actually I've only ever not booked them because they weren't available. I will never stop getting absolutely the best line ups for my shows regardless of whether I am friends with the performers or not. I owe that to my audiences, who down the years have been the best thing about the whole gigs anyway. They've been extraordinarily good.

Lastly, if you are a comedy fan but you haven't been to your local comedy show in a while, get yourself down there as soon as you can. A full house is good news for everyone, not just the promoter. It's still a relatively cheap night out for you and your friends and you might just be doing your bit to keep your favourite comedy night going for another year. That's got to a good thing forall of us.

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