Wednesday, May 15, 2013

So much for Brotherhood - Part II

If you haven’t done so you should take the time to read Part I of this blog.

In the course of contacting comedy clubs to get work I received this email:
I remember years ago talking to you about your room which u passed on me with over 30 TV credits so let me return that favor to you. Good luck. Just think by September we will have over twenty rooms. Oh well amazing how this business works.

Rather than comment just yet I will share my answer which no doubt confused this person. I have removed the bookers name because there’s no good reason for anyone to know it. The point of this is not to call someone out. The point is to show how strange this business can be.

I honestly don't remember you but will say that I'm amazed that you would say something like that being in the position of booking a room.

You know as well as I do that people are passed on for many different reasons. Some of them have nothing to do with talent, sometimes someone is just not a good fit.

In my case I passed on a LOT of guys because they were too blue for one of the owners of the room. And when I say too blue I mean he liked it PG-13 on the PG side.

Credits didn't mean anything to our club because NO ONE drew. We didn't have the funds to advertise. We worked the meat grinder of "free passes".

At least I gave you the respect to pass on you and not make you go through grinder of emails and calls only to be ignored.

The funny thing about that [XXXX] is I always thought that would actually gain me an ounce of respect from the community of comics that I consider my brothers.

And for the most part that has been true with a few exceptions like you.

And even so I harbor no ill will towards you. I won't waste my time holding on to a grudge like that because it's meaningless and pointless.

You're also not the first to have "punished" me for not hiring someone. Booking that room cost me a lot of work.

That last statement alone should make you happy as apparently you think I'm some sort of douchebag because I "passed" on you.

And don't forget, Wits End is no longer open and I lost my entire savings, retirement and home over it. That's even getting out 2 years before it actually closed. If passing on me does something for you that should REALLY make your day!

So I'll add your pass to the list of things I pay no attention to and continue on. I appreciate you letting me know I'm wasting my time with you.

Good luck with your rooms [XXXX]. I sincerely mean that. Comedians need places to work and if you have 20 you're actually doing something right.

I think my response pretty well sums things up.  I really have a difficult time understanding this way of thinking, If this person has been booking for any period of time they must understand that those decisions are not (or shouldn't be) personal. If a person is taking or making those decisions personally they should really take the time to rethink the business and how it works.

Because comedy is a business and because of that it’s a numbers game, on both sides.

On the club side it’s all about the bottom line. The bottom line is controlled by how many people pay to come into that club and how much they spend once they are there. Comedians are a part of that equation and I would submit to you a very small part of it. You can bring in comedians that fill the room every week and still fail. The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club in Los Angeles is a perfect example. They filled that room with big names and it still didn’t make it.  The only thing left of that club are the lawsuits trying to assign blame.

On the comedian side the numbers start with your material. You write your material and hope that it connects with a wide audience. If it doesn’t you have to somehow find the percentage of the human race that is your audience or they have to find you. Or you have to re-write your material to connect with audiences you are performing in front of.

A part of that numbers game comedians have to play is finding venues to work at. It’s a numbers game because not everyone will work you and as I explained in Part I of this blog you can’t even be sure if they are receiving your message attempting to get work.

Number, number, numbers …

So this bookers attempt to harm me by “passing” has failed miserably. The “retribution” sent my way just comes off as a small minded and petty. It comes from a place filled with low self esteem and a need to feel superior. Having to live with that to that must be a miserable existence.

This bookers attempt to harm me has truly backfired because now I know not to waste my energy on his club. Now I can focus on another club that may want to hire me. I may get a booking out of this yet ...

Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is
Follow him on Facebook at or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

So much for Brotherhood - Part I

If you have listened to my Podcasts The Green Room or The Spew you would have heard me say I consider comedy to be a brotherhood.

I can say I didn't feel that way until I got out on the road. It was then I really started connecting with the other comedians I worked with and creating the friendships I still have today. Back when I started every club I worked at had a “comedy condo”. It was a house or an apartment that the comedians stayed at during the week they were working at the club. There’s nothing like a shared experience to bond people. The condo did exactly that. Back then I actually used to be disappointed when I worked one-nighters because they put you up in a hotel.

In any case … we as comics all have one shared experience; chasing for work. It can be a humiliating experience if you allow it. It consists of calls that aren’t returned, emails that are ignored and promises that are never kept. To describe it as ego crushing could actually be understating it.

Here is how it works.

If you are attempting to get booked by phone when you call a club if someone answers (sometimes it’s the booker) you are told the booker “is out of the office”, “in a meeting” or some other generic excuse is given. We are basically treated like a telemarketer. In the event there is an accident and the booker actually picks up the phone and identifies himself then you get “I’m busy right now, call me back <insert date or time here>” and the process restarts. Rinse and repeat.

Email works a little differently. You send an email and it is systematically ignored. That means you are left wondering why you didn’t receive a response. Maybe it didn’t get there. Maybe it got there and ended up in their SPAM folder.

But what if it did get there and was read? Why didn’t they answer? Was it that you’re not good enough? Maybe it was because you didn’t have the right credits? Is the message you sent not properly describing you? What if you work for a club that causes them to ban you from theirs? There tend to be a lot of unanswered questions.

I will also acknowledge that there are bookers out there that don't operate that way. I will also point out that who you are makes a difference as well. If you are someone that can draw a crowd or already highly regarded you’ll get a different result.

Even so, there is no guarantee. I know a comedian that has a Comedy Central Special, numerous television appearances and lots of interest from the press that struggles just as much as the rest of us to get work.

I used to be book a club and I’d like to think I was not one of the bad bookers. I went to great pains to make sure comedians knew what they needed to do to get booked and I answered every email I received. I gave everyone that asked for work an answer as soon as I could. I even had a private web site just for comics with every bit of information on the club and how to get into it. I tried to treat the comics in a way I wanted to be treated, with respect and dignity.

Even so, I've had comics react poorly to not being booked but I never held that against them. I understood the frustration they felt in being rejected. I had similar experiences when I was a loan officer at a bank. You tell someone no to a loan and they hate you. They made me the focus their anger. It kept them from looking at their own situation to see the actual reason they didn't get what they wanted; even though I had just told them the exact reason.

I can’t tell you the number of people I would run into years after I left the bank that either apologize for what they said to me or told me what a nice guy I was and how much I had changed since leaving the bank. That always amused me because I hadn’t changed a bit. Their anger had left over time which changed their perception of me. In fact some even told me that even though they were unhappy at the time it was the best thing that could have happened for them.

I have told you all of the above to share with you an email I received from a comedian that books a club I contacted for work. He’s basically in the same position I was. He’s a working comic that books a room. That means he has to make the same decisions I did. He also has to deal with the fallout of those decisions.

Tomorrow in Part II I will not only share the email with you, I will give you my thoughts on the whole thing.

Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is
Follow him on Facebook at or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.