I'm quitting comedy!
We've all done. More than once.
And kinda liked it.
Published in July 2021 | Free Standup NYC
Article by: Andrew Bayroff
That’s it. I’m done. I can’t deal with this up and down, cliquish, “how many credits do you have?” bullshit. I’ve paid my dues many times over, I’ve put in my time and then some, and still nothing. Dozens of emails, visited countless shows, and still, nothing to show for it. I have to stop wasting my time with this. I need to put my energy into something different, something that will give me something in return. I’m simply done. Again.
Then you get booked.
We’ve all thought of quitting comedy to some degree or another at one point. I’ve personally quit five times last week. Seriously. Even comics that are seemingly at the top of the food chain—getting booked, paid, touring—have doubts somewhere along the line. The pandemic was an unforeseen filter in the comedy world, but even so. Some decided not to return, or, to simply take a a much needed break.
The task of vying for and gaining stage time is an arduous, uphill, ball-breaking, thankless task. “Showing your face”, hanging out at clubs, open mics, bringer shows, road gigs all takes time and patience. I recently visited a club—to show my face—and to meet the booker and anyone part of the staff. When I finally met the booker, he wouldn’t even shake my hand, look at me, or even engage in friendly conversation. He was smug, disinterested, unengaged. I stayed for some of the show, and when I tried to say goodbye, he shrugged it off with a grunt. I’m not revealing this story for pity, simply what comics can and will endure for stage time.
Here are some of the best responses I’ve received when messaged for a spot:
“Will add you to our list”
“We’ll keep you in mind”
“Send a tape”
“Thanks for messaging me”
Nothing at all
“I need to talk to my co-producer”
“Hey buddy, we’re booked for the next two years.”
“Only booking people with HBO specials”
“Can you bring 15 people?”
Perhaps you’re not in the “right” state or city. If you’re drowning in a saturated city like New York, maybe moving to a small ecosystem would be best for you. Something to do with a fish and pond. The city you decide to grow your comedy roots matters. There’s a saying: “Comics move to NYC to become good, they move to LA to become famous.” I’ve performed in both cities for enough years to know that sentiment is very much true. But hey, who am I to say what’s right for someone. Every comic is different. Maybe LA is the best atmosphere for you, while you may flourish in the expansive Florida market. I started comedy in Houston, TX in the late 90's. There were so few of us and even less stage time. So, only a select few received the bulk of the available spots. There are so many options out there, just have to avail yourself to them.
I know what you say, "That comic isn't even that funny," or, "I've been here for years longer than this or that comic." The world of comedy has zero rhyme or reason why people "make it". Yes, hard work, good material, goes a long way, and still works to raise a comic to the next rung of the comedy latter. However, sometimes a specific person fits what the booker is looking for. Comedy is no longer just about talent. Instagram, Twitter, TikTok followers, and yes, in some circles, Clubhouse followers plays a huge roll. People who aren't even comics get stage time. The old ways and rules have been thrown out with the baby and bathwater.
Comedy is a drug. Performing is a high. You won't be able to "let go" or quit that easily. The wanting to be on stage, the laughter, the audience, talking with the other comics. Don't think you can just walk away and not have to scratch that itch in a few days or weeks. All comics are stage junkies, period. The moment Joan Rivers stepped off the stage, she was looking for her next hit. We all want our next hit.
Keep your options open. If one method of trying to get booked doesn’t work, shift gears. Different tactics and approaches may be needed for individual clubs or shows. I personally never send a link when asking for a show’s booking process. I wait to hear back, then move on with their prompts. Then again, maybe the booker does want a link and dismisses my email because I didn’t include one. It’s like sending resumes out. You don’t send 100 out with the same message and information. Vary it up, see what works. It may not be the best advice, but trial and error maybe your best friend.
If at all possible, go to the show. Talk to people. Try to meet the owner, booker, producer, and see where that goes. If they see your face, remember your name, when you email them for a spot, it makes the process a bit easier.
And remember: breathe. Take a step back. Take some time off before you burn your joke book. You'll be happy you did.
Happy New Year
Mark Anthony Ramirez
"Take some time off before you burn your joke book."