A New York Comic
Finds Herself in
Published on March 1st, 2016 | by Free Standup NYC
Article by: Leanne Linsky
Follow her on Twitter: @itsmeleanne
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After living in New York for nearly nine years, I never thought for a moment that I’d move to California, but here I am.
Of the few shows I’ve done in LA, several turned out to be bringer shows. In fact, I did a couple of shows without realizing they were bringers. How didn’t I know this? Maybe I was just delusional from too much sun, or maybe because the booker never said so upfront. Anyway, it became obvious when I was nearly bumped for only having one person show up which kind of sucked since I drove over an hour to get there. Of course, I did the show a couple more times just to get the stage time. But I can only do so many bringer shows when my friends have to pay a $15 cover, buy two drinks, and sit through the comic before me who walks two tables, blows the light, shares graphic details about banging someone’s grandma, and drops his bag of weed on the stage.
For those of you who are not on the inside of the comedy world, a "bringer" is when the comic, yes the comic, brings friends and family to watch them perform and fill the audience. Suffice to say, I’ve stopped doing bringers.
It’s no big surprise that the non-bringer shows I’ve done have been a much more positive experience. I can’t tell you how nice it is when the host/producer/booker makes a point of talking and introducing me to the other comics in the show. As the newbie, their hospitality is greatly appreciated. It’s nice to be treated like a human being. It’s also nice to get an actual “thank you” after the show, especially when you’re not getting paid.
So far, both coasts on are fairly equal when it comes to bringer vs. non-bringer shows.
In New York, I ran a mic for over seven years and a weekly show for one. As a result, I had met and worked with many comics, had regulars, and made friends. I went to a few mics here and there, but I was booking shows outside of my own and even traveling to DC, CT, NJ, NV, CA, IL, and WI. And because I had spent so many years doing improv, I was still doing that, too. (I mean, who doesn’t like a little Zip Zap Zop once a week?) I was busy.
I started going to mics in both LA and Orange County, and they were well attended. In fact, some even had a real audience which was great, but strange when the host whispered, “bring your best stuff” before handing me the mic. Wasn’t the point of an open mic to work out new material? Maybe it was a show and I just didn’t know it. Whatever. Other mics here seem to be pretty standard - coffee shop patrons continue their conversations, others occasionally look up from their book, and the rest just adjust their ear buds and turn up the volume on their iPods.
I should definitely be hitting up more mics, but driving an hour into LA in the comfort of my 2005 Buick just isn’t the same as taking the N train from Astoria, Queens to the Lower East Side with other comics, eighty random people listening to their iPods and reading Kindles, and an old woman clipping her toenails.
I’ve noticed that living near the beach and being around so many “normal” people is slightly distracting. I must not conform. I must not conform. I must not…
So I started producing my show here – in the middle of “normal”. I pitched my open mic idea to a local independent bookstore, which already had a once-a-month poetry open mic. Once they learned I was from New York and had comedy experience, they immediately offered me Friday nights. (Note: Being able to say I was a New York comic gets me immediate street cred on the West Coast) Once they offered me Friday nights, I decided the hell with an open mic. I said, “Let’s do a booked show!” They said, “Great!” I danced a jig of excitement and then promptly went home and started planning my world domination.
Doing a show in Long Beach is different in several ways. First, the overall scene is a completely different vibe than New York. The bookstore is on 2nd Street, which is in a great community and very walkable. It’s filled with bars, restaurants, and shops; all frequented by locals and Cal State Long Beach students. People say hello as they pass each other on the sidewalk – it’s very Mayberry. Second, there are no other comedy shows in the immediate area. In New York you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a comic barking for a show.
I decided to take a different approach to show promotion. First, I went and talked to neighboring businesses, and asked if they’d like to be a sponsor. If so, they would provide door prizes for my audience members and place promotional posters in their store windows for me. In return, I would add their logo to my promotional materials and plug them on social media. It worked! I got five sponsors, and I had about forty people attend our first show! Yes, there was an actual audience that wasn’t all comics or friends of comics who were dragged out from the comfort of their homes to see the same jokes one more time.
Booking comics is different, too. Not knowing anyone can be a bit challenging, and I can’t imaging how I could have done it without Facebook. Posting on local comedy group pages has been extremely valuable. I had over 60 comics respond to my posts in one week! Because I haven’t seen everyone set before, I had to watch 60+ YouTube videos to get a feel for people. It was time consuming. I consumed lots of coffee (full disclosure – I drink decaf). The cycle continues.
And just like in New York, my venue closed down. Yep. It happens here, too. I was bummed. It was a great spot and we were just getting started. Fortunately, one of my sponsors happens to be coffee shop right down the street and they gave us a new home. Our first show was last night – packed house and a great lineup. Everyone is happy.
And unlike shows in many places – everyone was paying attention! (Big thanks to the barista who put extra shots of espresso in each order) We had a great crowd who was there to laugh. What more can a comic ask for?
Oh, right…Thanks to the local’s generosity, the abundance of tips allowed me to pay each of my comics.
Now, what to do with all these bags of extra money?
Leanne Linsky is a former New York comic now residing in Long Beach, CA.
"...driving an hour into LA in the comfort of my 2005 Buick just isn’t the same as taking the N train from Astoria..."
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