The lost art of saying
Is comedy etiquette a thing
of the past?
Published in September 2018 | Free Standup NYC
Article by: Andrew I. Bayroff
There are those that just performed on their first open mic and those that have been in the trenches so long that they know all the Denver Motel 6 managers' names by heart. Now, no matter where you find yourself in the swinging pendulum of comedy, there’s one simple rule everyone should follow: Don’t be an asshole.
I think we can agree that not being an asshole is pretty much the #1 rule across any vocation you chose to pursue. Be it comic, salesman, or barista. In the comedy world, there are so few “rules to live by” yet for some reason, they constantly need to be repeated:
1. Don’t be an asshole
2. Be on time
3. Don’t run the light
Now, there is one rule, if you will, that I believe needs more attention than it has received. The simple act of saying “Thank you” has somehow been erased, deleted, snuffed out by some in the comedy world. We say thank you when someone keeps the door open for us, we say thank you to the bartender for that little extra splash of Jameson, so why have those two little words and sentiment somehow been misplaced when someone is booked for a show?
I’ve had the fortune of performing with some amazing talent in the US and abroad. From open mic comics to features, road comics to headliners. The one characteristic I found that bound the true professionals together was they always had a “thank you” at the ready. I’m talking about the Tom Hanks of comics we love working with. The one that doesn’t wait until the show has begun to tell you they need to go up first or leave early. The one that is OK wherever you put them in the line, and the comics that don’t run the light, and sometimes, actually finish up with time to spare. They are easy to work with, leave their ego at the door, and work with instead of against you. Yes, of course, there are the diva and egotistical comics out there that make no matter what, true, but that is a different conversation. And a different list.
Being booked shows respect as well as confidence in you the comic. As every show is different, every venue and crowd different, so are all comics; in their own little way. So when someone reaches out to me for a local or a road gig, no matter how long I’ve been in the game, the first words are, “Thank you for thinking about me…” So quick, so easy. For some comics, though, there grows an expectation or assumption even, of being booked, and so, these comics respond to a booking with a flippant or ungrateful comment. There should never be assumptions. One wrong move and you'll find yourself back at bar shows working for well drink tickets.
Let's also discuss the booking itself. Unless on vacation, an emergency, or "off the grid", comics, it should not take days if not a week for you to respond to a booking. While I find most comics respond to an email/message within a few minutes to perhaps a few hours, there are those that either take days to respond to a booking or simply never do. I wonder, "then how do these comics get booked?" Perhaps they're simply not good at checking messages? I'm not important enough? Or perhaps they are getting booked enough and don't need to take the time to check messages or return (my) message? I'm sure it's a combination, however, it takes seconds to respond, "Hey, not available, thanks for thinking about me though." See what I did there, they got back to me and said thank you.
I also know that there are some comics that are trying to make the full transition to being paid for their talent. This is an amazing move that we should all strive for, however. There are some comics that lack the most basic skills when being booked and their very first question about the gig: "Is it paid?" No "hello" or, "Hey, thanks for thinking about me." I get it, I really do. You need to get paid, be it $10, $50, or $1,000, by all means, get paid. Cash Is King and all that. But it just can't all be about the business, the transaction. Can it?
There are some that may say I am being temperamental, foolish even, with my comments about comedy etiquette. That may be, and I own and will defend my comments, but think about this: It takes only seconds to be friendly. It takes such little effort to express gratitude, thanks, and be humble when sometimes, you don't need to be.
Mark Anthiony Remirez
"One wrong move and you'll find yourself back at bar shows working for well drink tickets."