The Pink Collar Comedy Tour, Ebbs and Flows

Pink Collar Comedy Tour

Kaytlin Bailey, Carrie Gravenson, Abbi Crutchfield, and Erin Judge posing for the Pink Collar Comedy Tour.

We spent nine days in Charleston, mostly eating. Erin was in a full cast because she broke her ankle and dislocated her knee. She had the cast sawed off the day she started driving down to SC. Erin is a bad-ass. I rented dorm rooms in Charleston, rather than try to cram us all into a hotel room. The three girls had their own rooms, and I slept on the couch in the living room to save money. It was important for us each to have our own space while we got to know each other. By the time we left Charleston, we were a team.

We had no television or internet but plenty of wine and things to discuss. As women, as comics, as introspective people, we told and retold our life stories and made an honest effort to empathize and understand each other. It’s super hard to be judgmental at 4 am after 3 or 4 bottles of Merlot. It’s also super hard to repress giddy silliness. We became a strange combination of earnest scholars indulging in collective naval-gazing, and preteens squealing over nail polish and making bawdy jokes.

We drove up through Wilmington on our way to Knoxville, TN to drop off some Pink Collar coasters – because I’m a crazy person. Matt Ward and I met at the Cape Fear Comedy Festival in 2011. I couldn’t wait to work with him again. He runs a great room at Preservation Pub in downtown Knoxville. This was the least geographically-sane booking choice I made. We were incredibly well-received, Erin wrote a wonderful post about our experience there on our blog, here. We stopped in Asheville, NC on our way to Fort Mill to distribute our coasters, and hang a few posters….because of the crazy thing.

In Fort Mill, SC, Blayr Nias put together a packed house at the Fort Mill Comedy Zone. That was the first night we all stayed together in a hotel. From Fort Mill we went on to Wilmington, NC for two nights. This whole week there was a lot more laughter and joy. I was starting to suspect that catastrophe was not imminent – we had consistently great shows, and the car was running fine. Things started to feel an awful lot like summer camp.

The last week of the tour was logistically the most intense. We did six shows and drove over 1,200 miles in five days. We had sold out shows in Raleigh, Asheville, and packed houses everywhere else. The last days were an exhausting but exciting blur. We decided to drive into New York after our last show in Philadelphia. We missed our men folk. The last 24 hours the inside jokes and childish giggling stopped. We weren’t annoyed or irritated with each other, just…done.

The Pink Collar Comics with our host, Rojo Perez.

The Pink Collar Comics with our host, Rojo Perez.

We didn’t do everything perfectly, but we did a lot of things right. I picked the right people to work with thanks to dumb luck. We had a successful marketing plan, we were selling a good show. We all got along exceptionally well on and off the stage. We worked together to solve problems, everyone was invested and competent. And despite all my efforts, we had a lot of fun.

Thank you to everyone who made this tour a success!

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Calm The F*ck Down! NOW!

What makes a great show isn’t always the number of people in the audience, but just a sense of relaxed fun. No one is freaking out, and there is a roll-with-the-punches mentality. I envy this quality more than I envy anything else in another human being. I am frequently asked “why are you so stressed out?” only to reply, “I don’t know. Give me a minute, I’ll think of something.”

I’ve been called high-strung, type-A, bitchy, bossy, obsessive, and nervous. I’m calmer now than I’ve ever been. But at shows I produce, I adhere mostly to the “stomp around and look nervous” philosophy. This basically translates into “if you don’t look upset, you aren’t working hard enough.” I think I got that from my mom, or every movie about anything ever.

Anxiety is not the same as productivity. I know. I’m working on that.

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Raid Poison!

I’m not good at the day to day stuff. Dishes, remembering to pick up my laundry before I run out of socks, paperwork, math. I’m the person who leaves off their birthday on employment forms, even though the box is highlighted for me by an overenthusiastic HR rep. I have to be told to wash the dishes more thoroughly because my thoughts are elsewhere and I didn’t notice that the pot wasn’t “really clean.” My roommate tolerates my adolescent habits gracefully enough, but I know she doesn’t really understand how anyone could “not see that mess.”

Raid bottle

The culprit.

One day in college I saw we had summer ants crawling all over the counter.  I found some Raid and sprayed the whole area down, waited a few moments, and then wiped the dead ants away with a paper towel. Less than an hour later I took a slice of pizza out, put it on the counter, then got a plate.

It took about 5 minutes for me to feel the effects of the Raid. I spent the rest of the afternoon vomiting.

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Raising Money for Pink Collar Comedy Tour

I’ve never produced a comedy tour.  I’ve only seen financial losses in the shows I have produced. I would like to make it very clear that I have no idea what I’m doing. When I organized Pink Collar I couldn’t make any guarantees about money because “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

I’ve asked the comics to cover their own food, and I’ve taken on the financial responsibility for our printing/publicity costs and finding/paying for housing.  Erin Judge volunteered to front the money for gas and donate her car. Carrie Gravenson bought our url address, and did something else on the internet. Abbie Crutchfield designed our website. This has been a real team effort. At the end of this we will split any profits four ways.

I didn’t have enough (any) money to take care of the upfront costs before ticket revenue started to appear. So I decided to raise the start up money we needed through Kickstarter. Kickstarter is an incredible innovation that allows artists to raise money for specific projects online through small donations. Carrie and I shot, and then learned to edit, video. In the first 4 days we raised $1,000. I would like to believe that success was due to sheer force of will. I thought about it hard enough to melt ore.

There are still a few hours left to donate. We’ve exceeded our ambitious fundraising goal by $1,000. If you are so inclined, I personally recommend opting for a level that gets you a CD, mostly because I’m not sure how we’re going to make that happen yet. Like all the upcoming and unforeseen hurdles, I have faith we’ll figure it out.

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Pink Collar Comedy Tour

Pink Collar Comedy Ladies smiling for the camera!

Abbi Crutchfield, Carrie Gravenson, Kaytlin Bailey, and Erin Judge!

The weather is warming up and I’m starting to get home sick and restless. I come by my wanderlust honestly, both of my parents were travelers and I grew up moving around a lot. So far, I have built a life that prioritizes freedom over any nesting impulse I might have had. I don’t, for example, own a single pot or pan. I am as much in love with the “road” element of being a “road comic”as I am with the title “comic.”

New York is the place to be to get better at stand-up comedy. The expectations are high, there is plenty of stage time, you meet the people you need to meet to go to the next level. 2-5 min spots are great for crafting jokes, but not for other skills. I need to learn to build rapport, do crowd work, and find my elusive “voice.” (I still have no idea what that means, but I’ve been told….I will.) It’s important to not isolate myself during this development process. I need to get out.

I put together the Pink Collar Comedy Tour. In my mind, this was going to be an epic 2-3 month cross country tour in a Winnebago, with a film crew, and probably a pony. I started booking rooms a year in advance. I built the tour around Piccolo Spoleto in Charleston, SC….before I had, you know, other comics. Or, frankly, any idea what I was doing. When I started asking for commitments from comics I admired and wanted to tour with, they balked at the “2 months” idea. I calmed down a little and limited the tour to 26 days, or one month’s rent.

Three brave souls, Carrie Gravenson, Erin Judge, and Abbi Crutchfield signed on. So far we are booked in Charleston SC, Wilmington NC, Raleigh NC, Carrboro NC, Ashville NC, Timonium MD, Columbia MD, Philadelphia PA. We are still adding dates. Erin is donating her car. We are staying with friends/family most of the way.

Pink Collar Comedy Tour logo

Pink Collar Comedy Tour Logo

There were a lot of logistical issues/moving parts to sort out: getting the comics, a photographer, publicity plan, travel plan, housing etc. And honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was doing most of the time. I’m still pretty much just making things up as I go. We will be blogging on the road, and I’m sure we will run into our fair share of misadventures.

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Nefarious Fellows

Because I’m an only child and my parents worked very hard to cater to my every whim, I genuinely believe the world revolves around me. My whole life is built around the idea that opportunities fall out of the clear blue sky when you’re least expecting it, and there is no such thing as “too good to be true.”  So when a “manager” sent me an e-mail expressing an interest in taking my career to the next level, I was flattered. I also had some hard to ignore “this is happening way sooner than I thought it would” feelings. Comics, actresses, engineers, anyone working toward a goal wants help along the way.

I got an e-mail from a Mike George, from Raleigh NC, asking whether or not I was looking for management. “Yeah, I need help managing my life, can you do that?” The first red flag was that Mike seemed hesitant about telling me where he saw me perform. He eventually said that I “popped up” on youtube because he was looking for female comics. Ok fine, I’m out there. The big recurring theme was that Mike wanted me to commit to him exclusively … yesterday. He used a lot of assumptive language, he proceeded as if we were already partners. He claimed that he wanted to get to know me. I recognized his tactics from both fundraising and dating. But I really wanted this to be real.

He wanted to come up to NYC to meet me in person and see me perform live. He needed me to find him a place to stay. This is the same guy who claimed to represent actors who made “millions of dollars a year.” Another red flag was Mr. George’s choice of language. I know that men past a certain age missed out on the politically correct seminars of the 1990’s, but still…even my father knows the difference between respectful and disrespectful language. It wasn’t so much that he made direct sexual passes at me, it’s that he was working from the assumption that I was a stupid little girl, and expected me to act accordingly. He referred to the Pink Collar Comedy Tour affectionately as a bunch of “hot bitches.” I told myself he didn’t know us well enough to know that was inappropriate.

He was talking big time, interview with Rolling Stone, getting famous. I know I’m not ready for that, hell I’m not ready to feature. And there is no shame in that. I will be ready, but if he did half the things he said he could do I would be looking at a calendar full of disappointed audiences. I went with my gut and told Mr. George, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

As Tom Simmons

Dr. Evil from Austin Powers

Dr. Evil from Austin Powers couldn't have been more obvious.

put it “Sorry it wasn’t the head of show business with a map to the top.” There are many paths up the mountain, but I can’t ignore my gut instinct that mine will be better without the potentially disastrous help of Mike George.

I spent about 48 hours flirting with the idea that maybe being cute and young and enthusiastic were a fine substitutes for building up the basic skills I need to be consistently funny. It’s not. There are many paths up the mountain, but no short cuts. I’ll keep writing, keep performing, and when I’m ready I have faith that someone will be looking for fresh talent.

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Day Jobs

holding a sign at JFK airport

me holding a sign at JFK airport-one of many day jobs

After not getting any “appropriate” job offers, I started working at Starbucks. This job paid the bills and was a consistent source of material. But I was always sick, too tired to do late night mics, and every paycheck was a depressing reminder of just how little my sweat was worth. The constant noise, rude people, and the physical demands of the job were overwhelming. But more than the hours, the headaches, the AmEx black card people who didn’t make eye contact- I was bad at it. I left work after only 4 hours, ($36 before taxes) defeated by my own incompetence. I spent many afternoons not writing, but lying in bed reminding myself that ‘I am a unique and beautiful snowflake.’

I was bad at almost everything the job demanded. Could I please remember to ask people if they wanted a receipt?
No, I couldn’t. Could I please not spill hot coffee on children? No. Could you please arrive promptly for work, you only live 3 blocks away? No, impossible. Could you fill the rag bucket up with the right ratio of water to disinfectant? Nope. When someone orders a soy milk latte, could you please use the proper container? Uh, only if it’s already in my hand. Can you try harder? Clearly not.

Between comedy, my increasingly stressful “romantic” relationship, the don’t-judge-me-this-is-a-normal-part-of-the-transition-into-adulthood feelings all culminated in me quitting. I wish I could tell you I went out in a blaze of glory, that there was a statement of some kind made. But honestly this was one of my less proud, tail-tucked-firmly-between-legs, moment. For that, I am ashamed.

So now I scrape together a living with an odd assortment of jobs. SAT tutoring, “night monitoring,” I once held a sign at the airport for 13 hours while conference attendees flew in from different parts of the country. No day, or week, is ever the same. My income is unpredictable, but I seem to make ends meet. My goal is to add freelance writing, commercial acting, and paid comedy gigs to that list.

SAT tutoring is all my high school fears come true. I stand in front of a classroom of judgmental teenagers, re-teaching myself math I was never very good at to begin with. I perpetuate the myth that doing well on the SAT a) matters and b) results in some increased chance at being “happy” or “successful.” I don’t have the heart to let the children know it’s all a lie because I never liked killing Santa Claus. Plus, I only found out that doing well academically doesn’t automatically translate into professional success a few months ago. I found this realization- depressing.

“Night Monitoring” means that I sit in a hallway of a hotel when school groups come to NYC and prevent abduction, pregnancy, and property damage. It’s cheaper to pay me to sit there than take on the potential liability of a missing/impregnated child…

My jobs are all flexible enough that I’m able to go on tour. When I come back I’ll figure it out all over again.

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TriBeCa Comedy Collective (Things Fall Apart)

Last night was TriBeCa Comedy Collective’s last show at TriBeCa Comedy Club. We had a great audience of 40, and an incredible line up. David Lee Nelson, Mick Diflo, Jermaine Fowler, Charlie Kasov and of course Andrew Schwartztol all made the night a success. Andrew’s parents came, which was fun. Despite how Andrew turned out his parents seemed like normal old well adjusted white people.

So, it turns out a couple of crazy young comics can put together a pretty impressive show. But we couldn’t hold it togetherfor the long haul. A combination of things led to our downfall. The new manager is in jail for fraud. TriBeCa Comedy Collective outlasted the profit driven club model- at least for now. But he managed to do a lot of damage during the short time he “managed” the club. It was hard to navigate between the manager’s ego, our own vision, and the insistent siren of the “bottom line.” Our shows suffered during his brief tenure. It is unfortunately always easier to tear something down than it is to build. So after his magnificent fall, we begin building our community again with new faces, new ideas, and a renewed sense of strength and vision- but with less energy.

Here are the obstacles. The manager ran a groupon claiming that the shows ticket price was $30. A lot of people left feeling “ripped off.” We never pretended to be a $30 show. We’re a $10 show. If you set expectations high and fail to meet them, you get a lot of bad yelp reviews. He advertised comics who did not perform, so we got a lot of people in the room who expected a specific name….so even great comics, who weren’t who they “paid to see” disappointed. During the shows his presence made everyone nervous and focused on the wrong thing. Good comedy shouldn’t feel like you’re “hustling” anyone. We stopped having fun.

In order to build that room, we needed autonomy and we needed security. Having another show either right after or right before wasn’t a problem in and of itself, but the implied competition was stressful rather than motivational. We weren’t able to give the comics in TCC the freedom/security to develop organically instead we pushed everything too quickly. The little things became stressful with the manager’s implied threat hanging over us. I turned into a campaign manager again. I was micromanaging, pushing people to think about all the wrong things.

After a few back and forths with the owner I decided to walk away. We have different visions. I wasn’t having fun anymore. Good luck to the new managers, I wish you the best, but you have to dig out of a pretty deep hole.

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Music/Spoken Word…Oh Yeah & Comedy Open Mic’s

Louis CK said “comics are musicians who play the audience.” Learning how to do stand up at open mics populated only by other comics is like trying to learn how to play the saxophone by practicing on a recorder. You need an audience. There are a few solutions to this problem. Hustling for guest sets/hosting gigs at established clubs, producing your own shows, and going to music/performance art/crazy people open mics. Musicians are better than comics at open mics, they come to have a good time as opposed to torture themselves, they stick around, drink, and pay attention to what other artists do on stage. Compared to comics they’re saints.

There is something alluring about sharing the stage with musicians, spoken word performers, people reading out of their diary, and homeless people. The benefit of these rooms is that there are “civilians” to practice on. The downside is that these open mic’s are a hot bed of unpolished talent, raw crazy, make believe instruments, and half baked ideas that sounded cooler when the “artist” was high. And, unlike comic open mics, they are also filled with long “experimental” music pieces that sound like cats dying, fake orgasm noises, and “real” moments that involve real tears and real awkward. Musicians, spoken word performs, and poets tend to be more generous (mutually masturbatory?) than comics. There is a lot of hand holding, unconditional support, and kumbayah moments that can go on forever. All this un-ironic sentimentality, and by 3am my inner child is jumping up and down screaming “YOU ALL SUCK!”

I’ve taken enough theatre classes to feel at home in these crazy cozy basements. My ego feels nuzzled and stroked, I feel safe to experiment. And even if the 8 minutes on stage isn’t “worth it” by any measurable standard, I’m earning my merit badges, which I’ve been told I can turn in later for “pity coupons” “I’m better than you” badges, and “insert funny anecdote here” moments on talk shows.

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Relationships (Things Fall Apart)

Comedy is not the reason my last relationship failed. Rather, it made clear why I had to end the relationship sooner than I would have had I been less committed to pursuing this dream. Comedy is an elixir of truth. It’s a blessing that I have this voice inside me calling me and my princess fantasies out on our delusions.

I remember a moment hanging out at his apartment when he decided to go to the deli for cigarettes and asked me if I wanted anything. I said “Yes. I want some almonds.” He came back a few minutes later with cigarettes- and roses. No almonds. I didn’t chastise him, how could I? it was clearly a romantic gesture, but for whom? I’m awkward around flowers. I don’t own a vase. Once a guy brought me a rose on our first date and I knocked over both of our wine glasses with it because I thought it would be rude to put it on the floor and my purse was too small to hold the damn thing. I’m a physically awkward person, and I just wanted some almonds.

There were many problems. Ultimately we wanted very different things. One reoccurring tension was how much I prioritized stage time over building our relationship. I couldn’t make the choices I needed to make to take full advantage of unexpected opportunities. I ran into a friend of mine who works as a headliner. When he invited me to tag along with him to his next gig, I had to decline because I promised I would be home soon.

I knew my boyfriend would suspect amorous intentions. I didn’t particularly care if this comic was flirting with me or not. I wanted to see another show, meet another club manager, meet other comics. I was very sure that I was capable of setting clear boundaries, and what this comic’s intentions were could easily be rendered irrelevant. When I started turning down invitations to hang out with other comics because of “how it would look” I knew it was time to rethink my relationship. I felt guilty for taking road gigs, late gigs, gigs on Saturday nights.

The question occurred to me; is it possible to be in a relationship with someone who has a “normal” job while pursuing comedy? Is it possible for me, at this moment in my life to really invest in a relationship at all? Can I be a “good” girlfriend, and also selfish about pursuing comedy? His fears, loneliness, and desires be damned? In the end, we were simply two people with very different values and expectations trying to force the other to “just stop.” I genuinely hope he finds a woman that meets his expectations, but I’m just never going to be that girl. It is impossible for me to be something I’m not.

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