The Choice to Pay Comics

TCC has been up and running since November. It feels surreal, but we’ve been doing exactly what we hoped we would do. We put on a consistently good show, TCC members are starting to push and support each other and all that hippie stuff. The comics that come through are impressed with the atmosphere and the crowd, and the real test of a great show- comics are starting to come by, just to hang out.

We started the room before TriBeCa Comedy Club was running a comedy club there, it was just us in this empty theater for two whole months by ourselves. When new management came in and started running a proper (read- for profit) club. The owners were impressed enough with how we were doing things that they let us keep our Friday night 8pm spot. But starting in January the TriBeCa Comedy Club (under new management) has opened and started operating around us crazy kids. They’ve been very nice about the fact that we don’t care about money, which can be very disconcerting.

In the beginning we decided to charge an admission mostly to give the show value. TCC members are free to sell tickets, and they pocket 100% of that money, but folks that come off the street pay for their seat. This serves dual purposes. First, and most importantly, the audience members invest themselves in a show they pay for. Free shows have a reputation for disconnected and easily alienated audiences. I’ve learned that the hard way, many many times. TCC also wanted to generate a source of revenue so that we could continue to invest in the show, print tickets, fliers, recoup some of the start-up costs (like buying a mic) and possibly expand into paid advertisement. The majority of every audience either got a free ticket, or bought a ticket from a TCC member, but after a few months we were able to build up a little nest. But we weren’t paying the comics.

Then we booked a great up and coming comic. Dan St. Germain on one of our shows in early January. He killed. He came in, saw us collecting tickets, and some money at the door, and saw a packed house. Like everyone else on the show he volunteered his time. After the show he sent me this message

“Hey, you can’t take money at the door and not pay professional comics. If u want to produce a show and not pay performers, especially ones who you’re advertising, then produce a free show. Anything else is unethical and will give you a bad rap.”

He was absolutely right.

As a young comic I beg for stage time. I stand out in the cold and yell at strangers for it, I drive long distances for it, and I start really ambitious and hard headed projects all to facilitate more of it. TCC was never intended as a money making venture. We only wanted to come together and produce a show we were proud to promote. We wanted to give ourselves and other comics quality stage time, in front an audience who wanted to be there. But that’s not what it looks like. It looks like we’re a comedy club, we’re charging people to come to the show, and we’re not paying comics. And at the end of the day, perception is reality. And “unethical” is the nicest word Dan could have used for what it looked like we were doing.

Nobody gets into comedy for the money, except maybe club owners or bookers, but even then there are easier ways to make a buck. But love of the craft isn’t an excuse not to fairly compensate artists for their work. So starting January 20th TCC is proud to pay guest comics and headliners for their time.

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