This is a topic I cover in my book but I wanted to add a few other points. Consider this entry as much for the comedy fan as for the comic. I love that my friends come to my shows. So many of them were there for my first time (and cheered me on in a clap-off) and throughout the years. I’ve been lucky to have their support in a lot of shows. It’s not the close friends who I want to address in this entry, but rather the acquaintances or non-BFFs if you want to get technical in a sixth-grade sense, who you need to be ready for. Maybe you’re doing a show in the town they live in which happens to be in the middle of Kansas and you haven’t seen each other since high school. You occasionally exchange comments on Facebook and have a few fun memories to share from high school, but because you’re not that close, they know nothing about stand-up.
First, realize they’re going to insult you in some way, hopefully it’s at least unintentional. The first thing they’ll do is hint around and wonder how much money you’re making. Granted, they usually think it’s more than it is, but it’s none of their business. Comics make way less than anyone thinks. Next, they’ll ask for some of your merch for free. I’ve been selling shirts for four years and sometimes my acquaintances think they should get some kind of discount just because we suffered through Algebra II together in 1994. Honestly, the early success of any kind of merchandise release, whether it be t-shirts or my book, is heavily reliant on the friends who pay full price to get me back to that break even point. As comics, we wouldn’t come to your cubicle on a payday after you’ve worked really hard at your job, look at your pay stub and say, “Hey, saw you got a paycheck today…how about giving me five or ten bucks of that?”
*A Clear Fork classmate’s wife never paid me for four shirts back in 2007 after many emails and requests. Curious? (I use her real name in my book). How’s that for passive aggressive?
I think the next insult is rooted in the jealousy of the balls you have for going for your dream. I worked with a headliner last year who had a classmate come up to him and say, “Wow, you were a lot funnier this year.” That’s not a compliment to someone who’s been doing stand-up for almost twenty years. The amount of improvement from year fifteen to year sixteen of a career is minimal for most, so to say something like that is very insulting. If we’re established, don’t tell us we’ve improved like we’re a seven year old at a piano recital. Most of the time the show’s success has to do with how big the crowd was. We do the same thing every night to various amounts of laughter based on the venue.
Most of my friends have the method of going to a show down pat, but within three hours of showtime expect a dozen calls, texts, and emails from your pals who suddenly forget there’s an internet and have no idea about showtime, location, tickets, directions, other performers, the club’s name, cover charge, if there’s food served, if it’s 21 and up, and what time they really need to be there. I’ve found that the true friends figure it out themselves. Also be weary of any friends who can’t hold their liquor or don’t tip. Don’t invite them.
Another frustrating thing is when they continuously ask, “When are you doing shows around here?” We have webpages for that. Most of us post it on Facebook at least a few times. Then, once we get that week of shows in their random town, they don’t bother to make it. “Well, when are you going to be performing here again.” I know, our comedy shows aren’t as big of a deal to you as your own lives, but don’t expect us to perform five minutes from your home ten times a year. The worst is when you comp someone some passes and they still don’t show up.
I think the comment that bugs me the most is when they talk about the “sacrifices” they made to be at your show. “We had to drive 45 minutes and pay for a sitter to be here.” Well you shouldn’t have. I’m sorry you had to go through all this trouble for a night of being entertained! I had to drive eight hours, leave my family at home for four days, give up the chance of ever building a retirement fund, sleep in a nasty hotel, and eat fast food for a week to perform in front of people who after seeing me work my ass off on stage still think I want to hear one of their jokes which usually starts, “I ain’t racist or nothin’ but did you hear the one about the three black guys? You can use it if you want!”
Comics: Invite only the friends you can trust to represent you well and let them do the rest.
Friends/Fans: Take the same initiative you would take and behave as if you were going to a movie theater. We love your support, but don’t undermine the fact that it’s more than just a hobby or job for us. Your negative feedback isn’t necessary, we know when we suck.
(Feel free to share this with your friends as well.)