What the new Valley Park Funnybone is like…

This week I featured at the new Valley Park Funnybone (it’s just outside of the outer-belt on the southwest side of St. Louis).  It’s only the first week but I’ve collected a few observations on how it reminded me of a few other places I’ve performed.

I think the thing comics want to know is how the crowds are.  Though it’s the grand opening we’re battling against Cardinals baseball, so Friday was close to a complete wash.  Saturday night had a solid first show of over a hundred.  What we noticed was that the people there dress a little nicer than Westport.  Most of them really took pride in their appearance and showed class.  They seem to be a little more “established” as far as being in their 40s, having a spouse, and getting there on time.  Yes, there was one guy there in hunting gear and boots, but he was still a gentleman.  They aren’t an “old” crowd, but there are certianly less groups of 20-somethings.

The thing to remember about this club is that the people are proud of it being in their town.  If you perform there, be careful about mocking the area and don’t lump them in with the rest of the city.  Yes, they’re more conservative and traditional, but they haven’t moaned at one bit this week.  Just do your material about you or your usual topics and leave who they are out of it.  There’s a way to do local humor, but it’s tougher in these situations where they’re small-town but not isolated from the rest of the world.  There’s a sense of pride in their community.  Figure out how to translate that into your local jokes if you do any.

This club is very typical compared to a lot of the clubs I’ve worked at in the last half-decade.  It’s small town America but they have money.  They don’t always spend it in the same flashy way people in the city do but they’re not aliens, just more practical.

Anotherthing to point out about this club is its connection to the bar, Bobbie’s Place, just across the plaza.  A lot of people who will be patronizing the club are regulars or work at Bobbie’s.  I met at least a dozen people who mentioned it in conversation.  I think the two businesses will compliment each other well.  Hopefully none of the local or touring comics will do anything stupid after a show over there and hurt reputations.

As far as what material will work, this club is more like what a mjority of your one-nighter/paying gigs are going to be in the Midwest.  If you’re “too alternative” for Wesport, I think it’ll be even tougher at Valley Park.  It has nothing to do with being dirty or not, it has to do with trying to sound smarter than them when you’re a decade or two younger.  I’ll say it again, this club is more like what you’re going to perform in front of if you work the road in the Midwest.  Learn to adjust without pandoring (as I explain in Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage).

All of the above are just my opinions based on what I’ve seen this weekend.  I could be wrong, but from what I experienced it’s a pretty typical Midwest club.  We’re fortunate to have it so close to the rest of our St. Louis scene.

How much should I charge for a comedy show?

There’s a simple answer:  As much as you think you can.

If you have a strong enough web presence and a good reputation you’ll get some calls or emails out of the blue.  People have no idea what comedy costs.  In my early years I took what I could get and sometimes named my own price but then accepted their counter offer.  

If you know that you can’t provide an extremely strong show under any circumstance, then it’s okay to charge $200 or less.  If you’re working with 2 other professionals, $500 is a good minimum.  I know guys who won’t take anything under a grand and they’re no funnier than the rest of us–but they get their gigs, just less of them.

Here are some important questions to ask yourself or the person paying you that will help you justify raising your price.

1.  What night of the week is it?  (Saturdays should be your most expensive)

2.  How many people does the place hold?  (Figure out how much the venue will be making)

3.  Is it for charity?  (You can take as little as you want in this case.  We’ve all done free shows for a good cause, but I’ve found they realize you cost money.)

4.  What’s their budget and what do they pay for bands?  (You can charge the same sometimes.)

5.  How much is it going to suck?  If it’s a terrible gig like my break room holiday gig back in 2004 with no microphone that started at noon you should get more than $50 (I was dumb).  My worst gig of all-time, President Casino, was also my highest paying per minute ($25 per!).

6.  Are they giving you a hotel room and how far are you traveling?

7.  Do you have to book the other comics?  That should be rewarded as well because it’s often very annoying.

There will be times when you feel like you overcharged, and some shows you know you could’ve made more.  I haven’t perfected it, but as long as you can sleep at night and they want you back in a year or two you’re doing it right.  High-ball them a bit and then negotiate down to what they’ll give.  However, when you charge too little, you’re hurting the industry for the rest of us.


For more tips on how to make money performing stand-up comedy, order my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.