Monday August 26th, 2013 – Wheeling, IL
The breakdown of time for an entertainer as far as offstage pain vs. onstage pleasure is totally lopsided. It’s ridiculous. IF we’re lucky, we get to be on stage about an hour a day – sometimes two if it’s a two show night, and there are. More often than not it’s only 45 minutes. That’s it.
And that’s in the headliner position. It takes years to grow into that. When we first start out it’s in five minute chunks of stage time, and those are like nuggets of pure gold. Stage time is hard to get for most newbies, and the earlier in the journey the more difficult it is to get it of any quality.
Everyone who lasts in comedy has horror stories of working under hellish conditions to acquire the much needed experience to move ahead. It’s not pleasant, but sometimes it’s necessary. It’s a lot like the plane crash survivors in the Andes Mountains who ate dead passengers because there was no food anywhere else. The same holds true in standup comedy. Stage time is nourishment.
Unfortunately, what it takes to get that nourishment consistently comes with an extremely high price. It would be like trying to feed a family when the only food store available is a convenience store and the only restaurant is the airport. The cost is sky high, and the quality is at best so-so.
Sometimes I wonder if the trade off is worth it. Yes there’s a buzz that comes with being on the stage, but is it powerful enough to last the rest of those 23 hours or more? At the beginning of the journey, it is. That’s what keeps us in the game. As time goes on, we begin to have our doubts.
I’m not going to deny it, I love being on stage – when it’s going well. Last Saturday’s show in South Haven, MI is a perfect example. The show went extremely well, and things were all done correctly from a promotional standpoint. It was close enough to home where I could sleep in my own bed, and with driving time included I still think my work day came in at less than 8 hours.
That travel time eats up productive hours though. Sometimes I’m able to make booking related calls from the car, but not often – especially when I’m driving home late at night. There’s a much higher risk at that time as well of drunk drivers, charging deer and who knows what other perils.
The majority of our time off stage is spent trying to get back on stage somewhere, and that’s an ongoing process. As much as I love to perform – and I absolutely do - I dislike having to troll for work, but that’s the game. There’s a lot more time spent on that aspect than the performing part.
And I didn’t even mention promotion. Today I did a newspaper interview for a show I’m doing this Saturday in Homewood, IL at a place called “The Twisted Q”. I haven’t worked in the south suburbs much, and I know I’m not a draw. That article will be crucial to having any chance at all to get anyone to come out. I’m delighted to get the call, but it also takes a chunk out of my day.
This is why it’s so hard to get anything done. There are so many hidden time drainers involved in being an entertainer that nobody thinks about when they get in it. They think it will be just the fun parts. Ha! That’s the trap, and many fall for it. I know I did. It’s too late now. I’m in it for the long haul. All I can do is make the most of the 23 hours I’m off stage - and that’s on a good day.