Monday October 28th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
I really enjoy working at Donnie B’s Comedy Club in Springfield, IL, even though this wasn’t a strong weekend for attendance. Between Halloween parties and the World Series, it was a slow go all weekend. I feel badly for Donnie more than anything else, as I know how much he hustles.
Before I left town, he booked me back for my birthday weekend in March. I’m delighted to be coming back, and I hope it’s much busier that week. I want to see guys like Donnie succeed, and I wish there were more of them – at least 52 so I could work for someone I respect every week.
There are other club owners who would have tried to negotiate down and cut pay after having a slow weekend, but Donnie’s ethics are first class. The Zanies clubs in Chicago and Nashville are that way too, as is Tom Sobel in Louisville, KY. Phil Anglin in Michigan is impeccable as well.
We as comedians are self employed independent contractors, and getting stiffed is an ugly part of the game nobody likes to talk about. I don’t like to talk about it either, but it happens and it’s a total buzz kill. Being funny for a living is hard enough without getting screwed over for our pay.
Certain club owners and bookers know that we are vulnerable, and take full advantage of us at every opportunity. There are traditionally no written contracts in the comedy club business, and everything is negotiated by word of mouth. It used to be on the phone, and there was no receipt.
At least now via email there is a written record of the amount that is to be paid for whatever a booking entails whether it’s one night or a week of shows. That way if there is an issue there’s at least some proof of a deal being made. For decades we were all stupid enough to trust the clubs.
Far more often than not though, comedians would get paid what was negotiated. Most comedy clubs have a set amount that get paid each week for each position on the show, and that’s that. In rare instances there might be a door deal for a bigger named headliner, but mostly it’s a set fee.
Still, there are many circumstances that can come back to bite the comedian in the shorts and it happens at some point to anyone who is in the business for any amount of time. Slow weeks like I just experienced in Springfield are ripe for skullduggery by less than scrupulous club owners.
That’s why I like and respect Donnie B, Zanies, Tom Sobel and Phil Anglin so much. They’ve all been great through the years, and I never have to worry about getting paid no matter what. We have a business deal, and they honor their deal without question. That’s how it always should be.
Unfortunately it’s not always that way, and I’ve been stung badly – usually in my home town. I am still owed $400 by The Comedy Café in Milwaukee for shows I did in 1992. That club had an awful reputation for stiffing comedians, and I know I’m not the only one. They have new owners now apparently, but the former snake let it get out of hand. I’ll never see my money and it stinks.
Funny Business Agency is also greasy. A club called Giggles in Brookfield, WI was bouncing checks for a long time, and they did nothing about it. I got stung, and they still owe me bounced check fees of $110 I’ll never see. And then bookers wonder why comedians can cop an attitude.
|Everyone wants to be paid for work they do - comedians are no different.|