Getting out of the comedy game
“Dean runs stand-up comedy gigs”. I hear that a lot. It’s not entirely true. I run one stand-up comedy gig, but it’s weekly so that’s quite enough. But over the last two and a half years it’s become the “one interesting thing” about me that everyone has to have. It’s my thing. I like being that person, but then, I also kinda want to be “Dean writes about TV and videogames”, “Dean plays piano in a band” or “Dean makes indie iPhone/PC games”. But finding the time to be any of those people while still being “Dean runs comedy gigs” is hard.
I bloody love running Reckless Comedy, but the sheer amount of time it takes managing the acts, venue, publicity… all before you even take into account the entirety of every Monday night that it’s on. It’s not an easy task. Plus it’s a weird gig. On the one hand, it’s the best sort of gig. The crowd don’t pay much but they love comedy. The acts don’t get paid much but they love trying out new stuff at the gig. I don’t make a profit but I put the work it because I want it to exist. Everyone’s expectations are set at a reasonable level and it all just works. It’s a genuine new act / new material night, rather than those that are sold to the public for £6 as a pro-night and to the acts as a “new material” night so they can get better people. And we always have at least one paid, pro-comic on the bill, so that we’re not just an open mic night. In reality, we often have a lot of pro-comics trying out stuff because we put on a good gig.
But I’m boxed in. I’ve ridden the gig up to the point I no longer have to worry about it breaking even in terms of money. It all just about works out. But we still have quiet nights with only 12-15 people in, and then the next week we’ll have 40. I can’t get it to the point where it’s a consistent sell-out every week. So every week is a nervous panic of “will we get many people in”. Then there’s the fact that we’re in half of the pub, which is fine literally 95% of the time. The other 5% you get loud nutters in the other half of the pub ruining it. And yet because that’s only a very rare occurrence, there’s no impetus to do anything about it: because we can’t consistently get 30 people in every week, it’s hard to sell the pub on paying for the extra staff member to run it permanently in the basement because of the 1 in 20 shows that have issues. Small audiences are uncommon. Disruptive noise is uncommon. But that doesn’t mean I don’t worry every week about this being the week it all goes to pot.
So then there’s the question of what I get out of it, beyond seeing awesome comedy and a sense of tremendous elation at putting on a good show. I’m learning to be a better MC, which would be great but I have no interest in being an MC. I don’t even want to be a comedian! I MC my gig as I’m fairly funny on occasion, and having a regular MC really helps with a weekly show (punter expectations are low – they know they won’t get fifteen minutes of new gold every week, but the crowd feel comfortable with me, I can reset the room between acts, I can pick them back up if someone bombs – I’ve learned a skill that’s only really any good for MCing Reckless, basically). I have a bunch of contacts now that are of little use because again, I don’t want to be a comic. And my forays into trying to spin Reckless off into a side business with a few pro-nights where I can make some money for my efforts have all failed too. Leamington seemingly can’t support another one (and there’s no decent venue I can find) and Coventry seems over-saturated as it is.
“None of this is going anywhere”, in other words. So my current plan is to get out of the comedy promotion game at the end of the year, though hopefully with finding some sort of continuity plan for Reckless as, if nothing else, it’s somewhere I like to hang out, and always has been. With the time that will free up, I can hopefully pursue things that do have the potential to go places. But it’s sad because, frankly, it won’t be as much fun.