How To Fail In Comedy While Really Trying – Feature Work

As much as  I complain about being a comedian (literally the lyrics of AC/DC’s “It’s A Long Way To The Top” feel like a diary of my comedy career), it is probably tougher being in musical theater.  I mean, first there’s telling your parents that you are gay, so that is tough in many cases, but there is also an embarrassing lack of integrity.  It seems, despite being a cherished art form in this country’s history, you can barely make a musical today unless it is based on a pre-existing work and/or if you have some marginal to well-known celebrity in at least one of the roles.  I am sure if I were a talented singer/actor I’d be sort of disappointed that the only things available to me were Fast and Furious The Musical or South Pacific starring Lil’ Wayne.  But Broadway musicals still have comedy beat in one aspect.  Because they charge so much per ticket, they actually require people to laugh.  At $10 a ticket, the joke is on us, at $150 a ticket the joke is on the audience if they don’t laugh.  In a modification of the old saying about banks “If you pay $10 to watch a performance and you don’t like it the performer has the problem.  If you pay $150 per ticket and you don’t like it, you have the problem.”

In comedy, we give our product away for free so often (often to no avail) that we have helped devalue it.  Sort of like women’s vaginas this decade.  A slightly revealed ankle in 1940 had more value than a fully exposed woman in 2011 because the market has been flooded with them (of course what I mean is that there has been a great advancement in the empowerment of women).

Part of the problem is that comedy shows can be very expensive with the drink minimums, but the percentage of the bill that goes to the comedy is the part that influences the crowd.  If the bill were 100% toward the show, there might be a different mentality, but when you are being served overpriced drinks, which account for no less than 50% of your bill, the mindset is “Man, that $15 dollar show sucked, and $22 for two drinks!”  There is no need for one to justify paying fifteen dollars by laughing extra, the way there is for a $100 ticket on Broadway.  It should be noted here that The Book of Mormon, currently on Broadway is an exception to this, in that you are unlikely to find any stand up comedy in New York funnier than that musical.

So the comedy business in many ways has contributed to its own status as the second lowest art form, just ahead of poetry slamming.  But I don’t think people  realize how emblematic of America’s capitalistic society comedy is, at least in one significant aspect.  The feature act, normally the middle act at clubs around the country, is like the middle class laborer in America.  And it is a fading prospect for steady work in comedy.

If comedy were politics then presidential candidates would talk about supporting the feature acts.  They are literally the middle class in comedy.  And like the middle class in America, the feature is important to keep the machine going, but wholly irrelevant when it comes to actual business planning.  For example, anecdotal evidence has revealed to me that 20 years ago feature acts were getting $100 per set (in many cases actually more than this during the comedy boom of the late 1980s).  Guess what features get paid per set today – $100.  Is there any job in America where making the same salary (not in adjusted dollars, but the actual same salary) for 20 years is acceptable?

Here is why feature work is important – it helps comedians get good the old-fashioned way – through experience at clubs in front of different crowds.  It allows emerging comedians to get paid and continue to work and it ensures that comedy will have an ever ready supply of comedians who have honed their skills doing actual stand up comedy, rather than by being in movies or on reality television shows.   I am only 8 years into comedy, so I have no illusions that I have enough experience to “tell it like it is” in comedy, but I have been travelling a fair amount and I am smart, so that is at least a start.  Here are two stories that will help you realize what I am beginning to realize, that the feature act is merely the Wisconsin public school teacher of the comedy business.

A year ago I travelled to Detroit to feature at a club.  The terms of the feature work were as follows: $300 for 5 shows, no hotel room provided.  To translate for non-comedians this is like saying: “We can offer you the job you are looking for, but there will be no benefits, the salary is 40% lower than the industry base rate and you will have to lick my ball bag at least twice a week.”  If an employer offered you those details you would  infer that the job was not actually available and you were being pranked or messed with.

Well I took the job because (like Americans who believe in the reality of the American Dream) I have a foolishly optimistic side of me that believes that by meeting different club owners and performing all over the country, sometimes at a loss financially, I will eventually become a better comedian and gain networking opportunities in the business.  So I went to Detroit by Amtrak (17 hours), stayed in a very cheap hotel and took Greyhound bus back to NYC (18 hours).  For that trip I netted $13.  It was one of the proudest moments of my career because I felt like I had just stuck it to the man.  But in reality I had done nothing but waste my time.  It felt like that moment when Jerry Maguire leaves his office and believes that many will follow him, only to find out that Renee Zellweger is the only one.  The truth is I was never wanted at the club, nor is any other feature act worth his salt who does not live in that town.  For the record, attendance for the weekend was well over 1000 people so I am pretty sure twenty cents per person would not have been a major business sacrifice to ensure the standard 1988 rate for a feature act (I just realized that my next sketch may have to be a UNICEF or ASPCA style ad for comedians – “For just twenty cents a customer, you too can ensure that this comedian will not have to be completely embarrassed at school alumni or family functions.  In the arms ooooooof an aaaaangel…”

 Another club experience demonstrates that sometimes a club will not even have the decency to tell you that they are screwing you when you take a job.  I travelled to an audition at a club in Chicago on short notice on my own dime.  It was a fairly expensive plane ride and I had to put myself up in a hotel, but I have enough experience and confidence in my material to do those sort of things.  I performed for a half hour on the show and did very well.  I was told that the booker enjoyed my set and I could expect work out of it as a feature at their clubs (I had already asked for this assurance before booking my flight).  Well, after various immediate emails and prompt replies regarding payment for my performance at the audition, the line went silent.  It has now been 9 months since I received a reply to an e-mail (which means approximately 15 unanswered booking inquiries – including – “Please save me the trouble of not e-mailing you if work is not available – no hard feelings, just want to know where I stand.”  It is one thing if you do not think my comedy is worthy, but as someone who has worked the club, even if just for one show, I should be accorded the dignity and respect of a response.  But the irony that this showed me is that to some clubs the most important person is the headliner and the least important person is any other comedian that is not headlining.  This feels more like a story of a bitter Hollywood writer than a middle stand up comedian, but comedy is becoming more Hollywood anyway so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the shit-eating-grin  has migrated to the heartland.

Now don’t get me wrong there are definitely some club that get good comedians booked for shows and take an interest in the overall quality of the show, not just the headliner.  But there are still a lot of terrible emcees and features out there for sure – and the message is “who cares?”  The same way a majority of Americans vote with their wallets when push comes to shove, clubs and audiences vote with the headliner

But this post is not without a slightly positive story.  I was booked to emcee shows for Patrice O’Neal at the DC Improv, which I just finished up Sunday.  It turns out he had requested me.  That felt great, to have one of the current giants of stand up comedy request me because he liked the job I did last August when I opened for him.  But despite my high opinion of my own comedy (and it is substantial) I might not have stood out or have been as memorable as an emcee if other clubs around the country were lining up solid emcees for their shows.  This exchange solidified to me that clubs are not putting a premium on developing emcees and features (if I were making an American analogy – this is the outsourcing of products to China or India, based solely on cost, regardless of quality or customer satisfaction, i.e. even Apple might not use China if every fifth iPod were broken).  I have travelled many clubs and I have seen a good share of awful emcees and features.  This is a travesty.  There are a lot of talented comedians out there who are not given financial incentive to travel by clubs, and many clubs have no desire to book quality out-of-town comedians because it might cost $100-$200 more per week than the local guy they have do jokes (when he is not making the mozzarella sticks in the back).

The people who suffer are audiences who want to see good comedy and are not, much like my observation in my recent Charlie Sheen post, just the fame hungry buffoons that are multiplying like Gremlins.  The good fans then learn to pursue only well-established comedians they like or ignore the club when they book famous people who are not funny.  But the no name people, trying to make a name for themselves through old fashioned stand up are not bookable acts because the club has established a tradition of not consistently booking funny people for the “no name” spots.  It is sort of a chicken-or-the-egg scenario, did clubs get lazy or did people get stupid first, but either way, it is hurting the grass roots of comedy.   Specific comedians will always have fans, but the business will only truly thrive if clubs foster fans of comedy, not just comedians.

The other people who suffer are comedians.  It is becoming harder, both due to volume of comedians and lack of nurturing on the part of the establishment to make a living being a feature act. In fact it is actually impossible.  So, instead of creating a new class of headliners through old fashioned work and opportunity you have comedians trying to become YouTube sensations or focus more on acting (  That way, when they have the fame, it won’t matter how good their stand up actually is – they will be headliners.   Simultaneously more and more headliners bring their own opening act, which further cuts down on opportunities for “freelance” comedians if you will.  Now I have seen a couple of comedians bring their own feature because they are dominated by insecurities and want to know the level of the feature so they can assure themselves that they can surpass it, but a majority bring their own feature because they do not seem to trust the clubs to book solid people in front of them.  And why should they?

I have been told that a few years ago some comedians in NYC tried to start a Union for comedians.  I guess it failed because you would need to have exactly the things that are lacking in America today:

1) The upper class would have to give a shit.  Bill Burr, Chris Rock, Dave Attell, etc. would have to be on the picket lines along with everyone else.  But they, rightfully so, would feel that they have paid their dues (some in a much more encouraging time for stand up) and would probably not.

2) People outside of the industry would have to give a shit.  Probably wouldn’t happen.  Not while Adam Sandler and Tyler Perry are still successful filmmakers.

3) Comedians would have to accept that the America Dream is a fantasy and not a blueprint of success.  Better pay and a higher standard of quality for emcee and feature performers would have a good impact because for a majority of comedians this is as high as they should aspire to.  It is not mathematically possible for all features to become headliners.  But if people continue to think that the corner office and the Greenwich house will be theirs eventually then they will never fight the fight that they are currently losing.  That is why so many blue collar people seem to be anti-Union and why so many comedians don’t seem to give a shit about the highway robbery that is occurring.

We have a society now where news organizations care about ratings above information, where companies care more about stock prices than workers and products and a comedy business that only cares about comedy when it is convenient.  Hopefully some of these things change.  This just in – I was just told that for my upcoming gigs in New Haven, CT I will be receiving a hotel room.  That was fast.

  • Nick Cobb

    Last week I was offered $300 for two nights about two hours north of Syracuse. I quickly responded, “I literally cannot afford to do that. I would be losing too much money.” I wanted to add, “how can you keep a straight face when you say $300?” But it was over email, so it wouldn’t have made any sense.
    As long as decent-to-good comics continue to take crap money for featuring, this will continue. The clubs have not been forced to change.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      Cobb – thanks for posting. My only issue with this is even if every good middle comic and emcee abstained from clubs, they would simply and knowingly hire terrible comedians. If there were no union busting scab comedians, then they’d simply ask the doorman or the cook or the babysitter to come in and do five minutes before the headliner.

  • Brian McGuinness

    I’ll get to work on “The Fast & The Glorious” right away.

  • Al Barsha

    Only 8 years in the biz and already so bitter…sucks to be you!

    1. J-L Cauvin

      I would say “disillusioned” rather than bitter, but thanks for the comment.

  • Matteson

    Nice piece, JL. I think the comparison between comedy and our economy in general is especially apt.

    The thing that worries me about this situation with comedy clubs is that comedians standing up to the clubs, or forming a union, will not fix it, because I think it may be the most profitable path for comedy clubs, if not the ONLY way they can stay in business. It seems like any clubs that tries to run their club the “right” way (respect talent, foster new comics, put the quality of the show first) go out of business (see Comix).

    It may just be that there aren’t enough people that really love comedy to support a club run the right away, so the clubs essentially become a business that have no interest in repeat customers. They care about getting you there, with they do with a headliner that’s famous (who cares if they’re funny), limiting their costs (paying openers/features almost nothing), and charging the fuck out of the customers (drink minimums). Sure, the comedy may be subpar, the food over priced, and the whole experience not that great, but who cares, b/c the club got $75/person out of an audience that only goes to see comedy once a year anyway, so who cares about providing an experience that will make them want to come back.

    It sucks, but I feel like if there was another way to run a successful club, we’d see it a lot more than we do. Not only do I not know the solution, I think there may not be one.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      I think you are right Matteson (and thanks for the thoughful comment). Oh well, comedy was nice while it lasted 🙂

  • Bob Hellener

    Have you stopped to think that perhaps you haven’t gotten very far because you’re not as funny as you think you are? There are plenty of comedians who’ve been doing comedy for much less than eight years who are setting the world on fire.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      I have thought of that. But like any comedian I have the confidence/delusion to think I am good. The validation of crowds, peers and comedians I’ve worked with is what tells me that I am as funny as I think. “Much less than 8 years” and “world on fire” – maybe you could define those because I am unaware of anyone fitting that description. And the post was less about me becoming a star in comedy and more about trying to make a living from clubs the way (I have been told) features could in the boom years of comedy.

  • Brian McGuinness

    Nick, can I get that guy’s email?

  • Josh Homer

    Great post.

    The big wigs in comedy like Rock would have to get involved for anything to change and that’s not going to happen. He has stated in an interview with Punchline Magazine that he does not watch the newer comics, that when he has a spot he does it and leaves. This from a guy whose entire career is based on Eddie Murphy sitting and watching him perform at the Strip.

    As far as Comix promoting talent, that was not the case. Comix gave opportunities to newer comics true, but the criteria was not based on comedy but on friendships and types of comedy they were doing. It wasn’t about promoting good comedy or the quality of shows.

    I also think that this trend in bad comedy is also predicated on the industry’s fascination with style over substance and this bleeds into the comedy clubs (or maybe it’s the other way around). Comedy Central gave a presents to a guy who was not a stand up but had a bunch of youtube videos. He now headlines around the country when he’s not counting the money he makes from youtube. This example is not the exception but rather the rule. I could go on and on and give specific examples, but I don’t want to step on JL’s toes; burning bridges on a blog is his shtick. Again great blog.

  • April Brucker

    Good blog. I got a feature gig at 21 for 500 for three nights and five shows in Omaha, NB. When I was done with plane ride to and from Omaha as well as the bus ride to and from the airport I broke even. It was a small moral victory though. It was my first time featuring, first time doing a solid thirty in front of a crowd and getting applause breaks, and my first big road gig. Mommy wow, I’m a big girl now

  • Bob Hellener

    As far as your “audition” in Chicago, can you not see that you were clearly used by the club owner? In case you weren’t aware, this is common practice in the business – yes, pay for an airline ticket and hotel and come perform for us for free, and we will “consider” you for future work! There are an infinite number of gullible comedians who will fall for this scam.

    The club owner clearly ran out of local comedians who would feature for nothing, so he flies in talent from around the country – no, they fly themselves in! And let me guess – you got to eat the healthy, nutritious food at the club at half price?

    Bottom line – as long as there are comedians like you who are willing to fall for this scam, then it will go on forever. If you want to put a stop to it, and then simply just refuse to do so, and get your fellow comedians to do the same.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      That is my point in writing the posts I have written (one on bringers a couple of years ago was read by a lot of comedians and provided information for young comics that they would not get from the clubs). I have learned the lessons the hard way. But if we grin and bear it and say nothing comedians will continue to learn the hard way. That is why I wrote this – not to have someone parse my routine, but hopefully to open the eyes of comedians who do not know quite how crappy parts of this business are. If I ever make it big I want to take pride in knowing that I didn’t just sit silently while people fu*ked my peers and this art form.

  • Bob Hellener

    Comix, respecting comics and fostering new talent? That has to be the funniest joke of the century! Did you happen to look at their FAQ when they first opened?

    Q. Do you have an open mic?
    A. No.

    The sheer arrogance! And on top of that, when they first opened, they charged a $63 cover charge to see Mo’ nique – which is hilarious, considering that her audience would be least likely to afford that much for a cover charge. And club was run by that prick Bobby Collins – it was destined to fail. Good riddance.

  • Matteson

    I’m not an expert on how Comix ran their whole operation, but as far as I could tell, they seemed to be the best in NYC at doing the things I mentioned about. I hosted an open mic there, so I know they eventually altered their arrogant FAQ. I also know they gave main stage time, headlining time, to younger comics before any of the other clubs in town. It seemed to me by how I was treated, how people I knew were treated, and the shows they put on that they actually cared about comedy more than your average club. I could be wrong. (and being better than your average comedy club may not count for much…)

  • Bob Hellener

    If you are good, eventually a headliner will ask you to perform with him. Sounds like this is what is happening with Patrice O’Neal, which is great. Why not ask him if you can be his feature on the road? If he’s doing the Improvs, then you would be making $600-$700 every weekend – certainly you wouldn’t be getting rich, but you would definitely cover plane fare, and many of them have condos. You certainly won’t get rich this way, but in the long run you would make money, and the experience would be invaluable.

  • Bob Hellener

    Also, why so down on YouTube? It’s a new way for people to be seen, without having to go through the traditional means. Anybody with an Internet connection can put something up and it can instantly be seen by over a billion people.

    If you don’t believe people should use this medium, then why do you yourself have videos on YouTube? When you put your videos up on YouTube, weren’t you hoping that they would spread virally? Doesn’t that seem a little bit hypocritical? You mean to tell me that if you had just started comedy a year ago, and your video spread like wildfire and people thought you were the funniest thing in the world, you would turn down the Comedy Central Presents, the touring, the millions of dollars? Hmmmm…

    1. J-L Cauvin

      Ok – Bob. First thing – I included my link to my YouTube page in the post because I am aware of its hypocrisy (I’m sure others realized this and had a slight chuckle). So please don’t think I am not aware of the bind this business and audiences have put me in. Why so down on YouTube? Do you do comedy sir? It has downgraded the public’s attention span and valuation of things comedic. Once again – I am playing the game because I have to. I would love to take a moral stand and operate in an old school fashion, but other people don’t. You think President Obama wishes more people were informed and read quality newspapers in this country? Sure, but he has a YouTube channel and a Facebook page because short attention span and ill informed people vote too. Sometimes. When the candidate is cool and black.

      And if I had started comedy a year ago I’d probably be a fame hungry cu*t like most people getting into entertainment and watching entertainment in America. Fortunately I began slightly before stuff changed for the worse. 8 years may not seem like a lot of time, but think what has emerged in the 8 years since – YouTube, Facebook, explosion of reality television, etc. Integrity may be a rare commodity, but don’t question my motives with regard to my comedy, especially just by making some vague assumptions based onmy blog that I am a hypocrite. I would only “explode” in one year if I was a gimmick or a hack or doing something outrageous – quality comedic voices take time and I am proud that I have developed, and continue to develop my act in a way that will ensure that when (if) I make it, my comedy will be respected and substantive.

      Still waiting on some of those people doing comedy “a lot less than 8 years” who are “setting the world on fire”….

      And as for Patrice – he already has a feature that he travels with. I know how the Improvs and Funny bones work and I work them, just not enough spots to go around.

  • Bob Hellener

    I have to disagree. YouTube and Facebook are examples of technology evolving naturally. They are brilliant innovations that have become popular because millions, no, hundreds of millions of people find them useful. To bemoan the “overnight” popularity of entertainers who use this tool, and then to attempt to use these tools yourself to attempt to become more popular…this is the definition of the word hypocrisy. “I am playing the game because I have to” – well, if you want to play the game, then you shouldn’t criticize other artists, just because their clips happen to be much more popular than yours.

    I may be mistaken – perhaps you only put your clips up on YouTube, and have a Facebook account, and a webpage, just so that your closest friends and family can see them – not because you want them to go viral and possibly get you bookings, am I correct?

    1. J-L Cauvin

      Define “useful.” THey are used and enjoyed by lots of people, but is a Lady Gaga video and a fat kid singing numa numa really “useful?” Mark Zuckerberg is a genius – most pople who use his product are not. I have a great website, but too many people were conditioned to YouTube by the time my website was operational so I had to use it – it is not for bookings, but to direct fans (actual and potential) to my material (and then hopefully build web traffic for my own site). My criticisms in this post were not of artists. Where did you get that? The criticism was of club management and audiences (the general stupidity and simplicity of the average American). Please direct your comments towards what I have actually written and don’t conflate 8 different things you think I might mean into this more narrow issue that I am writing about.

      But please, once again – offer me an example of “doing comedy a lot less than 8 years” who are “setting the world on fire.” The best comedians have YouTube clips, but did not rise to prominence because of YouTube or Facebook. Dane Cook actually did rise to prominance with brilliant MySpace marketing and hard work, but even he had also been doing comedy for ten years already. But my beef is that I think that will change. I would be fearful that if George Carlin were born in 2011 instead of 1931 he might not be able to develop the way he did in a pre-instant gratification era of entertainment. That is more my point with all the social media criticisms. I think they may expose more artists, but it will also change what kind of art and stand up gain traction. And I think there is great potential for the quality to be diminished in the future.

      A guy got a sitcom off of a Twitter account. Some may hail this as a breakthrough for social media and comedy. But the show is a piece of shit. That may be the most hopeful sign for comedy yet in the 21st century.

  • Bob Hellener

    You mean, *you* don’t like the show. He got the sitcom from his Twitter account? That is absolutely brilliant! He didn’t have to go through the usual infrastructure of jaded agents, managers and industry – corporate twenty-somethings who do everything by committee.

    If you look at the Wikipedia entry for the show, you see that it is averaging about 10 million viewers, and it won the People’s choice award for Favorite New TV Comedy. I haven’t seen it myself, butI highly doubt that any show with William Shatner is going to be horrible. Of course, note that it’s gotten a 28/100 on Metacritic, which is of course comprised of industry critics.

    Just because you like it, does that mean, therefore, that the sitcom should be canceled? Who is the ultimate arbiter of what passes for good entertainment, 300 million Americans, or a lone comedian who, by his own admission, can’t make a living at his craft after eight years of toil?

    1. J-L Cauvin

      I understand that I am not the arbiter of what is good and bad in America, but that said – we live in a country where Paul Blart Mall Cop made $130 million at the box office, Two and a half Men was the #1 sitcom in America and Larry The Cable Guy is the highest paid comedian working in America. I may not be the judge of what is “good” but based on the evidence I should be ahead of the “average American.”

      Once again – I didn’t say it was not impressive to get a show based on a Twitter account. The same way it is imprressive for David Arquette to nail Courtney Cox for a year. Doesn’t make David Arquette any more handsome just because he pulled off a magic trick. And I am pretty sure the Shit My Dad Says dude probably still had to go through some committees. I don’t think they just sent him a Tweet saying “Ok – you have a show.”

      You take conclusions (10 million people watching a bad show with a miscast William Shatner, my struggles career-wise) as proof that my overall arguments are incorrect (the average American has increasingly immature and underdeveloped sense of humor and the comedy club structure is built to fail most comedians). And that is not the case.

      Maybe next you can tell me that Twilight won Best Picture at the MTV Movie Awards so I shouldn’t call it a huge piece of crap.

  • Josh Homer

    I will bet that Bob is either a) not a comic, never done this and is like a regular guy arguing with Buzz Aldrin about what it’s like to be on the moon or b) a comic so scared that he is using a fake name.

    Still waiting Bob on ONE comic who has been doing it less than 8 years and setting the world on fire.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      Hey – on some level I am glad my blog has provoked ten comments from someone I don’t know so don’t hate too hard. And this is nothing – you should look up my post on the death penalty from a year or two ago – it still gets occasional comments and let’s just say I have had to censor some of those posts due to racial slurs and stupidity (though some still made the cut anyway)

      Josh and I will be forming a tour or podcast soon called “Bad Cop, Worse Cop”

  • Mike Hunt

    Some of us do it without getting paid just to make a buddy laugh.

  • Bob Hellener

    As much as you would not like those movies and comedians to be successful, the fact is that they are. Mall Cop, Larry the Cable Guy, Lady Gaga – each of these had something that moved millions of people to like them.

    Do you know the history behind Lady Gaga? She’s extremely talented, writes her own music (unlike many “musicians” these days), went to a performing arts school – you may not think she paid her dues (apparently you seem to believe that there’s some sort of minimum amount of time one needs to work at something before they can become successful), but clearly, she has. Entertainment is fortunately different from a law firm, or the airlines, or the District Attorney’s Office – it’s not just about seniority and how many years you’ve been at it.

    This is the bottom line – people are going to be successful whether you like their particular movie, comedy or music or not. Now, thanks to the Internet, there are more avenues for creating art, and that’s a wonderful thing. It’s a free country, and of course you’re welcome to spend your time as you wish, and if that means spending hours and hours on bitter angry blogs instead of working on your craft, then you’re free to do so.

    if I were you, I’d rather devote the time to cutting down your setups – they are way, way too long, which might explain why you haven’t gotten anywhere in eight years. I mean how many thousands of words must you wade through before you actually get to a laugh?

    And speaking of which, I stand corrected – no comedian who has been doing comedy for the length of time that you have (or less), could possibly be more successful than you. What on earth was I thinking?

    1. J-L Cauvin

      Jesus Christ – can you read. The Lady Gaga comment was about the usefulness of YouTube because her video Bad Romance is the most viewed video of all time on YouTube – it was about the “usefulness” of YouTube, not the work she has put in or my views on her music. Perhaps law school, although a huge waste of time for me, would help you analyze points more accurately rather thatn just seeing a bunch of words and writing the first thing that you think is valid. This is a discussion, not a rorschach test where I ask “say the first thing you think is relevant when you see these words – ‘Lady Gaga’.” So that first paragraph was a waste of your time.

      I am writing in my spare time when I am not working on my act because there are things that I feel strongly about in comedy and in some cases can provoke discussion and in other cases, perhaps open the eyes of young or more inexperienced comedians so they don’t waste time doing certain things I did. I give a shit about comedy so that is why I write these things.

      As to your last paragraph – do not avoid the question. You made a statement. All Josh and I were asking was for some name to validate your claim that others were taking this business by storm. Unvalidated claims are the territory of the stupid or the cowardly. which one are you? Or can I just be sarcastic with people any time I can’t back up what I am saying?

      And I appreciate your feedback on my material. If I were prepping sets for television the pacing would be very different versus a 30 minute feature set, which is normally what I am doing. But I am sure you already knew that.

      And let’s see – I am a comedian who cares about my “craft” both personally and on a larger scale. You are some stranger reading and researching a no name comedian’s blog and providing ill informed, unsubstantiated and misplaced comments on that blog. You keep countering my arguments on quality with arguments on monetary success. You counter being asked for specifics with sarcasm and evasiveness. and most impressive is you criticize my comedy as too wordy. Perhaps one day you can tell every comedian who did not work the Borsch Belt that you didn’t care for their wordy style. You can always have Jay Leno and Carrot Top, while I can listen to the “wordy” stylings of Chris Rock, Patrice O’Neal, Bill Burr, Greg Giraldo, George Carlin and others. Those are the guys I aspire to be. Maybe I will fail, but I’d rather quit than try to appease someone who thinks a 30 second set up is “thousands of words.”

      And yes, in anticipation I know that Jay Leno and Carrot Top are rich. Good point. I hope you enjoy Charlie Sheen’s tour – I think there are still tickets available.

  • Josh Homer

    ahhhhh so Bob Hellener is a comic hiding behind a fake name. Man everyone is an internet tough guy.

  • Justin Murray

    Hey Bob, I’m not much for tact. You’re a useless cunt and the day you finally kill yourself I’ll celebrate it like a birthday. Good day sir. I SAID GOOD DAY SIR.

  • Bob Hellener

    Good thinking – I should go to law school – seven years of schooling, so I can graduate, then get a job, and leave that job to do comedy for eight years and fail miserably, just so I can learn how to properly debate obscure comedians on the Internet, that’s brilliant thinking! Let me send out my application right now!

    1. J-L Cauvin

      I don’t look to debate obscure comedians. In fact I would love if the dumb, simple stock that you were bred from would never read my website, watch my comedy or speak to me. I dont expect you to appreciate my humor or my usage of the English language because you have had a hard enough time keeping arguments straight on this blog. I guess all of the pro comedians and hard working no-name “failures” I work with in NYC and around the country will have to know that their opinion of my comedy is not shared by the great “Bob Hellener.” I am not happy with the state of my career for sure. That is because I am striving to be great at it. You on the other hand should get back to working on your reading comprehension skills or a catch phrase for your routine. Or, if you are feeling particularly brave, smashing fruit on stage.

  • Josh Homer

    Dear Bob,
    You’ve actually missed the entire point JL is making, a very valid point as to how the business of comedy is affecting the art of comedy. He was not talking about the monetization of comedy, be it good or bad, but rather how the game of comedy is changing in a way he does not like.

    You can continue to try to change the paradigm of the argument to one we already know is correct (people can make a living, a good one off of bad art; Mencia, Rebecca Black, Vincent Gallo etc etc etc) in order to appear right. in the end the business of comedy is changing, and it is causing the art to suffer.

  • Greg Collett

    JL: There are so many great lines in this post. Well done, Sir. Well done.

  • Bob Hellener

    This makes absolutely no sense. You’ve posted your blog in a public place where everyone on the Internet can see it, and at the bottom one is invited to leave a reply. Clearly you had to approve my posting and response, so to ask me not to read your website or speak to you is truly bizarre and strange behavior.

    Also, this is not a college writing class, and I’m not writing a term paper – there’s no need for me to use my best writing or respond to everything you say point by point. Deal with it. You claim to be a great writer, yet your writing is piss poor. You also claim to be a great comedian – I see a glaring parallel here.

    This has nothing to do with money, although you went into excruciating detail about how you traveled 35 hours to come home with $13. After eight years of doing comedy, you would think you would be doing better, especially if you’re such a great comic like Carlin. If you are really that great, then you would be booked more at clubs on the road, and in New York City as well. Yet it seems that your only shows in New York are in obscure clubs. “Come see my free show”, your calendar exhorts. Your shows on the road seem to be featuring at obscure clubs at best.

    Your lack of any substantive shows is even more puzzling, considering that you have a bona fide television credit. If you really were any good, then you would be working everywhere. You are not, so clearly you are not good enough. It’s simple. The cream rises to the top.

    There are many comedians have been doing comedy for eight years or less who are working much, much more than you are. For example, I know of many comedians who have done one 20 minute set at a NACA convention and booked 100 college shows from that one performance.

    if I were you, I would throw in the towel and get a day job. For you, it is not matter of if, but when. Mr. Barsha above said it best – it sucks to be you.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      1) Your first few comments were not attacks on me personally so I approved you as a commenter. Now any bile you post is approved. I find you sort of provocative and absurd so I do not mind, but that is why you were approved in the first place.

      2) You are right. I am a piss poor writer. You should probably go back to Charles Dickens’ blog or Tom Wolfe’s if you are feeling more contemporary. Seriously are you a fucking 14 year old girl. How could you make it through 2500 words of piss poor writing? Maybe you will notify me of a cooties infection I have next.

      3) God – I knew you would conflate things for the 100th time in 13 comments and act as if I had said I was “as good as Carlin,” which of course I did not. I mentioned him as someone I aspire to (despite his lack of rapid fire Borsch Belt comedy that you appear to require for success – read your other comments you dumb douche if you are forgetting where I got that from)

      4) Man, you must know comedy so well to be defining how many gigs I should have at this point. See, the word “aspire” means want to be like eventually, not as good as as present. I would rarely take advice from a blogger, but I would never take advice or criticism from someone who comments on blogs as his primary contribution to the comedy community.

      5) For the 5th time you cannot provide a name, but you have offered NACA booked gigs, which any comedian will tell you – NACA bookings – the best barometer for comedy. Man, you got me again.

      6) It may suck to be me, but I would hate to be you more. To update the quote from Animal House, “Stupid, Cowardly and Obsessing Over the blogs of comedians who are comedically and intellectually your superior is no way to go through life.”

      You most likely hang out with stupid people and come from the loins of stupid people, so you probably think that you are “sharp” or “smart” or whatever your vocational training supervisor told you in 11th grade. It doesn’t take a GED to realize that you have little to offer the world. My life as a struggling comedian was/is a choice. As you have pointed out – I can (and maybe should) go back to the regular working world. However, I have the choice. You, on the other hand, probably do not have much choice in whatever you call a life. Congratulations – you have made weak attempts to demean me on my website. But when you wake up in the morning you will still be a weak-minded tool whose week has been made by “slamming” the blog of an unknown comedian. Congrats – you are that rare level of stupid where I can no longer reason with you because you are too dumb to realize you have been had.

  • Sebastian E

    Bob, your mindset represents a pathology in America. Sadly an apt one in that it does represent reality. Its the “He got his, I gotta get mine. Don’t hate the player, find a way to get yours.” view. Some comedian blows up after a year of marginal work (admittedly you didn’t produce evidence of a comedian like this but I don’t disagree it could happen) or some guy get famous because he became a Youtube sensation, or was on a MTV train wreck reality show, hey that’s the game. Sadly it is.

    JL’s route of plugging away for years trying to build his craft is (and I think systematically throughout endeavors) not rewarded anymore. The economics is stacked against success that way. How the F*** are you supposed to make a living on $300 a week. Triple it, still not possible. Back in the day, the waaay back 80’s people could make hundred of thousands just doing standup comedy. That was good money back then and it would be a miracle now. Those people could devote themselves to the craft, build their skills and a fan base, make contacts, move up to more opportunities. Not possible. I challenge you to name a under 35, or even 30 standup comedian that is a household name. Used to be more than a dozen. At best its a he is that guy from that thing.

    Forget craft, put out a video, get on a reality show. Sadly even here comedy gets the short stick since nothing really became of any Last Comic Standing. So what do we have a lottery economy. The regular route is the shaft but the lottery might pay off. Stand on line, audition, it could happen. Then if the light gets shone on you, get yours. Put out a sh***y product long to get yours. I don’t really want to cite examples since it will take too long and will be argued on the detail but let me cite an incontrovertible example that proves the rule. That dude from the Jersey Shore made millions and is set to make more but that show. This is inarguably a no talent hack but hey, he got his so I guess he had talent right. He get on comedy roasts, sells goofy nonsense, make a killing in appearances.

    What I think JL is attempting to do is offer up experience to other contemporaries, and those coming up behind him about the pitfalls and tribulations that being trying to be a comic is. What I think he has stumbled upon is a sad through line about America generally. He should write a book, maybe it would be a hit, then he would be that guy and get appearances, he could be a talking head, write another book, headline (all of the sudden he a lot funnier because he was famous), he could get his before you got yours. Except it would be in some measure earned.

  • Bob Hellener

    You have no idea who I am. But, for purposes of this discussion, that is of no importance.

    What’s truly sad, but in this case laughable, is that without changing your material one iota, you could be much more successful – artistically, financially, and by any criteria that you could want.

    But instead, because of your sanctimonious, holier than thou, arrogant attitude, you will unfortunately never be able to break out of the cellar of comedy.

    You clearly have a tremendous amount of time on your hands. It’s truly unfortunate that you spend it criticizing other, highly successful artists and attempting to dictate what kind of art they should produce, instead of improving your own.

    You could change your attitude, and be more successful, but you won’t. You know too much, but not enough. You are unteachable.

    You will be gone from the comedy scene within a year. And, quite honestly, that will be good riddance.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      “Bob” – re-read the post. Before you started bringing in other issues and insults – there were no insults to artists. The point of the blog was the difficulty in developing a comedy career through comedy alone. It is becoming more and more difficult because clubs offer fewer and fewer opportunities based solely on merit. If this was leading to an overall uptick in comedy quality (survivial of the fittest) than it would be a good thing, but there are too many other factors, other than comedy quality, dictating bookings.

      Of course I have a lot of time on my hands. But you are right, spending a couple of hours on my website a week clearly indicates that I am not working on my comedy.

      But thanks for trying to teach the unteachable. You are really a champion of the art form. Me being out of the comedy scene certainly would be good. Hopefully the absence of people like me would provide more opportunities for you. The comedy world needs more people to anonymously offer ill-informed opinions on the art form. It is that type of courage that is the backbone of comedy.

  • Bob Hellener

    “I am JL Cauvin. I am a miserable failure at comedy despite eight years of trying. I am a failure because I spend most of my apparently considerable spare time writing my obscure blog, and criticizing other artists, and posting on Twitter, instead of trying to cut down the ridiculously long setups of my ‘jokes’. I complain about other comedians as hacks and sellouts, yet in my act I talk a lot about my mixed race (now that’s never been done before) and I do Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions…boy am I original!

    I have placed numerous videos on YouTube, and I spend way too much time on Twitter, despite the fact that I viciously criticize those tools as being part and parcel of what is destroying the truly beautiful pure art form of comedy. In other words, I am a bleeding hypocrite.

    Any comedian who is more successful than I, such as Jay Leno or Carrot Top or Larry the Cable Guy, is a sellout who’s doing the wrong kind of comedy. Only I know what kind of comedy should rightfully be done.

    My incredible perspicacity and expertise lie not only comedy, but in all art forms. I am the one who decides what people should and should not listen to, what people should and should not watch, what people should and should not read. In a free country, only I should be the one to dictate what television shows, music and comedians the population should consume.”

    1. J-L Cauvin

      I am a failure seems to be your new thesis. Well, what do you call the person that anonymously stalks the comedy, Twitter account and blog of a failure?

      You are a frightened coward and a stupid human being. I would try to be more eloquent on this point, but I want to keep it simple for you so you don’t get confused (despite your best efforts to work with a Thesauraus on your last few comments – I am sure DeVry is very proud of you).

      You have cited about 2% of my act (I no longer do the Arnold becuase IT IS HACKY – it is from 5 years ago when I was much newer – but a buddy of mine liked it and asked me to put it up because he knows I no longer do it). And it is true – my race does occupy a monstrous 3 to 4 minutes of my set. Of course it is how one approaches topics that defines hacky for me, not hte topics themselves. But that is a subtle point and you have demonstrated that subtlety is not your strong point.

      Despite the fact that I mentioned half a dozen comedians (which was only the 100th thing you have conveniently ignored to try and make something that resembles a point) that I absolutely love and admire you instead throw savvy business people at me as examples of success, even though no one in comedy would have any of those guys in their top tier or second tier of comedians (perhaps Leno as a standup, but certainly not his monologues on The Tonight Show). Hopefully you can take Dat Phan’s ball bag out of your mouth long enough to re-read this point. Maybe you’d like to take this time to mention the Madea films as quality comedy because Tyler Perry is successful.

      And as far as me being a hypocrite – I am not. Here is an example I think you can relate to to make this point crystal clear. Presumably your Mom wanted to be a mother at some point. But just because she is disappointed that you are her child (just a guess, but most parents don’t strive to have “anonymous, cowardly internet stalkers” as children) doesn’t make her a hypocrite. She merely regrets one of the things that came out of her vagina. But don’t worry you are a strong second behind urine at this point. I fele the same way about Social Media. YouTube and Facebook certainly have some qualities and value, but more often than not, they produce the Internet equivalent of you – a missed Planned Parenthood appointment that believes it has relevance because it can post on the Internet.

      So continue to read my posts, make mediocre, easily refuted insults and build my web traffic. But if I end up leaving comedy I will actually be able to contribute to society still. “Failed comedian” will just be a footnote to my life. You, on the other hand, will just be a unintelligent coward without whatever role in the comedy community you play (I am guessing “prolific blog commenter/semi-literate cunt” is you big credit at this point). Wait – here is an idea that might help your career and make you feel superior to me – start writing a show called “Shit My Mom Quiffed Out” starring “Bob Hellener.”

  • Brian McGuinness

    Out of all of this, I think I laughed hardest at JL’s last post when he called him “Bob”. Truly sumptuous reading.

    I think two of “Bob’s” dumbest comments were:

    “If you really were any good, then you would be working everywhere.”


    “You have no idea who I am. But, for purposes of this discussion, that is of no importance.” I bet he’s one of the up-and-comers who made it big in under 8 years. He’s just being modest.

  • Brian McGuinness


  • Josh Homer

    I think anyone show who uses a fake name on the internet purposes other than porno sites is a cowardly dickhead.

  • Sebastian E

    I’m with Moganus. Its JL.

  • Mike Cannon

    I think if JL was actually Bob then this would be the best conceptual comedy piece in recent history. Although, it probably should have been put on youtube so you could get famous.

  • Brian McGuinness


  • Janelle Winston

    I second that boom. I don’t ever want to be second behind urine.

  • Janelle Winston

    One more thing. Bro, totally not questioning your access to vagina but urine doesn’t come out of the vagina. There’s a small hole above it but never mind that. Continue with the boom. Sex Crimes Prosecutors are assholes and we’re serious about vagina.

  • Sebastian E

    New theory Bob H is Patrice O’neal bating JL to embrace in his piece of shit side. Strike him with your anger.

  • Brian McGuinness

    You might have to change the title of the blog, JL. So far we’ve gotten a history of Lady Gaga by our friend “Bob” and now Janelle just schooled you in vaginaotomy.

  • Ian Whocares

    I felt I only laughed 3 times per paragraph when a standard feature should have me laughing 5-8 times per paragraph.

  • Bob Hellener

    Josh Homer is a hack as well. He got live at Gotham and parlayed it to nothing. Yet he is a bitter comic who talks about everyone. Judgmental prick that he is. Not passed anywhere even with a TV credit.

  • Steve Rosso

    Bob Hellener must be Dan Nainan if he is this delusional/ bad at outlining a cohesive arguement.

    Good original blog JL!

    1. J-L Cauvin

      Don’t want to assume it is him and as a guy who does plenty of multiracial humor and impressions of Bill Clinton his the criticisms would be odd coming from Mr. Nainan. But who knows.

  • Bob Hellener

    Strange, now somebody has hijacked my name – I did not post the piece at 2:29 PM about Josh – I have been out actually working for a living. But looking at his online presence, I have to agree with whomever impersonated me – my goodness, what a bitter, judgmental comic. As far as Dan, it’s nothing but multi racial humor and impressions. He sure seems to be working a lot, though. Crappiest webpage I have ever seen.

    JL seems to know as much about the female anatomy as he does about the anatomy of a joke, and about writing, which is zero. “Thesauraus”? No such word, and the word thesaurus is not a proper noun – no need to capitalize. Just one of literally hundreds of mistakes from a self-described great writer.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      Never described myself as a”great” writer. Do you know what literally means? Maybe those hundreds of mistakes are in Narnia where you keep all your mysterious new comics that are setting the world on fire. Bit you got me on thesaurus. you win the spelling battle. now go get your shine box.

  • Ryan Conner

    Great blog entry, J-L.
    And a big “fuck you” to Nick Cobb for directing me to the comments section. This has caused me to miss the first quarter of the Knicks-Celtics game. Cobb, I’ll show you…

  • Josh Homer

    That was def Dan Nainan who made the comment about me using Bob’s “name”. He used to email me all the time, even after I blocked multiple email address and requested him to leave me alone. I had to call a lawyer, so he stoops to this. Hi-Larry-Us.

    I’m bitter and judgmental? Jesus what online presence are you guys looking at? I guess talking about your kid and being honest is classified as being bitter and judgmental. Oh well. I guess that’s what you set yourself up for when you actually have the stones to use your own name when you talk comedy instead of being a big pussy and hiding behind the internet.

  • Randolph Terrance

    I’m with Ryan on this one. I’m just sitting here trying to enjoy Hellboy and thanks to Chris Lamberth I’m stuck reading the writings of a moron. Bottom line, JL could be Bob but Bob could never be JL. That’s what this is all about. Like I said, good post J, your spot on with yours.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      After some research we have been able to establish that “Bob Hellener” is a coward and a douchebag and that “Bob’s” IP address is between 5th and 6th avenues on 55th street, which may be a residence or just a place of employment where people ridicule and shit on “Bob” because he is a useless tool. But they get to call him or her by his or her proper name.

      I have received two possible names from some people who feel they recognize the patterns of the writer. I have no idea if this is true, but both names have links to the second city (and not the sketch group because that would require talent).

      One theory espoused by a comedy outsider to this said that she thought it was a woman with a personal grudge. The bitchy tone, specificity/stalkerness of the comments and irrationality involved were all factors that led this person to assume it was a woman or a particularly bitchy gay man writing this.

      So if anyone knows an untalented douche living or working on 55th Street b/w 5th and 6th aves who enjoys the taste of cock please share the real identity of “Bob Hellerner” with us.

  • Selena Coppock

    I’m jumping into the pig pile that reading these comments has eaten away a lot of time when I should be getting dressed up for Saturday night. JL, your blog is an insightful, honest, smart, and refreshingly candid take on the (oftentimes) harsh underbelly of the comedy world. Bob Hellner’s comments are tantamount to the moronic refrain of, “You’re funny! You should be on Saturday Night Live– just march into Lorne Michael’s office and tell him he HAS to hire you!” There’s nothing more tiresome than debating with clueless people who know NOTHING about the industry.
    You don’t have nothing to show for 8 years in comedy, JL. You have countless appearances in festivals, a TV credit, and a comedy short that got great press in the NYTimes. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

  • Kevin Downey, Jr.

    Is it me?

  • Guy W

    Is it weird that I read through every word of every damn comment, got to the end and felt:
    A) Resentful about how much time it took (btw–Bob, when someone spends so much effort examining every aspect of someone’s online presence and writing comments on their blog it usually means they admire that person, desire them, or envy them…albeit in your case I would guess it’s all three).
    B) Terribly disappointed I was done and there was no more to read.
    Oh well, back to life…

  • Brian Baron

    I have to say my 2 cents on this blog. The nature of comedy as an art and as a business are intrinsically linked. Great artists go for years without being appreciated, that is part of what makes them great. Comedy like any art has its HIGH brow and LOW brow aspects. “Dogs playing poker” hanging in your buddies rec room might pass for art by some, yet it wont be hanging in the Met anytime soon. Comedy greats are forged by time and hard work. Dane Cook was out there for years, being NOT funny, the internet did help him but he was not slaving over the internet for years. Larry The Cable Guy, is a figment of his imagination. Money doesn’t make something great. Great things become valuable because of the depth of the talent and expertise to create them. Great things aren’t great because everyone likes them, that just makes them popular, pedestrian, if you prefer. Artists don’t go into art to make money, or they wouldn’t go into it in the first place. I’m sure their are many artists out their who cringe every time there is an exhibit of starving artists at the local stadium. For me the bottom line is this, I appreciate a well crafted joke. Set ups can be long, listen to some of Bill Cosby or early Woody Allen or short and punchy, “take my wife, please”. What I have gotten out of all this is that, clubs owners have given very little back to the art that keeps their clubs open and treating the audience as little more than fodder. I don’t think there is a quick solution, but I do believe this is a cycle and things will change.

  • Brian Baron

    Bob Hellener is a dick head.

  • joey mcdevitt

    i laughed my ass off when someone suggested that jl and bob are the same person.
    seriously tho, thanks for the warning about clubs doing things like that. ive never tryed to get booked (im still too nervous on stage and i just need more experience with handling bombing) but these things are good to know.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      Like I said there are plenty of people trying to give comics an honest opportunity but given current trends and diminishing number of opportunities the overall growth of stand up could be stifled. Hopefully Brian is right that it is not a completely downward trend, but a cycle instead. And thanks for bringing the blog back to its original purpose. Joey – if you are new you should also check out my post from Fall 2009 called “Capitalism A Love Story” (can’t remember which month) might also be eye opening. Thanks for reading.

  • Joe Romby Jr.

    I only disagree with you, J-L in the title’s assertion that you are failing. I know it’s meant to be piquant, but I don’t think you are failing. You are smart and funny enough for me!
    Sometimes it’s harder to be a smart comic. Your job is to make the audience laugh, not feel stupid. I have the same problem, and I’m one of those Catskills Comics you derided!
    I know in my good-intentioned way I am being as irrelevant as Bob Hellener, but it seems like the point of your original blog disappeared into the fog of the war of words.
    The experiences you related are excellent tales. What one derives from them is as subjective as whatever would make a suitable simile to end this unworthy contribution of mine.

  • Kevin J Williams

    Great post JL. A few thoughts ran through my head as I was reading this Jerry Springer’esque lovely banter:
    1. Reading this on Easter Sunday, i was way too happy this morning. Now I’m pissed and say screw that damn bunny.
    2. Every industry either adjusts over time, or goes away (reality)
    3. Individual comics, as CEO’s of their product, are forced to deal with the F’d biz side in order to move up and “allow” their audience to find them. (sucks)
    4. The artistic integrity in us comics should really never feel satisfied. No great artist is truly satisfied with their work. They just hope to continuously grow.
    5. I remember a convo I had with Mike Destefano on this topic. He told me, “It takes time, just offer the universe something…and fuck the business types.” RIP Mikey.

  • Brian McGuinness

    Hey guys what’s going on today?

  • Bob Hellener

    Try to see it from the club owner’s point of view. The objective of the club owner is to make money. Unlike you, the comedian, they’re more worried about the business end of things. If there are literally thousands of comedians around the country who will perform for little to nothing, and comedians who are foolhardy enough to fly themselves to a city and pay for their own airfare, meals and lodging, then what on earth would you expect the club owner to do?

    As unfortunate as the situation is, if you don’t like it, you really only have two choices. Refuse to participate in what you consider to be an unfair system, or organize your fellow comedians into a union or some other group that refuses to perform for such ridiculously low wages.

    Or, another alternative is to vent your frustrations by posting your feelings on a blog, but that’s not really going to change anything.

  • Raquel

    Great entry, JL– thanks for writing it. I can’t believe I sat here and read all the fucking comments, but the entry was as insightful as it was depressing. And wow, it was a lot of both.

  • Jimmy Hake

    Blog traffic= Time to get on My own Soapbox. I have been doing comedy/lighting the world on fire for a little over 4 years. A theme I identify with, that i think this blog touches on, is that I feel like i don’t even know HOW to be a Professional Comic (Stand up) or if people can still climb the Stand up Ladder (any suggestions Bob H?). Whether the financial aspect (consistent money, or at least big chunks to hold over) or the Professional aspect as a business (not just dragging your act to every old folks home within a 50 mile radius). Its no secret people don’t have to leave their house to get comedy. Stand-up, movies, skits, sketches, all come via TV or Internet. Is the problem that “Live Stand up” is a dinosaur? I hate to have that thought, but it seems tougher and tougher to get seats filled, even in a city of 10 million. Established acts, actors who don’t really do stand up, or flash-in-the-pan internet sensations can pull of live shows with a big crowd, because they already have an audience and some exclusivity to live performances. Is the analogy of the Union Worker even more precise in that Union Labor is down to 7% of the total workforce now, down from the mid-30 percent in the pre-Reagan Era? Stand-up used to be THE go to medium for comedy years ago. Clubs were trolling for new talent and from what i hear, would pay for it (about a hundred dollars, right? Which was probably HIGH for that time period) I crave that audience response for my jokes, bits, characters, but are we putting our eggs in the basket of Cassettes when everyone has moved on to CD’s? As a lover of live performance, I am slowly trying to develop ways to build an audience that likes my humor/personality via social media, but would love to know that the idea or a “Working Comic” is still alive and well. Do we have to sell out and succumb to advertising or similar corporate greed to support our art? Ideas always sound more profound when they end with a Question Mark (See: Sex and the CIty).

    1. J-L Cauvin

      Strong thoughts/points.

  • Bob Hellener

    A question for you. Do you know of any comedy club in New York City where every show isn’t jam packed on Friday and Saturday nights? I do not. The same is true of clubs I have seen around the country. I submit to you that live comedy is alive and well.

    Certainly people can watch it on television, and increasingly the Internet, but people still go see comedy live. And YouTube and other social media outlets bring more opportunities to those who would not otherwise be able to gain recognition and an audience.

  • Josh Homer

    Hey Bob,
    I can name some clubs in NYC that are not packed on Friday and Saturday; one of them WAS Comix. It closed because it was not packed Friday and Saturday. Furthermore to keep their income coming in, clubs even hold BRINGERS on Friday and Saturdays. Just look at their calendar before you make statements that are easily disputed.

    You speak like a man who learned everything about comedy in a class at Phoenix University.

  • Bob Hellener

    I think it’s safe to say I know a lot more about the comedy business than you think I do, Mr. Homer, but then again, what you think of my level of knowledge is of no consequence to me. And it’s University of Phoenix, not Phoenix University. If they offer a class, perhaps it’s worth taking; one certainly can’t know too much about this business, that’s for certain.

    Comix was a special case. That club was done in not by a decline in the comedy business, but by greed, arrogance, hubris and poor business judgment. They spent millions to turn a grocery store into a comedy club. As stated before, they opened with a $63 cover to see Monique. That’s fine if you’re playing the Beacon or Radio City Music Hall, but not for a comedy club.

    From the beginning, the management of Comix suffered from extreme arrogance and hubris. Although this is never appropriate, it is especially inappropriate for a club that has just opened. The fact that Bobby Collins is universally loathed in the business did not help the club’s cause.

    When you first open a club, the objective should be to build a clientele. You know as well as I that a full room makes the comedians seem much funnier. A rising tide lifts all boats, as they say. Sure, you might get 50 people to pay a $30 cover, but why not set the cover at $10, or even zero, and have a packed room, sell a lot more drinks and have people raving about your club and recommending it to their friends?

    And having an FAQ with the question “Do you have an open mic?” and the terse answer “No” is the ultimate in arrogance.

    Towards the end, Comix needed to run bringer shows to get someone, anyone in the place, because their poor management run that place into the ground. Good riddance, I say.

  • Neil Constantine

    “Bob” is great at trolling. Can we give him that? In under 8 comments, he set this blog post on fire.

    He/She understands nothing. He/She is invested in his/her opinion of comedy and doesn’t want to budge one bit from his/her stance for reasons that are whatever. Even in lieu of numerous others showing clear info that some of his/her comments are false or way off base.

    People even agreed with points he/she made, but he/she disregarded that to hang onto a chance to try and take those who stand against him/her down a notch or two with trite barbs, diverting statements/questions.

    Yes, we got it, you are gonna make sure you have the last word and are against the grain. Your “edginess” has been noted.

    If you’re successful at what you do, great! But your rating of success is not everyone else’s.

    Could call you a cunt like others, but that does nothing, because you will post once again. You like being able to see the rise you gain out of “reactions” to your “truth bombs.” It’s not a matter of sad or pathetic, just another commenter who’s more bored than productive. Could you point out all the time JL has to retort. Probably, but I would think you would see many rebuttals from him considering this is his website and receives updates on comments and the like. And knowing how WIFI works, I’m sure he can take time to answer by a number of different items that have internet access.

    JL’s blog may be whiny and self serving at times, but much of the whininess contains items that gives up and comers and or “failures” the knowledge to be leery of certain situations and places, while at the same time giving us insight and a more raw approach to the process of a guy TRYING to make it. (No offense btw JL. You can be a period at times, but the blog is great regardless)

    Does his blog ever state this is the end all be all of comedy facts and the like? No. As in anything, it gives us the info and it is us whom must take upon ourselves to decide to take his advice or not. This is a given for any item on the internet, but; again, I’m sure you know this.

    Nobody wants someone not to post an opposite view point or devil’s advocate position on the blog, but your discourse is not trying for that. You start as such, to then just lead others into petty back and forth.

    Are you using an alias? Who knows and cares? We’ll sleep sound with or without your commentary. You’ll still have to press refresh every so often on the tabs of blogs, forums, status updates, twitter profiles, threads, youtube videos, etc that you decide to try and spice up with your trolling, hoping someone responds so you have more of a chance to help fill the void with the click clack of your keyboard.

    I saw the post for JL inviting you to come to his show to perform. You should take him up on it. I’ve seen things of this nature done and there is no roasting you before you go on stage. There is the open mind of a people, but do not think there will not be a roasting if you show and bomb as most think you will. I’d love to see this play out where you show up and kill. An ‘underdog’ story is always appreciated.

    I’m sure a response of “I’m this” or “JL’s that” will end up here after this comment, but again, we are who we are, I’m glad you found your place in this all. Troll on good sir.

  • Bob Hellener

    Thank you for your insights, Neil. Now, could you please take a basic writing course?

  • Al Wagner

    It’s “I am a coward and a douche-bag”. That would be both grammatically correct and accurate.

    Because cowards and douche-bags who spend tremendous time and effort trying to make others feel inferior really show their own inferiority complex in the process.

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