Monday, 14 September 2020

Re-evaluating what I want out of comedy 09/14/20

Oh hey, didn't see ya thah! (That's a joke for two comics that won't read this anyway). 

It's been a while, eh? And there's really no excuse, because like most people on the planet, I haven't had anything to do over the past few months. Comedy pretty well screeched to a halt - although it seems to be picking up a little steam again, which is awesome - and I've spent most of 2020 at home. 

Which I guess is why I haven't wrote one of these since March. I usually focus them on comedy, and I haven't had anything to tell you about. but I'm bored, waiting for laundry to finish, and I have some stuff I want to get off my chest. And what better place to do that than on the internet with a blog nobody reads?

On Friday, March 13, I had a show in Saskatoon with my buddies and fellow comics William and Steve (who ironically, are the two guys that joke I started this blog with was for, and again, I don't think they'll see this). We had a good time, and I had a great weekend lined up:

Friday - Saskatoon 
Saturday - Mad Hatter's Comedy Club in Medicine Hat (check them out, they're awesome!)
Sunday - An open mic in Calgary
Monday - Being part of a comedy album recording with Just For Laughs. 

And then on the drive back from Saskatoon Saturday morning, our phones started ringing with cancellations due to COVID. You all know what happened. And the album record disappeared (along with the rest of a calendar that was shaping up to be the most successful financial year of my life). 

I'm not whinging about it, because I know a lot of people have had it a lot worse in 2020. If you've lost your business, job, savings, or especially a loved one, you have my sincere condolences. I'm sure you'd trade the hand you were dealt for some cancelled comedy bookings in a heart beat. But that's what's been happening in my world. 

So I used the time to hang out with my girlfriend (who works from home now), because I was barely seeing her pre-COVID between my comedy schedule and her long work hours. I also started walking my dog 3 or 4 times a day, and I doubled down on my podcasting. That show has grown exponentially over the last 6 months, I've launched two additional podcasts, started streaming on Twitch, and it's transitioning from a hobby into a legitimate business. Or at least a potential business, anyway.

It's also given me time to step away from stand-up and think about what I want from the comedy business.  What I've figured out is I don't really like it that much. I'm not quitting, but I'm changing my approach moving forward. I have a lot to get off my chest here, so get comfy and let's pull back the curtain a little...

When I started, comedy was just something I had wanted to try forever, and I figured it'd be a welcome distraction from my job at Uline (fuck them, by the way). It kind of unintentionally, but fortunately, blossomed into a career, and I've spent 5-6 nights a week telling my dumb jokes since then. 

And going out every night, making dumb jokes and hanging out with other comedians can be a lot of fun. Like, A LOT of fun. 

But over that time, I started to see aspects of the business that I didn't really like, too. I met a lot of people I didn't want to be around (much less spend several days in a car with), and I started wondering if this was what I wanted to do with my life. I've always enjoyed making people laugh, but I can do that in a room with my friends. It made me start asking myself if the drama, politics, and other BS that come with a comedy career were worth the "paycheque" - very loose term - that comes with them. 

I've had a job since I was in High School. I was a card carrying member of the Alberta workforce for fifteen years before I left it to try and make a living telling jokes. So I'm fully aware that every job comes with people you don't like, politics to navigate and deal with, and all that other fun stuff. But all my other jobs also came with a guaranteed paycheque, not to mention benefits, paid holidays, and all that jazz to balance it out. Comedy doesn't.

Most comedy bookings (for newer comics anyway) come with a "take it or leave it" offer of pay, from which you have to cover gas, food, travel expenses, etc. And when you're not the headliner, that pay is usually pretty small. And in northern Alberta, it also includes 6 months of brutal winter roads, and long ass drives along them. The money kind of sucks, to be honest, but I'm willing to accept that in exchange for not having to get up every morning and go to work. 

That said, you really gotta love this to make it through the early years. It's a lot of long drives, away from home and your family and friends, for little money. You work Friday and Saturday night, too, so when those aforementioned family and friends want to hang out, you can't because you're working (and you probably can't afford it anyway). 

Then you add in the people you deal with in this business. Some of them are awesome. Some of them are whatever. And some of them are the most insecure, fake, obnoxious people you've ever met in your life. They might be fun on stage, but outside of the spotlight they're awful human beings. .

I've worked with headliners that hit people, threaten to hit people, and brag about hitting people all the time. That same headliner screamed at me once for carrying his stuff out of a hotel room because he wanted to "make a second trip to see if he forgot anything", and then I spent 20 hours in a car with him wondering if he was going to hit me or lose his temper because I didn't wash his car windows well enough. (Yeah, he makes new comics wash his car windows. I don't work with him anymore. Or follow him on Twitter). 

I've worked with headliners that put on "charity fundraisers" and then sell merchandise that fits the theme of the charity and pocket every penny without saying anything. If you've "Raised the Woof", you've probably seen it.

Headliners (male AND female) that talk about how veteran comics pray on young, new comedians sexually and then do the same themselves when they don't think people are watching. I've seen so many comedians cheats on their husbands or wives and then talk about how shitty other people are. 

You spend a week in a car with someone, and you get to know them pretty quick. So many fake, phony people. It's aggravating, frustrating, and it's sad. 

I'm genuinely grateful for the cool, sincere people I've met in this business, because they're drastically outnumbered. Most of you know who you are.

There's also countless, COUNTLESS "bookers" out there sending horrible comedians on the road, because they'll work cheap, so the booker can pocket more money. I can't tell you how many awful comedians (particularly headliners) I've opened for, and been embarrassed to be on the show. Audience members coming up to me while the headliner is "performing" and asking if we can get them off the stage, or if they're always this bad. These horrible headliners continue to get work because they undercut everyone, and/or the booking agent doesn't care about the quality of the show. Then the client decides to never book comedy again and we're all out a potential gig.

I started booking my own shows to supplement my income, to be able to pick the comedians I work with, and to ensure the shows I'm on are of good quality. I only book comedians I like, that I want to work with, and that I truly believe will provide a top quality show, because I think that's what people deserve in exchange for their money. 

And when I started booking my own shows, I realized that this is what I want to do with my comedy career. Doing fun shows, with fun people, particularly in small towns and for good causes, is the best comedy gets. I don't care about fame, fortune, Instagram followers, comedy albums. I just want to make people laugh and hang out with my friends.

I still work comedy clubs, and enjoy doing them. But I've also realized that most of them don't want to headline me. And that's totally cool. If we're being honest (and that's a big part of why I'm writing this post), I truly think I'm good enough. Frankly, I feel like one of Canada's best kept comedy secrets. I think most of the comedians I work with feel that way too, which is why they book me to headline their shows. But I'm not a draw. I don't sell tickets or get people in the door in a major city, and that's what helps you get a headline spot at a club. No harm, no foul. It's business, and I completely understand. 

It takes a lot of work, hustle, and commitment to grow a following large enough to impress a booker. You also need to be persistent. And honestly, I don't want it bad enough to do that. Some comedians complain that they're funnier than the headliner they're opening for at a club, and it isn't fair. It might not be fair, but it's a business. I don't hold wanting to sell tickets against any promoter in any walk of life. If they aren't selling tickets, there's no club to work. 

I'd love to headline, but I know I'm a great host and a good opening act. I'll show up on time, be a professional, be polite and do the best I can. Because I agreed to do a job in exchange for a paycheque, and I'll always honour that commitment. I'll probably never headline most of the stages I host on, and I don't care enough to try and change that. If hosting at comedy clubs supplements the money I make headlining my own shows, that's fine by me.

I don't want to quit comedy, because it's probably the coolest thing I've ever done. And when you're on stage and things are going well, it's a drug. But the fake people, long drives, politics, time away from home, and bad pay sucks. So if I've taken anything from this 6 month "lay-off", it's that I don't want to deal with it anymore. 

I/m not folding my booking company. Frankly, when we're allowed to have comedy shows again, I'm going to step up my game and get out there. I love raising money for good causes, I put on a good show, and I like going on the road with my friends. If you're a comedian or a booker reading this, and I still reply to your messages and work with you, there's a reason. And if you're an audience member, client, anyone that has seen me perform in the past, I give you everything I have up there, and I hope you had fun. 

But I don't take every gig anymore. If I don't feel like it's worth it financially, or the person I'm supposed to work with gives me a headache, I turn the gig down. I've turned several down already, and I'll keep doing it. If this blog costs me work, so be it. I don't need the work, and I don't want to listen to you slam new comedians for making mistakes when you do the same thing. If you talk shit about another comedian to me in private, you probably talk shit about me to them when you're alone, too.

I'm not perfect, but I know in my heart I'm a good guy, who tries to do the right thing. I don't know how welcome that guy will be in the comedy industry, but I don't really care. 

And if anything in this blog offended you, you're probably part of the reason I wrote it. 

Hope you guys and gals are staying safe!

- Adam

1 comment:

  1. Please don't ever give up comedy, Adam! You are absolutely, wonderfully, hilarious! And I want to say THANK YOU for being YOU!

    I have a little story I want to share.

    Not sure if you'll remember - about a year and a half ago ?? you appeared at the Art Barns with Andrew Grose. It was not long after Andrew had been let go from the radio station (yes, the 'fiasco'.)

    I had never heard of you back then - sorry to say! But I heard Andrew was performing.
    I'd seen him a couple of times prior and thought my parents might enjoy seeing a show. I thought it would be a fun gift for their 63rd wedding anniversary and would be a great way for my whole family to have some fun with my folks. (Not a lot we could do for fun with them at their age and Dad's condition. He was in final stages of Parkinson's Disease.) Anyway, that evening we were introduced to ' Adam Blank, comedian extraprdinaire'. We all went home that evening - still laughing hysterically at some of the things you shared. We had such a good time!

    Sadly, my father succumbed to complications of Parkinson's disease not long afterwards. But what is most important for me to share with you now is that my father never laughed so hard as when you were up on stage telling your stories! I hadn't seen him laugh like that in all my life. And I wanted you to know how fortunate I feel having been at that show with him. Just hearing his laughter like that. You know, I never got to hear him laugh like that again. But the memory of that evening brings me so much joy.

    So Adam, I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for helping make my father's last days such happy ones. You never know the impact you make on someone's life. So I had to share this with you. My dad never forgot 'the guy with the lazy eye'. And neither will I!