According to Billboard.com, playing Madison Square Garden in New York is a landmark moment for a comedian, an achievement that few stand-ups have earned. In the past year, however, the World’s Most Famous Arena has hosted comics who have pulled in a string of sell-out shows. MSG has taken note.
“This year, comedy shows at our venues have been incredibly successful and have resulted in multiple sold-out shows,” said Bob Shea, the Executive VP of Bookings for MSG Entertainment.
Selling out the 19,000+-seat arena is a lofty expectation. Yet in the past season, Aziz Ansari sold out two shows in October, Russell Peters did so in December, and Louis CK sold out four shows in January, setting a record for sold-out shows at MSG in one tour. One of CK’s shows was canceled due to the threat of a blizzard, but his three sold-out performances had already set a Garden record.
The Theater at Madison Square Garden, a separate room from the arena, has also been crushing at the box office in the past 12 months, with sold-out shows from Ron White, Mike Epps, the Garden of Laughs comedy benefit, and their April Fool’s Comedy Show. The Theater at MSG seats 5,500 people.
This rise in ticket sales represents a positive for comedians at all levels, as it shows that despite all the streaming services, YouTube, and televised comics, people still desire to see stand-up comedy live. The popularity shows that fans crave the live, in-the-moment spontaneity, and intimacy that physically being at a comedy show provides — perhaps now more than ever.
Shea noted that a rise in arena comedy requires a shift from both the fan’s and the comedian’s approach: “With some of these historic comedic bookings, fans are growing accustomed to seeing their favorite comedians in an arena rather than a club,” he told Billboard.com. “As a result, comedians are figuring out how to create an intimate feeling in an arena-sized setting.”
Back in April, Gabriel Iglesias sold out the Garden arena. He took to Facebook to note the milestone:
“As comedians we have a list of goals in our career,” he shared. “Make people laugh. Do The Tonight Show. Get a special. Be on a sitcom. Be in a movie. Star in a movie. Perform at Madison Square Garden. Tonight we complete the list 18 years and 7 days after I first hit the stage in April of 1997.”
Shea added that MSG’s method to promoting the shows incorporates the stand-ups’ sentiments, that playing the Garden is a career-defining moment for a performer, whose fans want to be there for this achievement.
The rise in arena comedy popularity is set to continue. Kevin Hart is slated to play three shows at the Garden in July. Given his success, we can expect he’ll sell a couple tickets, too.