On Running A Comedy Show In New York City For Five Years

On Running A Comedy Show In New York City For Five Years

Brad Austin is a Brooklyn-based comedian and writer.  Visit  bradaustincomedy.com.  All graphics drawn by Michael Hill [hungrydust.com].

I co-ran a comedy show in New York, with two other guys, for five years. Recently, we co-ended the show. Well, we didn’t co-end it, per se. We co-gave-it-away to these three other guys and this one girl. Now they can do it for five years. They don’t have to do it for five years. But they should. Out of respect. We didn’t have to do it five years either, but that’s how long the guys who gave it to us did it, so we did it five years too (out of respect. Not out of having nothing better to do for five years).

If the new three guys and one girl do it less than five years, I am going to be so ticked.

We co-did-a-lot-of-stuff, those two guys and me. We co-adjusted-the-thermostat if it was too hot in there. We co-set-up-the-chairs before the show and co-put-the-chairs-away afterward. We co-introduced-one-another-to-the-audience. We co-did-great when the audience was great, co-did-okay when they were okay, and co-bombed when they were a bunch of mouth-breathing idiots who don’t understand comedy. We co-canceled when no one showed up, in which case we co-got-drunk and co-left-in-time-to-catch-Game-Of-Thrones. We co-celebrated-and-got-hammered after great shows and co-sulked-and-got-hammered after bad ones. And after five years, we co-stopped-doing-the-show-forever-and-got-super-hammered. We then co-went-our-separate-ways and agreed to co-never-speak-again.

I’d like to share what little knowledge I’ve gained co-producing a comedy show in New York City for five years. The kind of knowledge that might inspire some lonely kid somewhere, maybe a few kids even, to get off their butts, move to New York City, and run a free comedy show in New York City for five years.

Free, the show was free. Forgot to say that. For two years, we made zero dollars, and for three more years, we made zero. How many years does that total out to? Five, it was five.

Five years of zero.

Okay, time for my advice!


Should I Start My Own Comedy Show And Do It For Five Years?

Do you enjoy booze? Do you have five years laying around? Then do a comedy show for five years!

Attendance. Unfortunately, you’ll need to be in attendance at a lot of the shows. Probably most of them. But this only applies to you and your co-producers. No one else is required to be there! So they probably won’t be. That’s the dark secret about stand up comedy in New York City. People don’t like it. You’ll likely not have anyone come besides a crazy old man or two off the street. We tried everything from Facebooking about the show a couple hours before it starts to tweeting about it a little later. And we were lucky if this drew one crazy old man. But don’t fret. There’s another way to bring people in at the last second; it’s called “barking.”


Barking. Barking is when you stand outside the bar where your show is and yell at people that there’s a show happening in there. Why is it called barking? No one knows. But remember those old black-and-white shows where a dog runs into a firehouse and barks at the firemen and one says, “What is it, boy?” and another says, “I think he’s trying to tell us something, possibly about a free comedy show,” and the first one says, “You mean a show featuring comics we may have seen on Conan and Kimmel?” and then the firemen chase the dog giddily all the way to a free comedy show and have an awesome time? I think that’s where “barking” comes from.

In response to your barking, you’ll hear anything from “Thanks, maybe next week,” to “No thanks.” Sometimes you’ll hear, “Thanks, but I’m a comedy show all by myself.” I know it’s confusing, but it’s not your place to tell a person he or she isn’t a comedy show. The world is changing; sometimes a person is born “a man,” but identifies as “a woman.” And sometimes a person is born “a woman,” but identifies as “a comedy show.” Fine. Whatever you do, don’t let that comedy show come to your comedy show. If one comedy show watches another comedy show, the universe will explode.

Canceling. You can go nuts “marketing” and “promoting” and “getting people to come to your show.” Not worth it. If two people come, be happy. View low turnouts as a strength. Any comic can stand in front of a hundred people and make them laugh. It takes a special comic to stand in front of about four people and ask them if they even want the show to happen. Maybe they’d rather talk. It’s rare to find a quiet place in the city to have a nice talk. You can provide that with your show by canceling it.

Drinking. If the bartenders are cool, you’ll get to drink for free. This is good, as you’ll want to drink a lot. Maybe too much. I’m gonna go ahead and promise you, it’ll be too much. People might start saying, “Slow down,” or, “That’s enough rye whiskey for you, Brad,” or, “Please sleep on the couch when you get home tonight, Brad, you snore too much when you’re drunk, Brad.” You don’t have to put up with that garbage. You just canceled your free comedy show again. You’re two years in, staring down the barrel of three more. If you want to slather your brain in rye whiskey so you can go home and snore a huge hole into your relationship, that’s your right.

Quitting. Eventually, you’ll decide to quit. Time for the “Big Cancel.” This is where you cancel the show for the rest of your life, not just the week. How will you know it’s time? Check the date. Has it been five years? Then it’s time. Oh man, is it ever time.

Your friends will have weird feelings about you canceling your show. I say ‘weird’ because they will have no feelings about it at all. Which is weird! You did this show for five years! Doesn’t anyone care? Maybe you don’t have kids like a lot of your friends and yeah, it’d be wrong of you to argue that canceling your show is like if your friends had to cancel one or all of their kids, but five years is five years.

What Happens After Five Years? I don’t know. You have to figure it out for yourself. I don’t think I’ll miss having a comedy show, though. Because, I have exciting news: I’ve decided to become a comedy show. While hosting my comedy show, I always felt, deep down, that I was a comedy show. I will begin my transition next month.

Good luck with your show!

(Please book me.)

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