The ongoing global recession already has impacted live stand-up comedy in a variety of ways. More Americans certainly are seeking out laughs to either escape and/or confront their real-life situations. But they have less money to spend on comedy. And comedians themselves are hurting just as much as people with office or factory jobs. First-hand and anecdotal reports coming in to me from stand-ups on the road seem to indicate that the shows are going on, so long as the ticket prices are right. As in less than $40. The bigger-ticket comics are proving to be the tougher draws. Some clubs with weeklong stints may cut a weeknight performance here or there, or one of the multiple weekend slots. Then again, the recession we experienced 26-27 years ago also coincided with the stand-up comedy boom. For what that's worth.
The other trend I've noticed lately is that as bigger clubs try to keep drawing crowds by offering free or radically-reduced shows, some of the previously free indie rooms are being forced to move the other way to pay. A couple of examples of the former include the Laugh Factory in Hollywood comping tickets on Thursdays for anyone who proves they're currently unemployed, and in NYC, Comix hosts a regular Five For $5 showcase (there's one tonight featuring Julian McCullough, Reese Waters, Sean Patton, Nikki Glaser, Shane Mauss and Morgan Murphy, which is actually six for $5). Many of NYC's free shows have no problems packing the rooms because it's a cheap, easy and fun night out. At least a couple of free NYC comedy shows, however, are now charging $5, including Greg Johnson and Jacqueline Novak's Sunday nighter at Pianos, and Liam McEneaney's "Tell Your Friends" at the Lolita Bar on Mondays. Why?
I think McEneaney put it well when he delivered the news to his Facebook group: "I know I know, now's a bad time to be asking our friends to pay us money, and we realize that a few of you may opt to no longer come out to the show. Believe me, I can understand. Unfortunately, running a show, even a free show in a bar basement, costs money, and we decided that to continue bringing you the best comedy show in this city, and some of the best acts in the world, we would need to find a way to brace these costs."
How is the economy impacting your corner of the comedy world? Please share your stories.