Amy Schumer’s call for a Comedian’s Bill of Rights or Comedy Club Commandments that every booker should heed

Amy Schumer went off on a bit of a rant toward the end of her appearance this month on Brian Koppelman’s Grantland podcast, “The Moment.”

They’d finished talking about comedy strikes of the past and recent past, and Koppleman wanted to ask Schumer about the third season of her Comedy Central series, Inside Amy Schumer, which just began filming. But first, Schumer wanted to bash “the people who run Comix at Foxwoods,” give props to Gotham Comedy Club’s Chris Mazzilli for seeing the potential in her comedy, and add more than a few words for all of the other comedy club bookers out there.

“Every comedy booker out there, if you have a room. If anybody listens to this, you should treat comedians better, because we are the ones that make money for you,” Schumer said on “The Moment” podcast.

Minutes later, she elaborated.

“I love comedians. I love our world. But just – the bookers. Just pay another $100 so the comic can stay in a nicer hotel,” she said.

“I don’t feel like a scorned women by a bunch of clubs, but I just feel, in general, if you are a club owner, you know, just splurge for the $20 for a cab so that the comedian doesn’t have to get picked up in some car that doesn’t have a bottom to it, by the dishwasher that you just hired, who has like eight priors. You know? Just, like, splurge. Take care of comics just a little more. Don’t make them do morning radio when you know it’s not going to pull even one more person into the club. It’s just to promote your stupid Thursday-night show that it’s your fault you couldn’t fill. Just be nicer to the comedians. Don’t have your child in the green room. Don’t invite your friends back. Don’t make them get to the club an hour early and do a soundcheck. Don’t make them stay after to take pictures with the staff. Don’t give them a discount on their meals – just buy them their meals. Your disgusting basket of onion rings from the fryer you haven’t washed. You’re just lucky that Jon Taffer hasn’t come in there. You would get a Z on the health code. Just treat comedians better. It’s so hard. And we’re not your friends. Don’t make us feel bad if we don’t want to stay and drink with you.”

Koppleman interjected at this point: “This is awesome. It’s perfect. I want to see the waves that happen as a result of that.”

Schumer continued: “And also, just pay us at the end of the weekend. Don’t make us sit there in your cold, smoke-filled unventilated office, with your shitty carpet and your space heaters, and make us wait so you can piece together if we’re getting an extra $9.99. And give the comedians a bonus if they deserve it. Don’t make us stand in the back with a clicker to make sure.”

Schumer still plays Foxwoods. She’s just in the larger theater now. And she wanted to leave this thought and relationship on good terms: “I wish those guys the best. But they need to take a look at themselves and be nicer to comedians,” she said.

Besides, she added: “The rant I just did was for every club in the country.”

And one more thing: “And don’t make us do four shows on a Saturday.”

So. To sum up Schumer’s call to action. Would that we call this a potential Comedian’s Bill of Rights, to be delivered upon every comedy club booker across the land. This bill of rights for comedians — or, posed another way, this list of commandments for comedy bookers to follow, to heed. In Schumer’s words, this would include the following tenets:

  • “Just pay another $100 so the comic can stay in a nicer hotel.”
  • “Just splurge for the $20 for a cab so that the comedian doesn’t have to get picked up in some car that doesn’t have a bottom to it, by the dishwasher that you just hired, who has like eight priors.”
  • “Don’t make them do morning radio when you know it’s not going to pull even one more person into the club. It’s just to promote your stupid Thursday-night show that it’s your fault you couldn’t fill.”
  • “Don’t have your child in the green room.”
  • “Don’t invite your friends back” to the green room.
  • “Don’t make them get to the club an hour early and do a soundcheck.”
  • “Don’t make them stay after to take pictures with the staff. Don’t give them a discount on their meals – just buy them their meals. Your disgusting basket of onion rings from the fryer you haven’t washed. You’re just lucky that Jon Taffer hasn’t come in there. You would get a Z on the health code.”
  • “We’re not your friends. Don’t make us feel bad if we don’t want to stay and drink with you.”
  • “Just pay us at the end of the weekend. Don’t make us sit there in your cold, smoke-filled unventilated office, with your shitty carpet and your space heaters, and make us wait so you can piece together if we’re getting an extra $9.99.”
  • “Give the comedians a bonus if they deserve it. Don’t make us stand in the back with a clicker to make sure.”
  • “Don’t make us do four shows on a Saturday.”

What would be on your Comedian’s Bill of Rights every club booker should heed? What’s missing from the list of suggestions above?

Let’s see if we can make some progress on this front!

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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24 thoughts on “Amy Schumer’s call for a Comedian’s Bill of Rights or Comedy Club Commandments that every booker should heed

  1. Don’t act like you’re doing a favor by leaving comps for me. They’re still buying the food and alcohol, which is the same as half of the crowd.

    And add the feature and host’s name to the website under the headliner’s bio, “Featuring _____, “Hosted by ______”. This helps if you’d like us to help you get butts in the seats. I’m tired of “Dave, I wanna come see you but it says, Rob Schneider’s there that weekend”

    1. I want to add to this. Adding host and feature is nice because then I don’t have to go searching for it like a mad man.

  2. Police the room. If someone won’t shut up, warn them and then throw them out if they keep at it.

    Start shows on time. If you keep starting late, you’re disrespecting the people who came on time, and encouraging people to come later and later.

  3. Make sure the staff knows that while they don’t have to wait on the comedians hand-and-foot or pump up their egos, they should at least be friendly and kind. One of the reasons I grew to hate working at clubs was because the staff often treated the comics like nuisances and didn’t even try to make them feel welcome. I’m sorry but there’s nothing more frustrating than being nice to everyone at the club and having good shows only to have the waitstaff treat you with less respect than the guy washing dishes in the back.

    1. Oh yikes, do you really have to do with it? The servers are usually the nicest people I deal with, even at open mics where they really don’t get anything from us being there either way.

  4. Pay the host and feature respectably.

    Why are you paying the feature $200 for five shows and tapping out your pool of newer local acts…when you could pay $300 or $400 and bring someone with more experience in from out of town?

    The feature is a third of the show, time wise. Do you really think that saving that $30 – the amount that one or two extra patrons would bring in – is not worth the difference between people sitting through the opening act vs really enjoying them? Do you think the quality of the full show is not reflected in yelp reviews and how often people want to come back to your venue?

    Meanwhile the host sets the tone for the whole show. In Canada, the UK, and many places it’s also done by someone who can headline. But in the US bookers try to pawn it off on someone who’s been doing comedy for 10 months because they’ll do it for a drink ticket.

    And don’t forget – if you are paying comics a decent wage, and they are proud to do your venue, they will bring their A game and promote. If they’re making $25 a set, they are going to be working out new stuff onstage.

    In my experience, the best clubs – the one that are full on their own week after week without begging and leave patrons grinning ear to ear when they walk through the door – are the same ones that have made the wise decision to pay for quality hosts and middle acts.

    And +1 on free meal. “You get a 10% discount on our $8.99 plate of fries!” is a joke…and not a good one.

  5. Not only mention the opening acts on the website, but PAY THEM. Decently. “Yea, but they’re locals.” They’re part of the show aka the entire reason the club exists. Invest in your local talent. They bring in people too. And club owners, don’t bump people and take their spot.

    Also don’t make comics pay to do your terrible open mic night.

    Also none of this, “I can’t have two women on a show” bullshit.

    And yes, police the room. It’s not fair to those who paid for a show to have to deal with a consistent heckler throughout the whole night.

  6. I agree with the above suggestions. But a bill of rights should also come with responsibilities. Don’t treat the wait staff like their job is to serve you 24/7. Don’t get drunk before/during your set. Don’t get high in the back of the club with the dishwashers. Don’t hit on every girl who smiles at you as they’re walking out of the club. Don’t show up four minutes before your set. Don’t cancel the night before the show because a better gig came through. Don’t say you have a solid 30 when you have six minutes and a lot of crowd work. Don’t sit in the back and talk loudly when the other comedians are up.

    There’s plenty of unprofessionalism going on, but it’s not all on their side. We have to make sure we’re not contributing to the “who cares” atmosphere.

  7. +1 on policing the room. Have a policy – e.g. second time you talk, warning, third time, kicked out. Tell the comics this in advance. Maybe even have a signal they can give to help everyone distinguish the line between heckling and crowd work.

    Also, seat people up front. If you know you sold 10 tickets in advance, don’t let those people pick seats from a sea of 150 chairs.

  8. Yeah, gotta agree with Amy’s “we’re not your friends” point.

    You should book comedians because they’re funny and professional, not because they drink with you after the show, hang out with you, you did coke together one time, etc.

    I like being friendly with bookers, but after a show I usually want to go home and see my family (or back to the hotel and sleep if on tour). I don’t want to feel I have to hang out drinking with the booker so they’ll like me enough to bring me back again.

    If an act consistently kills onstage it shouldn’t matter if they hang out with you or not.

  9. Agreed on most of the above; but I believe there should be a phone/camera ban in effect at every club. It’s not fair to the comics to have their material aired on youtube when it’s either a) unfinished, b) potentially offensive and c) not indicative of the material they usually do.

    Audiences need to remember that in the confines of a comedy club, anything can and will happen, and if you’re offended, walk out. But don’t rip food out of a comic’s mouth because his/her stuff wasn’t your cup of tea. Let others decide for themselves if they hate the comic.

  10. I’m a club owner, booker, and a comic. I treat each comic they way I would want to be treated. I pay what I can afford and I bonus when I can. In Minnesota we have the best condo in the business and in Houston the talent stays at a very nice Four Points Sheraton.

    So how about we lose the word EVERY. Not every club commits these sins. Some of the clubs provide the talent with a valuable house for their art and allow them to pursue their dreams. They do so at great financial risk, and very little reward.

    Every comic knows what they are getting when they work for us. Eventually they move on, hopefully to the next level, to do bigger rooms and theaters and to stay in nicer hotels. They are our friends (I generally won’t invite a comic into my club unless I would also invite him or her into my home).

    I’m sure Amy didn’t mean to insult ALL clubs and bookers. She knows who the good ones are, and she doesn’t work for the bad ones more than once, I hope.

    I wouldn’t.

    Ken Reed
    Joke Joint Comedy Clubs

  11. As solely a frequent club patron, I absolutely agree that the crowd needs policing–I come to hear the comics, not the drunks.

    I also agree completely on the importance of feature acts and hosts, especially the features, who do not have the luxury of getting by with mostly crowd work. When, by the time the headliner gets up, we have been through 20-30 minutes of lame material, a lot of the friends I have invited to their first club outing have not wanted to return even if the headliner kills.

    Finally, I am surprised that none of the many NY/NJ clubs I visit has a frequent guest/customer loyalty program or a discount package on multiple shows–there is a reason that theaters, movie chains, hotel, airline, and retailers use them.

  12. This is a great summation and jumping off point for a wider discussion… so I jumped off.

    TL;DR: Not every club owner is a lazy, slimy scumbag, they’re just trying to make one of the most unprofitable businesses work.

    And I think conflating things like “It’s annoying to have to talk to staff” with “I should be paid promptly and have appropriate travel and lodging” really waters the whole argument down.

    long version:http://comedygroupie.com/whats-up/2015/1/30/were-all-in-this-together-what-amy-schumer-and-many-other-comedians-get-wrong-about-clubs

  13. I agree there’s a lot of unprofessionalism that happens amongst comics, too – we are certainly not blameless. And there are a lot of great clubs out there! We are in this together, but let’s also listen to each other to make things better for everyone.

    Because I can’t resist, one last thing I thought of, which actually applies more to independent rooms than comedy clubs which tend to be better at it.

    Three words: Start on time! Or at least within 15 minutes of your announced start time.

    I can’t count the amount of times I show up, and a bunch of people show up, to an 8pm show that ends up starting at 8:30 or god help us all 9. This has several bad effects:

    1) It trains the people you are holding the show for, who show up late and are not respecting the show, that they can be even later next time (because they know the show “really” starts at 830)
    2) It pisses off the people who are there on time, so they are less likely to come back (or will be late when they do), and
    3) It hurts the show because now the people who showed up on time are annoyed and less receptive when the show finally starts and more likely to get tired/bored later on in the show, because they’ve been sitting at the same table for 2 1/2 hours, or they may even leave early because they have other plans, work in the morning, got a babysitter, etc.

    Anyway, just wanted to get that off my chest.

  14. I agree w/ Ken….. I’m sure she didn’t mean EVERY “club” commits these sins……

    As a employee of one of the top 5 clubs in the country…. our headliners stay at our condo if not a awesome theme hotel where every floor is different. (I can vouch on this as my full time day job has me in these bldgs every so often).

    Although I’ve only worked at the club for just over 8 yrs, there are other employees that have been there 20+ years. We always hang out with each other and have a beer or two and just “shoot the shit” unless we have somewhere else to be. Comics are more than welcome to join us and socialize. 99% of the time we’ll as if the want to join us at one of the bars we go to. If they don’t want to join, no problem, we’re not gonna take it personal. Have a nice night and we’ll see you tomorrow night. We do our best to make our headliners feel like part of our family.

    Most of the comics do media/radio. Payment is usually at the end of the weekend unless specified otherwise. Our PR lady usually drives the comic to and fro. Sometimes I will drive the comic to and from the hotel if needed in my 13yr old car that runs and looks great because I take care of it. I have no priors, I just love comedy.

    We do have a “3 strikes” rule for everyone for talking, filming/pictures or just being a douche.

    Unless the comic brings a feature along, we have our locals emcee and feature, man or lady. I can say that a recent headliner tweeted that he should’ve featured and our feature should have headlined. Yes, most of our locals are that damn good.

    If you can figure out where I work from a few hints I dropped, you’ll agree. Keep laughing.

  15. Amy said nothing about a comedian’s bill of rights. It was this shitty writer who hobbled it together, then falsely titled the article. Terrible journalism, shame on you.

  16. I haven’t run into a situation where the staff was negative or annoying. I tried to be friendly and generous to everybody. They are doing a job just like we are so I don’t think it’s right to say they’re not our friends. It doesn’t mean I’m going to hang out and drink with them (because I don’t really do that with anybody. I have a chronic illness that leaves me too exhausted to do much more than my set.) but I have no problem socializing with anybody who is in the vicinity. And I also don’t care if you bring your friends back. It’s your club, you can do whatever you want. As long as people are polite and friendly, it doesn’t bother me. I’ve worked with more comics who are douchebags than club staff.

    Specifically regarding Comix, I’d like to add another point or two: please don’t tell an attractive female comic she needs to dress sexier because you “noticed a better response” the night she was dressed less tomboyish. The reality is, if you’re “too pretty” for what the audience is expecting, you’ll get a crappier response because women hate you and their boyfriends/husbands won’t laugh for fear of pissing them off. And don’t book your features (and MCs) based on whether or not they’re your friends; and don’t stop booking someone because one of your friends told you to, or because the comic doesn’t party with you.

    And specifically to bookers, make your contact information available to comics so they can reach out and request guest spots/audition spots, etc. to be seen by you. Don’t rely on references only. This is a very competitive business and there aren’t many people who will give a recommendation to a feature that does just as well (or sometimes better) than they do as the headliner. Comics are jealous, insecure people who aren’t interested in helping anybody else’s career but their own.This business is very cliquey and if you don’t party, kiss ass, or accept unwanted advances, it’s hard to get seen by bookers when you’re not part of the club. Having talent is meaningless in this business if you haven’t made your way into a clique.

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