I have no doubt that this subject been addressed on these pages in the past, but something happened this week to remind me how much it cacks my hackles™ when comics are unprofessional. Sometimes monumentally so.
It is so hard to do well in this industry, everyone knows that. It’s extremely difficult to write funny jokes. Stage presence takes years to get right. Getting paid gigs, festival spots, media recognition – all arduous to say the least. But the one not-hard thing to pull off is professionalism. In fact, all it requires (in my opinion) is punctuality, politeness, good hygiene, doing your best on stage, sticking to your time and consideration for the audience, the producer and your fellow performers. Oh yeah, and SHOWING UP when you are booked into a show.
The incident earlier this week didn’t happen to me, but a friend of mine who runs one of the many rooms in Toronto. He had booked up his show (usually upwards of 10 comics), and only ONE showed up. I don’t have all the details of what happened, but I do know that out of 10 booked comics only one bothered his ass to arrive at the venue. Luckily, my friend and the guy who showed up have enough good material to put on a decent show, but that’s not the point. If you are booked, you do the gig. If you have an emergency or get a paid spot, fine. Just let the producer know. How hard is that? In this day and age of cell phones, texting, email and good old-fashioned pay-phones, there is no reason to leave someone hanging.
I think the reason I’m steaming about this is that I’ve noticed that (almost without exception), every show I do has at least one no-show. For a time, I ran a weekly room and dealt with this constantly. Since my room closed, I haven’t given it too much thought – ‘til this week with my friend’s experience. When I was the producer, it really ticked me off. However it was so common-place, I thought perhaps I was just not laid back enough. But in retrospect, I think I was dead on the mark. The problem, I suspect is that many comics think “I’m an artist”, which they believe gives them license to be flaky and unreliable. This is hooey. Maybe they think that since they’re not being paid, they don’t owe the show/producer anything. Wrong again. The producer goes to a great deal of effort securing the venue, marketing the show, securing a sound system and booking the talent. If you don’t arrive like you said you would, you not only leave a hole in the show, you have effectively taken a spot away from someone who would have been there and acted professionally.
These folks also not thinking long-term. I, personally, don’t have much (okay, any) power in the industry, but perhaps someday I will. And guess what? I’ll remember if you jerked me around. I don’t care if you’re the next Bill Hicks or Sarah Silverman, this kind of behaviour is going to come back and bite you in the career. But maybe that’s also part of the problem. There are no ramifications for this lack of professionalism. It’s a small industry, most people are friends (at the very least friendly) with each other; no one wants to be the bad guy and call someone out. Truly, though, I think we’d be doing EVERYONE a favour if we did self-regulate more. If the comics who treated a spot on stage as something they can take-or-leave were to face some sort of consequence, maybe they’d realize just how privileged they are to be a comic in the first place.
Okay, rant over, I feel better.
Someone pass the chocolate. And Happy Easter everyone.