My First and Worst Year: Bringer Shows
How could anyone possibly book me after this set?
Oct. 27, 2013 was my second show at Flappers. At the time I felt it was okay. Now I can't stand to look at it. I'm out of breath. I'm frantic. It looks drug-induced. I'm trying to be Griffin Dunne in After Hours or something. It's like the time I was trying to be cool at Stella Adler by doing Eric Bogosian monologues in scene class. It just felt good to yell.
Jesus, I just checked, It even says that in my fucking journal,
Wallet- "It felt good to yell!"
Bully Kids- "A little sloppy, but good!"
Open your eyes, mac!
After my set, a "talent scout" named Alexander takes me aside and wants to take my info down for The Comedy Store. He's very complimentary and I'm thinking, OH, I'm getting my just rewards! Holy shit this standup world is magical. Things are fucking happening!
I don't think I'd even stood in line for the Comedy Store's potluck open mic yet, but now I was already getting booked on a show!
I have a history of gullibility. I joined the American Radio Network on Sunset/Hobart when I was 19 and was totally convinced that I was producing my own radio show. I thought it was being broadcast somewhere. I was paying for time and living in a delusional world where I, like many overexcited morons that move to California, didn't know any better. I wanted to believe it SOO BAD. Just look what it says on their website:
"To all skeptics: The American Radio Network is not a SCAM!"
Haha, come on man! That's a definite red flag. That sounds like they've received thousands of accusations- it's the first thing in their statement! The website is shit, their equipment is shit, and it's still going! Denial is so powerful.
Anyway, so what are Bringer Shows to you non-comics? Well, you need a minimal amount of people to show up- preferably 5-10. My friends usually paid $15-20 bucks per entry, along with a 2-drink minimum.
So what's wrong with that?
Well, it's going to be a wildly uneven show because the line-up is stacked with new and inexperienced comics like me that SUCK. We're talking comics that are only a few months in, or maybe a year. Then at the end, Bobby Lee closes it out!
Well, at least the last guy was funny, even though I heard most of his jokes before.
My friends will never want to come out again because they just blew 40-50 bucks on a shit show and now I've just reinforced anyone's opinions of lousy comedy. Why go to a show at all? This is what it's like?
The whole thing is seductive because you're playing the historic rooms. The Original Room at the Comedy Store- Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey. I was on a show with a television star, Bobby Lee, I'm working my way up already!
I've had relatives ask me, "So when are you getting a comedy special?"
Nobody knows how this works! After that show I would've said,
"Give me a year!"
So I'm promoting my shows online and expected to bring in a number of friends every time. I bring in less friends every time because they've already supported my ass, and this shit is expensive. Suddenly I'm not booked. Or worse, the booker still wants me, but treats me like shit.
Here's a doo-dad example! Look at this idiot here:
I was already starting to feel the pressure from the bringer shows after a couple of spots. Flappers always wanted a head count, but this is how they worded it,
*Our shows are not bringer required, but as a courtesy, if you don't think you can get some fans to see you, we are happy to reschedule you for a show that may be more convenient."
In other words Marty, make some fucking friends and GRILL THEM until they GUARANTEE YOU THEY'RE COMING OUT- AND HAVE THEM CALL US WHEN THEY ARRIVE, SO WE CAN PREPARE TO SELL THEM SHIT WINGS! OR NO SHOW FOR YOU! I REPEAT, WE'RE NOT A BRINGER SHOW!!!!! Just kind of.
One time I asked the booker up front if it was a bringer and the response was,
"Not really, it's not like others, I mean, you only need to bring a couple people out."
Oh, okay. So then I would do it.
I was sucked into another show when I was out of town. Someone from the Store referred me to another booker. She was all talk, asking for my credits, how much pay, how much experience I had- all business and sounding pre-recorded. My inexperience shined through my responses and she probably already knew. I agreed to the show after she talked me up and then I started feeling a little queasy about it. On the other hand, I told my mom the exciting news- another booking!
I reached out to a fellow comic, Jeremiah Watkins:
12/21/13 "Hey Jeremiah, sorry to bother you during the holidays. I was just kind of shaken up by a bringer show situation and I would love to hear your take on it if you get a chance some time. I love comedy, I love comedians, but someone booked me a show and then made me feel like shit for not having more people committed to going. It was just weird and it felt like Glengarry Glen Ross "Always be CLOSING!" I'd be honored to make a cent from doing what I love at the moment, but I don't want to kill myself over this upcoming gig. I understand the importance of promoting, but I assume it's difficult for any beginner unless they have a built-in fanbase. Anyway, sorry- I don't know a lot of comedians yet and I only know you from Jake's podcast. Have a happy holiday man."
It's painful to read this. I was so clueless! Jeremiah responded back:
"Bringer shows suck, so don't feel bad that you didn't get a bunch of people out to that show. Keep hitting mics and working hard and you'll get to a point where if someone asks you to bring a certain amount of people, it's insulting. Do as many mics as you can and you'll get shows from people who aren't expecting you to bring anything but the funny. ONLY use bringer shows if you're in DESPERATE need to showcase for an agency or manager. Otherwise, good shows will organically come. Hope this helps."
"It does. Big time. Thank you buddy."
I was working in the Box Office at The Geffen Playhouse when my cel started to ring. It was the booker. I stepped out and took the call.
"Hi Marty, I just wanted to see how many people you have confirmed."
"Just 2 so far," I said, which was a complete lie, but it was better than saying none. There was a pause on the line and then,
"Marty...that's not good enough."
I think my heart started beating faster as I absorbed the sinister tone that had wafted through the phone. What the hell?
"You have to message your friends on Facebook and get them to come out, and what about the flyer I made you? If you can't get at least 5 people out I don't think I'll be able to give you time, there are other comedians that can bring people."
I was stunned...and she must have felt it because I didn't respond for 10 seconds. I should've bailed out then.
I stammered out some excuses and she sort of took pity on me and relented a bit,
"I'll get you up, but you have to try okay? Get on Facebook and message them."
It didn't matter anymore. I wasn't looking forward to the show because in the back of my mind I could hear that bitch's voice asking how many people were coming. I'd had friends come out to past shows, but this time I was just dried up. I shouldn't of cared, but I didn't know the score, I thought I wasn't going to be able to do stand-up comedy like I wanted. I thought I had to do these fucking bringer shows.
My girlfriend was keeping me at bay, I could vent to her at least. I didn't really have anyone else I could talk to. Trying to explain this shit to any non-comic is exhausting because there's all these potential, "So, shouldn't you promote?" kind of responses that might lead to an argument. I want to enjoy doing my standup, not worry about who's getting off the fucking 101. I'm not a promoter.
She called on the day of the show,
"MAKE ONE LAST PUSH!"
Unexpectedly, my friend Nikki turned up and her presence was much needed. So I had ONE PERSON. Just 4 below good enough. 1 out of 104 invites.
The M bar was falling apart in spectacular fashion. It used to be a hotspot for comedy and burlesque shows, but now it needed someone to pull the trigger. The credit card machines were down, half of the menu wasn't available and yet the staff insisted that people order shit. Get cash!
When I got there, the booker was getting drunk and talking business with the owner.
I met a young comic named Trevor James. He was in the same anxious boat as me, with zero friends showing up. I quickly bonded with him. Finally, our horrible boss marched up to us, and gave us a few instructions, never bothering to talk to us like human beings.
I visited my friend Nikki for a moment, who was being pretty cool about the M-Bar situation, and then the booker is calling me over,
"Marty, I NEED YOU TO BE HERE IF I'M GOING TO PUT YOU UP 2ND! *poke* YOU CAN'T BE LEAVING *poke* YOU HAVE TO SUPPORT THE OTHER COMICS!"
This bitch was aggressively poking me in the chest. I couldn't believe it.
"I wasn't planning on going anywhere," I said.
She marched off. I was livid. I didn't even know how much time I was doing.
The order was changed several times. I ended up going on 5th or 6th. The booker also did a set. It was like watching a drunk relative fall onto a wedding cake. She was embarrassing herself. Then the headliner went up and wasn't getting much love. He was drunk too and took it out on the audience, calling a guy in the front row a faggot. His Brooklyn buddies were egging him on, so he dragged his set out for 15 minutes repeating,
"THIS IS MY SHOW!" Killer stuff. I don't think I've seen a set like that since.
After this disaster, I split without saying goodbye, sat with my friend Nikki in her car for a minute and thanked her for being there, despite all the bullshit. I would've felt worse if I subjected more of my friends to the M Bar- I'm lucky only Nikki showed. She paid to see that.
When I got home I blocked that bringer bitch from all my social media.
Until a couple more times at The Ice House, The C-Word in The Belly Room (both of which I enjoyed) and The Formosa Cafe (fuck that guy).
I know a handful of people that are still doing bringer shows. Some new people, and a few comics that are 3 years like me. They seem content. Or maybe they're just as clueless as I was, but do I interfere? After all, I'm the one performing in dive bars, they're playing at respectable CLUBS! I must be the one in the wrong, right? Maybe they just have unlimited friends.
Thank God that shit is over with.
Oh, and I found this video I posted on Facebook, promoting the dreaded M-Bar show. I had clearly given up and this was a coping mechanism to keep from having a complete meltdown.