One Slick Negotiator

Friday October 30th, 2009 – Cranberry, PA

No show tonight but I’m not bummed out about it. This is a slow week and I knew that when I took the gig. We did have eight people show up so it wasn’t a total loss, but that’s still a little light to do a show. Not to say some places wouldn’t make us do one though.

I’ve had to do shows for two people. More than once. One time I even had to do a show for ONE guy – and he was a heckler. No joke. In every case the club owner reasons if he’s paying us to do a show, we’re going to do one no matter what. This is another reason club owners get minimal support from comedians. That’s just plain stupid to make us do that.

Nobody wants to be there and it makes everyone look bad. I’ve had classy places pay us out and call it a night. It’s not our fault if people don’t show up. They’re really buying our time for the night, not necessarily our act. We were there, but the crowd wasn’t. Too bad.

On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of clubs try to add additional shows over the years. I don’t mind, but be fair. One time I was working somewhere and the guy decided he could add an extra show during the Christmas season, but he was going to pay us half our price.

In other words, we were scheduled for X number of shows that week for Y dollars and even though I was never good at math I think you can figure out the formula for how the pay scale worked out. Say it boiled down to $100 a show for the week. He would pay the $100 for the scheduled shows but only $50 for the added one. He assumed we’d all do it.

I was just the opener back then and I really wanted the extra cash. No, I needed it. The headliner was a guy named Gary Kern, one of my early mentors. Great guy, great comic, horrible businessman. Common story in entertainment. He said he’d do it but I could tell he wasn’t thrilled about it. He hung his head and shrugged his shoulders and that was it.

The feature that week was a guy named Kyle Nape, also a mentor. He and Gary did a lot of work together and that’s very smart. Kyle was a comedy magician and a perfect lead in opener for Gary, who was dry but absolutely hilarious. It was a very good blend of styles.

Both those guys liked me and saw me as not only an up and comer, but someone they’d not want to strangle after being in a car for twelve hours. We went all over the country for many wonderful weeks of work until I was ready to feature myself and that was it. Those guys were both very instrumental in me getting started and I’ll forever be grateful for that.

Gary passed away of a heart attack many years ago at the age of 36. Kyle is no longer in the comedy business but I did hear from him only a few years ago. I thanked him for how he and Gary took me under both their wings and he joked how they’d made a big mistake.

Anyway, back to the story. Kyle absolutely refused to do the extra show for the guy that night unless he got his full pay. The club owner was furious and the louder he hollered at Kyle the softer Kyle spoke. It was as if he enjoyed watching the guy squirm. And he did.

The club owner was foaming at the mouth screaming about how there was going to be a room full of people in fifteen minutes and he needed to have comedians. Kyle said he had no problem doing an extra show, but only if it were for 100% of the price of the others for the week. Then he sat down and calmly started putting his magic tricks away in his case.

I must admit it was fun watching the owner’s face turn purple and the wheels turn in his devious head. Then he came to Gary and me, trying to convince us of his logic. He told us since we were already there the money would be a bonus, not a rip off as Kyle saw it. He tried to spin it as a positive and quite frankly I was ready to jump at it. I needed that cash.

Kyle picked up his case and said very calmly to the owner, “SO, what’s it going to be?” The owner looked out and saw a full room and told us he’d be right back. He went out to call the booker, which happened to be John Yoder of Funny Business. John spoke to Kyle and tried to convince him to do the extra show and just take the money, but Kyle said no.

There was a lot of tension backstage and at one point Gary just asked Kyle to please do it and take the found money. Kyle had worked in the corporate world in Toronto and told us how we’d all thank him after we got our full pay. Sure enough, at show time the owner slithered backstage and snarled in Kyle‘s face, “All RIGHT…you’ll get the full money.”

Kyle wasn’t finished. “ALL of us will get the full money?” The club owner was getting even more upset, and I didn’t think that was possible. “NO, just YOU.” Kyle wouldn’t let it go. “Sorry, we ALL are in this show together and we ALL need to get paid full price.”

By now the guy wanted to strangle Kyle but it was time to start the show and he gave in rather than see if Gary and I would do it without him. It was a good old fashioned pissing contest and Kyle just plain out-pissed the guy. From that day on, Kyle Nape was my hero.

We all discussed it the next day in the car, and Kyle said he refused to get treated LIKE an idiot, BY an idiot. He said he was prepared to walk away and that’s why he knew he’d get the money. The guy had a full room and needed us, even for only one night. Kyle said he wasn’t going to let the guy screw us and didn‘t care if he ever worked that place again.

How many others would have had the stones to do what Kyle did then? Not many. I was willing to take half the money and so was Gary. Not Kyle. I really learned a lot from both those guys, but Kyle was king when it came to off stage business. No wonder he’s now in the corporate world again. Even he couldn’t stand a steady diet of comedy club oil cans.

I know we’re not the only ones in entertainment to get screwed over though. Musicians, actors, strippers, you name it. Anyone who is in business as an entertainer has stories that make mine look like Sunday School lessons. Still, when it’s personal it hurts a lot more.

No worries about tonight though. I had a great day of solid work and even got in a walk. The weather was again perfect and I’m in a creative wavelength that’s cranking out really strong ideas like water. I’m moving ahead and having fun doing it. This is how I like it.


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