One Night Stand Up

Saturday January 2nd, 2010 – Platteville, WI

In the comedy business, the term ‘one nighter’ refers to a gig that usually takes place on an ongoing basis a certain night of the week. It’s usually held at some bar or hotel lounge in an area that doesn’t have and/or can’t support a full time comedy club. They can range from totally hip to totally hellish, but usually not much in between. It’s one or the other.

Back in the day, one nighters got strung together and that’s how a weekly ‘run’ would come together. Two or three one nighters in smaller towns in the same area would get put together and then there would be a weekend two or three night run in a larger town so the booker could offer the comedians a full week of work for a living wage. It worked great.

The one nighters usually paid a little more than the average weekend or week long clubs and on certain runs by the end of the week a comic could bring in some nice money. Most of the bookers in the Midwest had runs like that, including Funny Business out of Grand Rapids, MI and Comedy Caravan out of Louisville, KY. They kept us all out on the road.

Comedy Caravan at one time had a huge run of all one nighters throughout the area near Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana. I remember there being at least a dozen or so one nighters in a row on that run at any given time. It could be quite grueling, but by the time it was over a comedian could walk away with a significant chunk of cash.

There’s a booker in the Pacific Northwest named David Tribble who has one nighters in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Most of them are hundreds of miles apart and don’t pay very well, yet he still gets acts. When I lived in Utah I did my share of “Tribble Runs” as they’re known among comics. They can be brutal, but it’s paid work.

One nighters are all over the country but most of them come and go. A few have stayed in business for years and years and nobody can figure out why. There’s a pizza joint down in Bloomington, IN called “Bear’s Place” that’s been doing comedy at least thirty years to my knowledge. I’ve worked there many times and it’s a lot of fun. The town supports it.

There are other places that have been around a long time and one of them is the “Arthur Haus” near Platteville, WI. It’s an old time supper club out in the sticks and at first glance it looks like the clocks were set back to 1967. It’s been around forever and I’ve worked it several times, although not recently. It just so happened I was booked there again tonight.

The owners are sweet people and they have a buffet of delicious home made food that’s always part of the deal. They treat the comics very well and audiences come out to see the shows. Well, usually. Tonight was very slow, and there were maybe 30 people. Still, they  listened and laughed and shook our hands after the show. Most importantly, we got paid.

My days of doing marathon runs of one nighters in Wyoming might be over, but once in a while a night like this can take me back to my youth. Plus, it’s a few bucks on a night of the year that’s tough to book coming off New Year’s Eve. This one worked out very well.


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