Seven comics. Two hours. One historic summit on the state of stand-up comedy in the Hub.
Mr. Mayor, Mr. Governor, members of the House and Senate, our fellow Greater Bostonians:
Sixteen years into this new century, you can talk to any seasoned comedy fan in Greater Boston, the ones who loiter outside Nick’s Comedy Stop downtown and the Comedy Studio in Cambridge, and get a sense that the stand-up scene is thriving. From diehards who search for secret backyard shows to brave in the summer to those who snake around the corner of the Wilbur Theatre to check marquee acts like Louis C.K., people will deliver an emphatic Yes! if asked the always-annoying question, Is there really a comedy scene here?
But while humor aficionados know lots about the stand-up landscape that pedestrian showgoers aren’t aware of, there can be a disconnect between scenesters and audiences at large. On that note, we figured that just like with our crumbling republic, which gets the Cliffs Notes account of current events in a simple State of the Union speech every year, it could be something of a community service to document the inner state of the Hub’s funny farm. From there we tapped Milton-born stand-up Will Noonan, who helped summon a rock star panel of homegrown comics—Corey Rodrigues, John Paul Rivera, Lamont Price, Rob Crean, Kelly MacFarland, and Peter Martin—to share war stories. What ensued was a rollicking discussion about everything from their worst bombings to zen and the art of stand-up, things the comics wish they knew when they were starting out, and the process through which one evolves from a weekend warrior to a full-time funny person earning a living.
To sweeten the deal, we bought the sewing circle subs from Al’s Cafe (beer would have gotten too messy, but maybe next time). The result is this debut State of the Boston Comedy Union—a roundtable of sorts, featuring some of the top working hustlers who cut their teeth in the shuttered underground epicenters of local stand-up and now perform at major venues here and elsewhere. Lamont Price, one of our panelists and an increasingly dominant force in the local laugh game, was tasked with hosting and curating a lineup of comedians at Boston Calling, the seminal seasonal hootenanny that goes down in Government Center this weekend.
The dialogue before you is insightful and hilarious, a free-form series of digressions, riffs, crosstalk, and some throwing of shade. Plus a few gratuitous plugs, all captured in a summit at the ONCE Lounge inside Cuisine en Locale in Somerville. Given that there’s so much talent in this city, in terms of legends (Barry Crimmins, Steven Wright), juggernauts (Dennis Leary, Eugene Mirman), and innumerable up-and-comers, our work here obviously isn’t done. For those who weren’t able to contribute this time, we hope that you will lend your voices moving forward. To misquote Bill Clinton’s 1996 SOTU address: “We know Big Comedy does not have all the answers … The era of Big Comedy is over. But we cannot go back to the time when our comedians were left to fend for themselves. Instead, we must go forward as one scene to meet the challenges we face together.”
ALTERNATIVE VS. MAINSTREAM
Will Noonan (WN): We got a nice group of people from different parts of the scene. We got Rob Crean, alternative comic, I guess. Or … whatever.
Lamont Price (LP): Like, what is that? I don’t even know.
Kelly MacFarland (KM): Do you like that label Rob?
Rob Crean (RC): I don’t really care.
LP: I think it’s backhanded.
Peter Martin (PM): “Comedian” is a harsh word.
RC: I run comedy shows in a rock club.
LP: But is that alternative? What does that mean? Comedians who don’t eat meat!
RC: I am vegan, so …
WN: There is a difference. Like, you’re not doing the shitty fundraiser gigs as much.
RC: Well, no one asks me to.
WN: But that’s just it. People think that you [as an alternative comic] just made that choice, but the reality is you’d do it if you could.
RC: Yeah if the opportunity was there I’d do any show.
KM: And you’re saying “those shitty fundraiser gigs,” but sometimes those shitty fundraiser gigs put food on my table.
WN: Oh, I love them. I look at those kinds of shows like the trench warfare of comedy. You gotta do those and pay dues and stuff like that. So what I was saying is [about alt comics] someone that’s only played alt rooms or ones where they’re not even paying you, when someone is complaining about it, you don’t know what you’re complaining about you haven’t been out to Western Mass, [performing] with a deer head behind you.
KM: I sometimes get judgy when someone’s complaining about a room that’s not hard. It might be a little bit of a struggle. I cut my teeth [playing] Elks Lodges.
Corey Rodrigues (CR): I don’t feel like the alt comics I know bend the way mainstream comics do to what needs to happen to work that room.
LP: Like ‘this audience is this … so I should adjust.”
CR: Yes! I feel like most alt comedians would be like “this is what I do and I say what I say and come along and listen to me” as opposed to a mainstream comedian who is gonna work that room, but I feel like an alt comedian would fail that room.
RC: Then I don’t like being called an alt comedian [everyone laughs].
LP: I guess you’d call me a mainstream comedian, because I eat meat [looks at Rob], but I feel like in any room I don’t try to bend.
CR: I’m not saying I’ll pander, but I’ll bend of course. If I’m in front of a room of grey-heads or in front of a college crowd I’m going to play my crowd, but still the way I want.
KM: My jokes are my jokes. I have a mantra when on the road, when feeling a little anxious before performing. I tell myself, look, your jokes are your jokes, this is what you brought.
RC: Also, you have choices, right? You know certain jokes will work for certain audiences that may not work for others.
CR: Exactly! Not going to do Tinder and Instagram jokes to a room full of [old people] … My point is an ‘alt’ comedian … if they’re going to talk Spider Man they’re going to talk Spider Man, doesn’t matter if there’s grey hair in there or not. They’re just gonna go in there like [pantomime Spider-Man shooting webs from wrists].
RC: And if you’re in front of an old audience you have to be talking Tobey Maguire, you can’t be talking about Andrew Garfield.
LP That’s a very alternative punchline, Rob.
WN: There’s something to be said for doing alt rooms and being able to write [material] there, and be free in that way to come up with what you want to come up with. But we still have a job to do as [comedians] to entertain the crowd you’re given.
LP: There’s a perception that alt comics don’t want to go out there and do those rooms because, They won’t get me, so why do them?
KM: That’s why I asked that question to Rob specifically, because you don’t want to be pigeonholed into that.
RC: Yeah, I mean I’m open to doing anything.
John Paul Rivera (JPR): But how many times have you heard someone say “I am an ALT comic?”
LP: Well no one says it, but that’s what I’m saying about perception.
WN: Like Rob’s done Nick’s Comedy Stop with me and done just fine. He’s a comic with jokes and punchlines. I just pointed him out because The Gas at Great Scott [which Rob hosts] is kind of an alt-comedy show. I [recorded] my CD there, and I love that room. Such a good time.
LP: Is the name of your CD “Such a Good Time”?
WN: “Such a Good Time.” Comes out 2016.
THE UNBEARABLE IMPORTANCE OF BOMBING
WN: We can either talk about bookers you don’t like, or bombing stories next.
LP: Well I’m trying to get work, so let’s talk bombing.
JPR: How about neither?
LP: Bombing stories can be fun. I had a dude who just got off stage once say to me: “I bombed. You know what it’s like when you bomb twice a year?” I’m like TWICE A YEAR?? I BOMB ALL. THE TIME. Except for the third Monday every month when I host a show at Laugh Boston… [everyone laughs].
WN: I heard someone say once, “Man, I’ve been killing it lately. I’m due for a bombing.” They knew it was coming. I was like, that’s a comic right there.
LP: One of my boys once said to me he was killing it for weeks straight, and called me up real sincere and said, “Man, I am overdue for a cock eating.”
WN: That’s why it’s horrible if you go that long between bombing.
RC: That’s why John Paul and I schedule ours every Tuesday … [everyone laughs].
LP: There comes a point when you accept you’re gonna bomb, and bombing almost feels fun. I know when I’m about to bomb and I know it’s not going to be great, sometimes in the back of my head I say, “Well, let’s see how far I can take this shit.”
WN: That’s a big step in a comic’s career. I always say it’s like breaking up with a girl, where you keep saying “I don’t care about her, I don’t care about her.” And one day you’re like, “Wow, I really don’t care about her.” It’s the same thing with bombing.
RC: When I first started I ran into Lamont after a friend had a bad show, and he said you’ll get to the stage where you love bombing. And I was like, “That’s never going to happen.” But now it’s like, “Let’s see what choices I have to make this work.”
LP: For the record this conversation never happened.
KM: I think there’s a point in a comic’s career when there’s a comfort in knowing you can dig yourself out. It’s not a big deal. You can’t grow unless you’re eating it a couple times. If you’re telling me you’ve never bombed then you don’t know what bombing is.
WN: I know a good comic who never knew when he bombed. He walked off a show at The Vault and was like, “That was pretty good huh?” And we’d all be like, “No, it wasn’t.”
PM: When I bomb it hurts. And I don’t understand people at open mics who eat shit and walk off the stage in a bubble. You should let it hurt.
RC: I’m at a point where sometimes it hurts and others it doesn’t. When it hurts it’s because I made bad choices, but I’m not going to let it ruin my weekend.
LP: As long as [you bomb as] yourself. When I go on stage and I’m not myself, and then I bomb, it sucks.
JPR: The one I will always remember, one time I was doing a spot at Nick’s, was with my girlfriend at the time, and we were walking behind a group of girls who clearly were all talking about how I wasn’t funny [everyone laughs]. I knew I had just eaten shit, but like they were all getting real in depth about it. That was a rough one.
WN: At shows in New York when I would bomb, after I’d go down to the subway and sit on a bench, and the whole audience would come down and not look at you, it would be like I was a ghost. That’s the worst part of bombing. It’s like you have a disease they don’t want to catch.
JPR: I saw the stink of that on someone recently.
CR: The easiest bombs to eat are the ones you can identify. So the ones you walk off the stage and say, “I was going too fast,” or, “They didn’t get [the joke].” As long as you can diagnose it. The worst is like a break-up where you don’t know if you’re broken up. “Are we, aren’t we? Just fucking tell me!” When you don’t know it’s the worst.
WN: Those are the bombs at festival sets.
PM: I don’t have that problem [everyone laughs]. I had a wonderful time. [Ed note: Peter Martin recently won the Boston Comedy Festival.]
KM: I can’t wait to see you in a month.
PM: I’m finished. The day after I won [the Boston Comedy Fest] I was back at the Comedy Studio setting up the chairs and tables.
CR: I was in Jersey one time auditioning to get in at the Tropicana in Atlantic City. The crowds are kind of miserable, especially the early part of the week. [The booker] said if they’re not giving it to you, don’t go into the crowd. Just stay the course and do your jokes. The host goes up and the crowd is laughing. I go up and two minutes in, the booker’s back there watching and sitting there with his legs crossed with Tevas on with his crusty toenails looking at me.
LP: How much time ‘til your first sip of water?
CR: Like five minutes into a 15 minute set. I got a chuckle around seven minutes in.
LP: That’s the worst, man.
CR: Eventually I just stopped and I’m like, “What are you guys dead in here? Let’s wake up!” I go into the crowd and pick on one particular person. It wasn’t that they weren’t interested. They were just mean. The booker says, “Well, that didn’t go according to plan,” trying to be funny. And then said, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” Hand on the shoulder.
KM: This makes me, I’m so … not feeling good hearing this.
CR: The worst part was him saying to me, “Clearly this didn’t go how you intended.” I’m like, “No, it didn’t!”
WN: This job will really take away your dignity.
LP: That’s why when new comics go up with all friends and family in the audience, they come off thinking they always kill it. We would say stuff like, “Wait till they take that shit to The Vault. It’s gonna be real.”
KM: That’s why you have to take those risky guest spots. If you’re only playing in one club all the time, that’s all you’re going to know.
LP: You only know what you know.
LP: Funniest bomb I’ve ever seen, guy on stage was doing jokes and a guy in the crowd goes, “Boo!” The comic goes, “No no no, you don’t understand …” and the guy in the crowd goes, “No no no … boo!” [everyone laughs].
WN: Some people think being a dick is a rebellion.
KM: Or funny.
PODCASTS, KILLER LINEUPS, AND SOME SAD COMMENTARY ABOUT BOSTON COMEDY
WN: Okay this is what I wanted to ask the most. I don’t know if you guys listen to a lot of podcasts, but Joe Rogan, Louis C.K., Dane Cook, Greg Fitzsimmons, they’re all always on podcasts or doing their own. Recently when they discuss Boston [comedy], it’s [been] in a very dismissive tone. Like there’s nothing going on here. Drives me crazy.
LP: I’ve heard Rogan’s podcast, and any time Bill Burr is on they talk about Boston, and I don’t get that vibe from that. So maybe there’s other stuff.
WN: Burr doesn’t do that as much. But someone put together all the clips in a row. Louis C.K. comes up the most. He’s just like [in half Louis C.K. impression] “There’s just nothing there now. Just nothing. Barely a scene at all.”
PM: Well when they left, wasn’t that during the boom, when Boston sort of the HQ for a while? Where it was just sort of always a killer lineup?
PM: I don’t think that’s really anywhere anymore.
WN: That’s really the question. Do you think there’s a vibrant comedy scene in Boston [now]?
PM: There’s a vibe, but nobody is saying, “If you want to make it in stand-up comedy, you need to go to Boston.”
LP: I think Boston’s the right place to cut your teeth, though. There’s so much talent.
CR: In comparison to the way it was then when those guys were making a good living [in comedy] and didn’t want to leave Boston, it’s because they didn’t need to. When they were doing seven shows a night, and going back and forth from out in the north shore and back to the south shore, and then back in town, then yeah of course. It’s different now. But it’s still good, the quality [is] here. There’s bad comedy too, don’t get me wrong. But we have good comedians.
KM: I agree, there is a good scene here. I mean the Ding Ho doesn’t exist anymore. And a lot of those [local comics from the Ding Ho heyday] are still here and making a living at comedy, but the scene here has really changed a lot even over the last ten years. I mean, I don’t feel like I have a “home” club anymore. I feel really comfortable in some of the clubs, but it’s not the way it was.
WN: I guess that makes more sense then, because comparatively to [Rogan, Louis C.K., etc] Boston does seem that way. But when I listen to that I sort of think, Jesus Christ man. You come in to do the Wilbur for two days and you judge the whole scene?
LP: I think it’s because they don’t know what’s [here] anymore. [In the] Theater District area there used to be like eight clubs. So for him, it’s like, “Everything I remember is gone.” He’s not saying [Boston comedy] sucks.
WN: People think just because it’s not 1989 or 1990 that it’s not good anymore. But the next Louis C.K.s and Joe Rogans are here now. If you were a tourist coming to Boston I’d say the stand-up comedy is one of the best things about the city. The scene is still really good.
ON LEARNING YOUR CRAFT FROM LOCAL STAND-UP ICONS
KM: I remember being in college and going to Nick’s Comedy Stop in the early ‘90s, and it was sold out, line around the corner, packed. This is when Nick’s was an actual comedy club, and not a dance club that lets [comedians] come in and tell jokes. It was a legit club and it was packed and it was rockstars. Kevin Knox, Don Gavin, Steve Sweeney. Just rock stars coming in off the street, and the crowd going crazy. I wasn’t doing stand up yet, but I definitely caught the bug. Like, I want to be in this town. This is where I’m going to learn everything [about comedy].
CR: Speaking of young local comics watching others, do you feel if you’re the first or second spot on a bill, that you should watch whoever that headliner is? If you’re doubling up and working that night that’s one thing, but you should stay and learn and talk and figure out what’s up instead of saying, “I’ve done my 10 minutes, time to go drink and party.” When you’ve been doing it a while it’s different, but when you’re young in the game [in Boston] it’s like school. You have to learn what level they can get to.
LP: I think you have to learn that. Cats start out and they don’t know what they don’t know. It’s like I could watch this dude and hang out, or get out. You ever played a show with someone new who does their set and brings all their friends, and after they just sit out in the crowd with friends? The game has a way of filtering them out, because they’re not really about [the comedy].
KM: I think comics that have been around a while here get frustrated by the younger crop [when] mentioning Don Gavin, let’s say, and they are like, “I don’t know who that is.” It makes my blood boil. Because you can still catch those guys out on Route 1 at Giggles. And [younger comics] should. They’ll learn a lot.
CR: When I was getting started there was more teaching going on for the comics here, more willing to pull younger comics to the side and say, “Hey you need to work on this.” Like I remember very early on, my first/second year I was down at Comedy Vault doing shows, I’m doing this shit joke and it’s doing well. Danny Kelly pulls me to the side and was like, “It’s cool, but you’re funnier than that, you’re doing the easy jokes.” There was more of that before. Now I feel like it’s more just, “Oh, you’ll learn.”
WN: All my jokes are shit jokes [everyone laughs].
KM: That goes both ways. I was such an eager young comic, I sat in the back of the room with Lamont at Comedy Connection in Faneuil Hall. It was this unspoken thing that you’d hang out, if you were on you were on, if not you’re hanging out and there every night.
LP: Every night.
KM: Every night. It was my thing. That’s just what you do as a comedian.
WN: Me and John Paul just did a show kind of far away from here, and we went to this town where there’s no comedy within hundreds of miles. Six or seven guys in that whole state do comedy. We go, and these four local guys are up first doing impressions just of each other. That’s what happens when you don’t a) have anyone to look up to, and b) don’t have anyone to [keep you in check]. They were so supportive of each other, it was almost too much. You need a little guidance.
PM: I feel like some comics have a glass jaw. I’m still sitting in the back watching headliners and learning. But some comics are real sensitive taking [criticism]. They feel attacked, not realizing it’s notes.
RC: No one gives notes to someone they hate. But I agree, a lot of newer comics don’t actually watch comedy. Me and John Paul host a show each week, and a door is next to the stage, and so often someone will come up and do a set and it’s terrible but they turn around and out the door. I always lean over to John Paul and go [sarcastically], “Oh, yeah there’s nothing he could’ve learned from this.”
WN: You ever get a guy that tries to hack up your act with advice? Like, “Hey, you know that joke about your mom? You should fuck her in the end!” It’s like, no, that’s what you’d do with that joke, not what I’d do!
KM: I think there’s this mentality in comedy that’s more, “Oh I don’t need advice because I just did a show last night and there were 15 people there and they all thought I was amazing,” and it’s like, well were all those people going up to perform? Because then it’s not a show, it’s a circle-jerk workshop.
WN: We all know that what will make a comedian laugh is different than what would make a general audience laugh.
PM: Appreciating the structure that works as a joke for a laugh, but say it to a general audience and you’re like, “This is wordy.”
RC: I think it’s funny to see someone you know is a good comic, and they say something that’s stupid in an open-mic setting in front of comics, but when they say it at a show it’s like, “What are you doing?”
PM: Like when you know someone so well, and they do something goofy and you’re cracking up, but if they do that on stage in front of strangers they’ll get nothing.
LP: Well don’t you sometimes do stuff on stage that’s just for us?
WN: What do you think John Paul, you host a Tuesday show at the Middle East with Rob, and you very famously hosted the Grandma’s Basement night.
JPR: At that time I was hosting like eight to nine hours of open mic comedy per week. And it was great.
WN: What are some of the things with the current crop of open mics?
JPR: I like them a lot and I’m still doing them all the time. I always like the people who just come up, have jokes to tell, and then hang out for a bit afterwards. Then there are the ones that hang out in the back, don’t talk to anyone, do their set and leave. I hate that.
RC: Sets with like, “What am I talking about? I dunno.”
KM: 9pm to 1am, that’s a haul of an open mic.
JPR: It gets pretty nightmarish [laughs].
WN: Do you guys think there’s more open mic-ers now than even like three years ago?
RC: No, I think three years ago was when there was the most, more than there’s ever been around here.
LP: I didn’t know there was a census that went around [all laughs].
PM: I remember at Grandma’s we’d get up to almost 70 comics [in a night]. No breaks, everyone gets five mins. Then after like three and a half hours they’re like, “Okay you’re getting two minutes, because this is getting stupid.”
CR: John Paul and Rob—you guys must’ve gotten so much stronger. I tell guys to host their own show. If you’re doing that many hours you’re getting that much more accelerated because you have more time to throw jokes against the wall, you don’t have to stress about fitting in a set. You get all this time to do your thing, and you grow so much faster.
LP: And you get to work on your pacing. It’s like the wax on-wax off from “Karate Kid.” You don’t know you’re getting better while doing it, but you are.
KM: Well you learn how to find your voice, and that’s what allows you to control a room.
JPR: Wait, this started about me didn’t it? What the fuck happened? [laughs]
RC: There are a bunch of really good new comics doing shows around town and they’re getting better and better.
JPR: There are comics now that have started up their own shows [to host] and they’re new and early in, but some of the stuff they’ve started up has been really great. It’s awesome.
LP: The more rooms the better. I go to new rooms all the time if I can, just working on stuff that just needs work.
PM: You do find some people exclusively doing one room.
LP: And that’s going to hurt them.
PM: It depends what they want to get out of comedy here. If it’s like karaoke, just going out to have some fun, write jokes, be in front of an audience, that’s one thing.
LP: When I learned I loved comedy, I was hanging out at the old Comedy Connection in the back, and there was an amateur hockey team that was watching the show. It was one of their birthdays, and for some reason the manager let all of them get up and do some sets.
WN: All of them?
LP: All of them! I was like, I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I was livid. Like, what if I just went to their hockey practice one day and said, “I’m just gonna skate a bit.”
KM: “I’m open!”
LP: It’s different but not that different, because they weren’t taking it seriously.
WN: When I’m doing this for a living and waiting for a real estate salesman to do his five minutes just to get away from his wife, I want to strangle him. Like, I’m trying to live my dream here and you’re taking up everyone’s time.
RC: My perspective is different because I learned on open mics, they’re my bread and butter. I like people like that.
KM: I do think there’s a place for that. But it makes me crazy when others are like, “Oh I just do this once a month.” That’s fine, but it does frustrate me.
WN: There’s a guy in Boston that does one or two clubs, he’s a funny guy, I’ll get a text from him, ‘Hey man i’m looking to headline … how do i get headlining gigs? I’m like, “Uh, maybe do this for 10 years?”
KM: I hate being approached by someone not taking it seriously, not nailing their five minutes, who later come up and ask, “How do you book gigs?” But isn’t that the [comedy] world we live in now? [Novice stand ups] will do a Vine and it gets 100k views and be like, “I killed it.”
WN: I got a dicey topic here. Boston Comedy has traditionally been dominated by white Irish Catholic men. But here we have a woman, two black guys, and a Mexican.
CR: What’s the question?
WN: [Joking] Have you had a hard time being black [everyone laughs]?
CR: What I’ve dealt with is a booker may say to me, “We really like you because you don’t do a lot of black stuff.” I’m like, “But I’m black!” Or they say, “You don’t bring up your race.”
JP: “You’re one of the good ones!”
CR: The other black aspect of it would be, multiple [black comics] on a show lineup seems like a problem for some places. And people immediately assume things when I show up to do a show. The audience thinks, “This is just going to be black shit.” So when there’s black and white all together, it works in my favor. It’s something cool about the Boston Comedy scene. The biggest thing, more than your act, is if you’re putting asses in seats. [In that way] we’re all the same. It then comes down to can you get the job done in the club consistently.
LP: I was at a place across from Nick’s once, and a guy asked if I wanted to go up. I said yeah. He said, “But if you do any of that black shit, take it to Nick’s [groans].”
WN: I’ve seen things like that and it’s uncomfortable. Especially for a white man.
PM: Kelly I was just talking about you to someone, and they said you’re the best female comic. And I was like, “Don’t put that fucking asterisk next to her.”
WN: Sometimes I feel like when people say that about Kelly specifically, they mean she’s the only female headliner in Boston.
KM: There aren’t as many female comics as male comics. But if announcing me on stage, don’t do this: “For our next comic, you’re in for a treat! She’s a female comic.” Like, “Yes, and I brought muffins!”
LP: The old, “You’re in for a treat” intro…
CR: I’ve gotten my fair share of “BET intros.” I’ll be in the club and they’ll be like, “This NEXT guy has been on HBO, BET! … ” [everyone laughs]
WN: I get stuff like, “You’ve seen this guy on Comedy Central, Letterman …” And I’m like, “I’ve never been on any of these things.”
CR: Someone said I was on A+E. Like that’s a fucking good credit.
WN: I used to open for this guy and he would yell at me to get his intro right. “Tell them I was on OZ and Law and Order.” He’d get mad if I got it wrong and scream at me. So the next time I introduced him I was like, “This guy was on Oz and Law and Order … two of the funniest shows on television.” He never bugged me about it again.
KM: You gotta eat it ‘til you don’t need it anymore. There’s reg jobs you work too where you gotta eat shit. There’s so much conversation speaking of the women thing. “We’re funny too”. Put the work in, put the time in, don’t sleep with the male comics [the men interject, “Whoa whoa whoa!”].
LP: You’re talking about free will. And for the record, no one is talking about me.
CR: Sleep with the bookers.
LP: I book a show once a month.
KM: But you gotta eat shit just like a dude comic, you gotta take your lumps. I like that I would leave a club on a random Tuesday, going through the same things, in the same boat as my male friends doing comedy at the time. I was in it, working, and wasn’t feeling bad I was a [woman].
ON MAKING A LIVING
LP: We’re in New England, so we have five states at our disposal.
WN: I think you can make a great living, but you gotta leave town I think. I just started headlining last year and that’s such a huge change in money making. I really made no money at all for seven to eight years, so it’s nice to have some now.
CR: And that’ll bump the longer you’re headlining. Because there’s early headline money, and there’s been-doing-it-for-a-while headline money. So it’s possible. But you gotta be on the road some, and come back here or have another gig going on—whether it’s acting, doing college [shows], corporate gigs.
WN: Teaching comedy.
CR: Yeah. Let’s say you were just working the clubs in Boston and Rhode Island. How often can you work to make enough money even as headlining? You’re not going to be there a [full] month. You can’t do it. So you have to supplement your income.
WN: Even New York comics do that. They can’t make enough just in New York.
KM: I agree. There’s another side of [professional comedy], which is the business. I don’t think enough people talk about [business], and I think everybody needs to focus on [that] if you want to be a working comedian. You need to figure out what you’re going to do to make your money. I make a good living being a comedian, but that means stand-up in clubs, corporate stand-up, and speaking, comedy with a message, which is a branch off my stand-up world. I teach stand-up, which isn’t paying me a lot of money, but it’s supplement money. You can’t stay in this city and expect to make your living. You gotta market yourself properly, you gotta work at it. It’s owning your own business, and the product is you. You have to figure out how to pitch and sell that product, and stay true to the product you believe in. Which is yourself.
This article was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. For more info on this and other projects, visit binjonline.org and follow on Twitter @BINJreports. Check out Lamont and other local comics at Boston Calling this weekend.
Dan is a freelance journalist and has written for publications including Vice, Esquire, the Daily Beast, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, MEL, Leafly, Thrillist, and DigBoston.