Two New Comedy Clubs Open In New York City

greenwich-village-comedy-clubComedy’s Dead! Yeah, I heard that from some young comedian the other day.

Well don’t tell that to Al Martin, owner of the New York Comedy Club and The Broadway Comedy Club, who’s now opening his third comedy club, in New York called the Greenwich Village Comedy Club. It’ll be opening this July in, you guessed it—Greenwich Village.

But wait, that’s not all!

Co-owners Patrick Milligan, David Kimowitz, and brothers Cris and Paul Italia, (yes the same ones who are partners in the company “Cringe Humor,” that has spent ten years managing and producing projects for comedians), are opening yet another comedy club called The Stand. It’s just a short subway hop north of The Greenwich Village Comedy Club.

That’s two—count ‘em—two comedy clubs in a city that already has a dozen or so, not counting open mics and improv theaters. At this rate, the comedy scene in New York City is growing at a rate eight time that of the national economy.

I don’t know if clubs going to follow the same business plan as many of the clubs in L.A. by having “bringer shows” masquerade as real comedy shows, but with names like Bill Burr, Artie Lange, Jim Norton and Dante Nero appearing at the club, I don’t think they’ll have a problem putting butts in the seats.

What I like about guys like Al Martin and the boys over at Cringe is that they’ve been in the comedy business and have been focused on developing comedians for over a decade now. They’re not just fly-by-nights who would just as easily open a titty-bar for the convenience of having a cash cow. They are into stand-up comedy and they have a genuine focus.

Both owners have also professed an understanding and commitment to the traditions of the New York comedy scene (i.e.: Lenny Bruce, George Carlin) and apply that and keep it present in their clubs. The difference is that The Stand will not be imposing the two-drink minimum. They’re hoping that their cocktails and food will be too tempting to resist.

Kimowitz even said they are looking to utilize The Stand as a “comedy gym,” (Hey, that’s my line!), to provide a place where comedians can work out and develop.

New York City is clearly the dominant force in comedy clubs in this country. Where you can count comedy clubs on one hand in Los Angeles, in New York City to accomplish that, you would need an abacus.

So, yeah kid, ‘comedy’s dead,’ and it’s gone to comedy Heaven; New York City.

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How A Comedian Can Beat The “Bringer” Show…

Brian Zuanich at the Cohiba ClubOne of the biggest complaints I receive from comics and students trying to get mic time is that “everything seems to be a bringer show.”

Several of my students “burned out” their bringers, early in the game, just trying to get more time on stage to develop their act and build to thirty minutes…

Which leads me to the second most popular complaint: “How’s a comic develop 30-minutes when the only spots in town are six minute sets or, at most, ten?”

If you’re not familiar with the “bringer show,” read my post on bringer shows

Let’s face it, a comedian has limited opportunities to play longer sets where he doesn’t have to worry about packing the room with his family and friends. So instead of complaining, let’s try to find solutions.

One of the best ways to get around the bringer show trap is to set up your own room. That’s right! Find a bar or restaurant or lounge that is a good location for a comedy room and pitch the idea to the owner.

In setting up a comedy room there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Let the owner know why it might be good for their business. Keep in mind, the only thing they are concerned about is how it will benefit their business. If they don’t see the benefit, then they probably won’t like your offer. Once you give them your best pitch and they can’t see the benefit, then move on to the next room.
  • Try to set the room up outside of the L.A. or your city’s perimeter. L.A. is filled with a glut of rooms. Your odds are better if you get to the outskirts of town.
  • Book quality comedians.
  • Set the show up professionally.
  • Run a tight show that runs about an hour and a half to an hour and forty-five.

Two of my students, David Conolly and Brian Zuanich, decided to set up a room in Long Beach at the Cohiba Club at the pier. They set up a curtain, lights and sound because they wanted to “transform” the club into what resembled at comedy club. They did a great job too! They put on their first show January 28th. The show was standing-room only. They put quality comedians on the stage, (all students from my Stand Up Comedy Class) and the audience loved it.

The owner did well at the bar (They had a bar/door split, where the club kept the bar and Brian and David kept the door). As a result of the successful evening, the owner told them, that normally he doesn’t do this because comedy “sucks.” But this group was a “class above the rest.” Now they are to have a regular show once a month in Long Beach.

Once they have this successful formula in place they just need to duplicate it in different locations outside the L.A. perimeter and they could wind up with weekly shows.

Keep in mind that your job as the show producer is to  keep the best quality comedians on the bill and allow for one new person per week. If you consistently have good comedic talent on the stage and you have relentless promotion, then you might have some success, although there are no guarantees. Comedy rooms can be more fickle than a 9th grader during a first kiss. (I can say that because I was a ninth grader once and during my first kiss…the only thing I remember is that she told everyone how fickle I was).

Promoting and producing a comedy show as a comedian can be beneficial in multiple ways. You will benefit from booking your own room, building relationships with other comedians who want work and getting work from those other comedians who book rooms.

The bigger your network of comedians and friends in the business, the more opportunities come your way in the long run.

So go get a room and watch your reputation grow.

Lessons New Comedians Learn From “Bringer Shows”

By Jerry Corley | Founder of The Stand Up Comedy Clinic

comedy-storeLet’s face it, one of the new realities in the comedy landscape in L.A. (and probably New York and San Francisco), is what is known as the “Bringer Show.” So we’re all on the same page, here’s the idea behind the bringer show: A bringer show ‘producer’ (usually a comedian), develops an arrangement with a local comedy club or bar, to produce comedy shows so that both the producer and venue make money.

Usually all the promotion of the show is up to the producer. On occasion, the venue will post a marquis or sign that bears the name of the show, but other than that all the promotional responsibility is on the producer. The producer, in turn, puts that responsibility on the comedian. How do they do this? By forcing the comedian to bring a minimum amount people (audience members) to the show as a requisite for getting stage time. That’s right. If you bring 10 people minimum, the producer will give you stage time. Of course those audience members have to pay a cover charge and are usually subject to a drink or “item” minimum. This assures that the venue sells product and makes money.  The producer usually takes the door or a percentage.

This is not a new concept. Music venues have been doing this with bands for over 30 years. Is this good for the comedy industry?

I am an old-school thinker with regard to shows and show business so initially the bringer concept and I didn’t get along at all. I’m not a big fan of “pay-to-play” schemes for artists—and let’s face it, when the artist is forced to bring the audience and have them pay a cover, plus a drink minimum—it’s “pay-to-play.”

In my opinion, this business model promotes a quantity over quality mentality and that has never worked out successfully in the long term for any business and I can go on about how this diluting mentality is having a long-term negative impact on the public’s perception of comedy, but that’s for another time. I want to focus on how this affects the comedian.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this show-producing mentality and a comedian needs to have a thorough understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the “bringer show” concept, especially early in his career. If a comedian understands that he/she has been asked to work the venue based solely on the fact that they have brought enough people, then the comedian is one step ahead of the game.

The advantage to this is that the comedian can use the bringer show to get some stage time in a quality venue or invite some industry (casting director, agent, manager, etc.). They get to see you perform while you have a decent sized audience. You, as the performer must make sure you bring enough people,   however. If you don’t, you risk getting a lousy slot in the lineup (like last), or you risk not getting on stage at all. If you brought an agent and he/she had to wait and was forced to slog through mediocre talent before they got too see you, then their appetite for coming to see you in the future will be seriously diminished. But if done right, the bringer show can be very useful.

The disadvantage to the bringer show, (if I didn’t already reveal it), is that if the comedian doesn’t understand that most likely, the ONLY reason the producer is having you perform at his/her venue is because you ‘bring’ people, then you may suffer the impact of that harsh reality like the unexpected pass of a basketball to the face. The rejection or even rudeness in some instances from producers can be a major disappointment when the comedian fails to bring people. In addition, the subsequent lack of future bookings in their shows, due to the fact that you are no longer bringing people, may promote a setback in your confidence and in your motivation to write or perform comedy.

In this case, knowledge is power. If you already know that the only thing a bringer show producer wants from you is the money your people bring when they buy tickets and drinks, then you will be better prepared for the inevitable day when none of your friends is accepting the invitations to your shows and the producer stops booking you. 

A Solution?

Use the bringer show sparingly and use it to your advantage. Don’t take every bringer show offer. Politely turn down some of the gigs. I usually say, “Love to, but sorry, I’m booked on that date.” That way you don’t wear out the people you have in your life who come to see you and you can save those invitations for really important gigs. Also, don’t get offended when the bringer show producers stop calling you when only two people showed up at your last gig. But most importantly, DO NOT USE the bringer show as your only way to get stage time. Hit the open mics and hit them regularly and often. You’ll eventually find the ones that are worth it and the connections you’ll make can be invaluable.