Fame and standup
We find the following at the tail end of the Zach Galifianakis mini-interview in the NYPost:
He also worries he’ll get soft if he doesn’t get on stage in front of a live audience more often.
“As a comedian to have that recognition almost is anti-comedy to me,” he says. “We’re not supposed to be the ones who get that kind of attention, so I’m a little bit sensitive about it. I don’t want to soil what brought me there in the first place.”
Good for him. And good for comedy club audiences who come to see him.
We’re hearing stories for the last year or two about celebrities and/or “celebrity comedians” who hit the circuit when they’re less than prepared. We’re puzzled when we hear tales of these luminaries apologizing from stage (“I don’t do it as often as I should.” or “This is a lot harder than I thought!”) or reading from scripts or “working out material” on a Saturday night in front of a packed house… often with less than spectacular results.
We’ve always said that “stunt bookings” are okay… but not if the oddity doesn’t deliver. We’ve suggested that these celebs might do better to drop down to host or emcee and bring on a trio of professional comics who know what they’re doing– a win/win! The audience gets to see the celeb AND they see real comedy, not some sorry, fumbling trainwreck.
Club owners will think nothing of bringing in a faux comedian with little more than freak show appeal who tanks from Thursday through Sunday. Or they’ll bring in a Big Name who engages in all manner of anti-social (or illegal or quirky or annoying) behavior and who pitches one shutout after another. But it’s all smiles as long as the turnstiles are spinning. (They’ll subsequently bring in a solid, veteran comedian– with perhaps little or no drawing power but who delivers nonetheless– and freak the fuck out when that act has one show out of seven that is less than wonderful.)
Is there a great, lasting benefit (aside from the receipts and drink sales, of course) to bringing in a huge name that ultimately pisses off a significant chunk of the crowd? Especially considering that the marquee name brings in first-time customers?
And, conversely, is there much damage if a no-name comic happens to have one bad show out of seven? (Especially considering that the no-name comic demands one-tenth or one-twentieth the salary of the celeb who is dabbling in standup.)
Perhaps the folks who come in and see the celebrity (who subsequently engages in a legendary week of comedy meltdown) ultimately think poorly of the celebrity but don’t hold the club responsible … and the folks who see the bad show from the unknown hold it against the club and let the comedian off the hook. In that case, there’s absolutely no downside to bringing in the risky, demanding nutjob who causes a lot more headscratching than belly laughs. (Or we’ve just given club owners a brand new excuse for engaging in ever more “creative” booking!)
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