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Just say "No" to Comedy Groupies

I was exposed to my first comedy groupie in Columbus, OH, at the Funny Bone. She came in on a Sunday night. She sat in the back of the club, by herself. She watched the show intermittently between watching the comedians hanging out offstage at a table in the back of the club, with whom she seemed far more interested than the one onstage. When one of us got up to go to the bar or restroom, she got up and cut us off, briefly introducing herself and smiling. She then promptly returned to her seat. The club manager, Dave, came up to us as the headliner started to wind down his set. (I was an emcee at the time.) "Any of you guys want a blowjob?"

I immediately chimed, "You know, Dave, I appreciate the offer but I'm going to have to insist on being paid in cash."

He laughed. "No, not from me. The woman over there, who's said hi to you all, is our resident comedy groupie. She comes into the club every few weeks on a Sunday and blows one of the acts in the parking lot. Anyone interested?"

One of the acts hurried away for his bonus pay. The idea of getting a blowjob from some woman who cared only that I was a comedian and nothing about me, held no interest for me. It also astounded me that such people existed.

I ran into perhaps a dozen or so comedy groupies over the years and they always fascinated me. To date I have found no other profession with such a following, save for musicians, I'm sure. No woman walks up to a construction worker and offers to blow him after verifying he is, in fact, a construction worker. And it would be quite easy, what with all those tantalizing portable potties onsite. Even doctors and lawyers don't get women walking up to them, offering sex simply because they are doctors and lawyers.

One time I worked with a headliner who had no business headlining and who was helping to kill comedy. I worked with him in Appleton, Wisconsin, at a great club called The Skyline Comedy Cafe. Despite it being summer, when crowds in areas like Wisconsin tend to shrink because people want to absorb as much of the annual fifteen minutes of warm weather as possible, the shows were almost packed. The headliner, whose name I no longer remember, was working for "summer money."

Summer money is another thing I've never experienced outside comedy and one which no other profession experiences, again save for musicians, I'm sure. The bookers of some clubs inform acts that they will be making less money for an appearance in the summer because "the club draws smaller crowds in the summer." The term has become so common that bookers just say, "We'll be paying summer money."

This is precisely why it is so important to have fuck-you money. Johnny Carson coined the phrase "fuck-you money" and the concept trickled down to me via Ken Severa, a talented comedian out of Chi-Town. "You have to have fuck-you money, Carson always said. Not enough entertainers realize that and they hurt the industry for everyone. When someone offers you a gig that pays nothing, you have to be able to say fuck you because you have money saved up--fuck-you money. If enough acts have fuck-you money, the booker has to pay more for the gig." A solid concept I took to heart.

I never quite said "fuck you" to a booker but I stood my ground just the same. I am proud to announce that I have never worked for summer money. I either worked that club in a non-summer month or the club knew better than to offer me summer money and just paid me the regular fee. Usually the conversation with a booker went something like this:

"Okay, well, we're all set, Ian. Now, this will be paying our summer money."

"No problem, I'll do my summer show."

"Summer show?" the booker would reply, getting a little nervous.

"Yeah, I do all the setups and none of the punch lines."

"That's funny," he would laugh.

"That's my summer show."

"Well, seriously, we make less money in the summer because the crowds are smaller."

"Well, funny thing, the electric company, my landlord, and the phone company all send me the same bills in the summer; they don't go down."

Inevitably, the booker saw things my way. If a club can't draw crowds in the summer, it should just shut down for the season. The best thing a comic can do is work that club enough times in non-summer months to become a draw anytime, including in the summer.

As usual, I digress. Back in Appleton, where the booker knew better than to offer me summer money, I found myself in the comedy condo (where the comedians are put up by the club) with a headliner whose name I can no longer remember. He complained to me about the summer money, which I didn't even know the club paid. It turned out he was making the same $400 to headline that I was making to feature. (He should have been making more than twice that much.) He also had to pay his own airfare from Los Angeles and rent a car to drive up from Milwaukee for the week. All I did was drive up from Chicago. In the end, he was actually paying several hundred dollars to perform.

Things got worse for him. I was on the brink of only headlining myself and I anticipated trouble; no real headliner would work for summer money, especially if he had to pay his own airfare. He was losing money on this gig, just so he could headline. He couldn't follow me and the show didn't crescendo in the proper place. Instead of leaving on a high, the crowd left on a low. Worse, I sold t-shirts after my act with one of my most popular bits on it; and I sold a lot, over 100 for the week at ten dollars a pop. He knew I was making the same amount of money, as well as over $1000 more in t-shirt sales.

Tensions grew between us at the condo. He was jealous and I was annoyed. The twit was harming the industry by working a slot for which he wasn't ready, by accepting less than half the normal pay, and he wasn't even a solid feature. He had an agent, who probably arranged the gig by refusing to book his bigger clients at the club unless a few of his weaker clients were booked. I watched many agents effectively slowly close rooms using this practice. It became more and more common and is just one of several reasons why road talent dislikes some Hollywood agents, namely the ones who push comedians prepared for short routines on-camera as road acts. Even worse, they often sent out actors as comedians, who effectively brought shows to a grinding halt.

As the week went on, he decided to usurp his power as headliner. Whenever I was watching TV, he would change the station, even if he liked the show, just so I couldn't watch it, despite the fact that he had a perfectly good working TV in his room, which was bigger than the one in the living room. (This is an understood right of headliners but one which is rarely practiced. I never practiced it as a headliner and those who did were imbrued as jerks in the industry.) After he did this several times, I committed a major faux pas myself by failing to recognize his authority as headliner--I changed the channel back.

"Hey, I'm the headliner!"

"Summer headliner; the rules don't apply to you guys."

He was pissed but there wasn't much he could do without risking a brawl.

Near the end of the week, an English woman approached me with her friends, as I sat at my table in the lobby, peddling my shirts and signing autographs. She announced, "I want to blow you."

"Excuse me?"

"In the bathroom, I want to give you a blow job. Do you have a condom? I'm all out. Well, it doesn't matter; I'll give you a blow job, any way."

You, out of condoms? Shocking. Getting a blowjob while wearing a condom is about as effective as getting a massage over the phone.

"Are you serious? You don't want a blowjob?"

The other audience members gossiped amongst themselves about this strange woman, with disbelief painted on their faces. "Nope, no not for me but thanks."

"Okay, well, you are very, very funny; the best act of the night by far."

"Thank you."

I did give her a hug and let her kiss me on the cheek. My solicitor turned to her friends, "Where's that other act? The one who went last?"

I peddled some more shirts and headed back to the condo. The headliner returned a little later. He beamed at me, determined to prove that he was worthy of the position, somehow, any way he could. "Guess who got a blowjob."

This is not a greeting I'm used to hearing, nor is it anything about which I cared. I have enough time worrying about my own penis, let alone someone else's.

"That's right, I got a blowjob in the bathroom at the club, after everyone left. A woman from the crowd. What do you think of that?"

I shrugged. "Did you wear a condom?"

"No."

"Did you make sure she didn't have any sores or cuts around her mouth?"

He started to get nervous. "No."

"That's pretty stupid, to get a blowjob from someone you don't know at all and have no idea if she has anything or a way to spread it and then to not wear a condom."

"Yeah, I guess it was dumb."

His attempt to impress me was not working. He beamed again, refreshed. "But it's still a blowjob!"

He should have left it a that but no, he had to push it and he went further than I could handle.

"What a week. I had great shows, I'm definitely a headliner (something headliners don't announce or discuss) and I got blowed. You didn't get any action this week, did you?"

"No, I don't hook-up with comedy groupies."

"Neither do I! She wasn't a comedy groupie."

"English girl, right?"

"Yeah . . . how'd you know?"

"She made me the same offer but I turned her down. Then she went looking for you."

He stood there, all his energy zapped. It was the final blow to a dismal week for him. Nobody wants to be sloppy seconds, at least not without vast amounts of alcohol being involved. I couldn't resist adding one last comment.

"Comedy groupies; just say no."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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