Anyone that follows Cringe Humor favorite Kurt Metzger knows that his Facebook account is full of his hilarious rants & observations. Last month, after performing for a sold out crowd on a Friday night at UCB East, Metzger posted this beauty of a status:
Metzger returned the following week to…
There may be more to this story than we know. Is this a valid complaint, or is it just written by someone in anger after having their show canceled? Plus, it’s important to weed out the irrelevant information (like the strange plugs for an other venue halfway through). Still, the issue of improvisors getting paid is one to talk about. What do you think?
I think it’s laugh-worthy to criticize UCB East for not paying comics when no performers are paid. And yes, it’s your job to promote your show.
If these guys knew anything about the majority of Theatres in NYC they’d know that UCBs policy exists because no performers are paying to use the stage. If you want to make money, rent a space. And if you think that while paying for the space and charging cheap prices you can still pay performers, awesome.
The point is to have a place to showcase your talents. It’s a community of new talent. And just like when I spend $200 to create comedy video, it’s to promote myself.
If you’re doing so great that you feel like you should be paid for every performance, don’t perform at UCB.
Pay for your own space. Make your own money. Don’t bitch about something that all of us deal with. Whether its non-union theatre, stand up or viral videos, it is a rarity to get paid until you’re moderately successful.
Comedy clubs are only able to pay the comics if they are charging $20 at the door and a two drink minimum or something close to that equation. UCB most shows are $5 and no drink minimum. Also, a lot of crowd probably didn’t even pay $5 since a lot of them are students of UCB and get in for free. Hard to pay comics with how cheap it is to see a show.
This “indie rooms paying comics” thing has to get resolved. That said, no show I have ever run has ever been successful enough to pay anyone. I have never made money off of my craft! HAHAHAHAHAHAA
NYC rent, man. From what I understand the UCB theaters barely make money and use those $5 tickets to help with the bare essentials. There’s no fatcat who’s making millions off of UCB shows.
I think the PIT (also in Manhattan) has some sort of agreement where people who produce shows can get a cut of the door. I may be wrong, again, The Clean Show has never had a chance in hot hell to make any money.
No improv theaters pay their performers, which is something that I do have a problem with. They should at least pay for coaches and rehearsal space, and for sketch groups (especially house teams) they should give them a prop budget.
Also, I don’t think this guy was asking for like $400 right?
Maybe it’s an issue of professionalism. Kind of like if you’re a designer, you get a nominal fee for drawing a show poster for a buddy.
AGAIN: I am not good enough to get paid for anything, probably, not even my job or my plasma
If you know UCB doesn’t pay, and you want to be paid, do a show somewhere else. UCB doesn’t need your “very successful” audience of 20 people if you’re going to whine about it online.
This smells a bit like UCB bunker mentality. We might be at the place where “UCB doesn’t pay, period” isn’t a good excuse right? I dunno. What about like, if you fill 75% of the house (w paid tickets or something), you get, say, 20% of the door, that you can distribute to the performers in your show as you see fit (the politics of that are on you). So if you sell out UCB East you $120. If you’re a standup show, you divide that by 6, maybe. That’s $20 for everybody. Did I do the math there right? That sounds fair. In the case of standup, very talented people have been running at a loss for like, their whole careers. It seems fair to pay them back, maybe. I dunno. I was raised in the very amateur-oriented improv world, where performing is the reward, but the older I get, the crazier that seems to me.
But then again, what would you do for improv? I’d wager that more than half of the Harold Night audience is going for free, but you don’t want to pay standups and not improvisers.
UCB is a prestigious stage, no doubt. And you get to say your show is at UCB if you’re performing there, and industry people know about it. But you can’t pay cab far with prestige. I dunno, let me say again that I will never be talented enough to deserve more than a little debbie snack and a slap in the balls for performing any art form, anywhere
I will die penniless and my children will hate me and become bankers and meth addicts
you know I’ve got complicated UCB-type feelings too on account of that time everyone turned on my team en masse (hmm), and sure it’s a baby-thing to publicly decry any theater, but has any of the “BUT THEY NEED TO PAY RENT” crew (specifically) actually done the math? here is an admittedly erroneous back-of-the-envelope calculation I did because I was interested:
6 shows a day x 40 audience members x 7 days x $5 = $8400
6 shows a day x 20 beer buyers x $3 = $360
100 currently occurring classes x 16 students x $400 = $640,000
($8400+$360) x 365 days = $3,197,400
$640,000 per two-month class slate x 6 such periods in a year = $3,840,000
$3,840,000 + $3,197,400 = $7,037,000
$20,000 per month for rent x 3 spaces x 12 months = $720,000
12 staffed employees making on average $40,000 = $480,000
600 potential classes in a year x $1500 for the teacher (totally probably more but now that I think about it maybe less) = $900,000
$720,000 + $480,000 + $900,000 = $2,100,000
$2,100,000 / $7,037,000 = 0.29,
or roughly 29% of the UCB’s gross income should cover rent and salaries. Is that a lot? I don’t know. It doesn’t seem it, written that way.
I’m not accounting for stuff like benefits for employees or budgetary things and I’ll be fucked if I can make any reasonably educated guesses as to taxes, but I also think I was quite generous in some of my estimations (ie not accounting for the wildly popular $10 shows) and didn’t include stuff like TourCo which I imagine must provide a notable source of revenue. Also I know lots of the shows are free and people get in free, but also on those days the crowds are larger so they sell more beer and at like Harold Night at least 40 people still have to pay.
So, to wit, it’s one thing to say “that’s not how it’s done” and another to say “they can’t afford it.” The idea that capital-C comedy clubs charge $800 for drinks BECAUSE THEY NEED TO is so laughable it wouldn’t even get on NBC. The UCB doesn’t pay its performers because it doesn’t pay its performers, and while I’d love to live to see that change, I also know it won’t. So if I want to do shows there, those are the terms under which I do them. This is acceptable.
But it is also not a wonderful privilege worth celebrating to be paid nothing to provide revenue to a company, so maybe both sides are wrong?
Let’s all just agree that original post was childish.
I would be interested to know if anybody has ideas of things I may have left out of my calculation.
Thanks Justin for spelling it out like this.
I have always had a hard time understanding why performers are ok with not being paid, or at least why they dont wonder about the fact that they still have to rent rehearsal spaces and coaches.
BUT FOR FUCK’S SAKE PEOPLE, THEY OPENED A SECOND THEATER! If they had the money to do that, and thought they could continue generating a revenue (and likely, increase it) by doing so, then they HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY YOU.
You aren’t all going to be on SNL, it isn’t worth just taking it.