18 1 / 2013














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.

Rant. Over.

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

It seems like he would have even appreciated a small token, $5, $10, $20.

Oh shit and like, UCB should pay for house teams coaches and shit because the aspiration of being on a house team is what basically funds the training center right? SHIT I MAY BE DRUNK ON GUM

It’s not an excuse, it’s a policy. If you don’t like it, you don’t perform there and then act like they only told you after you did the show. There should be no confusion. If you have any, you’re not serious enough about the job you’re whining about to make sure you’re getting paid.

And they were given drink tickets, apparently, which is more than is done for other performers at the theater. So there’s your token of appreciation. UCBeast has three exit doors, I’d happily show these guys to any of them.

And actually, Joe, the most popular classes are the lower-level ones, which are mostly taken by professionals with a passing interest in comedy and a desire to improve their confidence, creativity, and public speaking skills. Most of those people don’t know what a Harold team is.

I don’t think these people were like “Wait, uh, we’re not getting PAID for this?”, but rather they were kvetching about the policy that they knew about. I think that’s a legitimate thing to do.

I mean, maybe the math doesn’t work out, in which case maybe there’s nothing UCB can do (short of turning into a standard comedy club, which I don’t want), but I think these gripes are warranted, if only in a “Hey, we’re all trying to be professional comedians here, how do we do that?” kind of way. Being critical is good and part of being better. I think that guy was a crank about it, but I like cranks, and am one. (Side note: If this show lost it’s slot because he complained about UCB, that is crazy, assuming it sold tickets and was funny.) I dunno.

Maybe I think this is just worth talking about because I have complicated feelings towards UCB and like to pick at it with my tiny hands.

I stand corrected about the classes. Although, like 800 people audition every year for house teams and if each of them takes even one class a year, that’s some scrilla right? Like, enough to pay for 12 teams or whatever to  practice 2 hours a week? Maybe not, now that I think about it.

For the record, while I have seen and been in bad improv shows at UCB, I don’t think the improv shows there are generally bad. In fact, they’re generally really good! I also like that UCB shows are affordable and should stay that way? So maybe I’m a liar and a hypocrite. I have a weird brain. I need a drink already.

As someone who also has complicated feelings about UCB, stand-up vs. improv, the NYC comedy community, etc., I feel complicated(ly?) about this too. On the one hand, yes, that is UCB’s policy. Obviously, they wouldn’t be able to charge so little for shows if every one of their performers were getting paid. If big draw names who regularly perform at comedy clubs don’t want to not get paid, they shouldn’t perform at the Beast. I think Todd Barry feels similarly to Kurt and therefore doesn’t perform at UCB’s paid stand-up shows. I think if I were a big name comedian and people were attending the show to see me, I would feel the same. The fact that the Beast wants to be a hub for stand-up as well as improv is going to cause some friction since stand-up and improv work very differently. Nate has been really supportive of the mic I co-run there and I know he wants stand-up to be part of the scene there. Some of the rest of the staff and community seem used to the place as an improv theater and so I think we’re all still trying to figure out how to make that transition in a positive, we’re-all-trying-to-do-comedy-here way.

The thing I have more of a problem with is the show getting kicked off the schedule because they “couldn’t control” what one of their comedians said. I have never seen this happen with improv or sketch. I have watched improv shows where a group of 8 straight, white, able-bodied men impersonated women, gays, racial minorities, the developmentally disabled, etc. in the most closed-minded, stereotypical way possible. (To be fair, I do think in recent years, UCB has taken many steps towards being more diverse and that this rarely happens at the highest level of improv.) I found these far more offensive than anything Kurt said and I don’t think any of them were kicked off the schedule or asked to no longer perform at the theater. But I was okay with that because comedy is about pushing boundaries and being able to say the things onstage we might not otherwise have license to say. Sometimes people make mistakes and say things that don’t mesh with the “message of the theater” or don’t sit well with certain people’s sensibilities. If they get laughs, they keep going. If not, they usually back off from it. But it does seem crazy to me that what you say could get not just you, but the entire show you’re on, booted from the venue.

Mostly, I think it’s fucked that improvisers and stand-up comics have so much weird animosity towards each other. There is terrible improv and terrible stand-up. Neither of those are reasons to dislike the entire art form. We’re all trying. Work hard. Be nice to each other. Quit giving attitude to people just because they’re taking a different path than yours. Talent and goodness will rise to the top no matter what medium you’re using (except mime).

If this post gets my mic kicked off the UCB lineup, remember me fondly. Soylent green is people!!

  1. laurenadams reblogged this from garlock
  2. angiefrissore reblogged this from cringehumor
  3. davengerimprov reblogged this from williebhines and added:
    An interesting conversation about the way theaters operate, how comedy folks get along, and the question of getting...
  4. podawful reblogged this from theratsstar and added:
    Thanks Justin for spelling it out like this. I have always had a hard time understanding why performers are ok with not...
  5. mikekavanaugh reblogged this from williebhines
  6. johneveretttrowbridge reblogged this from garlock and added:
    Yup. That’s the long and short of it.
  7. whoamorgan reblogged this from chrisgriswold and added:
    I just want to call bs on the fact that the great debate cost 5 dollars and was never sold out. Love, Ucbeast Friday...
  8. misstrionics reblogged this from joestanton and added:
    As someone who also has complicated feelings about UCB, stand-up vs. improv, the NYC comedy community, etc., I feel...
  9. brianglidewell reblogged this from cringehumor and added:
    If you think anyone running the UCB actually heard about the rant your friend went on during the show, let alone...
  10. stephaniestreisand reblogged this from nicolemarietherese and added:
    UCB is not the end goal. UCB is what you use to hone your art. It’s a school. The theaters are part of the school. I...
  11. garlock reblogged this from williebhines and added:
    Will is eloquent in his thoughts
  12. thematthewbriancohen reblogged this from williebhines and added:
    This, and to add that the UCB system, including classes, has been immeasurably valuable to me in developing my comedic...