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Jan. 3 - Did you hear the one about the comedian who stopped telling jokes?
That reminds me of a joke: Did you hear the one about what constitutes a "living wage" for a comedian? Where do you think the term "two-drink minimum" comes from?
"A comic working 12 to 14 shows a week grosses barely over $20,000 a year," says Ted Alexandro, a co-founder of the Coalition. Alexandro claims he and his fellow funnymen haven’t gotten a raise since 1985 (the era of such witticisms as "Did you hear the one about Reagan’s polyp? Yeah, they removed and it turned out to be benign—which is more than I can say about David Stockman’s budget! Thank you!").
Conveniently enough, that was around the time when I was a habitué at New York’s best comedy clubs. Since then, drink prices and cover charges have certainly gone up, so it makes sense that comedians should expect similar hikes in their fees. As comedian Dave Attell likes to point out, it’s increasingly expensive to be a stand-up comic in New York (where a Saturday night means racing from set to set in taxis). "The cost of living for comics has gone up," says Attell, star of Comedy Central’s Insomniac, citing increases in a comedian’s lifeblood: "cabs, beer and porno."
I headed for my old haunt, The Comedy Cellar, which was always my favorite club because it was almost always empty and if the comic picked on you, you could pick on him right back. But when I got there last week, all three shows were sold out. Three full houses—on a Thursday, no less!—would seem to back up the union claim.
Page 2: Closed out of my old favorite
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