Thursday, October 2, 2008

Age Discrimination in Comedy

"Sorry, but I'm not going to book you at my, you're definitely funny, it's not that. It's because you're... black."

Would that conversation happen between a booker and a comic today? Hell no... the booker may not book the comic because he's black, but tell him/her some other reason.

And yet, it's perfectly fine for a booker to tell a comic that they aren't going to use them because they're too old. That's what happened to hilarious comic Robin Fox at a top NY club and Jerry Shack at another. Another comic, buddy Doug Adler, was told by a guy who runs festivals that his age will make it tough for him to get noticed.

Again, can you imagine if another comic were told that it would be tough to make a festival cause he was a Jew? (Unless, it was, like, "The Huntsville, Alabama Comedy Festival.")

On one hand, I do get it...some clubs seem to get a large percentage of younger audience members... it would make sense to have younger comics on the card. Though...good comics do well with any audiences...I've seen Robin Fox kill with twenty-somethings, and I've seen younger comics totally eat it with younger crowds.

And yeah, I get it...everyone's looking for "fresh, young faces" - the comics who will become the face of their clubs for years to come and get TV deals*, etc. - But here's the thing, we live in an age of NOW. Internet sensations become famous overnight, blogs turn into book deals after running for six months, etc. Who cares if Doug Adler won't wanna do comedy in ten years cause his arthritis is acting up (Note - Doug doesn't have least as far as I know)? All I know is that right now, he's out doing shows/open mics like 5/6 nights a is Robin...and Jerry.

At the memoir class I recently took, I learned that though publishers used to be very age-conscious, that attitude has changed, due to all the flame-outs of the younger writers, who either couldn't deal with the pressure, or just had one book in them.

I'm hoping the same happens in comedy, especially, since, you know, I'm getting older.

Rock On,


*Because you know, the young guns out in Hollywood have been doing so well deciding which sitcoms to air.


Chuck McCoy said...

Harris - Misery loves company. I'm glad I'm not the only one who realizes this. Comedy is not the only place this happens. I used to work for the former oldies radio station in Rochester - we were part of a 4 station cluster here in town. Baby boomers got too old and suddenly they started to devalue our station(so to speak). Despite being one of the best commercial voiceover artists at this station, it was decreed we jocks on the oldies station couldn't voice commercials than ran on our sister stations, because we sound too old. Give me a break! Soon Oldies was gone and we were all out of gigs and my radio career was all over. I have middle aged friends who can't get work in other fields after being laid off. Standup comedy isn't any better, except maybe book your own shows, perhaps alternative shows with a special niche audience. When your life is in the sewer, make sewerade.

Chuck McCoy

Harris said...

Hey Chuck McCoy,

glad to hear it haopens all over...actually, no i'm not.

Rock On,


Josh Homer said...

Great post. 100% true except black comics are told all the time "I already have a black guy on the show." Happens to me. Can't complain or you get BLACK balled.

Harris said...

hey josh homer,

somehow, i know you'd have somethin' to add -

wow - that's not only insulting to you (as if all black comics talk about the same stuff) but also insults the audience (as if one black comic is quite enough, thank you).

not shocking though

Rock On,


Josh Homer said...

thank you? I guess.

I think any show, booking etc that is governed by rules that discriminate based on gender, race, sexual orientation, age etc does the audience a disservice.

The thing is comedy is governed by the golden rule, where he who has the gold makes the rules. There is a club you work at that both Robin and I can't get up in (for different reasons of course). As Chris Rock (name drop alert) told me "just get in where you fit in."

Robin Fox said...

Well said and glad you said it!!
In the end the one who has the last laugh is the funniest comic. Assuming that I am a older female that all my material wont relate to a young audience is counting me short. I am smart enough to know that when I am put infront of an audience of young kids to not talk about Hot Flashes and my retirement plans. ( I dont even have material on these topics by the way) I adjust my set. In order for me to have made it as far as I have at my age and in the 5 years doing this I had to learn to please all kinds of audiences. That should say much. No older female could have made it this far if she hadnt. When the past booker after Starla passesed me at Comic Srrrip ( wont come up on Goggle) told me ...Lets face it your too old. I said to him. Tonight you have a showcase show. You had all young boys and a young girl and 2 guys older than me. Dont you think your audience which is half women and half of them are over 40 deserve at least one woman their age on the show??? He said he would call Judy Gold or Lisa Lampanelli if he needed a foul mouth female. Nice. At the late show a line of male comics most over 40 were waiting to go up. I think a booker is doing a disservice to the audience when he judges comics by his Idea of what is good for his room only and doesnt see what his audiences are responding too.

Lastly, a few friday nights ago I was booked at Ha for the 9:30 and 10:30 shows. I got there early. The room for the 8:30 was packed. Cisco asked me if I would do a set on this show. I got up, the audience was mostly filled with middle aged Canadians from a tour company. I did 10 the audience liked me alot. It was one of those in the zone sets. Cisco gave me the signal to keep going I was killing. Applause breaks whistels etc. I did 18 and it was maybe my best set ever. It wasnt all was them too. I said to Cisco as I finished in the lobby the Old folks love me I guess. He then said..... The young bucks and thugs love you too I have seen you do just as well with them too...thats why your here. No compliment meant more to me.

Clubs are short sighted only having one kind of comic for one kind of audience. You want well rounded comics who have a wide appeal. You also need comics who might have a niche and want to try to go after their audience. Clubs often have Latino nights and urban nights etc Womans shows.... and thats all well and good. But when you have a show with a variety of audience you need to have a variety of comics. Private events can offer a narrower booking. Like shows for a Police group you might want certian comics that would fit best. Clubs should offer the best comics that they can that make for a showcase show that will hit many individuals and the audience as a whole.

I grew up on old comics, Bob Hope, Bob Newhart Robert Klien was in his 40s when I saw him when i was in my 20s, George Carlin was older and still remained popular into old age. Sure they had draw but I was young and loved them. I find young kids like to laugh period and if its funny thats all that matters. The only group that I find is snobby about there comedy is often 30 year olds educated snots. I find they want exactly there brand of humor or they disgard it. Maybe thats the problem alot of these bookers fit that description. I am booked alot by 20 year olds and 40 yr olds and up. Regular non snot 30somethings have booked me too.

Lets face it this is the greatest proffesion and the worst business.

Harris said...

hey josh homer,

when did you speak to chris rock?

hey robin fox,

i couldn't agree more.

I've always defined a "comic" as someone who has good shows, no matter the audience...and you're definitely a comic.

rock on,


kimberoo99 said...

i never find the young kids that funny. maybe lack of experience. one of my favorite comics was that elderly lady from the Bronx we saw on "Latin night" at the comic strip

Harris said...

hey kimberoo99,

in all fairness, when you come to see me, a lot fo those younger comics are amateurs...and not good ones.

aw, man... i remember her.

Rock On,


Josh Homer said...

Rock came into stand up NY and bumped me off a show. He then joined our conversation about being a minority in comedy.


Anonymous said...

i appreciate reading what everyone has shared. but in order to not get down about it, i need to think "oh fuck them. i'm not old in spirit, and that's what counts."

it is a great disservice to the audience and to good comics. in the fine arts, it is expected that your last painting is probably your best painting. i like the attitude of just finding the places that are brighter and more open-minded.


Slava said...

I think everyone gets discriminated against sooner or later. I just hope I will get funnier as I grow older.